New West family finds comfort in energy retrofit

Brenden Kennedy may never recoup the cost of replacing all of his home’s windows, but it’s hard to put a price on comfort.

Kennedy recently completed a year’s worth of projects aimed at improving the energy efficiency of his 1924 home in the Moody Park neighbourhood.

“The investment was really in our comfort,” he said. “Yes, we are seeing some savings, and as the cost of energy continues to rise we will benefit even further.”

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Comfort was the main motivator for retrofitting the family-of-five’s home.

“It was a bit draughty. We used to have to crank the heat the whole time,” Kennedy said. “There were varying temperatures within the house from room to room.”

Kennedy’s wife Chantelle was always cold. One of his step-son’s rooms was so chilly he’d wear fleece pajamas, have multiple blankets on the bed and the heater cranked – and still be cold.

“It’s much better,” he said. “It’s more energy efficient than it used to be, that’s for sure.”

Ryan Coleman, program coordinator of Energy Save New West, said houses are rated on a scale of zero to 100 on the EnerGuide rating system, with a 100 rating being a super insulated house. The Kennedy House had an EnerGuide Rating of 44 and an “equivalent leakage area of 2,015” centimetres square before the work was done; post-retrofit numbers showed the EnerGuide rating had risen to 66 and the equivalent leakage area had been reduced to 1,406 cm sq.

So just what does that mean?

“Basically, it’s like having a window that size in the house open,” Kennedy explained. “You’re losing a lot of heat and there’s a lot of air coming through.”

After having an energy assessment done on the home in February 2014, Kennedy took advantage of support offered by the city and various rebates to make a number of changes aimed at “tightening up the house” – with the goal of increasing its comfort and energy performance.

“We had insulation blown into the walls on the main and upper floors,” he said. “Previously, most of those walls were dead empty. In the old days they used to stuff it with newspaper or sawdust – nothing.”

The work also included putting caulking around windows, baseboards and fittings that led to outside, such as dryer vents or pipes or cables coming into the house. Weather-stripping seals were placed on all the home’s doors.

“We also replaced windows, which was a very expensive task,” Kennedy said. “We replaced all but three stained glass windows. That was a significant difference right there. The windows feel much better. With the other ones you could see the daylight through the gaps in the windows.”

In addition to replacing 23 single-paned windows with new Energy Star windows, Kennedy installed one new low-flow toilet and two Energy Star bathroom fans. Insulation upgrades resulted in a 19 per cent increase in air tightness.

Kennedy encourages homeowners to do their homework and take advantage of information and rebates available through the city.

“We feel a significant difference in the home,” he said. “I would say the main thing is around comfort in the home. It’s a more consistent temperature. It’s more consistent throughout the home.”

What will the city do for you?

Energy Save New West is offering up to $4,500 in home rebates for residents wanting to improve their home’s energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy Save New West, a community energy program, provides local homeowners and business with access to energy evaluations, energy upgrades, utility rebates and incentives. Program funding and incentives are provided by the City of New Westminster, Fortis B.C. and B.C. Hydro.

Energy Save New West provides $75 energy evaluations, which will help homeowners get a better understanding of their home’s energy use and get a custom report that helps them decide what home improvements they’d like to make. Once they decide what projects to undertake, homeowners who install three or more qualifying measures (such as insulation, windows and doors, space heating, heat recovery ventilation and domestic hot water) could qualify for a $1,250 bonus.

Ryan Coleman, program coordinator of Energy Save New West, said the energy assessment is lowest in the Lower Mainland - and maybe the province. He noted the bonus has been topped up to $1,250, compared to about $750 in other communities.

“The City of New Westminster is proud of the beneficial impact Energy Save New West is having in the local community.  We’re pleased to be able to help local homeowners with access to a variety of rebates and incentives for upgrades designed to keep energy costs low and improve comfort,” he said. “If you are in a single-detached home, duplex or townhome and planning a renovation, we’re hoping that story’s like Brenden’s will motivate you to take advantage of current incentives that are available, like our exclusive $500 top-up bonus when installing three or more qualifying energy measures like draft proofing, insulation and heating systems.  Together with the $750 HERO bonus, this makes the total top-up incentive $1,250.”

Here are some examples of other rebates available for residential homes:

* Up to $1,200 in rebates for insulation

* Up to $800 in rebates for space heating.

* Up to $1,000 in rebates for water heating

* Up to $500 in rebates for air sealing.

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