A Study of the Impact of Building Envelope Penetrations on Thermal Performance
Conducted by Steven Winter Associates for Urban Green Council, There Are Holes In Our Walls found that the average room air conditioner leaks as much air as a six square inch hole—and increases total annual heating costs by $130-$180 million in New York City alone.
More surprisingly, the leaks account for 1% of citywide greenhouse gas emissions.
“This study proves out what we suspected: that the air conditioners sticking out of windows and through walls across the country are costing us far more than their summer electricity bills,” said Russell Unger, Executive Director of Urban Green Council. “We have energy codes that require buildings to use efficient windows, insulation and limit air leakage. But then we go around putting holes in those insulated walls or cranking open those efficient windows to insert an AC unit with flimsy plastic extenders. Federal regulations overlook this problem, worrying only about how much energy AC units use when plugged in and operating.”
“The strength of this study is that it’s based on real world testing,” said Marc Zuluaga, Senior Engineer at Steven Winter Associates and lead researcher on the report. “We looked at 16 installations across 11 buildings and the numbers speak for themselves. We’ve shown the order of magnitude of this problem and it’s a significant one.”