Thermal-stat!, By Chantal Keerak
If you are like most homeowners, you would really like to lower your heating costs and make your home more comfortable, but other than the obvious things such as programmable thermostats you aren’t sure what would be the best energy efficiency investment. Over the past 3½ years there have been several hundred home energy assessments done in Revelstoke to advise home owners on their best course of action. Each home evaluated is different, but air sealing, increasing basement and attic insulation, and upgrading heating systems usually top the list as the most economic places to start.
Many homes in Revelstoke, particularly those built over 30 years ago, can have excessive amounts of air leakage. The cold air that leaks into the home can make some rooms, especially those on the lower levels of the house, uncomfortable and difficult to heat. Air leakage around windows, doors, attic hatches and floor joists often adds up to a hole the size of a basketball or larger and can account for 25 per cent to 40 per cent of the heat lost from an older home.
Cold air that leaks into your house around door openings or basement windows is easy to detect because you can feel the draft. However warm air that is escaping out of your upper floors or into your attic is almost unnoticeable. The easiest way to find these air leaks is by having a blower door test (also called a depressurization test) done. You could also find some of the larger leaks yourself by going through your house with an incense stick or feather as a draft detector on a very cold or windy day.
Fixing these air leaks is usually pretty easy and inexpensive. Plastic window film works wonders at reducing air leakage coming from windows. So arm yourself with some sealant, weather-stripping, and window film and start saving.
I know that often basements can be dark, cold and scary but closing the door to the basement can’t hide the fact that if the walls are uninsulated a lot of heat is escaping through them. The thermal resistance of 8 inches of concrete is about R2 which is similar to a double pane window. I have seen energy savings of over $1,000 a year simply by insulating the basement to recommended levels. This will also make the floor above the basement warmer.
Chances are you haven’t thought much about the attic in your home unless your roof has sprung a leak or you have heard creatures stirring in it. If insulation hasn’t been added to your attic in the last 25 years, you would likely benefit from adding additional insulation in this often forgot about area. Savings of several hundred dollars a year aren’t uncommon. Some attics in Revelstoke are insulated with vermiculite which may be contaminated with amphibole asbestos. To find out more information about vermiculite and the special precautions that you should take visit the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/.
Upgrading your heating system can often be a good investment. Especially if your heating system is more than 20 years old. We often get asked what the best type of heating system and fuel source is in Revelstoke. There really isn’t one clear-cut answer. There are so many different choices in Revelstoke and it really depends on what the homeowner is looking for and how they prioritize factors such as cost, energy savings, comfort, greenhouse gas emissions and overall environmental footprint associated with each fuel source and heating system type.
Each home is different and to find out the most economic ways to lower your heating cost and improve the comfort of your home I recommend having an energy assessment (which includes a blower door test) done on your home.
I am not just telling you this because my company does energy assessments. It really is the best way to get unbiased advice tailored to your home. In addition you will then qualify for substantial grants from LiveSmart BC, details on these grants can be found at www.livesmartbc.ca. Right now the cost of the energy assessment is partially subsidized by LiveSmart BC and is only $150. In addition Revelstoke assessments that are booked before Jan. 31, 2011 will be eligible for a $50 gift card for the Revelstoke Home Hardware or RONA store. For more information on available grants or energy assessments please call 250 814-8719.
Most homes have energy efficiency opportunities that will make their homes more comfortable, payout in a short time, and provide excellent rates of return on the investment. What are you waiting for? Toss the toque aside, make your home a cozy place to be and feel good about the fact that you are not only saving money, you are helping the environment too.
If you are interested in learning more, register for one of our upcoming courses. Residential Energy Efficiency Upgrades and Heating System Options is being held on Thursday, Jan. 27 and Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Commercial Buildings is on Wednesday, Feb. 9. To register please contact the community centre.
Chantal Keerak is a professional mechanical engineer. Her Revelstoke based company, VerdaTech Energy Management and Consulting BC, provides heating and ventilating system design and energy assessments for residential and commercial buildings throughout B.C.
This is part two of an ongoing series.