Energy upgrades

When we returned to Canada early this year, we decided that it would be a good idea to take advantage of the ecoENERGY Retrofit Homes grants that have been made available by the Canadian and Alberta governments in an attempt to encourage homeowners to reduce the amount of energy used in their houses and thus reduce the production of greenhouse gases.

In order to qualify for the rebates, the first step is to have an energy audit done by a certified energy advisor. When that was done, we were happy to learn that our house already exceeded the average energy efficiency rating for a house of its age in Alberta. In fact, the advisor told us that it was as airtight as a new construction. He did, however, make several recommendations to help improve its energy efficiency.

The biggest potential for energy savings and, therefore, the biggest rebate available, involves replacing an old gas furnace with a newer high efficiency one.  Our house is 29 years old and until a couple of weeks ago, it still had the original furnace. It was working fine but we knew that, at it’s age, something could go wrong at any time and it only made sense to replace it this year while the ecoENERGY program is in effect and the rebate available. We had a furnace with a 92% annual fuel utilization efficiency installed by a local heating and plumbing company.

Though we’ve had most of the windows on the main floor replaced in recent years, when the audit was done we discovered that a great deal of heat was being lost around the windows. Richard removed the trim from around all of them, insulated the cracks and sealed them with caulking. Though we expected the energy advisor to recommend that we replace the basement windows, he didn’t.  The rebates available for replacing windows are small and he didn’t feel that replacing the them would be wise financially. He did, however, suggest that we seal the two that are not needed for ventilation or as possible emergency exits closed. Richard has done that as well as replacing the weatherstripping around both outside doors and installing foam pads behind all the electrical outlets on the outer walls to reduce leakage there.

We completed our energy upgrades today by blowing an additional layer of cellulose insulation, made from 100% recycled paper, into the attic. Though Richard thought it might take all day, with the help of a friend, we finished the job in four hours including time for a coffee break! Once we figured out a routine that worked well, the job went very smoothly. The insulation comes in tightly compacted bales of approximately 25 pounds each. Louis & I worked out in the front yard tearing the bales apart and filling the machine which was on loan from the Home Hardware where we purchased the insulation. Up in the attic, Richard spread it around and ensured that an even depth was maintained.

The final step will be having a follow-up evaluation done. At that point, the energy management company that does the audits will file the necessary paperwork and eventually we’ll receive the rebates.  I say eventually because we understand that we might have to wait quite awhile. Apparently, the ecoENERGY program has been so popular that both the energy management companies and the governments have been having trouble keeping up with the demand.

I’m not at all fond of winter and I hope that it doesn’t arrive for quite some time but when it does, I’m happy to know that we’ll be snug and warm in our energy upgraded home. I’m also hopeful that the gas bills, which were already lower than many people pay, will be even lower.


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