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AI Home Energy Assessments Will Get Us to Net-Zero. Here’s How.

AI tools will play a pivotal role in achieving net-zero buildings by 2050. Buildings are a significant contributor to carbon emissions (about 18% of emissions in Canada). Achieving net-zero building stock is an ambitious but crucial goal in the fight against climate change. To make this happen, we need rapid identification of retrofit opportunities, transparent communication with homeowners, and the removal of both knowledge and financial barriers. Now is the time to use artificial intelligence (AI) tools to address these challenges in the form of AI home energy assessments.

Why do we need to change how we assess and retrofit buildings?

Energy efficiency programs (like offering retrofit rebates and other incentives) are the main tool to drive retrofit action among homeowners. If we continue to use only this approach to programs, as we have for the past 20 years, we are on a 143-year trajectory to hit building upgrade targets.  

About 10% of the building stock has been assessed thus far, so we are only engaging that portion of the homeowner population with personalized low-carbon retrofit recommendations. Engaging the remaining 90% of homeowners in climate action presents a tremendous challenge. 

A bar chart showing the portion of homeowners who have been engaged in a net-zero retrofit journey.

AI can be leveraged to conduct no-touch mass market home energy assessments quickly and accurately. This disruptive approach provides many benefits over the traditional approach to assessing homes, deploying home efficiency programs, and engaging homeowners. 

AI Home Energy Assessments Break Down Barriers to Retrofitting

There are several barriers slowing homeowners from performing net-zero retrofits. The top two are knowledge and financial capital.

Breaking Down the Knowledge Barrier with AI

Mobilizing homeowners for retrofits is a challenging endeavor. Currently, building assessments are primarily used as qualifiers for rebates and often miss a critical opportunity to engage homeowners effectively. Homeowners don’t necessarily want a building assessment; they want a more cost-effective, comfortable home with a lower impact on the environment. Using AI to create a low-carbon plan for every building is a fast and comparatively affordable way to start a conversation with more homeowners and refer them to professionals and resources.

Breaking Down the Capital Barrier with AI

Building retrofits represent one of the most significant environmental and economic opportunities of our generation. The benefits of retrofitting extend beyond energy efficiency, and include increased comfort, climate resilience, cost-effectiveness, and reduced environmental impact. Recognizing these multi-faceted benefits is essential. 

Here are four key ways that AI home energy assessments can tackle the capital barrier for retrofitting: 

  1. Help Homeowners Plan Retrofits: Building assessments quantify the financial return and the climate impact of building retrofits. This helps the homeowner prioritize their projects, reduce risk, and apply for financial incentives. 
  2. Design Better Programs: Building assessments play a critical role in the design and planning of low-carbon policies and programs. Rich data collected in advance and during program deployment helps target incentives and capital in the most impactful way. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” 
  3. Model the Gross Impact of Financing: Building assessments inform aggregate retrofit financing by modeling both pre- and post-retrofit, thus allowing mass-market repeatable programs. This is particularly helpful in the early stages of designing a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) type program. Understanding the long-term environmental and financial benefits is required for certain funding streams. 
  4. Attract Private Capital to a Region: A region with rich home energy data is attractive to private investment. Financial institutions are more likely to offer “green loans” to homes with a detailed low-carbon plan. Marrying multiple streams of capital and funding is important to maximize the financial benefit to the homeowner and increase program success. 

Inclusive Programs with AI Home Energy Assessments

Inclusive home energy efficiency programs ensure that all homeowners can participate, regardless of their circumstances. Traditional barriers, such as complexity and cost, have excluded certain homeowners. Virtual energy assessments are accessible to everyone with internet or telephone access, regardless of location or financial situation. 

AI can democratize retrofit programs by streamlining processes and reducing expenses. This inclusivity can open the door to a broader range of participants and maximize the impact of retrofit initiatives.

Climative home energy and emissions report on a tablet

Mass Personalization with AI Home Energy Assessments

Mass personalization in building retrofits means tailoring retrofit plans to suit the unique characteristics of each building. An alternative approach is to cluster buildings with similar characters (called archetypal analysis). AI tools have the capability to efficiently analyze building data and generate unique retrofit plans.

For instance, AI can determine the most effective insulation for a specific structure or suggest heating and cooling upgrades tailored to a building’s needs. This level of personalization can significantly enhance retrofit effectiveness.  

Here are four ways that AI home energy assessments can personalize retrofit recommendations en masse: 

  1. Real-Time Data: Homeowners and policymakers can receive real-time data, so they move from “reactive” to “proactive” planning. 
  2. Keep It Personal: Focus on providing the homeowner with expert and personalized advice on retrofit options. 
  3. Ongoing Homeowner Engagement: Move from point-in-time information to ongoing engagement. Using an online portal for homeowners to engage with their low-carbon plan keeps the conversation going. Every building is on a journey to net zero or even climate-positive and rarely hits its goal on the first project. It’s dramatically more cost-effective to engage homeowners throughout their journey than starting over with every new project. 
  4. Reduce Noise and Confusion: Homeowners are inundated by “efficiency” offers with very little independent advice. Energy efficiency organizations and policymakers can set up a centralized, transparent, and trusted advisory model to assist homeowners on their journey. 
Homeowner showing digital energy assessment to contractor

Rapid Scale with AI Home Energy Assessments

The urgency of scaling up retrofit efforts to meet climate targets cannot be overstated. Traditional assessment methods are often slow and cumbersome, making it challenging to prioritize buildings for retrofit. AI offers a solution by enabling rapid assessments across an entire region and allows for prioritization based on factors such as energy consumption, emissions, and the condition of the building. Real-world statistics and case studies illustrate how AI can accelerate retrofit projects, bringing us closer to our climate goals.

Monitor Program Outcomes with AI Home Energy Assessments

Building retrofit programs target various outcomes, including improved energy efficiency and reduced emissions. AI tools can monitor and analyze program outcomes in real-time, providing valuable insights for program optimization. By showcasing successful AI-assisted programs, we will have demonstrated the potential of AI to drive significant improvements in retrofit outcomes. Contact us to learn about outcomes from ongoing projects. 

The time is now for integrating AI tools into building retrofit programs and projects. AI can help overcome knowledge and capital barriers, facilitate mass personalization, promote inclusivity, expedite scaling efforts, and optimize program outcomes. As we strive for a more sustainable future, it is essential for stakeholders to embrace AI-driven solutions and work collectively to tackle building retrofits. Together, we can create a built environment that is not only energy-efficient but also environmentally responsible. 

Looking at the map of a city's home emissions and energy

What's Next?

We encourage readers to explore AIdriven solutions for building retrofits and stay informed about the latest advancements in this field. By adopting AI tools and supporting inclusive, scalable retrofit programs, we can make substantial progress towards a net-zero building stock and a more sustainable future for all. 

Download our whitepaper “Scaling Net-Zero Retrofits” to learn how we use machine learning to generate low-carbon plans that estimate energy use and carbon emissions and provide personalized retrofit recommendations. 

Download Our Whitepaper "Scaling Net-Zero Retrofits"

Winston Morton

Winston Morton

Winston has 25 years experience as a leader in the telecommunications and utility industries. His in-depth knowledge of energy analysis and large-scale web-based platform deployments informs Climative's strategy in his role as CEO.


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