Thursday, August 1, 2013


And not just on The Game of Thrones.
Now that the BC government's chickens are coming home to roost in regards to BC Hydro, watch THIS for a better explanation, now might be a good time to look at how we are currently building and renovating.
I have lived here in BC for 6 years now and I still can't figure out why our homes are not better insulated. From the powers that be we hear plenty of talk (wish we could harness all the hot air??), but when push comes to shove there is very little action.
 I totally understand why Europe seems to be further ahead with energy efficiency measures, it is price driven and the cost of energy can be expensive. Over here, in The Great White North, energy has always been cheap and plentiful. I fear those days are now over.
The cost to heat and cool our homes is set to rise substantially. I wouldn't expect the current BC government to raise the Hydro rates to the business customers, that's not how things seem to be done any more, no, it will be the consumer who pays for the big Hydro scam. Don't rely on the magical LNG fund either, the pixie dust is falling off that fairy tale by the day.
When I do energy assessments I can generate a page showing the running costs of a home. Air source heat pumps, coupled with a high efficiency natural gas furnace, always used to show good savings over just using a furnace. I am now finding that, although a heat pump will raise the Energuide rating of a house, it can sometimes cost more to operate than just installing a new high efficiency furnace. As, over the last few years, there has been a push by the electricity utilities to get heat pumps installed - look at the generous grants that were available under the LiveSmart programmes, it is somewhat annoying to now find that they are no longer quite the answer if you also have natural gas to the home.
Which brings me back to the insulation topic. In the UK the R value (converted from the European U value) for walls is close to 30. It's colder here, really, so why are we still looking at R 20 anything for walls. I honestly believe that wall construction here should be much closer to R40. This can be quite easily achieved, with some good planning and design work, and can be cost effective too. If you take this a step further and have the heating system designed correctly then, as often is the case, the said system will be smaller and cheaper to install than originally planned and will off set some of the extra insulation costs.
Now, I'm not saying that all houses should be built to Passivhaus standards, but the principles behind this system are sound and these homes consume considerably less energy than a conventional home.
Our energy costs will not be coming down, surely it is worth looking at better insulated homes. As I have told many of my clients, energy efficiency can be made quite simple as if you can keep the heat in the house then you won't need so much for replacement. Good, or better, insulation is probably the most cost effective thing we can do when we build or renovate.