What to ask before renovating
Get tips for improving home efficiency during any renovation.
All renovations provide a great opportunity to improve your home energy performance — especially if the walls, floors or ceilings are already going to be opened up. Adding a few efficiency upgrades can ultimately pay for themselves.
So before planning any renovation, here are the top five questions you should consider to ensure your renovation is eco-friendly.
1. How much energy is my home using?
Heating is generally responsible for about two-thirds of a single-family home’s energy use. For an old home, it could be even more. Take a look at your energy bills to see how much you’re spending. Then try the Scotiabank EcoLiving Home Energy Savings Calculator to find out how much energy and money you could save.
From there, get a home energy audit by a certified energy advisor. The audit will tell you precisely how much energy your house is losing and what you can do about it. The audit might cost $300 to $400, but will provide you with a prioritized set of upgrades or renovations that will save you money over the long term.
2. How does fresh air come into my house?
When windows aren’t open, most fresh air comes from cracks and gaps around windows, doors and electrical outlets. These openings are also places where houses leak moisture-laden warm air, which can lead to mould. So when you turn on your bathroom fan to vent air out, you could also be sucking in replacement air containing mould particles.
An energy audit can help determine if inadequate ventilation is a problem for you. One fix is to draft-proof and install a heat-recovery ventilator that pre-heats incoming air through an energy exchange with the air that’s on its way out. Not only will it save you energy, it’s good for your health too.
3. How can I get more real estate value without a large addition?
In many houses, some rooms – especially areas near windows – can get too hot or cold to be comfortable year round. When this deters you from using those spaces, your livable space has decreased.
So, beefing up your building’s envelope by installing high-performance windows and some additional insulation can allow you to use all your existing real estate without a large addition. And many energy efficiency upgrades provide a good return on investment too.
4. How can I incorporate energy efficiency into my renovation?
Energy-saving measures can be included in any renovation! During a small cosmetic job like a front door replacement, you can check to make sure that weather stripping is still good and frames around windows and doors are well sealed. If a door or window is drafty or poorly insulated, you might replace it with an Energy Star model. Or if you’re thinking of replacing a hot-water tank, you might consider on-demand hot water instead.
If you’re planning a major project, like a kitchen renovation, you’ll first want to consider the order of jobs. Replacing kitchen cabinets, for example, could be a good time to add insulation to walls and draft-proof kitchen windows, walls and doors. It’s also a good time to upgrade to a high-efficiency faucet and other Energy Star kitchen appliances.
5. How will the renovation affect my energy use and costs?
By thinking through what you actually need and coming up with an energy-wise plan, your renovation can save you money in the short and long term.
For example, a new hot tub is going to cost you in energy, water and maintenance, when a soaker tub might serve just as well. In the kitchen, a smaller, well-designed fridge could meet your needs instead of a larger, more energy-intensive model. These are the kinds of questions that are good to ask when planning an eco-friendly renovation.
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