Tips from your Retrofit Coach: Seven Steps to becoming a Net Zero Hero
Start with an Energy Audit by a qualified company (check out our Resources page for options). Your audit report will tell you where your house is deficient and show you what opportunities there are to improve your situation. For help interpreting your Energy Audit Report - just ask - either your NRCan-certified Energy Advisor, or me, your Retrofit Coach.
Air-sealing will give you the biggest-bang-for-your-buck - and will improve your energy-efficiency by up-to 35%!!
When you seal your house really well, then install an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) to manage your ventilation - without losing precious heat. And ERV controls your humidity, too!
Insulation comes next, and there are a few things that you should consider:
- If you can, insulate on the outside of your structure, you won’t lose valuable interior floor space - and you’ll keep your structure warm, which means that your structure will last longer, not going through very damaging freeze/thaw cycles.
Exterior insulation is also cheaper, quicker and less of a mess for the homeowner.
- Use insulation materials that do not produce unnecessary greenhouse gases (GHGs) during their extraction and manufacture - our task here is to reduce climate-change-causing GHGs - and foams (spray or rigid) are produced with petrochemicals, so they are not recommended. Where you can, use cellulose or wood-fibre. Mineral wool is another better-than-petrochemicals insulation - and, as a bonus, rocks don’t burn.
- Many of our houses are quite close together, and common-sense and the City dictate that we use materials that don’t burn - so, mineral wool for the win!
- Mineral wool, and cellulose and wood fibre are all vapour-open (they allow vapour to pass through) and the worst situation that you can end up with is a roof or wall assembly that traps vapour (moisture). This will lead to mould - and rot - which damages your house structure. Better to keep everything that you add to your house vapour-open - to allow your wall and roof assemblies to dry out in both directions. A dry assembly is a happy assembly.
If your contractor looks at you blankly when you ask about the above, or worse, tries to tell you otherwise, then find yourself another contractor.
Ok, you’ve air-sealed and insulated - now it’s time to really cut your GHG emissions and stop burning natural gas. Now that you’ve cut your heating (and cooling) energy requirements, switch to an all-electric air source heat pump (ASHP) and an ASHP water heater! You’ll still be using electricity, which produces some GHGs, but far fewer than natural gas, so you’re doing well.
To reduce your GHGs to zero, put some solar panels on your roof to produce as much electricity as you use - you may use more electricity in the winter, and produce more electricity in the summer, but hey, you’re still coming out even (or net-zero) on a yearly basis! Now you’ve almost done all that you can to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions… so…
Last but not least, make your next car an electric vehicle (EV), and charge it from your solar panels!
You are now a Net Zero Hero!