June 28 2019, 14:14 PM
Summer can be the perfect time for home renovations and energy efficiency should be top of mind. Our Total Home Energy Savings Program can help. Big or small- a renovation can make a big impact on the look, comfort and even value of your home. But where should you start? We’ve asked our in-house building expert, Lauren Lipka for his top tips to help make your renovation a success.
Start with a plan
Sounds simple- but a little bit of planning can go a long way to making your renovation a success. Write down your goals, what your needs are and include a wish list or Pinterest inspiration board. That all-white kitchen, though stunning, might not be the right fit if you like to cook big meals or have young kids.
From his years of building experience with the Canadian Home Builders Association, Lauren says that your renovation goals should reflect how you live day-to-day. You’ll want to factor in things like how people move through, and use the space you’re renovating. You’ll want to make sure your goals and plan fit into your budget.
Find your perfect contractors
Whether it’s a big or small renovation, a reputable contractor can help make sure the job is done right; under your budget and help you navigate and get any needed permits. Home renovations can come with lots of surprises. A reputable contractor can help you make the best calls when an unexpected expense or issue pops up mid-reno. They also know the ins and outs of local and National building codes and can ensure your renovation is done the right way to help keep you safe. Great contractors have a track record of satisfied customers and can provide you with customer references upon request. We encourage customers to obtain three quotes and references prior to selecting a contractor.
Make Your Home Energy Efficient
Want a renovation that puts money back in your pocket? Consider how you can build efficiency into your plan. Upgrading appliances? Look for the ENERGY STAR® certified label. Redoing your kitchen? Opt for LED lighting to brighten up your cooking space.
If you’re doing a major remodel, Lauren recommends having a certified Energy Advisor come and do an evaluation of your home through the Total Home Energy Savings Program. These evaluations show you where heat or cool air are leaking from your home. Energy Advisors will recommend upgrades that help improve your home’s envelope to keep your heating or cooling inside where it belongs. This keeps you and your family more comfortable year round. Plus, when you’re not heating the outdoors, it’s good for your wallet too. Check out this video to see what else is involved in an energy evaluation.
Make Your Home Healthier
What better outcome from a renovation than to have a healthy, comfortable home for you and your family? This can be of even bigger benefit if someone in your home suffers from allergies, asthma or other health conditions. Consider ENERGY STAR certified air exchangers, dehumidifiers or heat pumps when doing your renovation. They’ll not only make the air in your home cleaner, but they’ll help save you money in the long run too.
Did you know there are lots of products on the market that are sustainably made or environmentally friendly? From lumber to flooring, there are many ways you can green up your renovation. Cork flooring is one flooring option that’s a sustainable choice. Consider natural stone for counter tops for a sleek, yet environmentally friendly option. Roof shingles made from recycled plastic, sustainably certified lumber and composite beams are all great options as well. Check with your contractor or local renovation store for the best green options near you.
What is your biggest renovation lesson? Tell us about it in the comments below!
May 9 2019, 13:20 PM
What does it take to energize efficiency? We rounded up some of the top experts in building, industry, marketing and of course, efficiency this week for our second annual Energizing Efficiency Conference to find out.
If you weren’t fortunate enough to be an attendee this year, we captured the top takeaways from our speakers to help spark your own energy efficiency journey.
- “Energy efficiency touches every sector of the economy”, Corey Diamond, the executive director of Efficiency Canada told conference attendees. The efficiency sector is poised for a major breakthrough as a job creator and agent of change. He said the four keys to the sector taking the next step will be moving beyond mere incremental change, unlocking private sector capital, moving towards a more comprehensive “value chain” of efficiency and mobilizing the message. Energy efficiency is Canada’s most plentiful and lowest-cost energy resource.
- How do we Market Energy Efficient Homes? According to Gunther Foerster of Progeny Modern Homes, we need to emphasize the cool factor, do the math and make the business case for a negligible energy bill and higher property values and we need to appeal to homeowners’ desire for a comfortable healthier home for their families.
- Commercial buildings need tune ups too! Building systems can be very complex, highly technical and often require integration between systems. Building use or occupancy can change. And, as equipment ages, its performance can change. Performance problems are often solved by treating the symptoms and not the actual cause. Luc Dugas of Maritech and Adam McMullin of the City of Barrie showed us how building recommissioning offers huge opportunities to save energy, decrease maintenance costs and promote tenant satisfaction and retention.
- Energy is the starting point for municipalities to meet their climate objectives. A Smart Energy Community seamlessly integrates local, renewable and conventional energy sources to efficiently, cleanly and affordably meet all its energy needs. It is a coveted, highly livable place to live, work, learn and play. Your community can get there by taking advantage of energy efficiency, integrating conventional networks, harnessing local energy opportunities and integrating land use. Eddie Oldfield of QUEST and Sara Mudge of NB Power are ready to work with communities in New Brunswick.
- Want to have success in the energy sector selling services, products, equipment, or programs? Mark Jewell is an expert in teaching people how to sell energy and efficiency. He says you need to learn to frame your offering using jargon and yardsticks that mean something to your customer. A manufacturing facility might focus on cost per unit, downtime vs operating time, health and safety incidents, energy cost per unit. A commercial building owner cares about rent per square foot, occupancy percentage, operating expenses, maintenance, or asset value. It’s about doing your research and speaking your customer’s language.
If you like what you see here, you can sign up for conference updates to find out when you can get your tickets to next year’s conference May 12 and 13 in Saint John, New Brunswick. If you’re interested in being a speaker at our conference next year, contact us at EESAdmin@nbpower.com.
December 12 2018, 15:52 PM
The holidays are almost here. For many, that means it’s time to dig out the lights, get out the holiday décor and trim those trees. Did you know it’s also a great time to use less energy? If you’re planning on stringing up some lights inside and outside your home this holiday, be sure to consider switching to LEDs (light emitting diodes.)
Using ENERGY STAR® certified LED lights is a great alternative to save power, since LED lights use less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Traditional bulbs consume about 7 watts of electricity per hour, per bulb, while LEDs use about 2 watts per hour, per strand.
Let’s take a look at what that translates to in dollars.
Light bulb type
Strands of Lights (50 bulbs/ strand)
Total cost (at $.1059/ KwH)
*based on bulbs running for 6 hours a day for 31 days.
Another way you can control how much energy your holiday lights use, put both your indoor and outdoor lights on timers, and set them to turn on and off at set times.
Keep it safe
If you’ve got a lot of light-up decorations in your home, be careful not to plug too many into one outlet. It could result in heat building up in the wires, which could lead to a fire.
Here are a few other easy steps you can take in your home to help keep your family safe from electrical fires:
- Make sure all extension cords and electric decorations are marked for proper use.
- Turn off all indoor and outdoor decorations before going to sleep or leaving home.
- When decorating outdoors keep yourself at least 10 meters away from power lines to keep yourself safe from electrical arching.
- Make sure outdoor electric decorations are labelled for outdoor use.
- Carefully inspect each electrical decoration. Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires and loose connections may result in shock or fire.
- Modern lights have fused plugs, preventing sparks in case of a short circuit. Get rid of old lights that don’t have fuses and get a set of newer, safer lights.
By incorporating these habits into your routine each year, you can ensure your family has a safe, energy-efficient and happy holiday season. Visit the safety and save energy sections of our website for more great tips to use in your home.
September 7 2018, 11:25 AM
When looking at energy-efficiency upgrades as part of your home renovation, upgrading your home’s insulation will give you the biggest return on investment. In New Brunswick, 50% of an average home’s energy use goes to heating. Only 6% of the housing stock in New Brunswick is insulated up to the current standards of the National Building Code. Choosing the right home insulation type for your renovation will help you save energy at home during both the heating and cooling seasons. Read on to learn more about the 5 types of insulation you need to know to help you save energy at home.
How insulation works
When we heat or cool our homes, and they aren’t well insulated, our homes become less comfortable as the heat finds ways to escape (in the winter), and enter (in the summer). Insulation creates a barrier between the inside and outside of your home to slow heat from leaving or entering.
When looking at upgrading your home insulation, be sure to look at the r-value of your insulation. The r-value varies based on the type, density and thickness of the material being used. The higher the r-value, the better it will perform.
Home insulation types
- Blown-in insulation
This home insulation type is usually made of fiberglass or recycled paper fiber (known as cellulose.) It’s blown or sprayed into place and is ideal for hard-to-reach areas such as attics or wall cavities you don’t want to open up.
- Insulation batts
Precut sections of fiberglass or rock wool insulation. Can be used in floors, walls, attics and ceilings.
- Insulation rolls
Similar to insulation batts, but come in longer lengths- usually 20-40 feet. This insulation type is ideal for attics, floors and other areas where you need longer runs.
- Foam board insulation
This insulation type comes in rigid panels made of polystyrene and polyurethane. Can be used to insulate almost any part of your home, especially exterior walls underneath your siding.
Source: Brennan Builders
- Spray foam insulation
Latex or polyurethane spray foam can be sprayed either with a can to help seal around windows and doors, or through special equipment in areas like basements and crawlspaces.
How much insulation do I need?
The best way to find out how much insulation you need to add to your home is to have a certified energy advisor come to your home to perform an energy evaluation. You can register through our Total Home Energy Savings program to set up and evaluation and receive money back for upgrading your home’s insulation.
We recommend upgrading your home’s insulation to reach the following r-values to make your home more comfortable and help you save on your bills.
- Attic: R-60
- Sloped/Cathedral Ceilings: R-30
- Exterior/Main walls: R-30
- Basement/Crawlspace Walls: R-30
Is insulation the next upgrade on your home renovation to-do list? Tell us about it in the comments below!
June 7 2018, 11:08 AM
“The cheapest power is the power you don’t use” is a pretty good mantra at the beginning of an energy diet, or an energy efficiency journey, whatever you want to call it.
My husband and I have been on that path for a while now. For environmental and economic reasons we have been deliberate about what we consume and have put a lot of effort into using less power.
We thought we were doing very well, or assumed we were, anyway. It was an “I care, therefore I am” kind of approach to reducing the amount of power that we were using -- I care therefore I must be using less power than everyone else.
But then we received our first home energy report.
The home energy report is a year-old initiative by NB Power to help New Brunswick households use less power. The idea is that if you actually understand how your power use compares to your neighbours’ power use you might decide to do something about it.
For us it was a bit more fundamental than that. Without an energy consumption benchmark, my husband and I could have gone on for years assuming that we were in the “green zone” and had nearly reached our capacity for household energy reduction. As it turns out, according to the energy report we’re pretty much in the middle when compared to comparable houses in our vicinity.
NB Power’s home energy report has been our reality check, but it has also been a great source of info and guidance on our journey to reduce our household energy consumption.
The online tool has been the greatest benefit. While the paper print out that we received in the mail is a simple snapshot, the online energy report is a real resource.
If you truly want to reduce your household power consumption, for your pocketbook, the environment, or both, here are the sections of the online tool that I have found most helpful:
Under the tab “My Energy Use” you’ll be able to see your usage details, which parts of your home use the most energy and you’ll be able to compare your bills month over month or year over year. It’s this comparison tool that I find the most helpful. The tool factors in the number of billing days and the weather to provide a true comparison of your monthly spend. From there you can single out any behaviours or activities that lead to a change (or not) month over month.
Every step along the way offers ideas on how to use less power, including the top five tips for saving energy customized to your household (shaving an hour off shower time and ensuring our refrigerator seals are tight…) Many of the tips might seem like common sense (turn out the lights when you leave the room) but we can all use reminders from time to time.
Customers who interact with the tool online appreciate its value. That makes sense to me. The tool is empowering and encouraging and reminds you that there is always more you can do to use less power.
To get the most benefit out of the home energy report, visit www.nbpower.com/homeenergyreport and complete your household profile. From there you can explore the energy savings tips that make sense to your household. The data you submit includes how many people live in your home, the approximate square footage of your home, whether you use efficient light bulbs, how you heat your home, the age of your heating system, if you have a stand-alone freezer or a second fridge, the type of fuel your hot water heater uses, the kinds of electronics in your home, and more.
(The information you provide not only creates a more accurate comparison for you, it enables the database to make more customized efficiency recommendations for your household, based on what uses the most energy.)
We shouldn’t expect power rates to drop -- that simply doesn’t make sense in the world today. Instead, focus on something that does make sense, and something that you can control, which is finding ways to use less power. If that’s your goal, the home energy report might be your greatest helper.
Bridget Oland is a Saint John-based green living blogger with a passion for sustainable living, gardening, and spending time with her two kids. You can find out more at Bridget’s Green Kitchen.