Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Keeping the cold out

It’s only October but already my feet get cold just thinking about January. Fortunately our home is much cozier now that we have completed just about all of the recommendations from our energy audit.

Over the past two years we have reduced our home’s production of greenhouse gas emissions by 4.3 tonnes a year. So our 90 year old house is now in the same efficiency range as a conventionally built new home. Great for us but not so great for owners of newer homes that could have been built much more efficiently.

For those of us who don’t live in R-2000 homes (they’re 30% more energy efficient than your average new home) there are many things you can do to save energy and leave more money in your pocket. An energy audit is a good place to start. It will provide you with a plan to work from and ensure you’ll qualify for funding if you decide to make some improvements, from insulating your basement to changing your furnace. There is provincial and federal funding available, depending on what upgrades you choose to make. Contact Efficiency NB for details on how to find a licensed energy advisor.

Your audit may recommend some significant upgrades. But it will also be full of cheap, do-it-yourself ideas that will do their part to help keep you warmer this winter.

Here are a few:
Insulate your light switches and outlets. There are special foam gaskets that fit neatly behind your light switch and outlet cover plates. Child-safety outlet plugs help keep drafts out too.

Install programmable electronic thermostats and set them at a constant heat for when you’re home. Set them a bit lower for when you’re sleeping or not home. You can save up to 2% on your heating bill for each degree that you turn the heat down. You’ll save even more if you put on a sweater.

Caulk around window and door trim, caulk the top and bottom of your baseboards and quarter rounds. No crack is too small to be sealed. We went through more than a dozen tubes of caulking in our home. Be sure to use indoor caulking.

Check your weatherstripping around windows and doors and replace any that isn’t doing its job. Use a feather to see if drafts are coming in (or heat is going out).

If you don’t use your fireplace, or don’t use it that often, consider insulating it. A fireplace without a proper insert will suck your hard-earned heat right up the chimney.

This isn’t rocket science. In an older home up to 40% of energy loss is due to air leakage. A visit to the local hardware store is all you need to get started with the suggestions above.

Another note on R2000 homes: With all of the building going on in the Valley I’d like to think that people are choosing the R-2000 option. But according to the Canadian Home Builders Association website, there are no R-2000-licensed builders in Greater Saint John. Visit for a list of builders in Fredericton and Moncton. Or better yet, ask your local builder to get certified!

This article was previously printed in KV Style

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