Home Energy Savings Calculator Upgrades

Projects you can do TODAY

All of these recommended upgrades are simple projects to reduce energy and water that can be completed in just a day or two that you can do without any experience.

PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Install a programmable thermostat and program it properly by setting it back 5 to 10 degrees while you are at work or school or during the night.

DID YOU KNOW? Convenience is one advantage of a programmable thermostat. You just set it and forget it. The temperature changes occur automatically.

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

Nearly half of the energy used in your home is for heating and cooling. A traditional thermostat is a fairly primitive device, switching on the heating or cooling system when the temperature drops or rises above the set degree and turns the system off once the temperature is back to the set degree point. These models are also rather inaccurate and often located in drafty exterior walls. A programmable thermostat is smarter because it only operates during times you set it when you will be active at home and can be turned off or set to a different setting when you are not home or during the night, meaning you will not be wasting money when it is not needed. If set correctly, a programmable thermostat can cut heating and cooling costs by 20% to 30%.

Buying Tips

Your local hardware or home retail store should offer a few different models. Programmable thermostats come with several programming capabilities:

  • 7-day models allow you to set different programs for each day of the week and usually permit four possible temperature periods per day. These are best if your daily schedule tends to change from day to day.
  • 5+2 models allow one program for Monday through Friday and another for Saturday and Sunday.
  • 5+1+1 models allow one program for Monday through Friday, another schedule for Saturday, and still another for Sundays.

Look for an Energy Star-qualified programmable thermostat as they come programmed with settings that are intended to deliver savings without sacrificing comfort. All Energy Star-qualified programmable thermostats include:

  • Four default program periods a day, allowing you to save money while you’re away or sleeping.
  • Plus or minus 2-degree accuracy to keep the temperature even and keep you comfortable.
  • Digital backlit displays.
  • Touch pad screen programming.
  • Voice and/or phone programming.
  • Hold and vacation features.
  • Indicators to remind you to to change air filters on your heating system.
  • Indicators that signal malfunctioning heating/cooling systems.
  • Adaptive recovery/smart recovery features. These are control features that sense the amount of time required to reach the next set-point temperature so your home reaches the desired temperature on schedule.

**Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) suspended the ENERGY STAR specification for programmable thermostats effective December 31, 2009. NRCan and the Environmental Protection Agency are currently working on the development of a new specification for climate controls that will replace the current specification.

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

The installation of most programmable thermostats is relatively simple since they are generally connected to low-voltage wiring with the exception of electrical baseboards because they wiring is higher voltage and should be installed by a qualified electrician or HVAC contractor.

Video: Installing a Programmable Thermostat by Home Depot
Home Depot – Installing a Programmable Thermostat

The location of the thermostat can affect its performance and efficiency if it is in direct sunlight, drafts and the outside wall. If the unit is in an exterior wall, simply place a foam thermostat gasket under the wall plate to prevent outside air from affecting the temperature. If renovating, consider moving the location of the unit if the current location is not ideal. Also, most homes only have one thermostat so it is possible to vary the temperature in different rooms, however if you are renovating you could consider having multiple zones installed so that you have more control.

Maintenance

Once installed and programmed to fix your lifestyle, thermostats do not need maintenance. Some units contain batteries. Check to see if the batteries need to be replaced once a year.

Resources

US Environmental Protection Agency – http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=TH
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/maho/enefcosa/enefcosa_004.cfm
Scotiabank ecoliving – Green Renovations that Pay for Themselves – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/green-renos-that-pay-for-themselves

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.
Amann, J., Wilson, A., Ackerly, K. 2007. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, 9th Edition. Washington: New Society Publishers

LIGHTING

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Replace 90% of your incandescent bulbs with CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent) or energy efficient pot light bulbs

DID YOU KNOW? Energy efficient bulbs come in a range of sizes and variety of colour temperatures, meaning some give off cooler white light and others warmer white light.

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

In Canada, lighting accounts for approximately 4% to 11% of the energy use in your home depending on you climate zone and is one of the highest energy users in the average home. Changing your light bulbs is an easy way to save energy and money. An energy efficient light bulb like a CFL or LED can easily save you 70% or more.

Traditional incandescent bulbs give off 90% heat and 10% light. A CFL bulb is the opposite by providing the same amount of light with a fraction of the energy. An 18 watt CFL provides the same brightness as a 100 watt incandescent bulb and the life of a CFL last approximately 10,000 hours compared to 1,300 hours for a typical incandescent bulb.

What Do You Need to Know

When buying CFL bulbs select wattage of about 1/4th of what you usually buy.

25-watt incandescent – 7-watt compact fluorescent
40-watt incandescent – 9 to 11-watt compact fluorescent
60-watt incandescent – 13 to 15-watt compact fluorescent
75-watt incandescent – 18 to 25-watt compact fluorescent
100-watt incandescent – 23 to 30-watt compact fluorescent
150-watt incandescent – 30 to 52-watt compact fluorescent

An alternative to CFL’s is LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes). LED bulbs have been sold commercially for only a short period of time. These bulbs have no filament. While being a highly energy efficient light bulb, LED bulbs are still very expensive ($50), they can last up to 25,000 hours.

LED bulbs emit light in only one direction so they do not evenly light up a room without putting many lights in the room and most bulbs only put out the bright white light that is not desirable in most homes (good for offices and bathrooms). As this technology is relatively new, we can expect these issues to be resolved over time; the price is bound to drop as well over time.

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

No, CFL bulbs are available in many shapes and sizes and fix into a standard light bulb socket and shouldn’t take more than a minute to change each bulb.

Maintenance

Compact fluorescents contain a small amount of mercury vapour (about 5 mg) to produce light which is much less than the 10mg of mercury released into the air by using an incandescent bulb. This small amount presents very little danger even if the lamp breaks.

CFL’s must be recycled and deposed of properly to minimize the spread of mercury in your home or in landfills. Many retailers, manufacturers and communities have established recycling programs.

The Home Depot CFL Bulb Recycling Program

Other opportunities to lower your lighting energy costs

  1. Use motion sensors for indoor lighting. This one is great if you have kids that like to leave all the lights on!
  2. Let more natural light in (windows). This one requires balance as additional windows will increase your heating and cooling expenses.
  3. Match your light to the task – you can save a lot by concentrating light to where it is needed.
  4. Upgrade your ballasts. New electric ballasts are more efficient than magnetic ballasts.
  5. Use light sensors for outdoor lighting so lights are on only when it is dark out.
  6. Install solar powered outdoor lights.

Resources

Natural Resources of Canada – http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficient-products/lighting/15137
US Environmental Protection Agency – http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=LB
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/bude/himu/waensati/waensati_029.cfm
Greenliving – How to Recycle your CFL’s – http://www.greenlivingonline.com/article/how-recycle-your-cfls
Scotiabank ecoliving – Green Your Recessed Lighting – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/green-your-recessed-lighting

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.

SHOWERHEADS

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Replace your showerheads with low flow fixtures using 4.5 litres per minute or less.

Cost Note: the cost of the showerhead/s does not include labour or an installation fee.

DID YOU KNOW?Water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators can cut hot water use in half.

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

Older fixtures spray twice the amount of water needed for a good shower. Showers are the 2nd highest consumer of water in the home after toilets and the largest user of hot water. By simply installing a low flow showerhead you could save 35% to 60% of the water you use. Since these water savings will reduce demands on water heaters, households will also save energy. In fact, a household could save 300 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power its television use for about a year.

For more information, Environment Canada has developed a Water Use Calculator so that you can see how much water you are using compared to the average Canadian and Water Conservation Tips.

What Do You Need to Know

Low flow showerheads are available in dozens of types, varieties and cost points at your local hardware or home store. Many people believe low flow means low pressure and therefore longer to get soap out of the hair. Today, low flow showerheads are made for high performance and aerate the water by pulling air into the stream creating a feeling of higher pressure. WaterSense label program developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ensures the highest standard of water efficiency both water reduction with high performance standards. AquaHelix produces one of the lowest-flow showerheads on the market at only 1.9 LPM.

Other features that save water are pause buttons or switch to allow you to temporarily turn off the water while you soap or shave and ensures the same water temperature when switched back on.

Ultimately, water will be saved by adjusting your habits. The average shower in Canada is about 10 minutes. Try to take a shower in 5 mintues or less. A shower timer may be a helpful way for you and your teenagers to remind yourselves to take shorter showers.

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

You should be able to install your showerhead on your own. You will need the low flow showerhead, a plumber’s wrench, pipe dope and about 15 minutes. Otherwise you could hire a plumber.

Video: How to Install a Low Flow Showerhead by Green Venture and the City of Hamilton

Maintenance

If you notice that the showerhead is leaking between uses, remove the showerhead with a wrench and add a layer of Teflon tape to secure the connection.

Showerheads can become clogged in areas with hard water. Unscrew the showerhead and soak it in warm water and vinegar or other calcium remover product and the calcium buildup should be removed making the fixture as good as new.

Resources

EPA WaterSense – http://www.epa.gov/watersense/products/showerheads.html
Environment Canada – Water Conservation Tips – http://www.on.ec.gc.ca/reseau/watertips_e.html
Environment Canada – Water Use Calculator – http://www.on.ec.gc.ca/reseau/watercalculator/login_e.html
USGBC Green Home Guide – Can you recommend a good low flow showerhead? – http://greenhomeguide.com/askapro/question/can-you-recommend-a-good-low-flow-showerhead
RONA – Install Low Flow Showerheads – http://ronaeco.ca/en/project/bathroom-and-laundry-room/47/install-low-flow-
showerheads./
Scotiabank ecoliving – Better Bathroom Design Ideas – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/better-bathroom-design-ideas

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.

TOILETS

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Replace your toilets with low flush or dual flush toilets with a minimum 4.9 litres per flush.

Cost Note: the cost of the toilet/s does not include labour or an installation fee.

How will this project lower water use in your home?

Second to the United States, Canada consumes more water per person at 335 L (2007) than in any other country. The toilet is the single largest user at 30% of clean drinking water in the home. Fortunately it is the easiest place to conserve water. Did you know that some municipalities spend about 1/3 of their budgets annually for treating water, pumping clean water and sewage? In many municipalities across Canada, water prices are on the rise. Saving water can help you Futureproof your home against rising water bills.

For more information, see Environment Canada’s Factsheet on water use.

What Do You Need to Know

There are a few different toilet options:

1) Low Flush or Ultra Low Flush Toilets – look for toilets with litres per flush of at least 4.9 or lower. The WaterSense label program developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must meet both water reduction targets and performance targets for high-efficiency toilets. To earn the WaterSense label, a toilet must be able to flush at least 350 g of waste in a single flush. This is generally more than sufficient for the vast majority of households, as the average waste volume most toilets handle can be less than 150 g.

A Canadian invention – Proficiency Ultra High Efficiency toilet distributed by WaterMatrix only uses 3 LPF through a new design.
http://www.watermatrix.com/proficiency/proficiency-technology.php

2) Dual Flush Toilets – Dual-flush toilets have two buttons, one for solid waste (using 6 litres or less) and one for liquid waste (3 litres or less). These models save over 66% of the water of a standard toilet if the dual flush function is used optimally.

3) Composting Toilets – Installing a composting toilet recovers materials that can be used as organic fertilizer and uses no water at all. A space to store the compost is required, along with regular maintenance to avoid possible problems. These toilets are expensive, but they’re a great idea for homes that are not served by municipal sewers and houses connected to wells.

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

Many do-it-yourselfer can easily install toilets and this is why labour was not included in the cost in the calculator. If you cannot install the toilet yourself hire a plumber.

Video: How to Install a Low Flow Toilet http://video.about.com/greenliving/How-to-Install-Low-Flush-Toilets.htm

Maintenance

Once installed properly, toilets are maintenance free, however check and listen for leaks as the fixture ages. 10% of the water use in a home can be the result of leaks in the home.

Other options to lower your toilet water use and water costs

Water saving options for existing toilets

1) Lowering the toilet tank flow manually – A float in the tank drops as the water leaves the tank when you flush and this activates a valve that refills the tank with water until the water reaches a set height determined by the float. There are two types of floats. Older ones have a metal arm attached by a screw and newer floats move up and down the shaft. By lowering the height of the float using a screwdriver, you reduce the amount of water that fills the tank. Try different heights until you find the amount of water that works for you. By doing this up to 7 litres of water could be saved, especially if you have a really old toilet.

2) Place a bottle in the tank – you will need a 2L soda bottle, sand, small rocks or pebbles that will fit into the bottle. Fill the soda bottle with sand, rocks and water until the bottle will stand up in the toilet tank on its own when full. Place the bottle as far away from the valve as possible and ensure it does not block the float. By doing this the bottle will take up some of the volume and save about 3.5 L per flush.

Resources

EPA WaterSense – http://www.epa.gov/watersense/products/toilets.html
Environment Canada – Water Conservation Tips – http://www.on.ec.gc.ca/reseau/watertips_e.html
USGBC Green Home Guide – 5 Tips for Choosing a Low-Flow Toilet – http://greenhomeguide.com/know-how/article/5-tips-for-choosing-a-low-flow-toilet
RONA – Choose a Low Flow Toilet – http://ronaeco.ca/en/project/bathroom-and-laundry-room/46/choose-a-low-flow-toilet./
Scotiabank ecoliving – Why You Should Upgrade Your Toilet – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/why-upgrade-your-toilet

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.

APPLIANCES

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Replace your appliances with ENERGY STAR rated appliances.

DID YOU KNOW? ENERGY STAR appliances today use considerably less energy than they did in 1990.

  • Refrigerators and Freezers use at least 50 percent less energy
  • Dishwashers use about 66 percent less energy
  • Washing Machines use about 68 percent less energy
  • Clothes Dryers use about 17 percent less energy

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

On average, replacing any standard appliance in your home to an ENERGY STAR model will reduce the energy consumption by 30%. The appliance load in the home accounts for about 13% of the energy use in a typical Canadian home.

The refrigerator is often the largest single energy user in the home. By replacing a 1990 or older model with an ENERGY STAR model, you could save enough electricity to light up your home for 4 months.

Look for the ENERGY STAR® Symbol

The international ENERGY STAR symbol displayed alone identifies major electrical appliances that meet or exceed technical specifications designed to ensure that they are among the most energy efficient in their class, without compromising performance. and is aimed at increasing market penetration. ENERGY STAR is a voluntary (not regulatory) program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The ENERGY STAR symbol was first used in 1992 in the United States as an indicator of energy efficiency for computers and monitors. Since the label’s introduction to Canada in 2001, the symbol can be found on almost 40 types of products sold in Canada. (listing of ENERGY STAR products)

What Do You Need to Know

Refrigerator

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol
  • Look for the lowest EnerGuide energy consumption rating
  • Look for these features:
    • An “Energy Save” switch that controls heating coils in the cabinet (they prevent condensation in humid weather, but you should turn them off when the air is dry)
    • Separate temperature controls that regulate the inside temperature of the refrigerator and freezer compartments
    • Easy-rolling wheels, which make cleaning easier, especially for vacuuming the condenser coils regularly.
  • Top-freezer models are more energy efficient than side-by-side models.
  • An automatic defrost refrigerator with side-by-side freezer and door dispenser uses 40% more electricity than a model with a top freezer and manual defrost.
  • Automatic icemakers and internal water dispensers use more energy.
  • Position the refrigerator at least 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 in.) from the wall so air can move freely around it. Refrigerator motors and compressors generate heat, which requires sufficient space around your refrigerator for continuous airflow. If heat cannot escape, the refrigerator’s cooling system has to work extra hard and use more energy.
  • Set your refrigerator’s temperature between 1.7°C and 3.3°C (35 and 38°F) and the freezer at –18°C (0°F) for maximum efficiency and food safety, and position refrigerators away from heat sources such as ovens, dishwashers, direct sunlight and heating vents.
  • Unplug an older, second refrigerator if you are not using it – it probably uses twice as much energy as your newer one. When discarding your older refrigerator, check with your municipality or local utility about pick-up and recycling programs.

Lookup ENERGY STAR models in Canada (NRCan)

Freezer

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol
  • Look for the lowest EnerGuide energy consumption rating
  • Chest freezers are generally more energy efficient than upright models because only a little amount of cold air flows out when you open them. Upright freezers lose cold air because it flows down and out of the freezer when the door is opened.
  • Automatic defrost freezers use more energy than manual defrost models.
  • Select the appropriate size to meet your needs.
  • Set your freezer temperature at –18°C (0°F) for maximum efficiency and food safety.

Lookup ENERGY STAR models in Canada (NRCan)

Dishwasher

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol
  • Look for the lowest EnerGuide energy consumption rating
  • Run your dishwasher only when it’s full.
  • Select the no-heat drying cycle (also called “air drying”).
  • Do not rinse dishes before putting them into the dishwasher! Rinsing, especially in hot water, wastes energy. Just scrape off the excess food and let the dishwasher do the job you bought it to do.

Lookup ENERGY STAR models in Canada (NRCan)

Clothes Washing Machine

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol – saves energy and about 35 to 50 less water than traditional models.
  • Look for the lowest EnerGuide energy consumption rating
  • Look for these features:
    • a water-level control or a small-load basket, either of which allows you to use less water for small loads (adjust water level to match load size. Full loads use less energy and water than several small loads because a washing machine uses the same amount of energy regardless of the load size.
    • a variety of temperature controls that allow you to choose hot, warm or cold water (hot water wash with a warm water rinse uses 5 to 10 times more energy than a cold water wash)
    • options for energy savings cycles
  • Front loading washing machines are more efficient than top loading because front loading use much less water. Washing machines use the 2nd highest amount of hot water in the home. By choosing a front loading washer, you can save water and energy used to heat the water.
  • When possible, install your washer close to the water heater to reduce heat loss from the pipes. Even when the water heater is nearby, insulate exposed pipes, especially when they are close to cold walls.
  • Do not overload, because overloading can cause mechanical failure and reduce the effectiveness of the spin cycle.
  • Extra-dirty clothes? Instead of washing twice, use the pre-soak option.

Lookup ENERGY STAR models in Canada (NRCan)

Why are Clothes Dryers not included in the Home Energy Saving Calculator?

There are no ENERGY STAR® qualified clothes dryers because energy consumption does not vary significantly from one model to another. The main improvements in the energy efficiency of clothes dryers are due to automatic controls that end the cycle by using moisture sensors, thus eliminating over-drying, plus washers now remove more water so that dryers are more efficient.

  • Look for the lowest EnerGuide energy consumption rating
  • Look for these features:
    • a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine as soon as the clothes are dry (both saving energy but also reduces damage to clothes from over drying)
    • a cycle that includes a cool-down period, sometimes known as a “perma-press” cycle (in the last few minutes of the cycle, cool air, rather than heated air, is blown through the tumbling clothes to complete the drying process)
  • Select a low heat setting and clean lint filter after every load.
  • Consider installing a clothes line. If everyone used a clothes line for 6 months of the year, it would save more than 3% of our global warming emissions.

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

Most companies will deliver and install the appliances, ask for details when purchasing the appliance.
Refrigerators – refrigerators plug into a typical outlet. If the model has an ice maker or water dispenser, a handy-man or plumber may be needed to connect it to a water line.
Washer/Dyers – replacing a washer/dryer only requires a few screw-in connections such as water hoses and dryer vent hose.
Dishwasher – installing the dishwasher will likely require some help.

Maintenance

Appliances last about 12 to 15 years with very minimal maintenance. Be sure to read the owner’s manuals, they have helpful hints on how to operate the appliance at optimum efficiency. Keep all the appliance manuals, warranty cards and paperwork in case you ever need them.

Refrigerator

  • Clean the condenser coils regularly so air can circulate. When dust and pet hair build up on a refrigerator’s coils, air does not circulate freely so the motor works harder and uses more electricity.
  • Make sure the door seals are clean and tight.
  • Manually defrost the freezer if you have more than ¼” of ice buildup.

Freezer

  • Fully defrost and clean the inside of your freezer at least once a year.
  • Vacuum dust from the back and underside of your freezer regularly
  • Clean the condenser coils regularly so air can circulate.
  • Make sure the door seals are clean and tight.

Dishwasher

  • Clean the filter regularly and check seals for leaks.

Washing Machine

  • Check seals around the washing machine for leaks.

Resources

Natural Resources of Canada – http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/equipment/appliances/12377
US Environmental Protection Agency – http://www.energystar.gov/ia/new_homes/features/Appliances_062906.pdf?c23d-3ad1
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/bude/himu/waensati/waensati_029.cfm
Greenliving – Repair or Replace your Broken Appliance – http://www.greenlivingonline.com/article/repair-or-replace-your-broken-appliance
Scotiabank ecoliving – Finding Appliance Rebates – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/finding-appliance-rebates
Sears Canada – http://www.sears.ca/catalog/appliances/14093

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.
Amann, J., Wilson, A., Ackerly, K. 2007. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, 9th Edition. Washington: New Society Publishers

REDUCE AIR LEAKS

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Reduce the drafts in your house by air sealing around windows, doors, basement rim joist, attic and vents leading outside

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

Hidden air leaks cause some of the largest heat losses in existing homes and count for almost 30% of the total heat loss. Air leakage and improperly installed insulation can waste 20 percent or more of the energy used to heat or cool a home. With effective air sealing and insulation, the air that you have paid to heat and cool stay in your home, heating and cooling systems will work more efficiently, ultimately costing less to operate.

Other Benefits to Air Sealing

  • Improved Comfort – Drafts felt during the winter are often the result of unsealed cracks and holes. Sealing homes tightly typically results in fewer drafts and less noise.
  • Improved Indoor Air Quality – A tighter home envelope reduces the amount of humidity, dust, pollen, and pests that can enter the home helping improve indoor air quality and improving the impact your home has on your personal health.
  • Increased Durability – When warm air leaks through a home’s floors, walls, and attic, it can come in contact with cooler surfaces where condensation can occur. Moisture that occurs in these construction assemblies encourages mold growth, ruins insulation, and even compromises the structural elements of the home. Reducing air leakage helps minimize moisture problems and increases the home’s durability.

For more information, Air-Leakage Problems? Why Should I Worry About Air Leaks in Your Home by NRCan

What Do You Need to Know

The first step is to identify where the leaks are. If you are a Do It Yourselfer, there are some common air leakage areas listed below as well as a checklist and videos:

Ceiling and Floors
1) attic access hatches
2) recessed lights, fans and exhaust vents in insulated ceilings
3) wiring and plumbing penetrations through insulated ceilings and floors
4) the tops of interior partition walls where they intersect the attic space
5) kneewalls in finished attics, especially at access doors and built-in cabinets
6) dropped ceilings above bathtubs and cabinets (such as bulkhead above upper kitchen cabinets)

Chimneys and Fireplaces
7) chimney penetrations through insulated floors and ceilings
8) fireplace dampers

Exterior Walls and Foundation Walls
9) along the sill plate and band joist at the top of foundation walls
10) foundation cracks and floor drain
11) wiring and HVAC penetrations through walls
12) electrical outlets and switches, especially in exterior walls
13) doors, windows and baseboard moldings
14) mail slot
15) service entries

Natural Resources of Canada has a Checklist for Finding Leakage Areas
Video: Finding Air Leaks Around Your Home by PowerHouse
Video: How to Find Expensive Air Leaks in Your Home by EnergyHat

The other option to finding air leakage is to hire a Professional Energy Evaluator who will use a depressurizing blower door test to identify and measure the air leaks in a house. A powerful fan is inserted in a doorway, and all intentional openings – windows, doors, chimneys and vents – are closed or sealed. The fan depressurizes the house, and leaks are easily identified where air rushes into the house. A professional blower door test can also determine the total leakage area in the house, the extent of the work required, the effectiveness of the work as indicated in a post-retrofit test, and indications of backdrafting and spillage problems.

Find a professional Certified Energy Advisor in your area by contacting one of Natural Resources of Canada’s Home Energy Service Organizations. Click here

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

Depending on how handy you are many gaps and leaks, such as caulking and sealing around windows and exteriors doors can be easily fixed. Others, such as attic and basement air leakage may be better to hire a professional depending on how handy you are. The appropriate material for sealing hidden air leaks depends on the size and gaps and where they are located. Caulks are best for crakes and gaps less than 1/4” wide. Make sure it is suitable for sealing and look for ones with a 20 year lifespan. Expanding foam sealant is an excellent material for sealing larger cracks and holes.

Video: Energy Saving Tips: 5 quick ways to stop air leaks
Video: Seal and Insulate Windows and Doors
Video: How to Seal Attic and Basement Leaks
Videos: Do it Yourself – approved by the EPA

Maintenance

Caulking can crack over time, so check it periodically.

Resources

Air Seal and Insulate with ENERGY STAR http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_sealing
The Family Handyman – How to Seal Attic Air Leaks – http://www.familyhandyman.com/DIY-Projects/Saving-Money/Energy-Efficiency/how-to-seal-attic-air-leaks/View-All
Scotiabank ecoliving – Draft-proof Your House – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/draft-proof-your-house
Upgrade Insulation and Seal Air Leaks – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/upgrade-insulation-and-seal-air-leaks

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.
Amann, J., Wilson, A., Ackerly, K. 2007. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, 9th Edition. Washington: New Society Publishers

Projects you can do TOMORROW

All of these recommended upgrades are projects if you are planning to update or complete some upgrades that require minimal disturbance to your home.

ATTIC INSULATION

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Increase your ceiling or attic insulation to a minimum of R50. For flat or cathedral ceilings the recommended upgrade is to a R31 or insulate as much as possible, especially if there is no insulation in the cavity.

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

Heating and cooling your home is expensive and the costs are only going up. In winter, heated air rises and can travel through your home, up to the ceiling and attic and outside into the atmosphere. By insulating your attic, you can keep the conditioned air in your home where it belongs. Depending on the age of your house and how much existing attic insulation there is, increasing attic insulation is one of the easiest places to upgrade insulation and could help you save 5% to 10% of your heating and cooling bills.

What Do You Need to Know

To determine whether you should add insulation, you first need to find out how much insulation you already have in your home. A professional home energy evaluator will include an insulation check as a routine part of a whole-house energy assessment as well as identify areas in the attic where your home needs air sealing. (Before you insulate, you should make sure that your home is properly air sealed.)
If you don’t want a home energy assessment, you need to find out what type of insulation you have, and the RSI or R-value or thickness or depth (inches) of the insulation you have.

The insulating properties of any material are referred to by their RSI (the metric measurement of thermal resistance) or R-value (the imperial measurement of thermal resistance). RSI or R-value is an indication of how well something resists the transfer of heat. The higher the RSI or R-value of a material, the more it will resist heat.

Insulation materials have what is called a “settled density,” which is the thickness they will retain over time. The settled density equates to the R-value. Some materials settle more than others. Most insulation retailers or contractors will know how the various materials settle and can help you decide how much you will need to install.

Next you need to decide what type of insulation to add. It is generally better to insulate to a higher R-value than the minimum recommended level.

There are many different types of insulation such as batt, loose fill insulation, foam in place insulation and rigid foam insulation. Each type of insulation has a different R-value per inch. CMHC has developed a guide on Insulating Your House where you can find more information about the different insulations and how to insulate.

Attic air circulation is also important. Ensure that soffit venting is not blocked by added insulation; baffles may have to be installed. Passive cooling vents or roof vents that allow the attic to naturally cool are likely to be enough to keep heat from transferring into your house. Your attic requires some ventilation and it is essential to ensure you don’t block ventilation as you insulate if your attic is not part of your living space.

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

Insulating your attic is possible as a do-it-yourself project or you can hire a contractor. Usually, a contractor blows loose fill into and over the top of ceiling joists in attic spaces. For the do-it-yourselfer, batts laid sideways on existing insulation are an easy alternative.

If the attic is finished or has a sloped cathedral ceiling, adding extra insulation may be more difficult. If there is no insulation it may be worth removing the drywall, adding insulation and installing new drywall. If you will be re-roofing your home, you could also consider adding rigid foam and decking on top of the existing roof and then adding shingles. Both projects are more major and will likely require professional advice and work. If there is some insulation, it may be hard to justify the cost of the work and it may be better to focus efforts elsewhere.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) offers a booklet called Keeping the Heat In to educate homeowners on basic principles of building science and to provide guidance on how to proceed with home retrofit projects.

Maintenance

Since attics remain open and accessible, periodically check the attic for roof leaks, mold, and low spots in the insulation and insulation, especially blown-in loose fill insulation can shift due to the wind.

Resources

Natural Resources of Canada – Keeping the Heat In
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – Insulating Your House – http://www.cmhc.ca/en/co/maho/enefcosa/enefcosa_002.cfm
Scotiabank ecoliving – Use Less Energy, Save More Money – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/use-less-energy-save-more-money
Home Depot – Wall and Ceiling Insulationhttp://www.homedepot.ca/catalog/wall-ceiling-insulation/173076

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.
Amann, J., Wilson, A., Ackerly, K. 2007. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, 9th Edition. Washington: New Society Publishers

DRAIN WATER HEAT RECOVERY SYSTEM

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Install a drain water heat recovery system connected to at least one bath/shower.

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

Since showers are the largest user of hot water and almost 90% of the hot water goes down the drain, a drain water heat recovery system can recapture most of this heat and significantly lessen the energy used by your hot water heater. The addition of a DWHR system can cut hot water energy bills by 20% or more.

What Do You Need to Know

A drain water heat recovery (DWHR) pipe preheats the cold water entering the house while you are taking a shower. The system is available commercially and at your local home store. Also, look for what rebates may be available in your area.

Water falling down a vertical drain stack, like a shower drain, does not run down the middle of the stack, but instead clings to the inside wall of the pipe. In a DWHR application, falling drain water forms a thin film that rapidly imparts its heat to the colder pipe wall. The incoming cold water pipe is coiled around the vertical drain stack capturing much of this heat, then “recycles” it to raise the temperature of incoming cold water. Because the incoming cold water is preheated before going into the water heater and plumbing fixtures, the water heater uses less energy to raise the temperature of the water to the desired level for use, which saves money and increases the effective water heater capacity. The more showers the DWHR pipe is connect to the higher the efficiency.

For example, A 60-inch Power-Pipe System, for example, can raise the cold water temperature from 10°C (50°F) to as much as 24°C (75°F), under equal flow conditions.

Video: Why you should install a Power-Pipe, Renewability by John Godden, Clearsphere

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

A DWHR system can be easily installed on an existing vertical drain stack by a licensed plumber as long as the main drain stack is accessible. If the basement is finished, the vertical drain stack will have to be exposed and the existing walls re-finished.

Maintenance

Once the system is installed no maintenance is required making is one of the easiest and most valuable “renewable” energy source available.

Resources

Rewnewability – Power Pipe – http://www.renewability.com/power_pipe/index.html
EcoInnovation – Thermodrain – http://www.ecoinnovation.ca/residential-solutions/
Water Cycles – http://www.watercycles.ca/
Scotiabank ecoliving – Save with Drain Water Heat Recovery – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/save-with-drain-water-heat-recovery
Choosing a drain water heat recovery system – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/choosing-a-drain-water-heat-recovery-system

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.

HEATING EQUIPMENT

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COOLING EQUIPMENT

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Replace your air conditioner with a high efficiency central air conditioner with an efficiency of at least 14 SEER.

DID YOU KNOW? Air conditioning use has more than doubled since 1981 and air conditioners are being installed in nearly all new homes.

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

Cooling accounts for about 5% of the overall energy used. Unlike heating where different fuels are used, air conditioning uses electricity. Switching to a high efficiency central air conditioner could reduce your cooling loads by 20% to 50%.

While air conditioning is becoming more of the norm, the easiest and most affordable way to feel comfortable during the summer is to reduce the need for air conditioning by increasing insulation, air sealing, shade windows, install ENERGY STAR ceiling fans, natural and mechanical ventilation.

What Do You Need to Know

Central air conditioners are designed to cool the entire house. The large compressor and outdoor coil are located outdoors and are connected by refrigerant lines to an indoor coil mounted in the furnace. The same duct system is used for both heating and cooling air distribution. The energy efficiency of these products is measured by a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) and an energy efficiency ratio (EER). The annual cooling efficiency of a central air conditioner is affected by the manufacturer’s choice of features and components.

The life expectancy of a central air conditioner is 15 years or longer. If you are ready to replace your air conditioner, look for:

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol
  • Look for the lowest EnerGuide energy consumption rating
  • Efficient compressors,
  • Larger and more effective heat exchanger surfaces,
  • Improved refrigerant flow

Find of d a list of qualified ENERGY STAR qualified cooling manufacturers

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

The air conditioner should be installed by a certified HVAC contractor. The cost of installing a central air conditioner will vary depending on the nature of the existing furnace, the need to modify existing ductwork, and the need to upgrade the electrical service. Some other general guidelines to consider:

  • Place unit shaded place if possible
  • A central air conditioner generally requires more airflow than the furnace needs for heating. If you are also replacing your furnace or air handler consider a two-speed fan motor, with the correct speed automatically selected depending on whether cooling or heating is called for.
  • Keep refrigerant lines as short as possible.
  • Where the lines pass through the outside wall, pack the surrounding space between the lines and the wall with a resilient material, such as plumber’s putty. This will prevent noise or vibration problems and air leaks.

Maintenance

You can do some of the simple maintenance yourself, but a competent service contractor should inspect your unit periodically, preferably just prior to the cooling season.

  • Replace filters and clean dirty indoor and outdoor coils and fans to ensure good airflow through the system.
  • Replace Furnace filters should be inspected and cleaned or replaced, depending on the type of furnace and the furnace manufacturer’s instructions.

Resources

Natural Resources of Canada – http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/equipment/cooling-ventilation/7668
US Environmental Protection Agency – http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=CA
Scotiabank ecoliving – Stay Cool, Save Money – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/stay-cool-save-money

References

Amann, J., Wilson, A., Ackerly, K. 2007. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, 9th Edition. Washington: New Society Publishers

WATER HEATING EQUIPMENT

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INTEGRATED HEATING AND WATER HEATING SYSTEM

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Projects you can do when RENOVATING

All of these recommended upgrades are projects to consider is you are planning on a significant renovation as they will cause some disturbance since walls are already finished. They are also fairly costly to do if you were to just to install them as energy upgrades, but are very cost effective when renovating. Another option is to complete the following upgrades when you have the opportunity as you renovate in stages.

WINDOWS

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Replace windows with ENERGY STAR windows for your climate zone (minimum).

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

Almost a quarter of a home’s heat loss occurs through the windows and doors. Window technologies have advanced significantly in recent years to the point that new windows are twice as efficient as windows from 10 years ago. Depending on the condition and type of the existing windows as well as the number of windows in the home replacing them with energy efficient models could reduce heating and cooling bills by 8% to 12%.

In addition to saving money, new windows reduce or eliminate cold drafts, collect less condensation as long as they are installed properly and reduce noise from outside.

What Do You Need to Know

Window prices vary greatly based on the manufacture and custom windows are not much more expensive than standard-sized windows, so ensure that you get some quotes. Windows generally need to be purchased by a contractor or installer.

Although new windows are great, they can be expensive and the payback is rarely worth the investment on energy savings alone. However, if you are planning on replacing all or some of your windows, it almost always pays to invest in the additional cost for highly energy efficient windows rather than minimal performance windows. The lower the investment, consider installing windows on each face of the house over time starting with north facing windows, then east facing, west facing and lastly south facing.

Energy efficient window technology is based on the window frame, the type of window and the type of glazing. ENERGY STAR® labeled windows in Canada are labeled based on 4 climate zones making it easier to buy an energy-efficient window, door or skylight. The climate zones are based on annual average temperature. Zone A is the mildest, and Zone D is the coldest.

An ENERGY STAR qualified window, door or skylight will have many of the following features:

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol
  • Look for the lowest EnerGuide energy consumption rating
  • An ENERGY STAR qualified window, door or skylight will have many of the following features:
    • double- or triple-glazing, with a sealed insulating glass unit
    • low-e glass
    • inert gas, such as argon or krypton, in the sealed unit
    • low-conductivity or ‘warm edge’ spacer bars
    • insulated frames, sashes and door cores
    • good air tightness

Lookup ENERGY STAR models in Canada (NRCan)

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

Removing old windows, waterproofing, air sealing and installing new windows should be completed by a professional contractor.

Maintenance

Checking and repairing drafts and leaks periodically will ensure windows continually perform at the highest energy efficiency.

Resources

Natural Resources of Canada – http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/equipment/windows-doors/7795
US Environmental Protection Agency – http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=windows_doors.pr_benefits
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/renoho/refash/refash_023.cfm
Scotiabank ecoliving – Shopping for Replacement Windows – http://ecoliving.scotiabank.com/articles/shopping-for-replacement-windows

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.
Amann, J., Wilson, A., Ackerly, K. 2007. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, 9th Edition. Washington: New Society Publishers

BASEMENT WALL INSULATION

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Insulate or upgrade your basement insulation to R12 full height minimum.

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

Many basements in Canada whether they are finished or unfinished have no insulation and are therefore responsible for over a quarter of the heat loss in a typical Canadian home. Heating and cooling your home is expensive and the costs are only going up. Insulating will not only save energy by keeping the heat or cool in but will also make the space considerably more comfortable as living spaces.

What Do You Need to Know

To determine whether you should add insulation, you first need to find out how much insulation you already have in your basement. This will be easy if your basement is unfinished. A professional home energy evaluator will include an insulation check as a routine part of a whole-house energy assessment as well as identify areas in the attic where your home needs air sealing. (Before you insulate, you should make sure that your home is properly air sealed.)

While insulating basements is a great energy efficient improvement, controlling moisture in basements needs to be considered. Moisture related failures of basement insulation may give rise to mold, and mildew. Therefor there are a number of factors to consider before beginning work since the type and condition of the wall will influence how you insulate:

  • interior features that may make insulating more difficult (uneven walls, stairs, services, cupboards, partition walls, etc.)
  • indications of structural problems (cracks, bulges)
  • indications of moisture problems (leaks, dampness, efflorescence, blistering paint)
  • existing insulation condition (type, thickness, location)
  • finishing details

Basement walls are unique because they must handle significant moisture flows from both inside and outside the house. The preferred method, from a building science perspective, is to insulate the wall on the outside with insulation suitable for below-grade installations, however if you must insulate on the inside wall, never apply interior insulation to a basement with moisture problems. Fix the moisture entry problems before insulating. Consider insulation materials that will not be affected or damaged by moisture. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation have completed research and several guides on basement renovations:

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

Insulating your basement is possible as a do-it-yourself project, however due to the challenges inherent in constructing good basement wall systems, you may want to consider seeking advice from an experienced contractor.

Maintenance

Periodically check for signs of moisture.

Resources

Natural Resources of Canada – Keeping the Heat In
Natural Resources of Canada – http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/home-improvement/choosing/insulation-sealing/basement/16034
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – Insulating Your House – http://www.cmhc.ca/en/co/maho/enefcosa/enefcosa_002.cfm
Home Depot – How to Insulate Basement Wall Insulationhttp://www.homedepot.ca/know-how/videos/how-to-insulate-a-basement-wall

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.
Amann, J., Wilson, A., Ackerly, K. 2007. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, 9th Edition. Washington: New Society Publishers

WALL INSULATION

Minimum Recommended Upgrade – Home Energy Savings Calculator

Insulate or upgrade your exterior wall insulation to R22 minimum.

How will this project lower the energy use in your home?

Insulation is your primary defense against heat loss through the house envelope. The best time to consider upgrading the insulation in your walls is when you are renovating your house. Increasing the levels of insulation in your walls can significantly increase the overall energy efficiency of your home, significantly decrease your overall greenhouse gas emissions, and make the whole house feel warmer during the winter months and cooler during summer months. Since exterior walls make up the largest area exposed to the outside, adding wall insulation is the most important for prevent heat loss and wasted energy.

What Do You Need to Know

If you live in an old house, it is possible that the amount of insulation in your walls is very low. You can tell fairly easily whether you could use more insulation in your walls by placing your hand on a wall that faces the exterior of your house during a cold winter day. If the wall feels cold to the touch, you probably have low levels of insulation and are losing a lot of heat! A professional home energy evaluator will include an insulation check as a routine part of a whole-house energy assessment as well as identify areas in the attic where your home needs air sealing. (Before you insulate, you should make sure that your home is properly air sealed.)

Putting insulation into a house after it is built or increasing the amount of insulation can be pretty difficult. Therefore if you are If you are planning a major renovation, put in as much insulation as you can, because the more you put in, the more you will save on your heating bills! The same is true is you are opening up walls for various minor renovations, take the opportunity to add insulation. Many insulating products are improving the R-value per inch so you may be able to increase the insulating value within the same wall cavity space. If there isn’t any insulation in a framed wall, an insulation contractor can blow cellulose or fiberglass in the walls.

See other attic and basement insulation for more information on types of insulation and Insulate Walls During Exterior Repairs and Renovations by CMHC.

Installation – Will you need a contractor?

This is likely a job for a professional contractor to ensure the best approach, materials, and installation is completed.

Maintenance

No maintenance required. Periodically check for signs of moisture.

Resources

Natural Resources of Canada – Keeping the Heat In
Natural Resources of Canada – http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/home-improvement/choosing/insulation-sealing/walls/4103
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – Insulating Your House – http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/bude/himu/waensati/waensati_024.cfm

References

Freed, E., Daum, K. 2010. Green Sense for the Home, Rating the Payoff from 50 Green Products. Newtown: The Taunton Press Inc.
Amann, J., Wilson, A., Ackerly, K. 2007. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, 9th Edition. Washington: New Society Publishers