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Archive for the 'Energy efficiency series' Category

February 16th, 2012
By Vivian Martin

I recently attended a homeshow where a manufacturer was doing a demo of induction cooktops. A pot of water was at a rolling boil and a twenty dollar bill was tucked between it and the cooking element. So that got my curiosity up! On another element, a pan of chocolate was being held at an ideal temperature for dipping strawberries. No bain marie or any special tools to keep the chocolate from scorching. Safety and control… every cook’s dream!

Image courtesy of The Induction Site

I have long been a “gas snob” because of the instant-on, instant off and range of control simply not available with electric cook-tops. I was also naive in thinking I would need to replace all of my cookware if I switched over to induction cooking. Wrong again. The prerequisite of induction cooking is cookware with ferrous content. Essentially, if a magnet will cling to a pot, it can be used on an induction cooktop.

Induction cooktops came out in the 1970s and have become very popular in Europe and only trending in North America recently. Control, cleanability, safety and energy efficiency is making them a popular choice for families of all stages. 

Rather than relying on a flame as with gas ranges or electric elements or burners with electric stoves, an induction cooktop has a series of burners that create magnetic fields, which, in turn, induct or introduce a warming effect on ferrous pots and pans. The cooking vessels themselves heat and cook the food, not the components of the stove. The cooktop will feel warm after use, but will remain safe for the human skin to touch. When thinking of a home embracing universal design (safe and accessible for all abilities), induction cooktops have incredible potential. They would also potentially be much safer when placed in an island because of their very nature.

Spills are easily cleaned as they occur because one does not need to wait for the surface to cool before wiping down. Simply remove the pot and wipe the spill, then resume cooking! Similarly to a glass cooktop, they are easy to clean because there are no depressions to accumulate spills. 

Induction cooktops are touted as being much more energy-efficient in their operation, but also consider that they heat the pots directly so you will have reduced cooling costs in the summer due to their reduced wasted energy.

Curious about induction but need more information? The GE appliance site has a wealth of information, as does The Induction Site.

Are you curious as to how much energy is used by many of your home appliances and electronics? This table from Toronto Hydro may be helpful. Or, if you want to be even more precise, use the energy calculator from the OEE to compare apples to apples when selecting appliances.

December 8th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable. 

A heat pump is an electrical device that extracts heat from one place and transfers it to another. The heat pump is not a new technology; it has been used in Canada and around the world for decades. Refrigerators and air conditioners are both common examples of this technology.

Heat pumps transfer heat by circulating a substance called a refrigerant through a cycle of evaporation and condensation (see graphic above). A compressor pumps the refrigerant between two heat exchanger coils. In one coil, the refrigerant is evaporated at low pressure and absorbs heat from its surroundings. The refrigerant is then compressed en route to the other coil, where it condenses at high pressure. At this point, it releases the heat it absorbed earlier in the cycle.

Refrigerators and air conditioners are both examples of heat pumps operating only in the cooling mode. A refrigerator is essentially an insulated box with a heat pump system connected to it. The evaporator coil is located inside the box, usually in the freezer compartment. Heat is absorbed from this location and transferred outside, usually behind or underneath the unit where the condenser coil is located. Similarly, an air conditioner transfers heat from inside a house to the outdoors.

The heat pump cycle is fully reversible, and heat pumps can provide year-round climate control for your home – heating in winter and cooling and dehumidifying in summer. Since the ground and air outside always contain some heat, a heat pump can supply heat to a house even on cold winter days. In fact, air at –18°C contains about 85 percent of the heat it contained at 21°C.

Now that we have you saying “huh?” like I did, you probably want to learn more.

If you are exploring the heating and cooling options for a new house or looking for ways to reduce your energy bills, you may be considering a heat pump. A heat pump can provide year-round climate control for your home by supplying heat to it in the winter and cooling it in the summer. Some types can also heat water.

In general, using a heat pump alone to meet all your heating needs may not be economical. However, used in conjunction with a supplementary form of heating, such as an oil, gas or electric furnace, a heat pump can provide reliable and economic heating in winter and cooling in summer. If you already have an oil or electric heating system, installing a heat pump may be an effective way to reduce your energy costs.

Nevertheless, it is important to consider all the benefits and costs before purchasing a heat pump. While heat pumps may have lower fuel costs than conventional heating and cooling systems, they are more expensive to buy. It is important to carefully weigh your anticipated fuel savings against the initial cost. It is also important to realize that heat pumps will be most economical when used year-round. Investing in a heat pump will make more sense if you are interested in both summer cooling and winter heating.

In addition to looking at cost, you should consider other factors. How much space will the equipment require? Will your supply of energy be interrupted on occasion? If so, how often? Will you need changes or improvements to your ducting system? How much servicing will the system need, and what will it cost?

Becoming fully informed about all aspects of home heating and cooling before making your final decision is the key to making the right choice. The Natural Resources Canada Office of Energy Efficiency website offers additional information on what heat pumps are and other variables to consider. Follow this link for additional information.

Do you homework and your shopping and you should find a system that best suits your needs. Also, remember to see if you are eligible for any grants or incentives on a federal, provincial or local level.

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to theDrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

December 1st, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable. 

In a quest for cost-effective, sustainable materials, energy-efficiency and healthy housing, many individuals are opting to investigate alternate building methods. Whether looking at building methods of the past or current innovations, research is essential. One must also consider the logistics of the build itself including cost, energy efficiency, durability, fire, sound, environmental issues, indoor air quality, construction sequencing, and availability of trained trades. Other considerations are the effects on resale value, regulatory approvals, warranty program approvals, and home and property insurance.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers both a summary report and more indepth report on ten alternative building systems including:

  • lightweight steel framing
  • structural insulated panels (SIPs)
  • insulated concrete forms (ICF)
  • post and beam
  • concrete block
  • log
  • stackwall or cordwood
  • straw bale
  • manufactured wood wall
  • earth wall construction or rammed earth

Prior to committing to an alternative wall system, it is highly advised that you arm yourself with as much knowledge and advice as possible. Review both the CMHC summary report and full report on these systems. The Internet is a great place to find proponents of alternate systems as many have blogs and have built virtual communities online. Chances are, you will be able to find builders or homeowners who will be happy to share current builds or share their experiences. These trailblazers are an invaluable resource. At the end of it all, you will have a much stronger understanding of the build process and when someone says “if these walls could only talk”, you can smile, knowing that they have quite a story to tell!

The CMHC summary of the report can be found here, while the full report can be found here.

Happy dreaming!

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to theDrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

November 17th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable. 

Out of sight, out of mind right? Wrong. Having your natural gas appliances serviced by a qualified natural gas contractor has numerous benefits. FortisBC advises that these benefits include:

  • Leak detection – an inspection can detect even the slightest leak in your gas piping.
  • Warranty – some manufacturers require regular servicing to ensure your warranty remains valid.
  • Efficiency – using a combustion analyzer, a gas contractor can test to see if your furnace is operating as efficiently as possible.
  • Safety – a gas contractor will inspect the area around your appliances to ensure there is proper ventilation and that no combustibles are nearby.
  • Air quality – a gas contractor can check your furnace filter, show you how to replace it and recommend how often.
HVAC maintenance technician

Arpi's HVAC maintenance technician

According to Arpi’s Industries, an HVAC company there are many benefits to preventative maintenance on all furnaces including:

Increased Efficiency

A system that receives regular service is a clean, well-functioning system. Without buildup on the internal components, a furnace is able to operate at peak capacity. Maintenance helps to ensure that the system will operate as it was designed to.

Improved Energy Savings

When a furnace cycles on, unhindered by buildup and at top capacity, it doesn’t waste fuel. With smart energy use, you increase the energy savings from your furnace each month. That means more money in your bank account to spend on other, more important things.

Extended Lifespan

When a furnace system is well cared for, it experiences less wear and tear. As a result, all of the furnace’s components last longer. In general, experts agree that giving a furnace consistent, quality service will extend its life, often by at least three years. That makes investing in preventive maintenance a no-brainer, because you recoup the costs through this avenue, as well as others.

Reduced Repairs

When a furnace isn’t maintained each year, its components eventually wear out, and that leads to unnecessary, and completely avoidable repairs. While maintenance won’t guarantee that you won’t have to repair the system, it goes a long way toward helping you avoid it.

Enhanced Comfort

Regular maintenance, with all of the above benefits, will culminate in a more comfortable home. With a well-tuned system, your comfort increases due to its efficiency and extended lifespan. In addition, maintenance helps to advance good indoor air quality, increasing your comfort exponentially.

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to theDrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

November 3rd, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable. 

How leaky is your house? The only way to know whether your home is leaky or tight is to measure its air leakage rate with a blower door. By measuring the airflow of a fan that depressurizes a house to a standard pressure difference, a technician can determine just how leaky your home is. The photo shows a Minneapolis blower door from The Energy Conservatory.

Leaky homes are hard to heat and hard to cool. The only way to know whether your home is leaky or tight is to measure its air leakage rate with a blower door. A blower door is a tool that depressurizes a house; this depressurization exaggerates the home’s air leaks, making the leaks easier to measure and locate.

An energy-efficient house must be as airtight as possible. Many older U.S. homes are so leaky that a third to a half of the home’s heat loss comes from air leaks.

There is no such thing as a house that is too tight. However, it’s also true that there is no such a thing as an airtight house. Every house leaks, and that’s why we perform blower-door tests — to measure a building’s leakage rate.

Who needs a blower door?
Blower-door testing is useful for both new construction and existing homes. By testing a new home, a builder:

  • Can determine whether a certain airtightness target — for example, the Passivhaus airtightness standard — has been met;
  • Can document airtightness levels needed to qualify for certain home labeling programs, including Energy Star;
  • Can do a better job calculating heat loss and heat gain the next time he or she builds a similar house;
  • Can brag about the home’s airtightness to prospective homebuyers or drinking buddies.

If you’re building a new home, the best time to conduct a blower-door test is after the home is insulated but before the drywall is hung. If the test reveals major problems, the leaks will be easier to fix at that point than later on.

Want to learn more about the origin of the blower door test and where leaks are typically found? Read the full article here…

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to theDrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.


October 27th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable. 

Choosing an energy-efficient upgrade to your home includes decisions of conscience and return on investment. This handy graphic illustrates some optional upgrades, the cost of installation and potential energy savings.

(Click on graphic to enlarge)

Home Solar Power Discounts – One Block Off the Grid

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to theDrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.


October 20th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable. 

Much as one is more than the sum of their arms, legs, heart, and brain, so too is a house more than the sum of its parts. Everything is connected in both “systems,” and often in unexpected ways!

Having a dark roof will make air conditioning bills higher. Putting in a beefier kitchen exhaust fan can starve a distant water heater of air and cause dangerous pollutants to flow down (rather than up) the flu or make a fireplace dump smoke into the living room.

Loosely installed wall insulation settles over time, causing heat losses. Source: Home Energy magazine (January/February 2010)

There are often tell-tale signs when a home is not properly acting like the system it was intended to be. For example, ice dams are evidence of excessive heat loss, which make pretty icicles on the eve but can cause severe roof damage and danger on the ground. Moisture damage or bad indoor air quality are usually dead give-aways of some deeper problem (or multiple problems!).

The art of bringing a home back into “balance” frequently involves finding sources of air leakage. Often, an important (but out of sight) location of leaks is in the heating and cooling ducts. Providing enough air for combustion equipment like furnaces, water heaters, and gas dryers is also crucial. Tools like blower doors can be used in worst-case tests to see how the home system performs when stressed.

The Home Energy Saver “Hall of Shame” gallery shows the kinds of problems discovered by looking at the home as a system.

The story of a home-as-system is also told through the many benefits (in addition to energy savings) that can be had by fixing performance problems. These take the form of a quieter living environment, higher comfort, and elimination of safety hazards.

Read original article and access related links here…

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to theDrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

October 6th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable. 

Hot water demands the second largest amount of energy in our homes, after space heating, and it represents about 30 per cent of total energy use in our homes.

Solar hot water is smart and cost effective technology that can supplement up to 60 per cent of the water heating energy needs for a typical family of four. This comes from the fact that in Canada there is enough solar energy to generate an average of 2500 kWh of energy per year!

Domestic solar hot water systems are designed to last 20 to 40 years, minimize environmental impacts, and promote community economic development through the building of a sustainable industry economy. So you’ll be contributing to a healthier environment, and making a difference!

ecoENERGY retrofit program

On July 12, 2011 the federal government announced the return of the ecoENERGY Retrofit for Homes Program. The program provides homeowners with grants of up to $5,000 for making their homes more energy efficient. Included in the list of grants is $1,250 for installing a year-round solar hot water system. (Residents may also be eligible for regional grants. BC residents also apply for the $500 grant for solar hot water installations available from LiveSmart BC, they can save $1,750 in total.)

Both the ecoENERGY program and the LiveSmart BC program require the homeowner to have a pre- and post-retrofit energy evaluation. To qualify for ecoENERGY funding, purchases of energy saving equipment must be made after June 6, 2011, and retrofits and the post-retrofit evaluations must be completed by March 31, 2012. For LiveSmart BC funding, retrofits must be completed within 18 months of the pre-retrofit evaluation or before March 31, 2013, whichever comes first. LiveSmart BC funding is provided on a first come, first served basis.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for BC residents to install solar hot water systems, save on their energy bills, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”, says SolarBC Manager, Julia Roberts. “I recommend that residents act on this opportunity quickly as the timelines are tight and we saw LiveSmart BC grants snapped up last year”.

Read more about the ecoENERGY Retrofit for Homes Program

The complete list of available ecoEnergy grants can be found here

You can review details of the LiveSmart BC program here.

(Information above courtesy of SolarBC)

For more information on being Solar Ready, we are providing some links which you may find helpful:

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics frombuilding innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to theDrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.
September 29th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable.
 

Lake Washington Residence contemporary patio

In modern and contemporary architecture it’s clear that glass is key. Full-height glazing, ribbon windows, tall windows, just about anything outside of traditional punched openings is the norm. But with larger expanses of glass it is often necessary — depending on window placement and orientation, among other things — to provide some sort of sunshade to cut down on solar heat gain in the warm months, while allowing light back in during fall and winter.

Nature provides the best sunshade: deciduous trees filter sunlight in the summer, but when their leaves fall of toward the winter, that valuable sunlight and heat is reintroduced into the house. But trees take time to grow, and sometimes it’s not possible to plant a tree in the place it’s needed for this type of shading. Enter louvered sunshades. These cantilevered assemblies filter the high summer sun, but their placement at the top of windows lets the low winter sun enter below them. Below is a sampling of some houses incorporating sunshades in various applications.

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

September 15th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable.

Did you know that up to 25% of a home’s energy is lost through windows, doors and skylights?

Fenestration Canada (formerly the Canadian Window and Door Manufacturers Association) has a mission to represent and support all aspects of the window and door manufacturing industry, including formulating and promoting high standards of quality in manufacturing, design, marketing, distribution, sales and application of all types of window and door products.

The window business is changing. Over the past few years, the number of window options and technologies available to consumers has greatly increased. Furthermore, window standards are being updated and energy codes are being adopted. The Sill to Sash video explains the latest window developments, the use of standards and certification, and shows how you can use this information to buy the right products.

Click image above to enter

Video topics include:

  • Window Terminology
  • Modes of Window Heat loss 
  • Window technology
  • Standards, ratings, and certification
  • Window Condensation and How to Avoid It
  • Benefits of Properly Installed Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors
  • How to buy Energy-Efficient Windows

The video will show the why, what and how of buying and installing energy efficient products.

Sill to Sash is sponsored by the Federal Government Climate Change Action Fund, the Siding and Window Dealers Association of Canada, and the Fenestration Canada.

For more information contact CWDMA.

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

 



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