Home Energy Audit/Retrofits

Barbara Whitten (present at this conference)
Sally Meyer, and Mark Morgenstern

all of Colorado College
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Students learn how to model energy losses in a home, and then audit an existing home. They propose cost effective changes, and calculate the energy saved and payback time. The class decides which changes to make, visits Home Depot to purchase supplies (using the class lab budget), and spend a day at the home making the changes. They write a final report to the homeowner and the instructors. This project plays the role of a lab in thermodynamics classes; we've used it for introductory and advanced classes in chemistry, physics, and environmental science.

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Learning Goals

Students should learn that their developing scientific skills are relevant to the solution of human problems.

Context for Use

Introductory and advanced courses that teach thermodynamic principles. We use this project in physics (thermodynamics), chemistry (physical chemistry), and environmental science (energy).

Description and Teaching Materials

Handout for retrofit project (Microsoft Word 31kB Jun9 10)
problems (Microsoft Word 28kB Jun9 10)

Teaching Notes and Tips

It's important to be attentive to safety with this project. We have several experienced adults work with the class. We use hardhats, goggles, gloves, etc. to assure safety.

The audit can be done (except for the blower door test) with no special equipment or budget. Performing the retrofit requires $500-$1000 in supplies, depending on the house.


Students write a group report to the homeowner, detailing what was done during the retrofit, what savings can be expected, and further recommendations. This report is graded. The instructors also observe students during the various activities and modify the group grade according to individual participation.

References and Resources

Morgenstern, Meyer, Whitten, and Reuer, "The Energy Retrofit of a Building," JCST, May, 2008.