Eight strategies for getting the most out of your retrofit budget. Ensure that your home is as energy efficient as your budget will allow by spending your money where it makes the most difference.
Homes built as recently as the 1980s are riddled with gaps in the building envelope and have far too little insulation to measure up to modern energy efficiency standards. Retrofitting an old home will make it more comfortable, will reduce energy costs and will make it kinder on the environment. The question is; where do you get the most bang for your retrofitting buck? Here is a basic guide to help you to decide where your money is best spent.
Raised heel trusses provide additional attic space which allows you to add cheaper batt insulation. This means you increase the efficacy of your building envelope. Throw in some taller wall panels like Windstorm or TallWall and you have a recipe for building envelope brilliance.
An effective building envelope is a combination of insulating building materials and a reduction in air leakage. This reduction can be achieved by using taller wall sheathing panels and through effectively sealing air leaks. When determining which air leaks construction professionals should focus on, Dave Wolf from Owens Corning Science and Technology has conducted a study to see which leaks require the least effort and sealant and provide the highest returns in building envelope efficiency.
Stringent new building codes require improved efficiency of building envelopes through better insulation. While more expensive insulation methods, like spray foam, may have greater R-values, it is possible to meet the required high R-values using less expensive fibreglass or cellulose insulation with a raised heel truss.
The best way to design a crawlspace that accentuates your building envelope and does not allow unwanted moisture into the home is to treat them as if they were miniature basement spaces. Crawlspaces should be insulated, sealed and all exposed masonry should be covered to prevent condensation.
As efficient building envelopes become more of a priority for builders, you may be considering investing in triple-pane windows for the R-value they offer. The technology behind window design has improved in leaps and bounds as manufacturers attempt to overcome the poor insulation value that windows traditionally offer the home builder. Unfortunately, the improved insulation comes at a high price. Do triple-pane windows offer sufficient energy-saving to justify the investment?
The building envelope is only as effective as its weakest element and all too often these areas the doors and windows in a home which can account for up to a third of the overall energy loss according to the APA. Not only do these openings lead to energy loss, but as a result of less than appropriate levels of insulation, condensation can occur, which can lead to damage and can cause mold and mildew. Technological advances have seen the creation of advanced window and door systems which prevent energy loss and condensation.
Energy costs that go to conditioning the air in a home add up to about half of its overall energy consumption. Improving the competence of the building envelope and using insulation with R-values that exceed those stipulated by the local building code will help to reduce the homeowner’s energy consumption.
Insulation is the key to energy savings only if it is accompanied by an effective air barrier. Gaps and holes in your air barrier will mitigate the efficacy of even the most robust insulation. When any holes in the building envelope are effectively sealed, the homeowner can expect to save up to 30% of their home energy bills.