Intelligent Energy

Caulking: American-made efficiency

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A new study reveals much of the materials used in making homes more energy efficient are domestically produced. Could simple retrofits create more jobs?

Improving your home's energy efficiency may not just save you money on electric and heating bills.

The upgrades might also help save U.S. manufacturing and contracting jobs.

According to a Home Performance Resource Center study, the products commonly used in energy remodeling have domestic shares higher than 90 percent. The only exception (shown in the chart below) are refrigerators, with a domestic share of 62.3 percent.

The study's authors compiled their data from the International Trade Commission’s Harmonized Tariff System within the U.S. International Trade Commission Dataweb and the North American Industry Classification System within the 2007 Economic Census.

The HPRC is associated with Efficiency First, an advocacy group promoting initiatives such as the federal programs HOMESTAR and Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) introduced to Congress last year.

Kate Galbraith reports for Green Inc.:

Materials are a relatively minor part of the overall cost of getting an efficiency retrofit, Matt Golden [of Efficiency First] noted. Insulating a house, he estimated, probably breaks down to 30 percent materials and 70 percent labor — whereas for a solar panel, the materials (which may come from overseas) would absorb a greater percentage of the cost.

His point is that efficiency generates plenty of domestic jobs not only for manufacturing, but also for installation.

Image: Flickr/Ana_Cotta

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure