Insulating with Clothing

In an old issue of Treehugger there is an article titled, Insulating Your Body is Cheaper and More Effective Than Heating Your Home taken from a longer article in Low Tech Magazine.

The articles illustrate the importance of dressing appropriately for the season. What is illuminating is the point that if we did just this one measure and adjusted our thermostats appropriately, then we would save more energy than we can from adding insulation! Pretty astonishing! How many buildings have you been in that were over air-conditioned this summer? If you are like me it is large number...I often take a sweater or a jacket when it is 80 or 90 degrees outside because it might be too cool inside. Similarly in the winter I am peeling off layers to stay comfortable. This really is madness. We design buildings so that we are insulated from feeling any of the temperature extremes. Jacket and tie are accepted- even required dress codes in the summer but don't make sense for personal comfort, so we condition our leaky buildings so we can have the same dress code all year round! There are certainly design choices that offer greater individual controls at workstations and other kinds of spaces; but if we are looking at existing un-renovated building stock...we can begin by readjusting set temperatures. This really is low-hanging fruit. I understand that the article is written for housing but it really applies to commercial buildings as well. Engineers are afraid to design anything that provides less conditioning because they want to minimize call-backs. They design loads calculated so that the largest number of occupants possible on the days with the most extreme temperatures are easily conditioned- but that load isn't even close to the average load. But we have created a tempered indoor environment that is not practical or even logical.

Many people have contacted our office wondering how to make their homes more energy efficient, many want to make their homes Passive House but when we start to talk about construction numbers many are not able to undertake a retrofit. We recommend beginning with an energy audit and now we are going to recommend putting on a sweater as well! Most do not understand the energy implications of such a small choice.