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Energy Issues and Concerns

Home Improvement

Where do I start to reduce drafts and improve my home?

The first step to reduce drafts is to identify the air leakage areas throughout your home. Although you might feel drafts and see air leakage areas around windows and doors on the main floor, in most homes, the most significant air leaks are often found in the attic/top floor and basement/lowest floor and are often hidden. This is due to the stack effect: In a heated home, less dense warm air rises and expands, creating a higher-pressure area near the top of the house. As cold air pushes into the lower portions of your home it forces the lighter warm air up and out through leaks at the top.

In general, the priorities for air sealing are:

  1. Large holes regardless of location (plumbing or electrical penetrations, ductwork through unconditioned spaces, large gaps under doors, masonry chimney chaseways)
  2. Smaller holes on top floor ceiling/attic (pot lights, ceiling penetrations around fixtures, attic hatch, attic knee walls, service shafts, etc.)
  3. Smaller holes on the bottom floor (hose bib penetrations, cracks on exterior and foundation walls, basement doors, electrical boxes, gas lines or oil fill pipes that go through exterior walls, etc)
  4. Smaller holes at main floors (windows, doors, top and bottom of baseboards, fireplace dampers, electrical outlets, switches)

Various materials throughout the envelope act as an air barrier. Large-surface building materials such as drywall, baseboards or structural members and windows and doorframes are incorporated into the air barrier by sealing them to the adjoining materials. Caulking, tapes and gaskets are used for joints between materials that do not move, and weatherstripping, for joints that do move.

When choosing draftproofing materials always select premium products for long-term durability. Choosing the proper product and paying attention to the quality of application are crucial.

Materials you may want to use for draftproofing include:

  • Caulking is used to seal joints between building components.
  • Weatherstripping is used to block air leakage around doors and the operable parts of windows.
  • Spray-foam insulation is a plastic resin used to insulate, but also acts as an air barrier.
  • Most solid building components including drywall, plaster, plywood, glass, wood, rigid foam insulation and poured concrete (not concrete blocks) will act as air barriers.
  • House wrap, polyethylene sheeting, and polyamide sheeting typically act as air, vapour, or combination barriers, respectively.

For detailed information on draftproofing materials, see the Natural Resources Canada resource Keeping the Heat In.

Check out the BC Hydro DIY draftproofing videos to find out how you can take simple steps to draftproof your home.

For a more in depth air sealing analysis of your home, you can have an EnerGuide home evaluation performed on your home to find any obvious or hidden drafts that need sealing. A program-qualified energy advisor will come to your home, perform a blower door fan/depressurization test and look for air leaks. The advisor will also use the data from the depressurization test and calculate the air leakage rate for your home. In the Renovation Upgrade Report, the energy advisor will give a prioritized list of draftproofing measures for your home.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

When should I upgrade my heating system?

In general, you should invest in a new heating or cooling system if your system is more than 15 years old or if it’s no longer keeping your home comfortable. Consider having a professional HVAC contractor look at your system if you’re unsure whether it needs to be upgraded or replaced. Prior to installing a new system, you should address your home’s air leaks, insulation deficiencies and improve the ducting system (if necessary).

The time to replace your heating system also depends on your type of heating system and other upgrade indicators that may appear throughout your home. For example:

  • Heat pumps or air conditioners that are more than 15 years old should be checked and if necessary, replaced with higher efficiency units.
  • Furnace or boilers that are more than 15 years old most often times need to be replaced with higher efficiency units. Gas furnaces or boilers should be serviced at least once every two years. Oil furnaces or boilers should be cleaned and serviced every spring. It’s recommended to have a quality service technician or heating contractor conduct these tune-ups.
  • Increased energy bills and frequent repairs of equipment – this may indicate that your heating equipment is not operating optimally.
  • Some rooms in your home are too hot or too cold – this may indicate that your equipment is not operating effectively, you have ducting problems, inadequate insulation, or problems with air leakage.
  • Your heating system is noisy –this may indicate that your home has an oversized heating system, old blower motor or a lack of maintenance.

For more information, visit the ENERGY STAR® website.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

What are the symptoms of poor indoor air quality, and how can it be improved?

If your home has insufficient air distribution and ventilation, you may find that your home has poor indoor air quality. Insufficient air distribution and ventilation often results in mould, condensation on windows and mirrors, lingering smells after cooking, and chemical smells (from synthetic fabrics, furnishings, household products, cigarette smoke, burning candles, etc.). If your home has poor indoor air quality, you may also observe the following symptoms: sneezing, coughing, congestion and itchy eyes. If your home’s indoor air is too dry then you may find an increase in static shocks, and drier skin and throat.

To maintain good indoor air quality in your home, there must be a sufficient exchange of indoor air with fresh outdoor air. This air exchange will allow mould spores, toxins, odours, excess moisture and stale air to flow out of your home and prevent health problems that can arise from poor indoor air quality. Below are some helpful tips on how to improve the air quality of your home:

  • Install ventilation fans – to improve the air quality of your home, install appropriately-sized bathrooms fans and kitchen range hoods. These ventilation fans will help reduce the humidity in your home and prevent mould and condensation problems.
  • Use the 10-minute rule – to fully remove humidity, you should run ventilation fans at least 10 minutes after cooking and showering. Running the range hood after cooking will also help eliminate particulates and lingering smells in your home.
  • Maintain regularly – range hood filters and bathroom fans should be cleaned once a month to ensure that they ventilate your home effectively and improve indoor air quality. On average, range hoods will work effectively for 10-12 years before they need to be replaced. If you find that your bathroom fan no longer prevents your mirror from fogging, it should be replaced.
  • Consider installing a balanced ventilation system –  if you have very poor indoor air quality and want to ventilate your house more evenly, you may benefit from a balanced ventilation system. These systems exhaust stale air and replace it with a consistent supply of fresh air. Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) also have heat exchangers to recover some of the heat from exhausted air.

Consider hiring a program-qualified energy advisor to perform an EnerGuide home evaluation and assess your home’s ventilation and air quality needs.

For more information about moisture and air quality problems, visit the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation or click here for a booklet.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

How do I improve the indoor air quality of my home?

To maintain good indoor air quality in your home, there must be a sufficient exchange of indoor air with fresh outdoor air. This air exchange will allow mould spores, toxins, odours, excess moisture and stale air to flow out of your home and prevent health problems that can arise from poor indoor air quality. Below are some helpful tips on how to improve the air quality of your home:

  • Install Ventilation Fans: To improve the air quality of your home, install appropriately-sized bathrooms fans and kitchen range hoods. These ventilation fans will help reduce the humidity in your home and prevent mould and condensation problems.
  • Use the 10-Minute Rule: To fully remove humidity, you should run ventilation fans at least 10 minutes after cooking and showering. Running the range hood after cooking will also help eliminate particulates and lingering smells in your home.
  • Maintain Regularly: Range hood filters and bathroom fans should be cleaned once a month to ensure that they ventilate your home effectively and improve indoor air quality. On average, range hoods will work effectively for 10-12 years before they need to be replaced. If you find that your bathroom fan no longer prevents your mirror from fogging, it should be replaced.
  • Consider Installing a Balanced Ventilation System: If you have very poor indoor air quality and want to ventilate your house more evenly, you may benefit from a balanced ventilation system. These systems exhaust stale air and replace it with a consistent supply of fresh air. Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) also have heat exchangers to recover some of the heat from exhausted air.

Consider hiring a program-qualified energy advisor to perform an EnerGuide home evaluation and assess your home’s ventilation and air quality needs.

What are the health and safety considerations of home renovations?

It is important to understand the health and safety considerations of home renovations before undertaking a new project.

Asbestos and vermiculite – building materials containing asbestos may have been used in many buildings and homes built before 1990. This includes materials such as insulation, flooring and ceiling tiles, house siding, and more.

Vermiculite is a type of insulation that may contain asbestos fibres and is commonly found in older homes with insulation installed prior to 1990. If you suspect that there is vermiculite in your home, it is highly recommended that you take precautionary measures due to serious potential health risks. If exposed, asbestos fibres can become airborne in the home’s interior and cause serious harm if inhaled. For more information about the risks associated with asbestos exposure, please visit Health Canada.

If you suspect insulation in your home contains vermiculite, do not disturb it. Contact a certified asbestos removal specialist that will follow BC hazardous waste regulations for options in relation to your renovations. For information about asbestos testing and professional removal, please visit Work Safe BC.

Combustion gases – oil, wood, or gas burning appliances produce heat by burning fuel. This process creates combustion gases, which should be vented to the outdoors through a chimney or vent pipe. If they are not properly vented to the outdoors, or if the home becomes depressurized, combustion spillage occurs. Combustion spillage is the unwanted flow of combustion gases into the home. This occurs when a home becomes depressurized, and harmful combustion gases are sucked back into the home through vents or a flue (backdrafting). Depressurization can happen when a home is very air tight and all exhaust fans, such as range hoods, bathroom fans, the dryer etc. are running at the same time, drawing air from the inside to the outside of the home.

There are a number of ways to prevent combustion spillage, including:

  • Maintaining your combustion appliances
  • Inspect, maintain, and upgrade your chimney if necessary
  • Upgrade your appliances to models that are less prone to combustion spillage
  • Avoid conditions that cause backdrafting. This includes avoiding running several powerful exhaust devices at once.

If you renovate your home to be more air-tight, ensure you have proper ventilation and, if necessary, consider installing a balanced ventilation system such as an HRV.

Mould – if you discover mould in your home, it is essential that the mould is thoroughly removed, the areas cleaned and disinfected, and contaminated materials are properly disposed of. To control and reduce the potential for mould growth, control sources of moisture, maintain indoor humidity at recommended levels, and remedy infiltration and leakage.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

What is the difference between a smart and programmable thermostat?

Using either a smart or programmable thermostat in your home is a great way to control your heating system and energy bills, and keep your home consistently comfortable.

Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat is designed to adjust the temperature according to a series of programmed settings that take effect at different times of the day. For instance, you can set it to turn down to 16*C every evening at 10pm and turn back up to 21*C at 6:30 in the morning, and it will continue to adjust the room temperature for you automatically.

Smart thermostat

A smart thermostat is similar to a programmable thermostat in that you can set it to adjust temperatures at different times. The difference is that smart thermostats can learn from your behaviors or sense when you’re home, adjusting temperatures accordingly, and automatically allow you to control the climate of your home remotely. Some smart thermostats allow you to connect with Wi-Fi, giving you control from wherever you may be – the couch, the office, or even the other side of the globe.

Considerations

It should be noted that programmable thermostats are not recommended for heat pumps. When a heat pump is in cooling mode, turning up the thermostat will save energy and money. However, when a heat pump is in heating mode, setting back its thermostat can cause the unit to operate inefficiently. Maintaining a moderate setting is the most cost-effective practice when operating a heat pump.

Learn more about thermostats with FortisBC and BC Hydro.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Energy Efficiency and Reduction

What is the best way to reduce GHG’s emitted by my home?

The best way to reduce the greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by your home is to switch from a greenhouse gas intensive heating fuel to a more climate friendly fuel type.

Fossil fuels are the most GHG intensive heating fuels, with oil having the highest emissions, followed by propane and natural gas. Other combustion fuels such as biofuels and wood-based fuels emit greenhouse gases as well. Electricity has the lowest GHG emissions, as over 90% of electricity in BC is from renewable hydroelectricity and electric space and hot-water heating systems are more efficient than fossil fuel.

While fuel-switching is the most effective way to reduce to reduce your GHG emissions, upgrading an old heating or hot water system to a more energy-efficient system of the same fuel type will also achieve GHG savings.

In all homes, when upgrading a space heating system it is wise to consider building envelope upgrades,  such as draftproofing, insulation, and upgrading windows as well. A well-insulated, draft free  building envelope may allow you to install a smaller and more efficient heating system, will further improve the overall energy efficiency of your home, reduce GHG emissions and maximize the affordability of your heating bills.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

How can I tell if my home uses too much energy?

Learn more about what makes a home energy-efficient with Natural Resources Canada.

According to Natural Resources Canada’s 2011 Survey of Household Energy Use (SHEU-2011), a single detached home in British Columbia consumes 118.8 gigajoules (GJ) of energy per year on average. However, this number can vary depending on a number of factors, such as: type of dwelling, year built, heated area and the number of occupants. Refer to the SHEU-2011 Energy Intensity Per Household Data Table for more details. If your energy consumption exceeds the SHEU-2011 benchmarks then your home may be consuming too much energy.

Another way to learn more about your energy consumption is by having an energy advisor come to your home and complete an EnerGuide Home Energy Evaluation. A program-qualified energy advisor will conduct various tests to measure the energy efficiency of your home. After the evaluation, the energy advisor will outline the energy inefficiencies of your home. They will also send you an EnerGuide rating label, a detailed report of your energy evaluation and recommendations for upgrades that will help improve your home’s energy efficiency. The Renovation Upgrade Report will give your current energy rating, and the rating you can achieve by completing the recommended energy efficiency upgrades.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

What is a Home Energy Monitor?

A Home Energy Monitor is a device that continuously monitors your electricity usage and displays this information, in both dollar cost and kilowatts, in real time. The Home Energy Monitor will also display your daily, monthly, and accumulated totals, as well as your meter reading.

Through your BC Hydro MyHydro account, you may already be tracking your electricity use online – a home energy monitor simply allows you to track this information in real time. This helps to understand how and when you’re using electricity, as well as the associated costs, allowing you to take actions to reduce your usage and save money and energy.

To be eligible for a home energy monitor through BC Hydro you must meet these requirements:

  • Create an online MyHydro account with a linked profile. If you do not have one you can sign up;
  • Live in a residential detached or semi-detached home; this includes most townhomes, rowhomes and mobile homes; and
  • Have a connected smart meter with a strong network connection.

Learn more about home energy monitors with BC Hydro. You can purchase a home energy monitor through your BC Hydro MyHydro account.

If you are a FortisBC Electric customer, your advanced electricity meter will display information that will cycle through the advanced meter display every 6 seconds. You can access tools through FortisBC, like in-home displays, to help you better manage your electricity use. For more information on advanced meters, as well as in-home displays, visit your FortisBC Account Online, or contact FortisBC at 1-866-436-7847.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Cost Effectiveness

Why are my energy bills so high?

Your home energy consumption and the amount you pay on energy bills is based on many factors: size of home, energy efficiency of the home, type of heating system you use, the fuel type (electricity, gas, oil, propane) you use for space and hot water heating, the number of people living in your home and how house occupants use energy for space and water heating, appliances, lighting, cooking, bathing, etc.

There are many reasons why your energy bills may be higher than expected, or higher than you would like:

  • Insufficient insulation in your walls or attic
  • Air leakage issues
  • Inappropriately sized heating system
  • Inefficient space heating system
  • Inefficient hot water system
  • Heat loss through inefficient windows
  • High consumption of hot water for laundry and bathing
  • Other energy uses: hot tubs, space heaters, water pumps, energy used in workshops or outbuildings, etc.

Winter Energy Bills

During the winter months we experience colder and darker days which can increase your home’s energy consumption. Your bills tend to be higher during colder months because:

  • It takes more energy to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home
  • Space heaters may be used to supplement the home’s primary heating system
  • Lights are left on longer from spending more time in your home and the need to use lighting for longer during the day

Changes in Billing and/or Utility Rates

If you notice that your utility bill is higher, even though your energy consumption was similar to your previous bill, then you should look for other changes in your utility bill, such as:

  • An increase in your utility rate (how much you are charged for a given unit of energy consumption compared to your past energy bills).
  • Longer billing period length. You may have been charged for more days in your most recent billing period compared to previous bills.
  • Delayed meter reading. If your utility provider does not read your meter for a given billing period, they will make an estimate of your home’s energy consumption based on your history. The estimate may be higher than expected, but your bill should be adjusted the next time your meter is read.

Changes in Home Dynamics that May Impact Your Energy Bill

Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Have you had visitors recently or tenants that have moved in?
  • Have you added any new appliances?
  • Are you completing any upgrades or renovations for your home?

Answering yes to any of the above questions could explain why your energy bills have increased.

For more information please visit the BC Hydro and FortisBC .

Solutions to high energy bills include:

  • Draftproof your home – reducing drafts and air leakage into your home you will save energy, improve home comfort and save on you energy bills.
  • Monitor your home energy consumption – installing a home energy meter or signing up for BC Hydro’s MyHydro service to monitor your usage and pinpoint peak energy consumption periods. You may identify a spike in your energy consumption that helps you understand you high energy consumption. For example, does your energy consumption spike on Sunday, the same day you do all your laundry?
  • Complete an EnerGuide Home Evaluation – an energy evaluation helps you identify options to reduce energy bills.
  • Hire a contractor to complete energy efficiency upgrades for your home – depending on your homes energy upgrade needs – insulation, heating and water systems, and window upgrades can all contribute to reducing energy consumption, which leads to smaller energy bills
  • Complete simple DIY upgrades – are you handy around the house and have some time for home improvements – Small changes add up and many changes can be done as Do-It-Yourself projects, see our FAQs for more information
  • Alter occupant behaviour – there are many steps you can take to reduce your energy consumption. Reduce the number of laundry loads or use cold water, consider hanging laundry on a clothes line, unplug electronics when not in use, turn off lights when you leave a room, take shorter showers, reduce the use of space heaters in occupied rooms, etc.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

I have a heat pump but my hydro bills are still very high

If you heat your home with a heat pump, but are experiencing higher than expected energy bills check out the solutions below.

First read the FAQ, “Why are my energy bills so high?” as your hydro bill may be high for reasons unrelated to your heat pump

If you feel that you aren’t benefiting from the high efficiency of your heat pump systems, the following operating tips and information should be considered:

  • Building envelope – regardless of what system is used to heat and cool your home, the importance of an airtight and well insulated building envelope cannot be understated. Air leakage caused by cracks and gaps in the building envelope, along with inadequate insulation will force your heating system to work harder in the winter, and your cooling system to work harder in the summer. Heating and cooling systems consume more energy and cost more to operate when they have to work harder to maintain the desired temperature. Draftproofing and upgrading insulation in areas like your attic or basement/ crawlspace is a great place to start and can improve the building envelope and reduce energy loss, resulting in energy and cost savings. Speak with an insulation and air sealing contractor or an EnerGuide Rating System energy advisor to help you understand why your energy bills may be so high.
  • Thermostat location – the location of your thermostat is important. A thermostat that is located in the direct path of a heating register senses that the living area is warm before the area has actually reached the desired temperature. This can cause the unit to short-cycle, which turns the heat pump off before the living space has been conditioned. Conversely, thermostats placed next to drafty windows or doors may not sense when the living space has reached the desired temperature. This can lead to over-heating and increased energy consumption. If you suspect the location of your thermostat is an issue – speak with a professional heat pump contractor about the options, and costs, for moving the thermostat to a more appropriate location
  • Setting your thermostat – the air source heat pump indoor thermostat should be set at the desired comfort temperature and not readjusted. Repeatedly adjusting the indoor thermostat, or turning the unit on and off may cause the heat pump system’s supplementary heating system to kick in – causing your heating system to use more energy and increase your energy bills. We recommend checking your heat pump user’s manual for the recommended set point of your heat pump. In the cold winter months it is best to set your heat pump thermostat at your desired temperature and leave it at that temperature, this will reduce the number of times your heat pumps supplementary system will kick in (saving you money). If you wish to set back your thermostat do not set it back more than 2 degrees (for example if your preferred temperature is 21 degrees, do not set back your thermostat to lower than 19 degrees).
  • Emergency heat is only for emergencies – most thermostats have an emergency setting that when selected, forces your supplementary (back-up) heating system to kick in and take over 100% of the heating for the home. This can be expensive as the back-up heating system is less efficient than the heat pump. The emergency setting should only be selected when the heat pump is malfunctioning.
  • Do not use AUTO mode – AUTO mode allows the heat pump to switch from cooling to heat automatically. This can cause the system to switch modes when it is not necessary. It is recommended to keep the heat pump in “Heat” mode in the winter and “Cool” mode in the summer.
  • Review the owner’s manual – not all heat pumps are the same. Each brand and model of heat pump will have its own recommended set point and other operating suggestions to maximize the efficiency of that specific model of heat pump. Review your owner’s manual and discuss with your contractor the best way to operate your heat pump.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Which upgrades typically have the fastest payback period?

When thinking about the payback period for your upgrades, the simple payback is one of the easiest way to look at your investment.

Simple payback is the length of time it takes to recoup the initial investment of the energy upgrade. The basic formula for calculating payback period is:

Payback period (in years) = cost of upgrade / energy savings per year

There are a few factors that should be considered when thinking about simple payback:

  • The life span of the product will determine for how long you will benefit form energy savings before having to replace it.
  • Changes to utility rates will affect the amount of money you save on energy costs.

Upgrades that typically have the fastest payback period are lower cost home energy improvements such as high efficiency aerators and shower heads, draftproofing, lighting, and adding insulation to previously uninsulated exterior walls. However, often it can be a wise financial investment to undertake higher cost home energy improvements that have a longer simple payback – but will save you more each year and over the lifetime of the improvement. While not as straight forward as simple payback – higher cost home energy improvements may have a strong return on investment.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Home Comfort

Why is my home so cold in the winter?

Some areas of your home may be difficult to keep warm due to:

  • Insufficient insulation – insufficient insulation can cause heat to escape from your home through your roof, walls, basement, foundation or crawlspace. For example, insufficient insulation in your crawlspace or basement can account for 20-30% of a home’s total heat loss.
  • Air leakage issues – most homes lose warm air to the outside and let cold air in through gaps and cracks in walls and under and around doors and windows. The amount of air leakage in a home can vary dramatically and may make your home feel drafty and cold.
  • Inappropriately sized or inefficient heating system – if interior temperatures are not maintained, your heating system may be too small or inefficient to support your home’s heating demands and keep you comfortable.
  • Inefficient space heating systems – baseboard heaters can account for 50% of your home’s overall electricity use.
  • Inadequate heating system ducts – if your home heating ducts are improperly sized, have leaky joints or have been poorly installed – heat may not be distributed effectively through your home. This may be the reason why some rooms in your home are difficult to keep warm. 
  • Inefficient windows – you may feel cold drafts near your older, single-pane windows. Inefficient windows will result in higher levels of heat loss and contribute to you feeling cold both near your windows, and throughout your home.

Energy efficiency solutions that can help keep your home warm during the winter months include:

  • Insulation – contact a registered energy advisor and/or a professional insulation contractor for recommendations on how to best improve the insulation in your home.
  • Draftproofing – see our FAQ, “Where do I start to reduce drafts and improve my home?
  • Inappropriately sized heating system – contact a professional HVAC contractor to discuss options to upgrade your heating system. If your home is under insulated with high levels of air leakage – these are home energy improvements that should be considered prior to installing a new heating system.
  • Inadequate heating system ducts – if your heating system ducts are not functioning effectively, speak with a professional HVAC contractor about the options to fix the ducting or switch to a ductless type heating system
  • Replace old windows with efficient models – consider new energy efficient windows to block cold air from entering your home, and heat from escaping. See our FAQ “Why is it important to select the right windows for my home?

Ask your energy advisor or contractor about which home energy improvements will be most effective for improving the energy efficiency of your home.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Why is my home so hot in the summer?

There are many factors that can cause a home to get too hot in the summer, and many of them are energy efficiency issues:

  • Insufficient attic insulation – in the summer, and on other hot days, radiant heat from the sun can permeate through your roof and heat up your attic like a solar heated oven. If you have insufficient insulation in your attic – the radiant heat will pass through the insulation into your living space causing the air inside your home to become warmer, and sometimes too hot.
  • Inadequate attic ventilation – if there is insufficient attic ventilation, the temperature in the attic can build up due to heat that radiates into the attic. If the attic is under-insulated and/or if there is air leakage between your attic and living space the warm air from the attic will increase the temperature in your home.
  • Insufficient wall insulation – if your south and west facing walls have high exposure to direct sun and are uninsulated or under insulated – the heat from the sun will pass through the walls and heat up your home.
  • Air leakage – if there are gaps and cracks in your home (under doors, around windows, through attic penetrations, around your foundation, etc.) warm air will leak into your home increasing the temperature, and potentially the humidity levels, in your home.
  • Inefficient windows – if you have many windows or large windows that have direct exposure to the sun (your home is facing south/west) and the windows are not energy efficient, heat can easily enter your home on hot days, causing high indoor temperatures.
  • Insufficient ventilation within your home – especially in the summer, homes lacking proper ventilation (bathroom fan/range hood fan) can fill with stale air, and may feel stuffy and humid.

Energy efficiency solutions and behaviour changes that can help keep your home cool during the summer include:

  • Attic insulation – ensure your attic is sufficiently insulated. The BC Home Energy Coach program recommends that homeowners strive to increase their attic insulation to R40 or R50 levels (if appropriate and recommended by a professional attic insulation contractor). Draftproofing should also be completed in your attic prior to adding insulation.
  • Attic ventilation – if there is insufficient ventilation in your attic, have new air vents installed to meet current building codes ventilation requirements. When replacing roof shingles this is a good time to increase roof ventilation.
  • Wall insulation – sufficient insulation in the walls will slow the movement of heat from the exterior of the home into the interior. Homeowners should work with a professional insulation contractor and have all walls fully insulated. If replacing the siding for your home this is a good opportunity to have insulation blown into the walls and/or added to the exterior of your home.
  • Air leakage – draftproofing can be a cost effective strategy to keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. See the FAQ, “Where do I start to reduce drafts and improve my home?
  • Windows – installing new, high-performance windows can act as a barrier between indoor and outdoor temperatures, keep the cool air in, and save you up to 8% on your energy bills. Talk to your window installer to help choose the best windows for the comfort of your home.
  • Air conditioning – if air conditioning is required or desired, an air source heat pump is the most energy efficient and most climate friendly form of home heating and cooling currently available. See the FAQ, “What are the benefits of mini-ductless air source heat pumps
  • Heat recovery ventilators (HRV) – can improve indoor air quality by removing stale air and circulating clean, fresh air throughout the home.
  • Using appliances less – minimizing the amount of heat you’re generating is a simple way to lower the temperature in your home. For example, on hot days plan for meals that do not require using the oven.
  • Keeping the heat out – keeping the windows and blinds closed during peak hot hours of the day can help to block heat that enters your home through your windows. In the early morning and in the evening when it cools down, open your windows to let cool air in.
  • Improving air flow – using a ceiling fan can lower indoor air temperatures by up to 10%. During the summer, set your ceiling fan to rotate counter-clockwise. When the air is cooler outside than it is inside (for example, in the early morning), you can also place a fan near a window to draw cool air into the home.
  • Landscape for shade – planting the right size tree in the right place can block sunlight and help keep your home cool during the summer months. A deciduous tree will block heat in the summer and allow the heat to pass through in the winter, when the leaves have fallen. Trees planted on the east, west, and northwest sides of the home will provide afternoon shade.
  • Install shading – exterior blinds or shades can block sunlight during the hottest times of the day, keeping the indoors cool.

Ask your energy advisor or contractor about which home energy improvements will be most effective for improving the energy efficiency of your home and maintaining a comfortable temperature all year round.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Which home energy improvements will make my home quieter?

Several home energy improvements will have the added benefit of making your home quieter by creating a sound barrier from outside noise.

  • Upgrade to efficient double or triple pane windows – modern and efficient double or triple pane windows can soundproof outside noise better than single pane windows and older double pane windows. Energy-efficient windows can also reduce your heating and cooling costs and eliminate cold drafts and condensation.
  • Maximizing wall and attic insulation – upgrading to better insulation or adding more insulation not only helps reduce your energy bills and increase the comfort of your home, but also acts a sound barrier to reduce outside noise. The way your insulation is installed plays a large role in its effectiveness. Ensure that you ask your insulation contractor to sufficiently fill cavities and leave no gaps for air leakage.
  • Draftproofing – sealing air leaks throughout your home can also make your home quieter. Ensure that doors and windows fit snugly by applying weatherstripping to all movable joints and around window and door frames.
  • Upgrade older, non-insulated doors – doors made with a hollow core construction do not block sound effectively. By upgrading to insulated, solid core doors, you create a more effective sound barrier and reduce the heat loss of your home.

Ask your energy advisor or contractor which home energy improvements will help soundproof your home and reduce outside noise.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

I am a renter, is there anything I can do to make my home more energy efficient?

Whether you live in an apartment building or a suite in a home, as a renter there are many things you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your home. This in turn can improve the comfort of your home, and potentially help to lower your energy bills.

Simple Water Conservation Measures

Installing efficient showerheads and tap aerators will help you cut down on the amount of water you use, without sacrificing water pressure and provide you with the most cost effective option for reducing home energy bills. If you live in an income-qualifying household, you can receive a free Energy Saving Kit, or participate in the Energy Conservation Assistance Program. These programs provide free energy saving products, including water-efficient showerheads and kitchen and bathroom faucet aerators.

Energy Efficient Lighting

LED bulbs use less power and are available in a variety of shades, shapes and sizes, and last 10-25 times longer than traditional bulbs. As you purchase new lights, consider buying the high efficiency LED lighting to save money on your electricity bill. Be sure to keep your bulbs clean, as dust will reduce light output.

Draftproofing for Savings and Comfort

Draftproofing is a home energy upgrade that can be cost effective for lowering home energy bills and improving home comfort. See the FAQs, “Where do I start to reduce drafts and improve my home? and “What are the benefits of draftproofing?

Tips to Maximize Efficient Heating

Renters are not likely to replace space heating equipment, but there are ways to ensure that your heating system is operating to maximum efficiency – saving you money and enhancing comfort.

To not restrict the flow of heat in your home (and for safety reasons) do not place beds, drapery and furniture too close to baseboard heaters or radiators and do not cover floor or wall heating vents with furniture. Heat only the rooms you’re using. Lower the thermostat if you have baseboard heaters in rooms you’re not using. A minimum of once per year, vacuum your baseboards to ensure they are working effectively.

Tips to Keep You Cool

There are several cost effective options to help you keep your home cool when the temperature outside rises. In the early morning and once the sun goes down, open your windows and or doors to let cool air in. During the heat of the day, keep you windows, curtains and blinds closed to prevent the sun and warm exterior air from heating up your house. Use a fan to help circulate air. If you have a ceiling fan, set it to summer mode (counter-clockwise as you look up at it) to move the air downward to create a wind chill effect. Avoid using your oven

Rebate Programs

If you live in an income-qualifying household you can apply for the Energy Conservation Assistance Program or for a Free Energy Saving Kit.

The Energy Conservation Assistance Program provides a free in-home visit with free energy-saving product installation, as well as advice and tips for how you can improve your home’s efficiency. The free Energy Saving Kit Program provides free energy saving products you can install yourself.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Moisture and Condensation

How do I reduce humidity levels in my home?

In order to decrease humidity levels in your home and prevent moisture problems, you will have to produce less humidity and increase the ventilation of your home. The following is a list of suggestions to reduce humidity levels in your home:

  • Be aware of sources of moisture in your home (plants, aquariums, steam showers, cleaning, washing, cooking, etc.) and compensate with sufficient ventilation.
  • Ensure that your home has appropriate exterior water barriers to protect your home from outdoor moisture.
  • Your kitchen and bathrooms should have ventilation fans to expel indoor moisture. Many older ventilation fans make noise but are ineffective at actually ventilating your home. A simple way to test that your fan is functioning sufficiently is to take a single square of toilet paper and place it along the fan vent while the fan is running. If the fan does not hold up the toilet paper, it is not functioning properly.
  • Consider installing a humidistat for your bathroom ventillation fan, or ensure that you run the fan for at least 15-20 minutes after each shower.
  • Fix all water leaks into the basement and do not allow any standing water in the house or against the foundation wall.
  • If necessary, repair or replace the drainage tile around your home or install a sump pump to remove excessive moisture from the soil under the slab. Speak with a knowledgeable contractor about the best option for your home.
  • Disconnect any humidifiers (if unnecessary).
  • If required, use a dehumidifier.
  • Do not store and dry wood in the house, and avoid hang-drying laundry in the house, as it releases moisture into your indoor air.
  • Ask your energy advisor or contractor about which home energy improvements will help reduce the humidity of your home.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

How do I reduce the amount of condensation on my windows?

Condensation occurs when water vapour is cooled to the point where it condenses as water droplets on a cold surface. Greater accumulations of condensation will appear on colder window temperatures and homes with high humidity levels. To reduce the amount of condensation on your windows you can:

Reduce the humidity levels in your house

  • Ensure that your home has appropriate exterior water barriers to protect your home from outdoor moisture.
  • Your kitchen and bathrooms should have ventilation fans to expel indoor moisture.
  • Fix all water leaks into the basement and do not allow any standing water in the house or against the foundation wall.
  • If necessary, install a sump pump to remove excessive moisture from the soil under the slab.
  • Disconnect any humidifiers (if not necessary).
  • If required, use a dehumidifier.

Increase the surface temperature of your windows and frames

  • Invest in window frames made out of vinyl, wood or fiberglass.
  • Energy efficient windows made with a double or triple glaze and low-E (low-emissivity) will also increase the temperature of your windows and reduce condensation build-up.
  • Draftproof your windows with weatherstripping tape.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Why is it important to check and possibly upgrade ventilation systems after building envelope upgrades?

Building envelope upgrades such as draftproofing (air sealing), installing new windows and upgrading insulation improve the air tightness of your home and keep the heat in more efficiently. However, an increase in airtightness may also increase the humidity levels of your home. It is important to have an adequate ventilation system to ensure that you have sufficient ventilation through your home to prevent moisture problems (e.g. condensation and mould).

Ask your energy advisor or contractor what ventilation system upgrades you will need for your home.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Heritage Home Improvements

Which upgrades are most appropriate for preserving the heritage and character elements of a home and achieving energy savings?

To preserve the architectural heritage of older homes and improve energy efficiency, retrofits should minimize changes to the building’s appearance and focus on repairs rather than replacement. Below are a list of energy saving upgrades appropriate for heritage homes:

  • Draftproofing – comprehensive draftproofing (air sealing) is an effective way to make older homes more energy efficient. (See ‘Where do I start to reduce drafts and improve my home?‘)
  • Storm Windows – an important aspect of a heritage home’s character is its windows. If original wooden storm windows have been destroyed, you can install custom storm windows made to order. The benefits of installing wood storm windows include improved thermal efficiency, reducing moisture transfer, and compatibility with traditional wood-frame house construction. Avoid metal storm windows and storm-and-screen combinations if you want to preserve the appearance of your heritage home. Interior storm windows are less noticeable and easier to maintain than exterior storm windows.
  • Insulation Upgrades – heritage homes often have little or no insulation; by adding or upgrading insulation levels, you can significantly improve the thermal efficiency of your home. To preserve both the interior and exterior wall finishes, homeowners can have insulation blown into the cavity of a wood frame wall. Basements and attics can often be insulated without affecting the heritage appearance. When upgrading insulation in older homes, it’s also important to have a sufficient vapour and air barrier.
  • Heating System Upgrades – upgrading to a size-appropriate and energy-efficient heating system can help you achieve energy savings without altering the heritage appearance of your home.
  • Domestic Hot Water Upgrades – another cost-effective way to improve the energy efficiency of a heritage home is to upgrade your domestic heating and hot water system to energy efficient models. This retrofit will generally have a short payback period and will not damage the heritage and character elements of your home.

Do you live in the City of Vancouver? Check out the Heritage Energy Retrofit Grant. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation offers grants for energy efficiency upgrades and discounts for EnerGuide home evaluations.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Get solutions for common problems & learn about energy efficient upgrades.