Energy Efficient Homes - It's the Key to Energy Savings
February 20, 2015
We hear the buzzwords all the time - the energy efficient home. But what does it really mean? Energy efficiency (in a residential home or a building structure) is about the effective control of airflow, heated air, cooled air and moisture. Industry professionals refer to the indoor environment as a "system", where various components work together and contribute to the indoor "climate". Energy efficiency is optimized when the "system" is working well - when the interchange of indoor air and outdoor air is managed effectively. The whole idea behind managing airflow from season to season is to achieve positive results. One positive result is to reduce energy consumption and therefore save money. Another is to create a balanced indoor environment that provides maximum comfort for occupants and/or residents. Indeed, as our lifestyle needs and demands have changed over the years, so has our desire to enhance our indoor environment. The bigger question, of course, is how to go about improving the "system" and the components that are involved. For the professional, indoor environments are wholly dependent on the various components that make up the "system": the exterior weather barrier; the indoor air and moisture barrier; the thermal barrier (existing insulation); the heating, ventilation and cooling system (HVAC); the thermal windows; and even the hot water tank. The thing is, not every home or building incorporates components that are working efficiently on their own, let alone in tandem with the others. Needless to say, the objective is to optimize the "system". Whether it's for new construction, a renovation, or a retrofit, energy efficiency is very reliant on proper ventilation. Proper ventilation will allow stale indoor air to be removed, and allow fresh outdoor air to fill the indoors. Today's modern, high efficiency HVAC systems (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) are designed to deliver proper ventilation, and provide a well-balanced and comfortable indoor environment from one season to the next. But still, the HVAC system is only one component - everything else must also be in sync. For older homes that aren't energy efficient (and want to be), an energy audit is an ideal place to start. A professional audit will highlight the home's weaknesses and evaluate the areas that require improvement. A good audit will also illustrate the difference between current levels of performance and potential levels of performance (after upgrades have been made). Every upgrade will contribute in some way to energy efficiency, and will result in cost savings. The trick is to do it right the first time - it makes for better outcomes. When it comes to upgrading, making the home airtight is a top priority. This can be followed up with enhanced insulation, which in itself boosts R-Value wherever installed. Upgrading an older HVAC system to high efficiency (sometimes rated as Energy Star) makes a big difference in terms of efficient energy usage as well as improved ventilation. Even upgrading a hot water tank (or system) can save energy - a high efficiency unit translates into obvious cost savings around the year. Again, it's all about individual components working together.