Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Home energy upgrades

Yesterday I did what I most love doing: I met with an eager couple who are fixing up their newly acquired home, including sorting out how to make it much more energy efficient.

We spent about an hour and a half together. They gave me a brief tour of their new home, which was built in the late 60's, and features a great view of Departure Bay in Nanaimo B.C.

As is often true of many homes that have a view, this home had many large windows facing the water. A lot of modern homes have the brightness that comes from such windows. The down side, of course, is that windows are usually the worst performing surface of any home. It is likely that their windows waste 25% or more of the energy in their home.

This home also has a bit of a cathedral ceiling in the living and dining rooms. It is likely there is no insulation in that structure, another big waster.

One of the real advantages of the house is that it currently has convective hot water heating. They have removed the carpet that was partially blocking the air intake to the baseboard units, and we talked about how much more efficient they are without the covers on (as they then become radiant heaters).

Too often heating specialists ignore the very fine heating system water/hydronic systems are. I have learned from a plumber that water is over a thousand times more efficient at distributing heat than is air.

So one of the options we examined is the possibility of partially providing the hot water from a heat pump. Heat pumps are great at creating hot water! Not well known in North America, but the fact remains.

We looked at a whole variety of ways they could improve the home's energy, and I left feeling satisfied that this motivated couple would see a huge drop in the annual energy bill, plus way lower pollution and emissions.

Now their home will be beautiful in more than one way.