Recent years have seen a resurgence of consumer interest in energy efficiency. In part, this reflects rising energy costs, but homeowners are also becoming increasingly aware of the close links between energy efficiency, home comfort and a healthy environment.
Simply put, an energy-efficient home not only reduces your energy costs, it is also a better place to live. It is easier to heat or cool, and to maintain comfortable temperatures throughout the house. Indoor air quality is improved as moisture, dust and other airborne pollutants can be controlled more easily. And at the same time, an energy-efficient home is better for the environment, because less energy means fewer greenhouses gasses contributing to climate change and polluting our natural environment.
Most renovations usually present many opportunities for energy efficiency improvements. This is the time when these improvements will cost you the least as you can "piggy-back" them on other renovation work.
- If your renovation involves removing plaster or drywall from an exterior wall, professional renovators commonly recommend air-sealing the walls and adding insulation. Windows and doors that have deteriorated or leak can be repaired or replaced at the same time.
- When selecting new windows, choose high-performance units with insulative spacers, inert gas fills and low-emissivity coatings. The most energy-efficient windows actually gain more solar heat during the day than they lose at night.
- Building an addition to your home may require changing your heating system to accommodate the extra space; if so, consider installing a high-efficiency heating system. An electronic thermostat will help to reduce your energy consumption further.
- Throughout the house, replace incandescent lights with less energy-intensive fluorescent and halogen lights - either just the bulbs or the complete fixture.
- When you buy new appliances, check the label. All appliances sold in Canada carry the EnerGuide label which makes it easy to compare the energy use of appliances. And the top performing dishwashers, refrigerators and clothes washers also carry the ENERGY STAR® mark, to help you identify the most energy-efficient models.
Homeowners can also get an independent home energy assessment from a government-licensed home energy advisor. This service provides you with a detailed evaluation of all the energy-related aspects of your home: insulation levels, windows, heating and cooling systems and air leakage. Your written assessment report will detail the most cost-effective energy upgrades, and your estimated energy cost savings. This can be a valuable tool for you and your renovator when developing plans for your renovation project.