This month’s extreme cold snap in Texas and resulting failure of the state’s power grid offers some important lessons in the rear-view mirror. This week, we look at three takeaways from this month’s crisis and how we can better prepare for the next one.
- Enforce Building Codes and Aim for More Resilient Construction
The extreme weather event showed that building codes are fundamentally life and safety codes that can protect consumers from adverse conditions that may occur in the built environment. Natural disasters are occurring with alarming frequency as climate change increases. Well-constructed, well-insulated homes can ameliorate the harshest impacts of big winter storms and summer heatwaves, particularly when there’s a loss of power.
Thermal insulation helps maintain building temperatures during the event of a power outage, ensuring continued occupant comfort. Advancing and promoting more energy-efficient construction, which includes higher levels of insulation, mitigates the risks. Moreover, more resilience is better, though admittedly costlier. The best-in-class for home resilience is Passive House Design. Though vastly misunderstood, many resources are available to those in the building industry to learn about Passive House design benefits.
A few months back, Insulation Institute spoke with Ken Levenson about his new role as Executive Director of the North American Passive House Network. NAPHN has many resources to learn about Passive House construction, including a 10-minute introductory video explaining the concept. Bottom line: As weather disasters resulting from climate change become more frequent, resilient building becomes more urgent.
- Insulate Water Pipes in Homes
A significant problem during the cold snap in Texas was bursting water pipes in homes due to the extreme cold. Insulating water pipes in homes has many particularly relevant benefits, including:
- Slows heat loss from pipes between the water heater and faucets
- Saves energy and decreases your heating bill
- Prevents burns when hot water pipes are exposed
- Keeps pipes from freezing in the winter
Though not often discussed, insulating water pipes is a simple, affordable home upgrade that can prevent some inconvenient and potentially dangerous situations. More homes should include this economical feature that can prevent future issues.
- Educate on Efficiency - Solar Panels and Battery Power Popularity Will Increase, But Can’t Supplant Envelope Efficiency
As consumers and communities look to shore up resilience and reduce their electricity costs, solar and home battery technology will expand. But the best and least-cost option for ensuring thermal comfort and enhancing resilience is to invest in thermal envelope energy efficiency.
An efficient thermal envelope made possible in part through higher levels of insulation remains a relatively low-cost, readily available key to resilient construction.
State and municipal governments throughout the United States are looking at the increasing likelihood of severe weather impacting their communities. As they do so, now is the time to emphasize that adopting and enforcing more stringent energy building codes provides a health and safety benefit – namely resilience – that can help homeowners shelter in place in more comfort.