Simple efficiency upgrades
Even new and renovated homes can become more energy efficient.
Making your home more energy efficient can have both financial and environmental benefits, but what if you live in a new or recently renovated home? Is it worth tearing out a wall that’s in good condition just to add some more insulation, or replacing a relatively new window because it’s not the most efficient one on the market?
Some newer houses already have efficient windows and adequate wall, basement and attic insulation. Most have at least a medium-efficiency furnace. If your home is already in good shape in terms of the efficiency basics, there are other ways to save money on energy that are relatively straightforward to install and don’t require major renovations.
You might not have the resources to invest in leading-edge technologies like geoexchange or solar hot water — though these renewable energy systems offer significant long-term cost savings. Instead, you might want to consider one of the following lower-cost add-ons.
An increasingly popular option for new homes is wastewater heat recovery. This system transfers heat energy in the drain water to cold water entering the hot water tank. It can cut down on water heating costs significantly, ultimately paying for itself within a few years.
For heating or cooling spaces, a ductless, mini-split air-source heat pump delivers warm or cool air directly to localized spots in the home. These types of heat pumps can make a good retrofit add-on, particularly for very efficient new homes that require only a small space conditioning system, or for room additions where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not feasible.
Heat recovery ventilators
Similar to a wastewater heat recovery system, a heat recovery ventilator captures what would otherwise be wasted heat energy from exhaust air to warm fresh air coming into your home. It does this via a heat exchanger core that can be connected to existing ductwork — though newer, more flexible ducting for exhaust air is recommended — and reduces the amount of extra energy that your furnace or air conditioner needs to supply to bring the house to a comfortable temperature.
These types of ventilators have other benefits too. They control humidity, reducing the possibility of mould growth. They greatly improve indoor air quality by filtering out formaldehydes, allergens and toxins. Some units even boast a minimum efficiency reporting value of level 12. And, relative to a furnace fan, heat recovery ventilators are very quiet. For these reasons and more, they are now installed frequently in buildings across Canada. If you’re thinking of investing in a system like this, choose an Energy Star and HVI certified model. If possible, hire a qualified installer that is either HRAI or TECA certified.
Home energy audits
Of course, you’ll want to make sure your house is sealed and draft-proofed first so that the ventilator operates effectively. A good way to find out the air-tightness of your home is to get an energy audit that includes a blower-door test. In fact, getting an energy audit and draft proofing your home are good practices prior to any energy-efficiency upgrade. Knowing the energy score of your house can also help you make the most informed decisions when it comes to any energy efficiency investments.
Do you have an idea for an article?
Tell us what’s on your mind and your eco-friendly suggestion might be turned into a story.