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Better Understanding of the House as a System

November 23, 2017

For the average homeowner, a house is a basic building structure that provides comfortable, and sometimes luxurious comfort. And while many homeowners understand the ABCs of plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling, not many have an understanding of “the house as a system”.

It’s time to start viewing your home as a whole system

Even on an elementary basis, it’s clear that a house comprises various mechanical components that all work together as an inter-dependent system. Looking at “the house as a system” allows for a different perspective – including everything from the residents to the building materials.

“The house as a system” comprises the people who live in the house, the construction materials used to build the house, and all of the mechanical components that interact daily. Over the years, changes to one mechanical component of the house can dramatically affect other components.

As a unique building structure, a house needs to be protected from the outdoor environment; it needs to breath in and out; and it needs to regulate indoor living temperatures. As such, changes to any one mechanical system will have unanticipated impact on the “the house as a system”.

As a multi-component, interactive system, a house has a number of fundamental components:

The Building Envelope

Includes everything that separates interior from exterior (roof, walls, windows, foundation)

Mechanical Systems

Includes components that provide, remove, or regulate heat, air and moisture (HVAC system)

The Home Occupants

This would include the number of people in the home, lifestyle choices, and general operation.

Changes, renovations, and retrofits to “the house as a system”

  • With a home renovation, consideration should be given to improving insulation, airtightness, and ventilation. Anything less is a failed opportunity to improve energy efficiency and home comfort.
  • Moisture issues in the home (water, vapour, ice) can cause damage over time. Installing effective air barriers/vapour barriers helps to control air movement and air moisture from intruding.
  • On the exterior of the house, rainwater and melt-water must be managed properly to prevent any penetration into the house. Drainage should flow away from the building envelope itself.
  • Making a house airtight significantly reduces air leakage. Energy efficient windows, quality insulation, and an airtight building envelope will effectively reduce indoor/outdoor air exchange.
  • Proper ventilation throughout the building envelope ensures balanced humidity and moisture control, both of which prevent damage and enhance home comfort (sealed tight/ventilated right).

When a renovation includes upgrades to any of the combustion appliances (furnaces, fireplaces, water heaters) proper back drafting is essential maintaining pollutant free air circulation.

To avoid and prevent the negative effects of Volatile Organic Compounds during renovation, safer product options (non-toxic) are available through endorsements like EcoLogo™ and Green Leaf™.

With any renovation, carbon monoxide exposure can result because of improper installation or poor maintenance. The simple answer is a carbon monoxide detector – a must for every house.

New construction can pose hazards with radon gas and other soil gases. These should be tested for, and remediation arranged where necessary. Here, air sealing may be an added measure.

The benefits of “the house as a system” approach

Whether renovating or retrofitting, “the house as a system” approach allows for important issues to be addressed before any work commences. This approach is pro-active, and ensures long-term value for the renovation work undertaken, avoiding costly changes and/or future re-installations.

Today, contractors who subscribe to “the house as a system” can offer astute homeowners a well-planned renovation, with maximum performance of all mechanical components. This is truly a holistic approach to building practices – giving high priority to occupant health and safety; energy efficiency and sustainability; and pure and simple home comfort.

Western Ontario

935 Keyes Drive
Woodstock, Ontario
Canada N4V 1C3

Phone: 1-800-265-1914

Fax: (519) 539-7946
TOLL FREE: 1-800-265-1914

Southwestern Ontario

7035 Industrial Drive
Comber, Ontario
Canada N0P 1J0

TOLL FREE: 1-800-265-1914

Muskoka, Haliburton, Northern Ontario

1027 Elwell Park Road
Gravenhurst, Ontario
Canada P1P 1R1

TOLL FREE: 1-800-265-1914

Central Ontario

29 Ferndale Industrial Drive
Barrie, Ontario
Canada L4N 9V5

TOLL FREE: 1-800-265-1914

GTA East

103 North Port Road
Port Perry, Ontario
Canada L9L 1B2

TOLL FREE: 1-800-265-1914

GTA & South Central Ontario

450 Industrial Dr,
Toronto (Milton), Ontario
Canada L9T 5A6

TOLL FREE: 1-800-265-1914

Eastern Ontario

1035 Moodie Dr #1,
Nepean, ON
K2R 1H4

TOLL FREE: 1-800-265-1914


259 Campbell Street
Sarnia Ontario
Canada, N7T 2H3

TOLL FREE: 1-800-265-1914

Niagara Region

6260 Don Murie St
Niagara Falls, ON
L2G 0B4

TOLL FREE: 1-800-265-1914


Great Northern Insulation - Better Business Bureau Profile.


Best of 2017

From reputation to responsiveness, HomeStars consistently ranks Great Northern Insulation at better than 95% for customer satisfaction. Thanks to everyone for the great ratings! 

HomeStars 2018

Best of 2018

For the second year in a row, HomeStars consistently ranks Great Northern Insulation at better than 95% for customer satisfaction. Thank you again to everyone!

Homestars Best of 2019 Award

Best of 2019

For the third year in a row, HomeStars ranked Great Northern Insulation at better than 95% for customer satisfaction.

Homestars Best of 2020 Award

Best of 2020

For four years now, HomeStars has ranked Great Northern Insulation at better than 95% for customer satisfaction.

Homestars Best of 2021 Award

Best of 2021

HomeStars has ranked Great Northern Insulation as a company that goes above and beyond in every aspect of business for the year of 2021.

Homestars Best of 2022 Award

Best of 2022

HomeStars has ranked Great Northern Insulation as a company that goes above and beyond in every aspect of business for the year of 2022.


GNI is the Authorized & Trusted Insulation and Air Sealing Installer for Lowe’s

Enenrgy Savers

Energy Saving

Energy saving and energy efficiency is easier than one might think. Great Northern Insulation helps to identify performance issues, while taking advantage of improvement opportunities.

100% Canadian

100% Canadian

Great Northern Insulation is recognized as Canada's largest full-service insulation contractor. GNI is 100% Canadian owned, proudly serving Ontario customers since 1980.

Foam Masters

Do it right the first time
- with foam mastersTM

WALLTITE® ECO™ is a high-performance system, professionally installed by certified and approved specialists. Its C.C.M.C. approved (Canadian Construction Materials Centre) - with product quality guaranteed - and with installation by highly trained experts with the technical know-how to do the job right, the first time.

Insulthane Extreme

Insulthane® Extreme

For the ultimate in high performance spray foam insulation, Insulthane® Extreme is the professional choice for residential, commercial, and industrial application. With improved thermal performance over other products, Insulthane® Extreme has an exceptionally low Global Warming Potential (GWP). Considered environmentally friendly, this next generation spray foam insulation is non-ozone depleting, and exceeds specifications of other HFC product alternatives.


3MTM products.
Quality + Performance = Savings

3MTM energy-saving products are designed to keep warm air in, and cold air out, while keeping energy bills down. Products optimize energy efficiency in buildings and homes; improve indoor environment for occupants; and effect the reduction of seasonal energy costs. 3M products are authorized for LEED credits (Leadership in Energy/Environmental Design).


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Baeumler ApprovedTM gives you peace of mind when connecting with contractors, trades and home service providers. All Baeumler Approved members have demonstrated high quality work for customers and other trade professionals. Members must also have Workers Compensation, liability insurance of at least $1,000,000 and prove professional certification.

Holmes and Holmes

Holmes and Holmes


Mike Holmes and his son Mike Jr. (MJ) convert MJ’s bachelor bungalow into a two-storey home for MJ and his girlfriend Lisa. Choosing the newest materials and build techniques, the father and son team follow Mike’s famous motto – “Make it right.” The show can be watched on HGTV and DIY Network.


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The Energy Conservation Program provides incentives of up to $1,600 to customers who achieve energy efficiency and fuel savings – and Great Northern Insulation can pave the way.


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