Whether you are retrofitting your existing home or thinking of a new addition, you can take this opportunity to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Having an efficient building envelope will save on your monthly bills, increase your resale value and it’s great for the environment.
Older homes and those built as recently as the 1980s are usually under-insulated and have gaps and holes that don’t stand up to modern efficiency standards. You want to make your home more efficient, but it’s important to know where to spend your retrofit money to get the most bang for your buck.
Get an Energy Audit
Get an expert to conduct an energy audit of your home so you can see where the problems lie. Knowing where you are losing most of your conditioned indoor air will mean you don’t spend money on things that won’t solve the problem.
Strategy One: Mind the Gaps
This is a quick fix that should be relatively inexpensive and involves caulking all the gaps and holes around openings in your home. All ducting and plumbing openings should be properly sealed and rubber seals around doors should also be replaced.
Other areas to check are pot light fixtures, electrical boxes, exhaust fans and window-wall joints behind the casings.
Strategy Two: Use the Right Insulation
If your building was built before the 90s, chances are it will need additional insulation. Start by considering insulation options that fit your building climate zone. Then match your budget to the best possible insulation you can afford.
Table one is a very general guideline from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation on what insulation to use:
Table 1 — Retrofit options for different levels of heating energy savings
Targeted Space Heating Energy Savings
Retrofit Measures to Achieve Targeted Space Heating Savings
Improve Airtightness by at Least 30%
Add Insulation to Roof and Attic
Add Insulation to Below-Grade Walls
Add Insulation to Above-Grade Walls
Replace Windows and Doors
Add Insulation to Basement Floor
On top of roof: RSI-7 (R-40)**
Over existing attic insulation:
RSI-1.04 (R-6) or more
* Note: Air leakage should be no higher than 1 ACH50 for space heating energy savings greater than 75 per cent.
** This is considered to be the highest insulation value that can reasonably be added on top of the roof sheathing.
Strategy Three: ICF Retrofit
One of the most energy efficient and long-lasting retrofits you can make is to install ICF wall systems. This is an especially good option for redoing your basement or for new additions to your current building. ICFs have phenomenal R-values, are kind to the environment, offer protection from fires, winds and flooring and cut outside noise by up to 30%.
Strategy Four: Window Retrofit
Traditionally windows have had very poor R-values, but advances in window technology have revolutionized the performance of window systems. Opt for double or triple pane windows to improve the efficacy of your building envelope.
Strategy Five: HVAC System
As you improve insulation, you can downsize your HVAC system to a more energy-efficient model. Opt for an Energy Star appliance that is properly sized for the home.
Strategy Six: Radiant Barrier
If you live in an area which high summer temperatures, a radiant barrier can really help to reduce your summer cooling costs.
Strategy Seven: Efficient Hot Water Systems
The third-largest energy expense in most homes with 14-25% of energy use, your hot water system can be updated to an Energy Star appliance or a tankless system to cut consumption.
Strategy Eight: Energy-Efficient Lighting
You may not think lighting will make much of a difference, but it accounts for 20% of the energy consumption in the average home. Consider CFL and florescent lighting fixture options.
Strategy Nine: Energy Star Appliances
Wherever possible, update appliances to Energy Star appliances. Visit www.energystar.gov to see which models are the most efficient as some appliances perform up to 150% better than baseline requirements.
Check with your local government for incentives for efficient retrofits and you could really save on construction costs.