Renovations for Energy Efficiency
Thermal comfort and energy efficiency are important aspects
of your home’s performance. Those of us who live in a cold
climate spend a good part of the year debating with ourselves
about our approach to staying warm. There is constant
tension between feeling warm and shelling out money to pay for
heat. Do we turn up the heat or put on a sweater? Can we afford
to do an energy upgrade? Can we afford not to do an energy upgrade?
Whether your motivation is personal, such as saving money for
the family budget, or global, such as reducing fossil fuel use,
it’s helpful to understand what impacts thermal comfort,
heating expenses and how you can achieve the right balance for
your home. You also need to know where to invest money and who
can help with decisions. We can help you to evaluate your home,
set performance goals and put together a budget for renovations.
How do you know that you need to make changes?
- This may seem obvious, but if your household is engaged
in thermostat wars, there’s a problem. A well thought-out
energy strategy should allow for temperature variations throughout
a home and some level of individual control, whether it’s
some extra radiant heat in a bathroom or an energy efficient
space heater for occasional use. While 68 degrees is comfortable
in the living room, it’s chilly if you’ve just stepped
out of the shower.
- Does your house have icicles? They make great
holiday décor, but icicles are proof that you are heating spaces
that you don’t want to heat. You’re paying for the
heat that melts the snow to make the icicle. You
may also pay to replace that carpet, drywall and
insulation that is damaged when the melt/freeze cycle, known as an ice dam,
causes a flood in your home. You may pay for mold
remediation from the minor leaking that went undetected. You may pay for
visits, allergy medicine and missed work time because
realize that you had mold in the wall from undetected
melt water damage.
- Do you feel drafts? Drafts are caused by air
infiltration that can result from drafty flues,
uninsulated outlets, older or poor quality windows
or even new windows installed without considering
the insulation strategy for the whole house. The
absence of drafts doesn’t mean that the house is functioning
properly. Leaks in attics and basements often aren’t seen
or felt but they result in high energy consumption
and ice dams.
- Do you have high heating bills or a significant
change in heating costs which aren’t due to changes in fuel prices?
Problems with equipment can increase fuel costs.
Another change, often overlooked, is the condition
of the insulation. Many homeowners are surprised
to learn that their old insulation has gaps or is crumpled in a heap at
the bottom of the wall. It can happen as a result of leaks, by deterioration
of the paper backing or by improper installation.
How do you decide what changes to make?
- 1. Air Infiltration and air sealing: You get the best
results for your investment by air sealing and
controlling air infiltration. Visual inspections, thermal imaging
and blower door testing are tools for detecting
air infiltration and heat loss. Fortunately, there are tax credits
and rebate programs which can help defer the cost of renovations
for energy efficiency. We can help you to figure
out a building envelope strategy as well as what programs are
currently available to help reduce the cost of renovations.
- Fresh Air and Controlled Ventilation: It is
vital to have controlled ventilation to replace
the air in your home several times a day. When
you air seal, you need to be sure to provide for
adequate controlled ventilation to avoid building up toxins
within your home. Homes and people need to breathe.
- Passive Survivability and Power Outages: How
well does your home perform when you lose power?
Are you dependant on a noisy, fume-spewing generator?
Can you limit the hours that a generator is needed? Are there
opportunities for insulation, passive solar heat gain or active
solar to provide for basic needs when the power
is out? What are your non-fossil fuel resources?
Are you pushing over a domino? Some
energy efficiency renovations are straight forward.
You hire an energy auditor. Their thermal imaging shows that you need
to seal around windows and the eaves and you are
done. For others, this work entails touching many of the building’s
components. If you need new windows, new insulation, extensive air sealing
or a new heat source, the chances are good that
it makes sense to do any functional and aesthetic renovations at the same
time. There is no sense replacing a window if you end up moving it
two years later when you upgrade the kitchen, expand
the master bedroom suite or add the in-law apartment. You can achieve considerable
savings by going through our lifestyle assessment
and incorporating these changes into your energy renovation scope of work.
We can provide a master plan for completing renovations over the time
frame that makes sense for your family and your
How do you know that you’re getting value for your dollars?
A whole house approach with a well-documented scope of work is
your best tool for getting accurate pricing and
making sure that you are doing all that needs to be done for the performance
that you desire. Too often, people choose a piece-meal approach or
work with a contractor or sub-contractor with a
narrow focus who can only perform part of the job. It’s very expensive
to re-do work. The most energy efficient windows in the world
won’t reduce your energy use if the rest of the house leaks
like a sieve. The same can be said about insulation and heating
systems. You can throw a lot of money at a house in this fashion
without reaping the benefits in savings. What’s more, if
you are planning to apply for tax credits or rebates,
you need to be sure that your home can pass the required testing to be
reimbursed for your renovation costs.
What is the next step?
Please call us at 603-487-5252 or email us
to learn how we can be part of your renovation
team. We will meet at your home and discuss your options. There
is no charge for the initial meeting. We will provide a written
proposal and a recommended scope of services suited
to your needs.