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Weatherization (American English) or weatherproofing (British English) is the practice of protecting a building and its interior from the elements, particularly from sunlight, precipitation, and wind, and of modifying a building to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency.
Weatherization is distinct from building insulation, although building insulation requires weatherization for proper functioning. Many types of insulation can be thought of as weatherization, because they block drafts or protect from cold winds. Whereas insulation primarily reduces conductive heat flow, weatherization primarily reduces convective heat flow.
In the United States, buildings use one third of all energy consumed and two thirds of all electricity. Due to the high energy usage, they are a major source of the pollution that causes urban air quality problems and pollutants that contribute to climate change. Building energy usage accounts for 49 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 25 percent of nitrous oxide emissions, and 10 percent of particulate emissions.
Typical weatherization procedures include:
The phrase "whole-house weatherization" extends the traditional definition of weatherization to include installation of modern, energy-saving heating and cooling equipment, or repair of old, inefficient equipment (furnaces, boilers, water heaters, programmable thermostats, air conditioners, and so on). The "Whole-House" approach also looks at how the house performs as a system.
Weatherization generally does not cause indoor air problems by adding new pollutants to the air. (There are a few exceptions, such as caulking, that can sometimes emit pollutants.) However, measures such as installing storm windows, weather stripping, caulking, and blown-in wall insulation can reduce the amount of outdoor air infiltrating into a home. Consequently, after weatherization, concentrations of indoor air pollutants from sources inside the home can increase.
Weatherization can have a negative impact on indoor air quality, especially among occupants with respiratory illnesses. This occurs because of a decrease in air exchange in the home, and resulting increase in moisture. This leads to higher concentrations of pollutants in the air.
Weatherization has become increasingly high-profile as the cost of home heating has risen. The US Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) was created in 1976 to help low-income families reduce energy consumption and costs. WAP reaches across all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Native American tribes. The goal of WAP is to assist low-income families by reducing energy bills and decrease dependency on foreign oil by decreasing energy use.
The US Department of Energy estimates that over 6.2 million homes have been weatherized, saving 30.5 MBtu of energy per household each year. It estimates weatherization returns $2.69 for each dollar spent on the program, realized in energy and non-energy benefits. Families whose homes are weatherized are expected to save $358 on their first year's utility bills.
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