Updating your kitchen, building an addition, or converting your basement into a suite are upgrades you can see immediately, and typically appreciate from the moment we finish your renovation, but there are improvements that aren’t as apparent, yet provide substantial value to you and your family every day.
We’ve already shared information about home renovation rebates from companies like BC Hydro and FortisBC, featuring financial incentives to install energy-efficient solutions for homeowners in Victoria and throughout the province. In this article, we go a bit deeper, sharing some of the available upgrades that are easier when done during a renovation.
Set a baseline
Before planning for any changes to your home’s energy efficiency, it’s important to have a starting point so you can measure the difference made through your renovations. Also, if you’re planning to take advantage of the available rebates, most of them require an energy evaluation, where an energy coach will measure the actual difference made by the upgrades you’ve chosen. Check out CleanBC for information available rebates and Free Energy Coaching Services.
Upgrade Your Windows
Windows are typically the first thing you think of when looking at energy efficiencies in your home. It’s not uncommon to feel a draft around older windows, and this could be from the way they were installed or due to the windows themselves. New tools and best practices eliminate the drafts and cold spaces while providing more flexibility for your home.
Mark Fyffe from VinylTek explains that windows have come a long way from the aluminum-framed, double-glazed windows of the 1980s. “Today’s windows provide a much higher NAFS-rating, which means they are rated for their performance, such as positive and negative air pressure, water penetration, and air infiltration. Good windows are an important part of your thermal envelope: they help you save on your heating and cooling costs, and they improve the view of and from your home.”
“There are a number of rebates available for new windows, and in most cases, they require the application of a specific coating to ensure they meet – or exceed – the required standards,” explained Mark. “With the current rebates, you get a more efficient window for about the same price, which creates better savings on tomorrow’s energy bills.”
Light Up Your World
Lighting is another opportunity to improve energy efficiency in your home. LED lights are an easy conversion, but there are other features that can be built into the design to improve usability and minimize energy consumption. “Installing dimmers gives you the flexibility to adjust your lighting to the level that works best for you, which saves energy, even with the low-wattage LED lights available,” explained Mike McDougall from McLaren Lighting. “Along with dimmers in my house, I have sensors on the lights in my laundry room, so when I walk in or out with a basket of clothes, I don’t have to stop to turn the lights on or off.”
“We’re also seeing a lot of people build in control systems, saving energy by having more control over the lighting in their home. With smart home automation options, such as geofencing, you can have your lights the way you want them, turning on or off as you enter or leave your property, and randomly coming on when you’re on vacation to prevent your home from looking unoccupied.”
Better Insulation For Climate Control
For homes built before 1960 in Victoria, there’s a good chance that the walls were not insulated when the home was built, and up until the early 70s, the insulation required was minimal.
Corey Mealings, from Knights Insulation, explains, “the thermal envelope around your home is like a balloon – if there’s a hole in it, the air will leak out, and you have to work considerably harder to keep it inflated. Insulation plays a big part in keeping that thermal envelope intact, making it easier to keep the air in your home at the right temperature.”
“Insulation has a history of being an afterthought in the building process – only 20% of homes built before 1980 are considered ‘well-insulated’ – but it’s one of those components that just keeps giving back, long after the initial investment. Whether you go with blown-in cellulose, fibreglass batts, or sprayed in foam, you’ll save energy and have a more comfortable living space.”
Micro-managing the temperature in your home is not fun, especially if you have multiple people with different climate preferences. Fortunately, there are smart controllers now that can be used to ensure your home is at the right temperature when everyone is home, while conserving energy when they’re not. Today’s advanced controllers have the ability to learn your heating and cooling habits, and use that with other data, such as the current and predicted weather conditions, then use magical algorithms to determine the stages required to bring your home to the right temperature efficiently.
If you have a heat pump in your home, you’ve probably been told to set it and forget it: it usually takes longer for the internal temperature to reach the preferred level or it might trigger the auxiliary heat, resulting in more energy consumption. With the newer thermostats, they’re able to accommodate for this and offer configurations to give you the best balance of energy savings and comfort in your home.
Smart appliances sound amazing: getting a beep from your freezer because “someone” left the door open, again, or never making another wasted trip to the laundry room to see if the washer or dryer is done because they send a message to your phone when the cycle is complete. Self-cleaning ovens are nice, but how great would it be to have a self-cooking oven? And anyone who’s done the sock-swipe after accidentally overfilling their water glass at the fridge will be glad to know there’s a unit that will sense the size of your glass and automagically turn off the water when it’s full. All of these features are available, from one brand or another, for home appliances, and while there might be some energy efficiencies – especially with fridge and freezer doors that are left open – most of them are still in the ‘nicetohave’ stage. But, the future is friendly, and as standards are established we’ll see devices that can control multiple appliances, actually saving energy and ensuring dry socks at all times.
Generate Your Own Power
While not technically energy saving, there are options to generate your own power. Solar and wind power generation is getting closer to being viable for homeowners. The technology might not be ready yet, but you can prepare for it by prewiring for external power sources during your renovation. We’ve done this at The Ranch so that when solar is a practical option, we can mount the panels and connect them to the wiring we installed when we built our HQ. Adding new lines during the renovation is far more affordable than adding them after, so if you’re looking at updating your home, consider the future options as well. It could be well worth it.
Designed for Energy Efficiency
As a full-service remodeler, we can incorporate energy efficiency upgrades into your new design: choosing the right spot for new lighting, adding windows to bring in more natural light, and configuring control systems that give you the ability to automate your home. Since we’re changing the walls, spray foam can be added easily and new wiring can be put in to accommodate smart thermostats. By considering these aspects during the design phase, we can maximize flexibility and minimize the installation costs – it’s far easier to do when we’re already in there.
If you’re interested in conserving energy, our design team can help you find the right solutions to fit your home and lifestyle. Give us a call to find out what we can do during your renovation to reduce your carbon footprint, prepare for the future, and help you enjoy your home for as long as you want.