Fighting climate change with comfort
Basement reno improves energy efficiency
by Kristin Koetsier
Renovating your basement usually brings greater comfort and an improved living space, but when done with the environment in mind, it can also reduce your impact on the planet.
This was the case for St. Agatha homeowners Robyn Landers and Susan Bergey, who first had a Home Energy Evaluation done several years ago when doing renovations to install a solar PV system on their home through the Mennonite Initiative Solar Energy (MISE) project. They made some improvements at that time to their home’s insulation, windows, and doors.
Taking action on home energy upgrades
Using Way-Mar as a project manager and Bast Home Comfort as an HVAC company (see our list of contractors), the couple replaced their 17-yr-old furnace and air conditioner with a highly efficient new unit, and significantly modified the ductwork while retaining an HRV for energy-efficient air exchange. They also had the basement gutted in order to double the stud depth to three inches, spray urethane foam insulation, and insulate the water pipes. Four leaky single-pane windows were also replaced, and the door between the basement and garage was upgraded from hollow wood to insulated steel.
Landers and Bergey also chose to install cork flooring – a renewable and natural option – instead of high volatile organic compound (VOC) vinyl flooring in the bedroom and bathroom. Cork floors have more going for them than just the environmental angle as well; as Landers notes, “They’re warm and comfortable underfoot, and have a beautiful appearance with a variety of colours and textures available.” For the rec room, they are thinking of installing linseed-oil linoleum, another environmentally friendly and stylish choice which is anti-microbial, anti-static, and very durable.
Greater comfort achieved by improving energy efficiency
As a result of these renovations, there is much less heat loss through the foundation and windows, as well as an improved vapour seal. Thanks to this reduced heat loss and the 97+% efficiency furnace, the couple expects to use less natural gas this winter, leading to some monetary savings. They’ve further found that, on top of being quieter and more energy efficient, their new heating/cooling system allows for finer temperature control, with better air circulation – particularly in the basement. They have even converted a former storage room into a bedroom now that the space is more comfortable.
This renovation is a great example of how energy efficiency and comfort can often go hand-in-hand.
Reduced use of natural gas helps fight climate change
And the benefits don’t stop with comfort; a second Home Energy Evaluation done after these renovations found that the home’s EnerGuide Rating had changed from 54 to 66, so Landers and Bergey expect to receive a Home Reno Rebate to assist with the cost.
As far as fighting climate change goes, these renos will allow the couple to save 1410 cubic metres of natural gas each year, keeping 2.7 tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere. So their work on their home is helping our local climate action plan achieve its target for Waterloo Region.
Every home can benefit from a home energy evaluation
Although this scale of renovation may be more than many homeowners can manage, Landers strongly recommends getting a Home Energy Evaluation done, as he found it helped him and Bergey to assess the cost-effectiveness of different options, as well as to identify problem spots and sources of leaks.
“Aside from the big ticket items that people probably think of, a home energy evaluation can also reveal simple inexpensive small things you can do that will add up,” says Landers. “And no matter how much you do, there’s usually something more, if you’re willing to go that far.”
Dreams for the future
As for themselves, Landers and Bergey have done enough renovating for now, but dream of switching to geothermal heating once this new furnace runs its course. They would also like to rewire their solar photovoltaic system to provide electricity directly to the house once their MicroFIT contract expires.
Landers hopes that public opinion will shift to support the subsidization of renewable energy companies rather than oil, noting that it doesn’t make sense to think that we can continue to use high-carbon energy indefinitely at a cheap price.