Helping a homeowner maximize savings on energy

by Kristin Koetsier

Cambridge resident Normand Genest had been meaning to redo his kitchen and basement for a long time, and had already planned to make replacing windows and adding insulation a part of the project. He was just about to put his plans into action when he heard about the Union Gas Home Reno Rebate program on TV, and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to maximize his savings by getting in touch with Reep Green Solutions.

Quick response on home energy evaluation

Genest was impressed by how quickly the Home Energy Evaluation was arranged after he first called. “They were very accommodating because they came the next day to do the initial evaluation,” he says. “So that was great for me because it had to be done before the renovation would begin.”

Renovations include home energy upgrades

Genest had previously installed a new furnace and air conditioning system as well as extra insulation in the attic. He’d also recently installed a new water heater with an electric shut-off vent.

This most recent renovation involved redoing the kitchen and family room, so Genest had four windows plus one large bay window replaced while they were at it. They also put foam insulation in the basement walls and installed an air exchanger. As the Certified Energy Advisor who performed the evaluation recommended, they installed the air exchanger before having the foam insulation put in, so that it could be sealed properly.
basement mid-renovation installing insulationThe comfort of the basement has definitely improved since the renovation, as it is now much warmer than before, and the energy efficiency of the house has improved significantly. The house will use 1,138 cubic metres less natural gas per year, keeping 2.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Genest expects to receive a rebate cheque from Union Gas because of these improvements.

Saving energy requires changing behaviours

In addition to making structural changes to their home, Genest and his wife have long employed energy saving techniques such as turning the water heater on vacation mode when they’re away, and avoiding peak hydro times.

“People have to change their behaviour,” Genest says.

Take advantage of Reep House displays

Although Genest was already fairly confident making home renovation decisions, he found the Home Energy Evaluation helpful in identifying leaks and ways to improve air tightness, as well as advice on how to prioritize spending. He also enjoyed seeing the many different kinds of insulation on display at the REEP House for Sustainable Living at 20 Mill Street – something he thinks could be especially helpful for someone who is new to home renovations. The display of shower heads of varying water efficiencies was similarly helpful.

Renovate as soon as possible to maximize savings

If Genest could recommend one thing to other homeowners, it’s to do their renovations as early as possible in order to maximize their savings.

“If I would have done [the basement reno] ten years ago, it would have paid for itself by now from the energy savings,” he says. “Don’t wait too long – do it as soon as you can, so you can reap the maximum benefits.”

If your house is in need of renovations, it’s best for both your pocketbook and the environment to do those renovations as soon as you can.

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.

Landers and Bergey in renovated basementThis 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.

Last year, they wanted to renovate the basement. In order to qualify for the Home Reno Rebate program, they required a new Home Energy Evaluation.

Taking action on home energy upgrades

Doubling stud depth to accept 3 inch insulation

Doubling stud depth to accept 3 inch insulation

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.

 

Here’s one of the stories that we share in our 2016 Report to the Community about how we help you live sustainably.

When Greg Cressman and Dorothy Isaac moved into their new Waterloo home, they knew it required a few home energy upgrades to meet their needs.

They had been surprised that their 1955 home had its water meter and water softener in the garage and wanted them in a heated space. Besides, they wanted to be able to use the garage as a comfortable year round workshop. They also wanted an office in the basement.

So they got busy planning and started renovating. Then Greg and Dorothy learned about an innovative Home Energy Coach service piloted by REEP Green Solutions and funded by Natural Resources Canada. Not only were they able to learn about their home’s energy use through an EnerGuide Home Evaluation, they could now access ongoing advice. They eagerly accepted the opportunity.

“The coach proved to be very helpful in assisting me to revise my planning and design for insulating the walls in the basement and for insulating and sealing the unusable basement fireplace,” said Greg. “He also provided us with tips related to sourcing quality, affordable materials. I appreciated that the solutions we came up with through our discussions were not only quite thoughtful but also practical and affordable.”

The Home Energy Coach helped 51 homeowners like Greg and Dorothy to develop a game plan for improving their home’s energy efficiency, and guided them through implementation so that they had a more comfortable home that  lowered their energy costs. During the pilot program, anyone having a home energy evaluation could access the coach’s expertise for free.

“An excellent opportunity to improve your home’s energy efficiency is when you’re undertaking any major home improvement project,” said Philip Drader, Home Energy Coach for REEP Green Solutions. “I found that having an opportunity to discuss options with homeowners helped them to determine how to achieve their goals such as getting the best return on their investment.”

While the pilot program has ended, homeowners can still benefit from the Home Energy Coach’s expertise by hiring him for a reasonable rate.

The Home Energy Coach service was one of three Home Energy Catalyst initiatives undertaken by REEP Green Solutions’ partnership with Mindscape Innovations, which worked with builders to improve energy efficiency for new homes, and Scaled Purpose, which continues to explore innovative financing options for home energy upgrades.

Learn about the Home Reno Rebate program that helps people like Greg and Dorothy make their home energy upgrades.

 

 

Here’s one of the stories that we share in our 2016 Report to the Community about how we help you live sustainably.

Imagine turning off your heat in December and not noticing for three days that you never turned it back on. That may be hard to believe but that is  exactly what Johanne and Marcel Girard of Cambridge shared by video to  those attending our 2015 awards event.

When they decided to embark on a major renovation of their century home,  they arranged for an EnerGuide Home Evaluation by one of REEP Green Solutions’ team of Certified Energy Advisors (CEA). What they learned was   that much of their heat was making its way outside.

Their CEA laid out for them the criteria to qualify for the Union Gas Home Reno Rebate program. By doing two projects to improve their home energy efficiency, they qualified for $2,095 in rebates including the costs of the home evaluations before and after the renovations.

Initially, the Girards just wanted to replace their baseboards. It became a bigger project when they discovered their walls didn’t have any insulation but they learned that they could get a rebate for adding it if they had a home energy evaluation.

Their CEA recommended insulating the walls, which in their case meant gutting rooms to the stud and adding batt insulation with a vapour barrier.

The difference their work made has been dramatic. They are on balanced payments for their natural gas based on their previously leaky home. At the end of their first year in the upgraded house, they received $994 back because they had cut their use of natural gas by 37%. They also saved $25 monthly on their electrical costs.

“I can turn on the heat on a cold day for a couple hours and the house stays warm throughout the day,” says Johanne. “And I’m a chilly willy, if I say the house is warm, it’s warm!”

As the Province of Ontario rolls out an enhanced home energy upgrade  program, there will be more opportunities across the Region to increase the warmth and comfort of our homes while reducing heating costs. See our website for complete details.

ClimateActionWR reports that 22% of local greenhouse gas emissions come  from our homes’ energy use. Having a home energy evaluation and implementing the recommendations is important so that your home can be a  part of the solution to climate change.

 

2015 Homeowner Impact Award Winner

Here’s the story of one of the 2015 Celebrating Community Action award recipients. Learn about all nine recipients.

Most people know that buying an old house doesn’t come without future renovation cost. While some costs are not initially evident, a greater concern is how much those improvements will increase the efficiency of the home. This is the question that Jeff and Daria Casello were hoping to have answered for their recent purchase of a 1895 year old home in the Waterloo Region. The answer has them nominated for an award at this year’s Celebrating Community Action: Building Resilience event.

Unlike recent mass housing development, which seems to mirror replicas of each home built, more homeowners like Jeff and his wife are finding value in older homes. Historic homes provide a glimpse into the past and have “tremendous character” says Jeff. They are constructed using quality materials, not available today, and are built to last. Yet at the same time, the energy performance of older homes does not live up to the energy standards of today.

Jeff and Daria were well aware that their home was not “particularly energy efficient”. Dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint, the home owners “were eager to improve the performance of [their] home in as many ways as possible”. They called REEP Green Solutions to perform an EnerGuide Home Evaluation for their home.

Since purchasing their home, they knew that their furnace, which dated back to the early 20th century, would need to be a priority if they were to reduce their carbon footprint significantly. After becoming aware of the Union Gas Home Reno Rebate, the Casellos jumped at the chance to cut down on some of the renovation costs by participating in the Home Energy Evaluation program. With the help of REEP’s Certified Energy Advisor, the Casellos learned that their home improvements would result in the efficiency they were hoping for.

After receiving their evaluation report, the Casellos modernized their home, renovating their kitchen and family room by switching to storm windows and adding new insulation. Storm windows are a great option for preserving the architectural history of the home and maintaining the high-quality wooden frames. The home owners also gutted both of their washrooms, adding high R-value insulation and vapor barriers to reduce moisture build-up. To compliment these insulated rooms, the owners also installed in-floor electric heating which, when combined with effective insulation, reduces energy consumption. Targeting heat where it is needed will thereby reduce a home’s energy needs and increase the comfort levels of the washrooms.

New high efficiency boilerJeff and his wife upgraded to a combined gas boiler and hot water unit running at 95% efficiency levels. The Home Energy Evaluation also helped them identify a cold draft that continues to draw “the heat from the living areas to the attic”. They are considering using spray foam insulation where the joists of the basement ceiling hit the exterior wall to reduce thermal waste. Furthermore, they hope to refurbish their existing wooden windows by replacing the glass and adding quality storm windows.

One year after their renovations were completed, Jeff and his wife decreased their gas consumption by 20%. Their energy costs have decreased thanks to their lower gas consumption, and they now have fewer drafts and “less noise associated with heating”. They received a “substantial energy efficiency refund through the Union Gas program”, and have full confidence that the new boiler system “will last”.

2015 Residential Stormwater Award Winner (Waterloo)

Here’s the story of one of the 2015 Celebrating Community Action award recipients. Learn about all nine recipients.

Catherine Fife, Ken and Elizabeth McLaughlin worked together to de-pave their adjoining driveways and replace them with permeable paving strips. The downspouts of both homes have been directed underground to stone below the driveway that stores and soaks water into the ground. With this project, they hope to reduce the volume and improve the quality of stormwater that flows from their property, ensure some groundwater recharge, and improve their homes’ curb appeal. During the Grand Porch Party last summer, Catherine noticed that her driveway was of interest to a lot of people. “It was a conversation starter,” she says. “It was a way to bring together people that had similar values.”

The project cost Catherine and her neighbours $3200 to install the driveway. As demand for green infrastructure increases, prices should come down and people won’t need to compromise on their sustainability values when hiring a contractor. As a bonus, it stimulates the local economy. “It’s important that more people act on environmental beliefs. We can create green jobs in this way,” says Catherine.

Catherine has a long history of modelling her values. She and her husband knew that their 117 year old house was energy inefficient, so they had REEP complete an EnerGuide for Homes Evaluation. Afterwards they installed LED lighting, high efficiency heating, and were more conscious of their energy use. Their heating and electricity costs were reduced and they enjoyed a noticeable improvement in comfort. “Putting a plan in place, prioritizing projects – it’s the hardest thing to do,” says Catherine. “REEP has the expertise needed to help homeowners make the first step, and homeowners need this expertise.”


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