Five Steps to a Greener Home

When it comes to a good retrofit, strategy matters.  It is important to take the right approach and do things in the right order as this will save you money, energy, and time. 

We’ve broken it down into five simple steps. 

Step 1: The Building Envelope 

Energy efficiency starts with your home “envelope”, essentially everything on the outside that keeps the heat (or cool) in.  This is always step one.

All envelope work is about sealing – filling holes and cracks, tightening seals, improving walls and attics (with insulation) and upgrading entries (windows, doors).  

Here’s what you can do:

  • Upgrade your insulation
  • Stop the leaks
  • Change your windows and doors
Building envelope 101
The building envelope is what separates the interior and exterior of your home. It includes your windows, doors, roof, floor, foundations, and insulation. When it comes to energy efficiency, an airtight building envelope is king!

Looking for more information? Go to the Directory of Upgrades to dive a little deeper into the kinds of building envelope upgrades that will help you save on energy!

Step 2: Heating and Cooling 

Your home is sealed and insulated.  Now you look at your heating and cooling system to save energy, reduce climate emissions and improve home health and comfort.

In this step, we’re talking about your furnace, boiler, baseboard heaters, water heaters and air conditioners – all the things that heat and cool your home.

Pro tip
Do your envelope upgrades first, before you change out heating or cooling systems, so you can ‘right size’ your equipment.  A well-sealed home needs smaller (cheaper) equipment and costs you less.
Pro tip
The best time to replace equipment is at end of life.  Do you know when your furnace will run out of steam?  Plan to retrofit then!

Did you know that 60% of the energy used in an average home goes towards heating and cooling? 

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Replace your equipment with energy efficiency devices
  • Switch to electrical heating and cooling systems

Looking for more information? Go to the Directory of Upgrades to learn about the different kinds of energy efficient devices that exist – think furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners, and heat pumps.

Step 3: Renewables 

What happens when everyone electrifies everything?  Emissions go down, and demand for clean, green electricity goes up.  That’s where renewables come in. 

Pro tip
If everyone does Step 1 and Step 2 really well, experts forecast that demand for electricity across Canada will actually go down!

Essentially, you’re adding a clean energy power source to your home to offset your energy demand.  Simple.  Here are some types of renewable energy that could be a good fit for your home:

  1. Solar PV – generally speaking, solar panels are the best source of renewable energy for Ottawa homes.  You will need a sunny roof or land space, and advice from a qualified technician. 
  1. Geothermal – Geothermal energy is also a realistic option for Ottawa homeowners.  A geothermal HVAC system can provide a house with heating, cooling and even hot water, and thanks to its high heating efficiency potential, a geothermal HVAC system can help you reduce your energy consumption and save money.  
  1. Battery Back-up – if you are looking to store some of the renewable energy you generate for future use, or for energy back-up in the event of an emergency or outage, you can install a home battery backup.  There are several options on the market that can help your household get through those dark and stormy nights.
Pro tip
Having a home powered by renewable energy with battery storage makes you resilient in the face of extreme weather events.

Step 4: The little(r) things 

You’ve covered the big three, so now you can look at doubling down on your investments with energy-saving smart tech, and reducing your day-to-day usage even more by switching out devices.  

And if you’re a renter, or live in someone else’s home, or just aren’t ready for the big moves quite yet, you can always start here. 

Smart tech and energy efficient devices help you to save energy, money, and emissions without having to change your household patterns and remember new habits. That’s why households that install these devices save more energy than those that do not.  

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Install a Smart Thermostat in your home. Learn more about them here and what rebates you might have access to here.
  • Plug your appliances into power bars to eliminate phantom loads – even if you switch an electronic device off it will still use energy unless it is unplugged, or the power bar is switched off.
  • Switch out your incandescent lightbulbs to LED light bulbs. LED lighting converts 95% of energy consumed into light, unlike incandescent bulbs, which convert only 10% of energy for light. The 90% of energy remaining is wasted as heat.
  • When buying new appliances, look for Energy Star certified ones. You’ll find a searchable database of all Energy Star appliances available in Canada here.
  • Low-Flow Devices installed on your faucets and showers can help you save water without giving up on comfort. If you really want to go all-out consider a high efficiency toilet too.
  • Automating your lighting is another foolproof way of saving energy at home. You can set timers or put smart lightbulbs with motion sensors so that lights are only on when the room is in use.
Pro tip
Did you know that installing a Smart Thermostat creates 12% energy savings in an average home, by taking the thinking out of good energy habits. Smart tech solutions and energy efficient devices save energy, money, and emissions, wherever you are, and whatever your living situation, and there are rebates and free programs to help you get these devices into your home at low cost!

Step 5: Next-Level Resilience 

An energy efficient home reduces energy use and emissions, and that takes us a good part of the way toward a healthy, secure future home.  But as our climate changes, we will want our homes to be resilient to the changing weather and water patterns, to keep our residents safe and healthy.  Here are some steps you can take to prep your home for next-level resilience.  The good news is, many of these measures are included in the Better Home Loan financing and other incentives. 

  1. Manage water: The NCC’s Climate Projections for the National Capital Region Report predicts an 8% increase in annual precipitation, with an increase chance of storms.  That means one of the best things you can do for your home is make it resilient to water.  You can protect your home from a range of water-related issues devices like a backwater valve, a sump pump, or flood alarms. You can also minimize the risk to your property by implementing stormwater management measures, including window well covers, permeable pavement, rain gardens, and rain barrels.  Learn more about protecting your property from future storms at Rain Ready Ottawa
  1. Cool roof: Climate projections for the Ottawa region suggest that by 2050, there will be 4 times as many days over 30°C.  And even today, we know that the city heat island effect can significantly increase temperatures within the city and our homes.  One way to reduce the heat impact on your home is to install a light-coloured roof that reflect the sun back away from your home.  This can reduce energy use and local temperatures! 
  1. Green roof: A green roof (a roof developed so that plants can grow on it) can tick multiple boxes for resilience.  It keeps heat in during the winter, cools the roof in summer, absorbs water during storms, and provides an extended green area to support air quality and reduce the heat island effect.  A green roof can be a great option when considering next-level resilience measures. 

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