There’s no getting around it: we are all going to be spending a lot more time in our homes for the foreseeable future. And if you’ve been planning a major renovation or even an entirely new house, now is the time to make sure you plan for that home to be as energy-efficient as possible.
Yes, this will save you money. But it will also make your home more comfortable year-round: consistently warmer in winter and cooler in summer. There are also myriad ways you can make your dwelling less harmful to the environment. A completely energy-efficient home involves a whole bunch of small decisions that add up to comfort and savings. Let’s look at some of those.
First of all, you’ll need to feel comfortable with the level of energy-efficiency we’re talking about here. You could go all in and take your house completely off the municipal grid, using solar panels, wind turbines, and geo-thermal energy. This is a big commitment, but it can save you enormous amounts of money and contribute to reducing climate change and pollution. If you have the resources and time, and are willing to change your lifestyle enough, such a home is possible.
Clearly an off-the-grid- home is not for everybody and for the purposes of this article, we’ll leave that option for another day. But even in a more conventional home, there are plenty of ways you can maximize energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption.
The Design Stage:
All these issues should be addressed with your architect so you will have an efficient home literally from the ground up.
Your efficient home should use the free, clean sunlight as best it can. In which direction do you want the house to face, then, to get the most natural heat, or natural cooling where you prefer it? Do you want the most sun in the kitchen or in your office? How big can you make the windows to let that free heat and light in? Could you use some skylights? How many and where?
And how much space do you really need? Remember, a cleverly-designed but smaller house will be less expensive to heat and cool.
The Building Stage:
Once the plans are in place, the home should be built to seal in all that lovely natural heat and seal out moisture and winter chill.
The most efficient homes are built above and beyond code, to be actually airtight. One can now earn what the Canadian Home Builder’s Association calls their Net Zero label. This involves, among other things, an airtight building envelope and triple-pane, high-efficiency windows and doors.
It’s amazing how much energy you can save by sealing windows, doors, outlets, and vents so they’re airtight as well. Keeping the outdoor environment from affecting your indoor environment is the goal here.
Your home’s temperature will also be stabilized with the right insulation. Conventional fibreglass insulation will do this, of course, but give a thought to some more environmentally-friendly kinds of insulation: sheep’s wool, recycled cotton and denim, or cellulose made from recycled paper, for example. These naturally insulating solutions are all nontoxic.
It’s a good idea, too, to take a look at Natural Resource Canada’s EnerGuide Home Ratings and the Energy Star Home. These governmental and internationally-recognized programs provide time-tested formulas for building highly energy-efficient homes. At the building stage, for example, you can choose a furnace and water heater with the highest Energy Star rating to be sure you’re getting as much energy as you can for every dollar you spend.
The Living Stage:
The Energy Star system is a standard rating system, in place since 1992, that also gives its special rating – that Energy Star – to appliances, electronics, and lighting that consistently use less power. Why re-invent the wheel? A Energy Star clothes dryer, for instance, uses twenty percent less power than the average dryer. You could definitely do worse than to fill your home with products that carry a high Energy Star rating.
Don’t forget to buy LED (Light Emitting Diode) light bulbs as well. They use the least power of all home light bulbs and can last for decades. Since they’ve become more common, their once-exorbitant price has come down and they’ve been made available in varying shades of white light, cool and warm, and lots of colours as well.
So it’s clear that if you want to renovate or build with energy efficiency in mind, there is no shortage of resources to help you do so. Mike and the team at Reid Developments are ready to walk with you every step of the way.