Posts Tagged ‘Energy Audits’

The Importance of an Energy Audit, Using Infrared Imaging

January 30th, 2014
Thermal energy loss

Thermal energy loss

An energy audit could be the only thing between you, a safe home, and a full wallet.

Canadian buildings, according to the Canada Green Building Council, consume up to 38 per cent of all secondary energy use, which is energy obtained from primary energy sources. Residing in your home, you consume energy in many ways: cooking dinner on the stovetop; running water for your bath; refrigerating your leftovers; and, of course, heating your home.

You might turn the lights out before bed and take care not to waste water. Though this effort certainly helps conserve energy, consider the possibility of problems in your home that are nearly impossible to detect yourself; difficult to control; and ones that are ultimately preventing you from achieving an energy-efficient home.

Finding out if your home is energy-efficient

Consuming energy is inevitable and, in fact, necessary. However, we can be smarter about the ways in which we do so and we can make our homes more energy-efficient, which in turn will ensure they are safe and sound, warm and dry, and even help patch up that hole in your wallet.

First, you need to find out how your home is using energy. Taking a look around on the inside or outside of your property, you might spot the source of a leak or draft. In many cases though, the issue is more subtle and out of sight. The only completely reliable way to find out how your home is using (or losing) energy is by having a certified and experienced inspector visit and carry out a thorough energy audit.

Infrared imaging for your energy audit

An energy audit using infrared imaging is both an accurate and completely safe way to detect whereabouts you’re losing energy. However, an infrared inspection can be complex and is most reliable when a thermal imaging expert conducts the energy audit—surveying your home’s whole envelope and indoor environment—and properly interprets the results. This way, you’ll save time and, ultimately, money.

Carrying out an energy audit via infrared imaging allows the inspector to detect several major problems, including the following:

–          All moisture buildup

–          Leaking or burst pipes

–          All areas of water intrusion from outdoors in

–          All areas where there is indoor air escaping your home

How an infrared inspector detects your home’s energy conservation

A certified infrared inspector, using a high-resolution infrared camera, is able to detect any problem that may be preventing your home from maximising energy. The camera picks up the energy flow inside the house, reading where and how it’s being used. The inspector weighs the energy input against the output and is then able to tell the energy conservation of the home.

Depending on his or her results, the inspector will inform you of the ways you can improve energy efficiency, through repairs, renovations, upgrades or other lifestyle modifications. A sustainable energy environment, or green building, can be achieved, regardless of whether you’re in the building process or you’ve been living in your home for decades.

Choosing an energy-efficient home

An energy audit may not be in your budget. However, if your home has heat escaping or isn’t making the most of its energy, you should begin to assess the pros and cons at hand. A situation like this is not only costly itself, but it can be dangerous.

Often, the problems detected during the inspection are ones that must be fixed immediately. For instance, moisture buildup jeopardizes the structural integrity of your home and can lead to black mold growth within 24 to 48 hours.

When you own a home, you’ve committed yourself—your time, money and attention—to maintaining it. Be certain its energy consumption is neither costing you a fortune nor risking your comfort and safety.

 

Article written by Ivan Ward, Inspector at  Mold Busters– Infrared  inspection services from Ottawa.

John Bell’s Green Home — Host of World’s Greenest Homes Greens His Own Home

December 16th, 2011

John Bell’s Greenest Home. (photo courtesy of John Bell)

As the host of season 2 of The World’s Greenest Homes, John Bell traveled the world touring the world’s greenest homes, speaking to the owners, builders and designers about the homes and what made them decide to build more sustainable housing. The homeowners had built these homes to lead greener lifestyles and lower their carbon footprint. Clearly his work influenced his next move: after finishing season two of The World’s Greenest Homes, John and his family sold their large three storey home in a beautiful but somewhat isolated Toronto neighbourhood, to a home a little more than a stone’s throw to mid-town Yonge Street with all of its advantages. In the process they cut their home’s footprint in half, and probably their transportation footprint in half too.

The house John and his wife purchased was an old 1970s house on a cul-de-sac with single-paned windows, little insulation and plenty of air leaks. In fact when the energy auditor did the home’s audit pre-renovation, it came it at a leaky 7.7 air changes per hour and an Energuide rating of 33 out of a possible 100. In terms of what those numbers mean, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency, a home’s Energuide rating of 0-5o is an older, unrenovated (uninsulated) home. At the opposite end of the scale, an Energuide rating of 91-100 is an airtight home with proper ventilation that requires no extra heat source. The Air Change measurement measures the number of times the volume of air in the house is being replaced through leaks in the home’s envelope approximately.

 

The Bells added another 800 square feet to the home’s footprint while renovating the house. Even so, when the energy auditor tested the renovated home, the Energuide rating rose to 80, and the air changes per hour dropped to 1.59 ACH.

Given his experience on The World’s Greenest Homes, John noted that every homeowner he interviewed had the goal of decreasing their carbon footprint by building a well-insulated, low carbon footprint home. So like the green homeowners before him, John concentrated his efforts on his building envelope and improving his home’s energy efficiency.

John hired John Godden from Clearsphere to help him achieve his energy efficiency and green building goals. John Godden has been an active member of the green building realm way before it became the place to be in construction. His firm was one of the partners involved in building the EcoLogic Community in Newmarket, ON, the first LEED Platinum community built in Canada.

Power Pipe DWHR system

Building envelope: The ceilings have an R value of 41, the new construction 2×6 walls of the addition have an R value of 26, the older 2×4 walls, an R value of 22. All are insulated with Roxul batt and rigid board insulation. Roxul is a locally produced mineral-wool-based insulation with a high recycled content that is also a good fire retardant and noise damper.  The basement floor and below grade basement walls were insulated with Roxul Drainboard with an R value of 10, and below grade walls have an R value of 32 as they have additional batt insulation inside the house.  Roxul batt and rigid board insulating products were used for most of the insulation work. There were spots in the house, however, where the best insulation was sprayfoam, so he used Icynene, a cellulose-based product.

Ridley Windows and Doors, sliding glass door to backyard

Windows are from Ridley, aluminum-clad wood interior windows, double-glazed with a low-EQ coating that helps block strong sun rays and heat in the summer so the air conditioning unit doesn’t have to work as hard.

Phillips LED lights. 7 Watts each, $12 at Home Depot

HVAC: The system is a 98% efficient boiler-fan coil system combined with duct work provided by Airmax Technologies. The boiler heats water for both domestic hot water, radiant heating. It works in conjunction with a forced air system.  John also had a Power Pipe installed which is a drainwater heat recovery (DWHR) system. DWHR can save you up to $125 per year depending on how much hot water you use (the more hot water used in the morning for showers, the more money it will save you). Radiant heating was installed in the basement to keep the floor warm, in front of the windows on the main floor at the front and back of the house, and in the two second floor bathrooms. A heat recovery ventilator was installed to capture heat from warm stale air, and to ventilate the now very tight house with warmed fresh air coming from outside.

 

Solar Air Panel Operation

Solar Sheat 1500G Air Panel. This is an interesting bit of new technology that John admits was installed more for the concept than for a specific return on investment. The way it works is, the panel sits on a south facing roof top where it can absorb the sun’s rays. Cool air is sucked up from inside the house, next it is warmed by the panel on the roof and blown back into the house via a vent. It has an optional solar PV panel used to operate the fan so that no additional electricity is needed. The single solar air panel provides enough heated air to heat 750 square feet, the approximate size of the second floor of John’s home. John said that with the tight envelope of the home, the heated air will help keep the second floor warmer even after the sun goes down, meaning the boiler. The system costs $16oo plus $2000 to install.

Brac Gray Water Holding tank

Dual flush toilets (tank hidden behind wall)

Water Efficiency: Another area John noted where green home builders were concerned was with water conservation. John became interested in gray water recycling, and in fact is now vice president of Greyter Water Systems a distributor of Brac Gray Water Systems. He installed a Brac gray water tank in his home and says that it provides more than enough water from showers to flush the toilets in his home. He also installed dual-flush toilets.

Green technologies: John figures that during the renovation, he spent an additional $28,000 on green technologies, including $10,000 for solar panels to be part of Ontario’s microFIT program. The energy upgrades John made will save him $4000 per year in energy costs vs. his previous bills, so his payback point comes in at around 7 years and that’s assuming energy prices stay at 2011 levels — which they won’t. The longward trend for energy pricing is definitely upwards.

In the end, John is aiming for Silver certification level of LEED Canada for Homes and will likely achieve it.

 

 

 

 

 

Energy Efficiency — Creating and Implementing an Action Plan

September 10th, 2011

Woods auto shut off powerbar

I’ve written many articles on energy efficiency, and read a lot on it as well, where I’ve always gotten frustrated are the uncoordinated tips that are given about improving your home’s energy efficiency. “Buy this super duper auto shut-off plug!” “Install CFLs!” “Replace your windows and doors!” If you’re not taking targeted action, you’re not going to be as efficient as you think you are. You have to know where you use the most electricity before making changes, otherwise you’re not spending wisely, and you won’t see the results you want.

The first three articles in this series on energy efficiency involved discovering how much electricity your household uses, doing a home DIY electricity audit to determine which devices are using the most electricity, and finally, monitoring your family’s behaviour to see how electricity is being used. Now it’s time to synthesize that information and take concrete steps towards lowering your electricity consumption. You’ve done the research, now do the foot work.

Set a target. Let’s say you’ve determined that your family uses 1200 KWH of electricity per month and you want to get that consumption down to 900 KWH/month. Look through your energy audit and any notes on family behaviour regarding electricity you’ve made and decide how easily achievable the goal is (Reducing from 1200 KWH to 900 KWH is a 25% reduction, so it could be a top-lofty goal to start with).

There are four ways to reduce plug load consumption:

  • unplug,
  • use power intermittently,
  • replace items with more efficient models, substitution (ie., ceiling fans for central air),
  • change family behaviour (probably the toughest action to enforce).

Unplug. You know where electricity in your home is being used from your DIY audit. Go after the inexpensive, low hanging fruit first. No, not the light bulbs, unplugging gadgets. Unplugging is a no-brainer. Why is your VCR still plugged in? When was the last time you used it? What about that digital clock and old TV in the spare room you rarely use? What about the coffeemaker? If you don’t use the timer and it has a clock, unplug it. Any cord that comes with a DC converter and feels hot to the touch when it’s plugged in should be unplugged unless in use, particularly cellphone chargers and laptops. Those chargers draw power even when nothing’s attached to them. If you’ve done a meticulous electricity audit, you can see on paper just how much electricity you’ll stop using by unplugging gadgets and just how close to your goal the unplugging will bring you. Not only have you not spent a dime to make changes, you’re now paying less to your utility company too.

Use power intermittently. This means put gadgets on timers, unplug cellphone chargers when something’s finished charging. Learn how to program and use your thermostat for both winter and summer. The earliest models were a pain to program, but the current models walk you through programming fairly easily. Schedule 15 minutes one weekend morning and program your thermostat to meet your family’s needs.

Add auto-shut off bars to your gaming stations, computer stations, and anything else that uses a lot of phantom power, such as cell phone chargers. You can plug several cords into one unit, so you will likely only need two or three cords, maybe you even have some already that you bought with good intentions, but just never got around to using properly.

Look at your DIY Audit, figure out how many power cords you’ll need, then program the devices to be on for only a few hours a day (why turn on a gaming station before 4 in the afternoon, or even, during the week if your kids aren’t allowed to game during the week?).

If you use your outdoor lighting every night, all night, you might want to consider putting it on timers or sensors so that it only goes on when someone approaches. We only use our outdoor lights when we’re expecting company (or the pizza delivery guy), because there’s a street light outside our home that does the job.

Go to saveONenergy for money-saving coupons on many energy efficient products including light bulbs, sensors and auto shut-off timers. Note: coupons are valid in Ontario only.

Calculate how much electricity you’d save if items were completely off for 18 hours per day and see how close you’re getting to your target.

Replace items with more efficient models. This is the area where some investment is involved, so you might want to develop a budget and see how much you’re prepared to do and when.

Lighting. In our house lighting counts for up to 20% of our over all electricity consumption, so it’s worthwhile examining where changes can be made to have an impact on overall efficiency. However, I have a confession to make: I hate CFL bulbs. I don’t like the light they cast or how long it takes for them to warm up. They don’t last as long as they’re touted to because (and no one ever tells you this) the more often you turn them on and off, the shorter their lifespan; they’ve got mercury in them, and you just know that some people are not going to dispose of them responsibly so some are likely ending up in landfill. It’s hard to find dimmable CFLs, and finally, I don’t like their shape because they don’t fit with some of my lamps. Harrumph. But I still use them. Not everywhere, just where I have a tendency to have lights on all the time, like in my office, the rec. room, and the kitchen.

Before changing all your light bulbs to CFLs and LEDs think about what really needs changing. Don’t bother replacing bulbs that are rarely used, ie., basement or hall closets, any other rooms/lamps where lights are rarely turned on. It’s not worth the money, and you won’t be saving enough electricity to make a difference. The next time those burn out, replace it with something more efficient. In the mean time focus on the rooms where lights are on the most often. In our house it’s the kitchen, the office and the rec. room. They all contain CFLs (even though I hate them). Not only will you see a significant drop in electricity consumption, but in the summer they generate less heat relieving your air conditioner of some stress too. Of course the corollary of that is that they generate less heat in the winter, so you might be increasing your heating bill slightly.

I like LED bulbs. They’re dimmable, they’re better looking, the light they cast is crisp. Plus, they don’t have any mercury in them. Because they’re still not cost effective for short-term decisions, it’s best to replace lights where they’re used the majority of the time. Buying LEDs, however, isn’t as simple as going into Home Depot and picking up a few, so I’ve written an article on how to buy LED lights. Invest in good quality ones and they will last the 75,000 to 100,000 hours they say they will.

Appliances. The next time you need new appliances, look for the most efficient Energy Star appliances you can afford. Here’s the thing about Energy Star, in order to be certified, an appliance needs to be at least 20% more efficient than its non-Energy Star counterpart. But there are many, many brands that go much farther beyond the 20% more efficient. Read labels and Energuide information that’s tacked on the front of all models and compare to the brand beside it. European models are so much more efficient than most North American models it’s not even funny — but they’re also considerably more expensive and may be hard or expensive to repair if anything goes wrong. Buy new appliances when you need them, and figure out which one is going to make the biggest dent in your electricity bill (most likely the fridge and the washer).

Note that central air conditioners and furnaces are also Energy Star rated, as are new homes, but not ovens or dryers. If you know how much energy your current appliances use, you can figure out how much electricity a new model is going to save you.

Ceiling fans: There are Energy Star rated ceiling fans too, although using ceiling fans throughout the house will permit you to set your central air conditioner at a higher temperature, or do without it altogether. Ceiling fans consume, on average, about 60 Watts of electricity, versus a central air conditioning unit which uses approximately 3500 Watts (depending on the size, year made, efficiency, etc.).

Change Family Behaviour. If you’ve been watching your family’s and your own behaviour, you’ll have noticed when they leave lights/computers/gaming stations on, the fridge door open, chargers plugged in, etc.  Controlling your own behaviour is the easiest and maybe the best way to start is by improving your own habits. Can you line dry some of your clothes more often? Have you set up a centralized cellphone charging station where it’s easy to unplug at the end of a charging session? Have you got yourself into the habit of turning lights and computers off every time you leave the room?

Regarding the rest of your family, doing a few calculations to see how much it costs every time these little actions occur may help, especially if there’s a way to incentivize them to change. If, after a year of behaviour change you saved enough money to treat yourselves to your family’s favourite restaurant, or something even bigger, maybe that would help. Whatever motivates them to think about conserving, you should try. Maybe they can help you brainstorm ideas, if kids take a stake in the decisions, they are more likely to follow through — with lots of reminders, coaching, and encouragement.

Review and compare. Now that you’ve taken steps to reduce your electricity, review and compare your results and see how you’re doing versus your original target goals. There are a few ways to do this: The first is to wait until you get your next electric bill and see what your power usage from the previous year was. If you want instant gratification, and you have a smart meter, and you live in a service area, sign up for Lowfoot.com. Not only does the service send you your electricity usage daily, it starts you off with an automatic 10% reduction target. Every time you use less electricity, you receive a cash deposit in your Paypal account at the end of the month. If you don’t have a smart meter hooked up to your home yet, have a look at the Power Cost monitor. This company has just teamed up with Plot Watt to offer even those homes without smart meters the ability to track and identify accurately, the electricity consumers in the home.

A Do-It-Yourself Plug and Lighting Load (Electricity) Audit

July 27th, 2011

In a previous post I discussed the importance of benchmarking your electricity use. Benchmarking helps you understand how much electricity you are currently consuming, as well as your usage history. Now we want to figure out where we consume it.

A Do it Yourself Home energy audit is easiest if electricity is used exclusively for plug load and lighting. In the event that it’s also used for heating and cooling, it’s best to call in a home energy auditor so they can help you track down the air leaks in your home and help you figure out where to add insulation, weather-stripping, and plug air leaks to bring your heating bills down — or you can calculate plug load in the non-heating season.

I’ve written about the benefits of hiring a home energy auditor here. Note: The Canadian government has just reinstated the ecoEnergy Retrofit grant program, now available until March 31, 2012, which means now is a great time to get an energy audit done, particularly if you’re planning on home renovations. Between the Ontario government and federal government, you could get $300 of your audit paid for, which for most homes covers 75-100% of the audit. (Update: program is now completed. Feb 4, 2014)

In our home’s case, I know our electricity use is entirely plug load and lighting since we use natural gas for heating, hot water and cooking. There are two ways to do an electricity audit — the quick and easy but less accurate way, or the detailed, time-intensive but far more accurate way (quite the salesperson, aren’t I?).

In either case you should take your time and calculate your lighting load using the following method since no extra equipment is required and all the information you need is written on the light bulb (usually).

Calculating lighting load: Decide whether you’re going to start from the top or bottom of your home, but work your way systematically from the front of your house to the back visiting every room, bathroom and closet that has lights. Note your ceiling lights, table lamps and undermount lights, their wattage and estimate how much time they’re on each day. Include closets if they have lights in them.

In our kitchen there are six 50 watt halogen lights that are on in the morning for 1 hour for six months of the year and 2 hours for six months. In the evening, the six lights are on for three hours in the summer and five hours in the winter. There are also two incandescent hanging lamps which are on for three hours in the evening. So, calculating the amount of electricity the kitchen lighting load for an average day (estimate 1.5 hours per morning, 4 hours per evening for a total of 5.5 hours per day).

  • 6 lights x 50 watts/light x 5.5 hours per day + 2 lights x 60 watts/light x 3 hours per day  = 2,010 watt-hours per day or 2 kwh per day. Therefore, in one month the kitchen lights use 61 kwh of electricity.

Repeat this process for every room in your house and add up your total lighting consumption at the end. The results will tell you how much of your total electricity bill is dedicated to lighting. In our house, I estimate that our lighting bill accounts for 20% of our total electricity bill before central air is turned on.

Finding your electricity hogs: So, if lighting only accounts for 20% of our home’s total energy use, where is the other 80% coming from? Appliances, computers, TVs, digital boxes, stereos, cellphone and game chargers, gaming stations, alarm systems, digital clocks and of course, air conditioning.

Method I: Quick and Easy Way of estimating where your electricity is being consumed.

Make rough estimates of time usage for each appliance in each room in the house (remember to count those items that are in standby mode too such as computers, DVD players, stereos, TVs, etc.) then multiply it by the amount of watts per device as given in the links below.

Method II — Detailed, exact measurement: If you’re Type A like me, then you might be interested in determining exactly where you’re using the most energy instead of just making educated guesses. There are a few reasons to do it this way: one is that the results may surprise you — perhaps you thought it was your four-year old dryer that was using the most energy, but in fact it might be your 15-year-old deep freeze — especially when you consider that it runs 24-7- 365. Another surprise might be seeing how much energy your TV-Surround Sound-Gaming System use — even when it’s off (because it’s not really off, it’s in standby, still drawing electricity, commonly referred to as phantom power).

Measuring the electricity draw of each device is fairly simple, but to do it properly, you’ll need a few tools.

1. Pencil/pen and paper for recording your findings,

2. calculator for the math-challenged like myself,

3. energy monitoring device such as a Kill A Watt EZ monitor or PowerCost monitor.  Amazon.ca sells energy monitoring devices, and Canadian Tire sells a Blue Planet Energy Monitor. I’ve also read that some libraries, such as the Ottawa Public Library, will loan out the Kill A Watt. A good idea for a partnership between Toronto Hydro and the Toronto Public Library, don’t you think?

Go through each room in your house, identify everything that is plugged into a wall aside from lamps — which you’ve already done in part I. Don’t forget to measure things that might be put away but are used on a daily basis. Below is a list of some, but not all, of the possible electricity using devices in each room. Generally though, you only need to count the items you use daily or weekly.

Bedrooms contain a variety of items from clocks/iPods and chargers, TVs, digital boxes, DVD players, computers, in addition to lamps and overhead lighting.

Bathrooms have a lot of appliances that you might use in the morning getting ready for the day including hair dryers, curling irons, straightening irons, etc. These items can use a lot of electricity even if it’s only for a short amount of time.

Kitchen. All those small appliances that get used daily including toasters, toaster ovens, coffeemakers, microwaves, hand blenders, etc. can really add up. Also try to determine how old your fridge, dishwasher and oven are and look at this chart to estimate how much electricity they consume.

Laundry room. Washer and dryer, iron, steamer.

Living room/Family room/Great room. Stereo, TV, DVD player, surround sound system, digital TV PVR box, gaming system, video player, musical instruments such as electric amps, guitars, keyboards.

Home Office. Computer, monitor, speakers, printer, scanner, photocopier, telephone, cellphone charger, wireless router, modem, etc. If you’re using a measuring device, be careful about unplugging and replugging devices back in as some cause an automatic reset on devices. Check your manuals first.

Furnace and utility room. Dehumidifier, furnace fan, electric hot water heater, central air conditioner, alarm system, whole home sound system, sump pump, etc..If you still have access to the manuals, for some of these devices it would be better to check them for electricity consumption or look up their energy consumption online. Some items are better left untouched unless you know what you’re doing — in this case a measurement device like the Power Cost monitor is better than the Kill a Watt because it measures pulse changes in your electricity consumption and devices don’t need to be unplugged.

Garage and outside. Lawn mower, weed wacker, whipper snipper, garden lighting, pool heater, hot tub heater, cabana lights/fridge, stereo, etc.

For each of these devices estimate how much time they’re on for daily, multiply the wattage by time and divide by 1000 to get the number of kilowatt hours they’re drawing. Ex:

number of hours  device is on x watts / 1000 watts = x kilowatt hours.

so, for a hair dryer that draws 1000 watts that’s used for 10 minutes  or 1/6 of an hour daily

1/6×1000/1000= 0.167 kwh daily.

At this point we’re just recording how much electricity each device uses and estimating how much it gets used. You should have accounted for, in theory, about 90-95% of your overall electricity use after systematically going through each room in the house.

The goal here is to discover where the most electricity is being used. However, before we can develop an action plan to reduce our consumption, there is another part to the equation that’s often over-looked and that is, human behaviour. We’ll look at how we affect our home’s energy consumption in the next article.

Benchmark Your Home’s Energy Consumption By Hiring an Energy Auditor

January 13th, 2010

If you’re interested in cutting your home’s energy use (not to mention your monthly bills), you have to know where your energy is going in the first place, and much of it might be out the window (or through the door, roof or basement). An energy auditor can help you pinpoint your home’s worst insulated areas, discover air leaks and help determine your furnace’s efficiency rating so that you can figure out the best places to spend your money to make the biggest difference to your home’s overall use of energy.

Energy audits can help in two ways:

  1. An audit will help you decide where the best places to spend your money will be. Sometimes it’s as simple as increasing the caulking, weatherstripping and attic and basement insulation. Many times it involves increasing the insulation in your walls and/or replacing old doors and windows and upgrading the furnace.
  2. If you’re planning to do significant renovation work to your home, an energy audit is a good place to start because in addition to the Ontario government rebating 50% of the fee (up to a maximum of $150), if you follow the audit’s recomendations, you may qualify for federal, provincial and municipal grants and rebates for any heating and cooling  and insulation upgrades you make — but only if you’ve done an energy audit by a certified auditor before you begin work. (Note: the energy audit company has to return for a final visit after the upgrades have been made to measure the improvements made. When you’re interviewing companies, make sure to ask how much the return visit costs.)

What does an energy audit entail?

The audit process takes about 3 hours and the auditor needs access to your attic and basement in order to do the full audit. The auditor will:

  • check the insulation in the attic and basement as well as the exterior walls,
  • do the blower door test to find air leaks in the house,
  • look at your HVAC equipment to let you know if it’s in need of upgrading,
  • ask you some questions to find out what your daily energy needs and uses are.

All this information is recorded and incorporated into a final report they send you a few weeks after the audit.

The report contains recommendations regarding what you could do to increase your energy efficiency and home comfort, it also provides you with a list of companies that can perform the remediation work. Some of the work, such as caulking and weatherstripping,  is usually simple enough for a homeowner to do.

Cost: The starting price for an energy audit is around $300. The price increases with the size of the house. The Ontario government will rebate your audit fee and usually the audit company will fill out the paper work on your behalf. In order to qualify for the federal and provincial energy efficiency grants you have until March 31, 2011 to fulfill the requirements once you’ve had the audit in order to receive the rebate, so make sure you’re ready to make home improvements once you’ve hired the auditor. (Note: the original amount of time to fulfill your energy upgrades was 18 months under the Federal government’s EcoAction plan, however, the ecoEnergy Retrofit grant plan is due to expire on March 31, 2011.)

Our experience: We hired Greensaver to do our audit about 5 years ago, before the ecoEnergy Retrofit grant program was in place so we missed out on some substantial savings and rebates. However, the report Greensaver produced was concise and gave us a to-do list to help fix all the leaks along with their list of recommended trades (themselves being one of them). It also indicated how much more efficient our house could be if we implemented all the upgrades.

We upgraded the 1950s enormous picture windows to Energy Star windows, caulked and added weather stripping around doors and newer windows and noticed increased comfort level, a small decrease in our heating bill. The biggest difference would have been if we’d insulated the front half of the house (double-brick, no insulation in between) as our furnace was already high-efficiency. Unfortunately we moved before we could tackle that project.

Is an energy audit worth it? If you’re prepared to make the changes or are planning on renovating your home in the next 15 months,  an energy audit absolutely worth it. Further, if you are plannin on upgrading your furnace or air conditioning anyway, an audit gives you access to federal, provinical and municipal grant money. Note however that that energy efficiency grants are only available for older homes and not new builds. An older home is defined as any home that is older than six months. During the first six months of owner occupation, it is still considered the builder’s responsibility.

Where to find Energy Auditors:

This is a link to NRCan’s approved energy auditors in the postal code “M.”

This is a link to NRCan’s approved energy auditors in postal code “L.”

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