October 1, 2022

Wall Upgrades for Energy Retrofits: A Techno-Economic Study


Homes built before 1992, when the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building Energy Codes Program was established, represent approximately 68% of the residential building stock in the country . Up to 43% of these homes have little to no insulation in the walls and have very high air leakage rates of 10 or more air changes per hour at 50 pascals of pressure (ACH50). These issues can represent a substantial portion of unnecessary money spent on utility bills for homeowners, especially in the colder climates. There is a significant need for cost-effective, reliable retrofit methods for these homes that include air, moisture, and vapor controls which are considered best practices for high-performance new home construction. Well-tested and documented wall retrofit systems can help to achieve substantial energy savings and also improve durability, comfort, health, and resilience. In 2018, DOE’s Building Technologies Office awarded Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of Minnesota funding to complete a 3-year project to compare a range of residential wall retrofit systems that prioritized affordability, durability and energy savings potential. In addition to these core criteria, the ease-of-construction and the wide-scale applicability of the solutions also were considered. In this project, the research team identified, constructed, tested, simulated, and analyzed the feasibility and economics of 16 wall retrofit assemblies (14 test configurations and two baseline configurations).

Published: October 1, 2022


Antonopoulos C.A., P.K. Gunderson, T.J. Pilet, S. Ganguli, J. Zhang, T.D. Ashley, and P. Huelman, et al. 2022. Wall Upgrades for Energy Retrofits: A Techno-Economic Study Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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