You don’t need to spend a fortune to have a green home. Simple, common-sense design choices can go a long way to helping you significantly cut your energy bill and live comfortably while keeping your carbon footprint small.
Two energy efficiency experts with Efficiency Nova Scotia shared a few tips recently. David Heath and Ryan Kelly offer some insight into things we all can do, whether we’re building or renovating.
“If you’re building a home, first thing you need to think about is siting the house,” said David Heath. “To take advantage of passive solar gain, be sure your house is oriented south to north so that the south-
facing wall has more glazing than the north.” Heath points out that heat loss even from double-glazed argon-filled windows can be significant. “Even the most energy efficient windows have an R-Value less than even a poorly insulated wall.”
Once you site your house, it’s important to consider construction. Ryan Kelly offers the following tips. “There are a number of energy-efficiency construction methods to consider – for example, ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) construction, double offset stud walls, structurally insulated panels, and even straw bail construction which is gain- ing favour in many parts of the country.” Bottom line is, he says, “You need a beefy envelope to retain heat.”
Insulation is the filler in the construction “sandwich” – and there are many ways the homeowner can go in this regard. All have their merits, and Kelly advises discussing the pros and cons with your contractor. For a homeowner of an existing home, the choices are more limited. Homeowners can strip walls to the studs and add batts of insulation, or hire a contractor to blow insulation in from the outside of the home. For those on a limited budget, insulating and ceiling basement headers and ceilings generally offer the best bang for the buck.
Kelly adds that air ceiling is just as important and you need to make sure that your energy efficient structure is well sealed. In an existing house, simply caulking doors and windows makes a huge difference.
Thermal mass makes a big difference when it comes to keeping heat in. Bare concrete or stone floors and brick walls will retain heat admirably because they have superior ability to store heat. David Heath advises that homeowners consider making thermal mass a design feature. “Brick or stone walls, for example, not only look great but they’ll retain heat magnificently.”
The design of the floor plan should also figure into a homeowner’s considerations, says Heath. “There’s no sense in having a passive house with lots of thermal mass
if you divvy it up into tiny rooms; open concept is the way to go because it’s easier to heat one large space than many small spaces.”
A final word of advice. “Don’t build a house bigger than your needs,” says Kelly. “Think carefully about the space you really need and design for your requirements most of the time. The larger the house, the more expensive it is to heat.”
For more information on how you can use energy better and save money contact Efficiency Nova Scotia at 1-877-999-6035 or visit efficiencyns.ca.