Home Energy COACH

Before you know it the snow will be falling. Is your home ready for the harsh winter to come? Learn about your options for renovation to make your home more comfortable this winter. There is still time before the snow flies to take care of items that can make your rooms more cozy – get some ideas of what works and what the most cost-effective methods for your home are.

Agenda

Presentation: 1:30 p.m.
Q&A: 2:15 p.m.
Reep Open House: 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Home Energy Coach

Presenter: Phillip Drader, Registered Energy Advisor

Philip Drader is Reep’s Energy Coach and has conducted workshops for homeowners on a wide range of topics to help them make their home more energy efficient, and steering them towards good products and companies.

 

Registration

Transportation

We encourage the use of active transportation such as walking or biking. The house is just off the Iron Horse Trail. It is also easily accessible by GRT bus routes that use Queen and have stops near Mill St. If you drive, please consider carpooling with others you know are attending.

You are welcome to use Schneider Ave or David Street parking. The Victoria Park Pavilion parking lot is also free to use and only a few minutes walk to the Reep House. Please do not park at the Schneider Haus or Mitchell St lots (click to enlarge map)

Having long been aware of Reep Green Solutions through his time working at the University of Waterloo, Michael Strickland reached out to arrange for a home energy evaluation prior to his own renovation—and he’s glad he did.

Michael and his husband, Steve, live in a 2-storey detached home in Guelph’s Old University Neighbourhood. Built by Steve’s parents in 1959, Michael and Steve have owned the property since 2012 and undertook a large-scale renovation this past year in which 90% of the house has been redone. One of the main goals of the renovation was to create a rentable space on the second floor, through which income could be derived for further renovations and maintenance of the property.

“The monthly rent from the tenant is covering our mortgage and we’re hoping the remainder of our energy bills,” said Michael. “The rent is what’s allowed us to go forward with the rest of the project.”

By undergoing further renovations, Michael and Steve have elevated the efficiency and comfort of the rest of their home to a level that they hope will suit their needs for the next 20-30 years. In addition to redoing the house’s plumbing, kitchens, and bathrooms, etc., the renovation also involved several major improvements to energy efficiency. Specifically, 19 new windows were installed, as well as new insulation throughout the house, and a new furnace.

 

The resulting improvement in home comfort has been dramatic. Before the renovation, as Michael explained, “It was a case where in January you could put your hand up against the wall anywhere and you could feel the cold. On a breezy day you could feel the breeze coming through the windows.”

His in-laws had attempted to combat this problem by installing a more powerful furnace, but he and Steve recognized that improving insulation was a far more effective strategy.

They also switched to a type of furnace that is particularly useful given their newfound renting capacity; called a TrueZONE furnace, it allows their tenant to control both the heat and A/C in her unit separately from the rest of the house. Michael imagines that this feature will lead to even greater energy efficiency in the summer, when the upstairs might require more air conditioning than downstairs and vice versa with heating in the winter.

All told, the post-renovation energy evaluation found that the home’s EnerGuide rating had increased from 63 to 74, thanks to the furnace replacement, insulation work, and new windows. This garnered a rebate cheque of $2,965, a welcome reward for a job well done! These improvements also resulted in a 27% reduction in energy consumption, keeping 3.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent out of the atmosphere each year.

Although Michael and Steve were already well aware that new windows and insulation should be part of their home improvement, they found the pre- and post-renovation home energy evaluations to be extremely helpful in terms of confirming the viability of recommendations made by their contractors—such as the newfangled furnace. They also confirmed the effectiveness of the changes they made after the renovations were complete.

As Michael said, “The real benefit to us was having a third party confirm that the decisions we were making with the builders were good ones and then later when we saw the actual results.”

Michael hopes that by sharing his story, more homeowners will become aware of the opportunity to get a rebate by having a home energy evaluation done.

“Whether the motivation is the cheque or the peace of mind, I can’t see anybody regretting it,” says Michael. “The more people understand the value of this the more they’d be willing to do it. There’s no downside.”

In terms of their own renovation, all that’s left is to fix up the family room in which Michael and Steve had been living while the rest of the house was under construction. As a newer addition to the original home, this room’s need for improvement isn’t as great. But the plan is to improve its energy efficiency even further by replacing windows, updating insulation, and spraying foam insulation around the rim joist—an additional recommendation made by the Reep Green Solutions advisor.

As any homeowner is well aware, there’s always something more that can be done to save energy and money, meanwhile increasing your home’s efficiency!

 

Written by: Kristin Koetsier

Edited by: Christine Tan

When considering energy solutions for your home, solar power is a popular option that is practical and requires very little space to operate in comparison to other forms of energy production. Solar panels emit no greenhouse gases, making them a great option when considering the influence that your actions, and energy use at home, have on your local and global environment.

A major concern that many homeowners have when it comes to Solar Power is the cost. Although initially expensive, the cost for solar panels have significantly reduces of the past few years. For example, in the last 10 years the average cost of a solar panel has fallen by 60%. This decrease in cost has made solar power a viable option and, over time, cheaper than retail electricity for most people.

Solar systems are also known for their ease of use, requiring little maintenance because they are stationary, making them easy to take care of. The most significant maintenance of solar panels are monthly inspections and cleaning them of any dust or debris.

Solar panels also have positive effects on the quality of your roof. Installing a solar panel system on your roof can increase the lifespan of your roof by decreasing the snow and hail that falls on the shingles, as well as reducing the impact that ultraviolet radiation has on your roof. Another beneficial aspect is that solar panels can cool your home during the summer, reducing the amount of energy used on cooling in the hotter months.

Keep in Mind

Current solar panel systems have lifespans of about 40 – 50 years, allowing for longtime use. When considering installing solar panels on your roof it is important to consult a roofing contractor on the current lifespan of the shingles on your roof. Replacement of roofing while a solar panel system is on your roof adds additional expenses.

Most residential roofs can handle the weight of solar panels, however roof strength is an important factor to consider when installing solar panels. Depending on your roof’s age, angle, and other factors, it may not be able to handle the extra constant weight that solar panels would impose. In this case, roofs are often reinforced to handle the extra weight.

Depending on the type of solar system chosen, space will also need to be used for the batteries, Inverter, Charge Regulator, and other components associated with your solar system. Depending on the set up of your home, the basement or garage are the most common places to house these components.

Solar Panels are a source of renewable energy that have been of growing popularity, especially for homeowners. There are many different options for having clean energy at the household level!

Who Can Help You?

Find out more about the benefits of installing Solar Panels in your home and what system works best for your needs and budget. We have another post on Solar Panels that discusses installation and other factors in lesson 11 of our informal course ‘Home Energy 101’

To help you get started, we provide a list of businesses, organizations and services that work with renewable energy. Rather than recommending any of them, we suggest you research them and get written quotes.

 

Written By: Andrew Jackson

Edited By: Christine Tan

COACH Series

This is a new series of events featuring our resident experts in home energy efficiency, RAIN Smart Homes and waste reduction.

Learn how to make the best window choices for your home!

Join us as our Home Energy Coach, Philip Drader, shares how the right window choices can contribute to a more comfortable and energy efficient home!

There is a lot to consider when choosing the right windows for your home. From selecting low-e coatings, glazing layers, and spacer types to picking the type of window (slider, casement, or fixed), colour, divided lites, privacy options, opener mechanisms, and other design decisions like opting for a full frame window replacement (or not) – window renovations can make your head spin!

Luckily, we’re here to help! Come out to this workshop on window materials and installation tips to ensure you make better-informed choices when you go look for replacements.

AGENDA

  • Presentation: 1:30 p.m.
  • Q&A: 2:15 p.m.
  • Reep Open House: 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

TRANSPORTATION

We encourage the use of active transportation such as walking or biking. The house is just off the Iron Horse Trail and we have a bike rack.

It is also easily accessible by GRT bus routes that use Queen and have stops near Mill St. If you drive, please consider carpooling with others you know are attending.

Since the house only has a few parking spots, we have arranged for parking spaces in the Schneider Haus lot around the corner on Queen St. S.

Photo credit: Soikkoratamo Geranium via photopin (license)

REEP House Series

The REEP HOUSE Series is a monthly series of events that showcases the technology and displays at the REEP House for Sustainable Living and explores other ideas and options for living sustainably.

A Reep House Christmas

Sorry! We’ve decided to cancel this event. Brendan Schaefer will share his great tips on efficiently using water and energy over the holidays in a blog post instead.

green christmas lights

COACH Series

This is a new series of events featuring our resident experts in home energy efficiency, RAIN Smart Homes and waste reduction.

Put a hat on your house

As our Home Energy Coach, Philip Drader, likes to say: “Insulating your attic is like wearing a hat in the winter.”

Philip will share how your attic can contribute to a comfortable home. We’ll cover a number of considerations related to insulating an attic, such as preparing your attic and your options for insulation. We’ll share information to help you take next steps whether you are thinking of finishing your attic into a living space, using it as a storage space, if you just want to see how it could help make your home more comfortable. Join us to learn how to put a cozy hat on your home this winter!

AGENDA

  • Presentation: 1:30 p.m.
  • Q&A: 2:00p.m.
  • Open House 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Advance registration is appreciated.

Stay to explore the REEP House for Sustainable Living. Or come to check out the house’s environmental features.

TRANSPORTATION

We encourage the use of active transportation such as walking or biking. The house is just off the Iron Horse Trail and we have a bike rack.

It is also easily accessible by GRT bus routes that use Queen and have stops near Mill St. If you drive, please consider carpooling with others you know are attending.

Since the house only has a few parking spots, we have arranged for parking spaces in the Schneider Haus lot around the corner on Queen S.

Sustainable Speaker Series and Open House

Tips on insulating your attic

Home Energy Coach - Philip DraderAs our Home Energy Coach, Philip Drader, likes to say. “Insulating your attic is like wearing a hat in the winter.”

In this presentation, Philip shares how your attic can contribute to a comfortable home. We’ll cover a number of considerations related to insulating an attic such as preparing your attic and your options for insulation. We’ll share information to help you take next steps whether you are thinking of finishing your attic into a living space, you use it as a storage space or you just want to see how it could help make your home more comfortable.

PRESENTED BY

Philip Drader, Home Energy Coach

AGENDA
  • Presentation starts: 1:30 p.m.
  • Q & A: 2 p.m.
OPEN HOUSE:  2:15 – 3:30 P.M.

Stay to explore the REEP House for Sustainable Living. Or come to check out the house’s environmental features.

TRANSPORTATION AND PARKING

If REEP House for Sustainable Living is a short walk from your home that is the best way to get there.

We have a bike rack in front of the house for several bicycles. Since the house is very close to the Iron Horse Trail that may be a good choice.

Several GRT bus routes use Queen Street and have stops near Mill Street.

If you are driving, we encourage you to car pool with others you know are attending.

Since the house only has a few parking spots, we have arranged for parking in the Joseph Schneider Haus lot off Queen Street. Please pay attention to the staff parking signs.

You can also use a small parking lot off Mitchell Street. Just walk across the grass to the back of the house or use the sidewalk on Queen to enter the front of the house.

Sustainable Living Speaker Series

HomeEnergyCoach-PhilDrader-smAs part of our Sustainable Living Speaker Series, our Home Energy Coach, Philip Drader, shares how home energy efficiency can contribute to a comfortable home and saving money by reducing wasted energy.

Planning your basement renovation

We’ll cover a number of design items relating to finishing a basement: from heating vents, to wiring, insulation, new flooring, studs, and lighting efficiency.

Afternoon Agenda

  • Presentation starts: 1:30 p.m.
  • Q & A: 2 p.m.
Open House: 2:15 to 3:30 pmStay to explore the REEP House for Sustainable Living. Or come to check out the house’s environmental features.

We’re also offering a morning session at 10 a.m.

 

TRANSPORTATION AND PARKING

If REEP House for Sustainable Living is a short walk from your home that is the best way to get there.

We have a bike rack in front of the house for several bicycles. Since the house is very close to the Iron Horse Trail that may be a good choice.

Several GRT bus routes use Queen Street and have stops near Mill Street.

If you are driving, we encourage you to car pool with others you know are attending.

Since the house only has a few parking spots, we have arranged for parking a lot off Mitchell Street. Just walk across the grass to the back of the house or use the sidewalk on Queen to enter the front of the house.

Avoid parking in staff spaces in the Joseph Schneider Haus parking lot or you will get a ticket.

 

This is Lesson 10 of our informal online course: Home Energy 101All lessons by Philip Drader, Home Energy Coach.

Our focus in this post is on how we use electricity to see and in our labour saving appliances.

As a kid I was often afraid of things in the dark that I couldn’t see. Now that I’m an adult, I’m afraid of the electrical bill instead.

Lighting efficiency: an easy upgrade

Residential energy use in Canada by activity, 2010

Source: Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada 1990-2010, Natural Resources Canada.

Well, I’m just joking, but it’s not that far from the truth. I have LED (light emitting diodes) lights and CFL bulbs (compact fluorescent lights) installed in my house. And I know that they use 1/10th to 1/5th the power of incandescent lights while having the same light output.

And while lights aren’t a huge piece of the energy pie  at 4%, they are still a significant contributor and easy to do something about.

Replace light bulbs with LEDs

LEDs have been dropping in price year after year and are an investment that most people should be making. If you don’t want to change every bulb in your house immediately, that’s not a problem. Just buy a pack of LEDs and replace bulbs as they burn out with new energy efficient ones. This way you’ll naturally tend to get the bulbs that are used the most replaced with something that will get you the same amount of light, while costing ten times less for electricity.

Upgrade old appliances for Energy Star models

washing machine at REEP HouseUpgrading appliances can be more challenging due to the money required to make a change.

It’s fairly safe to say that if it’s older than 20 years old, replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR appliance is a good choice. It’s tougher to make the call when it’s between 10 and 20 years old but still working just fine. There is no hard and fast rule there, though you can look up its energy consumption online and see how much money you’ll save each year if you bought a new one. Here’s a chart that helps you determine how much it costs for the electricity they use.

On the other hand, you might be thinking that each year you delay means you can get a more energy efficient appliance than what may have been available just a year before. But that is a false argument if we’re talking about a 20 year old fridge because the annual improvement is not enough to justify waiting. Replace that old fridge now! But, don’t put your stove to the curb over this since there is not much to gain in energy efficiency when it comes to heating food. This technology simply hasn’t changed much.

Consider a home energy monitor

Often times we are unaware of the power that is used to keep us comfortable. A whole-house energy monitor is an excellent device that you can install that will show you how much energy you are currently using. Place the monitor in a convenient location so that you can be aware of how much energy your house is using on your behalf. You’ll become knowledgeable enough to know when something is still on that doesn’t need to be.

We love our air conditioning too much

The electrical load from air conditioning is fairly low overall, but collectively our energy use from air conditioning is increasing. To save on air conditioning, going to a higher efficiency unit is probably not going to provide enough of a payback to justify that upgrade. But if you are going to replace your air conditioning unit anyhow, you definitely want to select a high efficiency model.

There are things you can do, behaviour-wise that can make a big impact on your use of air conditioning. First, don’t run it when you are not home– set your thermostat to a higher temperature if you aren’t there. Second, turn it off and open the upstairs windows when it’s cool at nighttime to pre-cool your home. Ideally you’ll have windows on opposite sides of the house open so you can benefit from cross-ventilation, or if you have multiple levels, opening a window one or two floors up can provide a very nice airflow boost thanks to the buoyancy of hot air. If you are looking for a new slow cooker then check out who makes the best slow cooker.

If you have a ceiling fan, you will feel cooler when it’s running. But since it just moves air around, and doesn’t actually cool the house, turn it off when you aren’t in the room.

Things you can do to feel more comfortable when it’s hot in your home

  1. Wear less clothing, and light, free flowing fabrics that wick moisture are lovely – take those socks off.
  2. Move air around – open windows (if you don’t have the A/C on), or run fans to blow air over your skin.
  3. Don’t use incandescent lights, and turn lights off when possible.
  4. Try to cook less by eating more cold meals. If you are going to use the stove, use the rear burners and have your range hood fan on to move that heat out right away. Use the microwave more than the oven if possible.
  5. Shower with colder water, and make sure that the bathroom exhaust fan is on so you don’t end up steaming up the rest of the house when you get out.
  6. Make sure your dryer exhaust pipe is well sealed and no hot and humid air is escaping into your home.
  7. Exterior blinds for windows should be lowered if you have them, or internal shades drawn – preferably before you already have heat inside the house.

LEARN MORE

photo credit: Just looking via photopin (license)

 

This is Lesson 7 of our informal online course: Home Energy 101All lessons by Philip Drader, Home Energy Coach.

Replacing a furnace can be a fairly straightforward affair. You call a couple heating, ventilation and air conditioning companies – commonly referred to as HVAC companies, and they give you quotes to replace it (find out details at bluonenergy.com/r22-replacement).

That’s great if you know you need a new furnace because your current one has reached the end of its life. But what if your current furnace is still working fine. Will a new furnace help make your home more energy efficient or improve uncomfortable rooms? Here’s my advice to help you decide.

vented water heater and furnaceWhen replacing your furnace is an easy decision

A good rule of thumb is that if your furnace has a pilot light, or has a metal vent with a gap just above the furnace (see photo) then go ahead and replace it before winter.

Keep using your high efficiency furnace

If the label on the side of your furnace says that it’s greater than 90% efficient to start with, replace it when it dies since you already have a high efficiency furnace. You won’t save enough gas with a higher efficiency furnace to pay for the upgrade.

Determine how much money you can save money with a new furnace

If your furnace efficiency is below 90%, it’s useful to know how much you can lower your heating costs to determine if you should replace your furnace right away or if you could wait. You’ll want to determine if you can save enough money in fuel costs to justify replacing the upgrade.

  1. Start with your yearly gas bill to figure out much how much you’re paying for the natural gas used to heat your hot water for the whole year.

Most people use about the same amount of hot water for showering, dish washing, and washing clothes all year round, so you need to figure out how much natural gas you use monthly to heat water.

  1. Look up your bill for a warm weather month when you were home with the furnace off but not frequently using a natural gas barbeque.
  2. Take that monthly amount and multiply it by 12 to get your yearly cost to heat water.
  3. Then subtract your water heating costs from what you paid over the year for natural gas.
  4. furnace Energyguide labelTake your resulting number and multiply it by your furnace efficiency. It’s usually listed on the side of your furnace (or boiler). Turn it into a decimal. If your furnace it 83% efficient, it would be .83.

That number you have is the absolute minimum cost for a fuel-fired appliance (for example natural gas or propane) if it were 100% efficient.

  1. You can then reuse the formula with your new furnace options.
  2. Use results of Step 6 to calculate your savings by replacing your furnace with each option.

Taking time to do this math can help you determine if the savings on your fuel costs are enough to upgrade your furnace.

example of calculation to determine savings with a new furnace

What if you have uncomfortable rooms?

If you have rooms that are uncomfortably warm or cold, first check to make sure that all the vents in the house are open. Then take some time to “balance” the house. Open vents in rooms that are used and close the ones in rooms that are not used. If you had to adjust more than a couple, give the house a day or two to settle in to its new temperature profile.

The vents might also have a little circular adjustment plate inside the duct. Some are accessible from the vent, and some are accessible on the main duct coming out of the furnace in the basement. If your home has them, you can try using them to adjust air flow.

takeoff from main duct

takeoff from main air duct

If there are still rooms that are uncomfortable, the next step would be to tape up wherever there is a takeoff from the main duct such as to take air upstairs.

takeoff with foil tape

foil tape around connection with main duct

The duct is probably pretty dirty, so clean it first so the dust doesn’t prevent the tape from sticking. Then use a high-quality aluminized tape to seal around each takeoff.

Another option – though it isn’t the most efficient option – would be to run your furnace fan continuously instead of on auto. But doing so means using electricity and it decreases the time until the motor needs to be replaced.

Some people will have settings on their vent cover’s diffuser to tell them what setting to choose for summer vs winter. Your basement for instance, will rarely need any air conditioning in the summer, so all the vents should be closed. However, it will probably need to be open for full heating in the winter.

You might need to change your water heater too so it would be better if you get help from the Goodman heating systems

If you have an exterior chimney and a water heater that is vented into the chimney, you should replace your water heater with a sealed-combustion unit at the same time that you are doing the furnace replacement. Otherwise, the chimney can cool down when there’s no longer the furnace venting through it, and the venting from the water heater could possibly backdraft and let combustion products into the home and potentially lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

You can do so fairly inexpensively, if like most people, you rent your water heater. If for some reason you can’t replace your water heater at the same time, ensure you have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Everyone needs to have these detectors according to a fairly recent law.

What if you don’t need a new furnace?

If your home gets uncomfortably cold but you don’t need a new furnace and you’ve explored the other options I’ve suggested to improve uncomfortable rooms, you should get a home energy evaluation to help you develop a game plan to make your home energy efficient and comfortable.

The other lessons in this series may also be helpful.


Upcoming Events

  1. Zero Waste 101: Package-Free & BYOC(ontainer)

    September 29 | 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm
  2. Protect Your Home from Water Damage

    October 2 | 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  3. Rockway Gardens Pruning Demo and Tour

    October 13 | 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
  4. Landscape Solutions for Managing Water

    October 13 | 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
  5. Waterloo Hands-On Pruning Workshop

    October 20 | 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Twitter

© Copyright REEP Green Solutions. All rights reserved.