In September 2010 we moved into our new (to us) 100 year old home. We felt it prudent to ask for average utility costs prior to buying and we were taken aback at the heating costs of our soon to be new home. I had done an ecoEnergy retrofit on our last home (heating block was cracked in the 25 year old furnace so I wanted to get some money back, wanted to save money on heating and reduce our carbon foot print) and in 2009 our average heating bill was $96 per month (mainly due to a warm winter, as warm as it gets in Ontario in the winter that is). The previous owners of our new home spent $150 a month! We recognized we needed to do something about our heating costs and knowing that the ecoEnergy Retrofit program was expiring March 31, 2011 we decided to get ours done as soon as possible.
ecoEnergy Retrofit Audit
We of course knew that we had to deal with outsourcing for the energy inspector to come to our house and he would feed the data he took into his model. Our house rated a 51 of a possible 100. It is a 100 year old house after all. For comparison sake, in 2011 Ontario building code has a minimum 80 rating for new builds. Our house had 6.4 air changes per hour whereas R-2000 new builds must have a maximum of 3.1 air changes per hour.
m rating of 1.5. Many older homes are 8 to 10 times higher than the R-2000 standard, so our old house was actually sealed pretty well already. Interestingly, the inspector told us that unless we wanted to purchase and install an air exchanger on every floor of our house (we have a natural gas boiler – so no duct work), he would not suggest we partake in any sealing initiatives (caulking, foam inserts in outlets etc) and that insulating our house would be more than enough. The issue he told us was that a house that is too sealed and does not have any air exchangers, mold can become a problem. He suggested we simply crack a window periodically to get some cool air into the house. A few days after the inspection we received his report on what we can do to improve our energy efficiency.
We could upgrade our boiler furnace, but it is only 8 years old so that didn’t make a lot of sense. We passed on this. The windows in our house are all under 7 years old so we wouldn’t be doing this improvement either (the report did not suggest we do either project).
Our Retrofit Home Improvements
In July of 2010 we bought our home. We knew we were going to do the retrofit and that the city we live in will be metering water in 2011. The toilets (two) in the house are pretty low grade. A box store in town had a sale in July on American Standard low flow toilets so we bought two of them and stored them in the new house prior to our move. These toilets use 4.8 litres per flush whereas “normal” flow toilets use 13-25 litres per flush. Saving 2.5x to 5.3x more water, and money, per flush is a good idea. I have yet to install the toilets, but hope to do so before Christmas. Costs: Regular Price: $538 + $69.94 HST = 607.94. Our sale cost: $336.74. Savings: $271.20. Retrofit rebate: $130 ($65 per toilet). Total Cost: $206.74 or 66%. Total savings on water usage, unknown.
The most logical way to reduce our heating costs is insulation. Up to 30-45% of the heat lost in a home comes from an uninsulated attic in the winter. Our attic is unfinished (for now) and has 6 inches of cellulose insulation blown into the floor. Not enough! The previous owners had taken the pink fibreglass insulation out of the roof rafters and left it on the floor. We decided to lay it on the floor and found we had gained 6 inches of insulation over about 40% of the attic floor. Knowing we could get $250 in rebates by adding 6 inches of insulation to the attic we decided it was worth buying more. A Canadian box store was selling the insulation for just under $31 for a bag of insulation so I measured the remaining floor space and determined we needed 10 bags to finish the job. The box store had an offer where if you spent $150 on insulation you could mail in for a $25 gift card. So I made two trips so I would get $50 in gift cards, which we will use on other projects in our home. Costs: Insulation $31 x 10 = $310. Rebate $250. Gift Cards $50. Total cost to get our attic RSI value to 7: $10 or 97%. Heat savings, unknown, but that insulation will have paid for itself before winter is done.
Thanks to MDG for his research into heat loss from a basement. 25%-30% heat loss is a lot! We had a choice to have our basement insulated to R20 or R40. We ultimately chose R20 as that is the current building code recommendation. We used soy-based polyurethane foam insulation in the basement headers and on the walls. Costs: $3013.71. Retrofit Rebate: $750. Total Cost: $2263.71 or 75%.
We weren’t done yet! Exterior walls can allow up to 50% of your heat to escape. We had our exterior walls insulated with an environmentally friendly product called airKrete. This product is completely non-toxic, CFC and urea-formaldehyde/ formaldehyde- free and 100% fireproof. Although this product is more expensive than blown in cellulose we chose it for a number of reasons. First, cellulose compacts over time, usually 10-15 years. Why do I bring this up? A few reasons. One we’d have to pay to have the work done again. Another, when insulation is blown into exterior walls many small holes are drilled into the walls and then roughly mudded. This means the home owner has the unenviable task of sanding, cleaning up and re-painting the house. The second reason we chose airKrete is that is an expanding foam that will reach all the nooks and crannies of our old house. Lastly, airKrete has an R value of 16 which bests the 14 R value of cellulose. The contractor who installed the airKrete told us all his customers gain the rebate of $190 by improving the air tightness of their house by 10 percent. For us, this means achieving an air change rate per hour of 5.76 at a pressure of 50 Pa. Cost of Insulation: $6203.70. Retrofit Rebates: $2065. Total Costs: $4138.7 or 67%.
In the end our total bill for our retrofit was: $10135.35. Total Retrofit Rebates: $3195. Total Cost: $6940.70 or 68.5%!
We walk or bike to work, like to shop locally. We used two local non-chain companies for the majority of our retrofit cash outputs into our community. We’ve now balanced (and exceeded) our recent non-local purchase versus the alternatives we have here in Canada. One area Canadians can see big savings on monthly bills and doing the right thing for the environment is to reduce home energy usage waste. There are but a few short months left for Ontarians to get their energy retrofit audit done, get the improvements done and the re-test. If you care for the environment, want to save money over time and want to lower that oil/gas bill, do the Retrofit.