First Step
Decrease energy use of the system over all. In a building this means add insulation to the walls and high U-value windows as well as increasing air tightness.
Triangle of Energy Savings: Steps to apply energy savings and alternative energy systems
How do we decrease the energy necessary to heat and cool a building?
1 - Make the building as Air Tight as possible
2 - Increase insulation of the external walls, floor and ceiling/roof
3 - Replace old windows with new high R-value windows which
Through the use of a blower door test we can confirm how often the air in a building is replaced by outside air which seeps in through gaps in the walls and windows.

Remember any air that comes in cold from the outside needs to be heated by your heating plant. Reducing this seepage will decrease the amount of heat you need to add to your house.
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All types of insulation are ways to trap air. Air is a great insulator. To reduce the heating and cooling demand a building drastically we add a drastic amount of insulation to the home.

Watch out though! Some insulation products use ingredients which are huge green house gasses. Use of the wrong products could negate any gains in CO2 reduction!
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Windows are one place where huge losses are usually found. It is therefore one place where huge gains in efficiency can be found.

Most American window manufacturers are now making windows which have high efficiency glazing, but their frames are solid wood or hollow vinyl. Both of these frames are bridges through which heat can be lost to the cold outside world. They act like the cooling fins on a computer cpu.

Insulated window frames and triple glazing are the future. With this combination the windows are a well insulated as the walls!
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4 - Thermal bridge free construction!
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Careful planning and detailing of the building envelope (outside of the building which is in contact with the cold weather) needs to be taken to make certain that there are no Thermal Bridges.

A Thermal Bridge is any part of the construction of the outside of the house which can act as a contuctor to the cold. Common Thermal Bridges are balconies where the supporting joists are extentions of the joists inside the house. Attached decks, un-insulated eave constructions and slab on grade without insulation under it are also examples of thermal bridges.

It is easier to get to thermal bridge free construction with new buildings in comparision to renovations. Yet with careful detailing and work even a renovation can reduce energy consumption for heating an cooling by 80%!
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Go to Second Step: Use of Sustainable Energy Systems
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have insulated frames as well as high R-value glazing.
Copyright 2013 Eco Houses of Vermont, LLC
Chris West is a Certified Passive House Consultant
Affiliated with the PHIUS and PHI 2013