How much money can your energy efficiency improvements make you?

Have you ever wondered how much money you can get from the Government for upgrading your home to be more energy efficient? The Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) has partnered with the Pembina Institute to create an interactive map that outlines what Government rebates are available for homeowners improving energy efficiency in their homes.

The map showcases the three different levels of rebates for homeowners: Municipal, Provincial, and Federal. All three levels are listed with appropriate links to information on how to take advantage of these energy efficiency rebates. Rebates can range from $50.00 to $10,000. The map not only tells homeowners how much money they can receive from improving energy efficiency, but also what types of home improvements are available, from a home energy audit to dual flush toilets.

Keep checking the AREA website for more energy efficiency incentives, opportunities, and information.

June 2018 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $279,000 in community investment projects at their recent meeting.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) supports and originates initiatives that enhance the real estate industry and benefit the communities of Alberta. AREF was established in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded over 19 million dollars in community and industry grants to nearly 600 projects across Alberta.

Projects approved at the June meeting include:

Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) – A study on implementing the psychology of aesthetics in affordable housing developments

Through an innovative approach, the ARDN’s Sustainable Housing Initiative (SHI) is creating a building standard for developing affordable housing, which will act as a step by step guide for groups looking to replicate it. The creation of an affordable housing standard will not only redefine how affordable housing is developed and built, but will redefine how the broader community perceives new affordable developments. This new standard will be built on knowledge gathered through research that explores and test how to incorporate the psychology of aesthetics when building affordable housing. The key goal is to improve the mental and physical health of tenants through the incorporation of the psychology of aesthetics.

Edmonton Community Development Company – ArtsCommon 118 Community Engagement

ECDC will engage the Alberta Avenue community engagement around the project, design elements, foot print, economic impact, housing impact of the ArtsCommon 118 project – a two-facility Arts/Culture Hub with live work space for approx. 80 artists, retail/exhibition space, performance space, a rooftop farm and more.

Food4Good – Collective Kitchens Programming

Food4Good has been providing support through innovative programming addressing food insecurity since 2013. Collective Kitchens are group cooking opportunities for people to come together to prepare healthy recipes to take home and develop a sense of belong and community.

Highbanks Society – Resiliency through Industry Partnerships

This project will explore and develop creative partnerships with the Real Estate Industry (e.g. Landlords, property owners, builders, and developers), secure much needed housing for young single mothers, fill vacancies in market rental housing, and support the community. The project will engage real estate development consultants to work with Highbanks Board of Directors to develop a vision and strategy for growth. It will also engage with industry to establish a partnership model building resiliency for both.

Olds College – Smart Ag Digital Story Map

This project will develop a multimedia Smart Ag Digital Story Map showcasing the application of science and technology for greater efficiencies in land use and water management in Alberta, thus improving quality and quantity of food production (Smart Ag) at Olds College. With agriculture and agrifood production predicted to be the top drivers of Alberta’s future GDP growth, there is a need to tell the story of the learning, success and implementation of Smart Ag practices at Olds College to the wider Alberta community.

Olds College – Use of Native Wetland Plants and Cold Climate Floating Islands Systems for the Remediation of Contaminated Water and Water with Excess Nutrients

Water is the key ingredient and vital for human survival throughout the world but remediation, preservation and conservation has become cost prohibitive. Environmentally sustainable management of stormwater, wastewater, filtering runoff and water from snow melt through a changing climate to ensure a continuous fresh water supply is the focus of this project. The use of native wetland plants and cost effective floating island technology to clean the water prior to safe release into natural waterways, preserves aesthetics and enhances natural functionality of water sources, as well as providing a medium for additional food production. Research, education, and demonstration through proof of concept are key components to change and success for a healthy environment and resulting land stewardship.

Sylvan Lake Foundation – Sylvan Lake Sustainable Housing Initiative

This project will develop a sustainable housing strategy to identify housing needs and gaps within the community and propose innovative solutions to addressing affordable housing and aging-in-place challenges. The project will recommend new models for collaborative partnerships that could be implemented in our community to address housing challenges.

Foundation introduces Governor Tyran Ault

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) is pleased to announce Tyran Ault has joined our Board of Governors for a three-year term.

Tyran brings considerable expertise in governance to the Board and he’s pleased to work with AREF in its efforts across Alberta. ““I’m a team player and just happy to help wherever possible. I am looking forward to working with such a diverse and talented group,” he says. “To be able to help out and make a difference across the province in important areas including housing and sustainability seemed like a great fit based on my interests and experience.”

Tyran is one of the three Public Appointments sitting on the Board of Governors. He recently moved to Calgary to take the role of Team Lead of Upstream Communications with Suncor Energy, his employer of seven years. In previous positions with Suncor, Tyran had the Wood Buffalo community investment program in his team’s portfolio, a role that included working with non-profit groups across northern Alberta.

From 2013 to 2017, Tyran served as an elected municipal councilor for Ward 1 in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. He was also Chair of the Audit Committee, Chair of the Land, Planning & Transportation Committee and served on Communities in Bloom and the Rural Development committees. Before holding public office, Tyran served on a number of boards, including Fort McMurray Tourism and Leadership Wood Buffalo. He was named one of Fort Murray’s Top 50 Under 50 in 2017 and a Top 40 Under 40 in 2013.

Tyran was born in Regina and raised in Fort McMurray. He started his career in radio broadcasting, working as a DJ and news reporter in Saskatoon, Whitecourt and Fort McMurray. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (with a major in English) from the University of Lethbridge and diplomas in Contemporary Radio and Advanced Television from the Western Academy Broadcasting College in Saskatoon. Tyran and his wife Cali have been married for four years and welcomed their first child in April, 2018 – a beautiful girl named Ruby.

Families Feeling the Impact as Rental Housing Affordability Worsens Across Canada

By BC Non-Profit Housing Association

Statistics Canada data shows rental housing costs are outpacing incomes and pushing renters into a crisis level of spending.

TORONTO, ONTARIO (May 8, 2018) – Nearly half of Canadian renter households are spending more than the recommended 30 per cent of their income on housing while nearly one in five are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on housing, putting a growing number of families and individuals at a crisis level of spending and at risk of homelessness.

The information comes from the 2018 Canadian Rental Housing Index, a comprehensive database of rental housing statistics released today by a national partnership of housing associations, credit unions, and municipal associations, developed using the latest census data from Statistics Canada.

The Index tracks everything from average rental costs, to how rental housing spending compares with income, to overcrowding for over 800 cities and regions through an easy to access web portal. The tool is designed for governments, local planners, housing organizations, and the general public to view an accurate picture of the rental housing market in communities across the country.

“Traditionally, spending 30 per cent or less of household income on rent has been viewed as the benchmark of what is considered affordable,” said Jill Atkey, Acting CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. “However, the data shows that spending more than 30 per cent of income on housing has become the new normal for individuals and families in almost all areas of Canada.”

The data paints a worrying picture for rental housing affordability across the country. Over 1.7 million renter households spend over the recommended affordability benchmark of 30 per cent of gross income on rent and utilities. Of those, 795,000 renter households spend over half of their income on housing costs.

“If every renter household that spent more than half of their income on housing costs lived in one place, it would be Canada’s fourth largest city,” said Kira Gerwing, Manager of Community Investment at Vancity credit union. “This shows why a strong community housing sector is absolutely necessary to deliver rental housing that people can afford.”

Another worrying trend is housing affordability issues continuing to spill into suburban and rural areas, rather than just large urban centres across the country.

“Although large urban centres have long been associated with higher rental housing costs relative to income levels, in the past, renters have been able to find suitable housing by looking in nearby suburban communities,” said Marlene Coffey, Executive Director of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. “The 2018 Canadian Rental Housing Index shows the suburbanization of poverty where major affordability challenges are just as prevalent in the surrounding communities as they are in those urban centres.”

The Index also shows that average rental costs are outpacing corresponding increases in household incomes. For example, Ontario saw average rent costs go up 20 per cent over five years compared with average income only rising by 12 percent over the same period. Regions

around Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver have been particularly hard hit by this added affordability challenge, although many smaller communities are facing similar situations as well.

As affordability challenges continue to worsen, renter households are being forced into overcrowded and other unsuitable accommodations. In total, the 2018 Canadian Rental Housing Index shows more than 417,000 renter households in Canada are considered overcrowded. This remains a common issue for many renter households living in large urban centres and in Northern Canada.

One of the drivers of these affordability challenges is the increase in the number of Canadians in the rental market. Between 2011 and 2016, nearly 400,000 new renter households were added for a total of more than 4.4-million or 32 per cent of all households in Canada.

“With escalating prices keeping many Canadians from affording home ownership, as well as a lack of affordable rental housing supply, more people are entering the rental market or staying in the rental market longer,” said Jeff Morrison, Executive Director of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. “This marks the first time in a generation that the rate of Canadian renters has outpaced the number of Canadians buying a home, and speaks to the need to increase the supply of affordable housing.”

While the Index paints a negative picture for rental housing affordability across the country, an unprecedented focus on rental housing affordability by many governments and housing organizations provides hope for the future. Lessons can be learned from Quebec, which has better rental housing affordability relative to any other province or territory in the country.

“While still significant, affordability pressures in Quebec are less severe relative to other parts of the country, due in large part to a continuation of provincial affordable housing programs since the 1990s,” said Stéphan Corriveau, Executive Director of Réseau Québécois des OSBL d’habitation. “The Canadian Rental Housing Index demonstrates the need for all levels of government, communities, and housing providers to work together to ensure the timely delivery of a variety of housing options to address the diverse needs of Canadians.”

To learn more about the Index, please visit www.rentalhousingindex.ca.

Download the media backgrounder/FAQ, and 2018 RHI infographic for additional information.

ABOUT THE PARTNERSHIP

The Canadian Rental Housing Index was developed by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and Vancity Credit Union, in partnership with Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, Real Estate Foundation of BC, Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, Generation Squeeze, Co-op Housing Federation of BC, Co-op Housing Federation of Canada, Alberta Network of Public Housing Agencies, LandlordBC, New Brunswick Non-Profit Housing Association, Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, and Réseau Québécois des OSBL d’habitation.

Foundation introduces Chair Jim Saunders

Jim Saunders, an Associate with RE/MAX Real Estate Lethbridge, has been named the fifteenth Chair of the Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, effective April 1, 2018.

Jim was first appointed to the Board in 2015 by the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA). As a Past President and long-term Director of AREA, Jim has been watching the Foundation evolve since its inception in 1992. Over the last 26 years he’s seen the impact of the Foundation’s community investment program. “As a practicing Realtor, both my clients and I have benefitted from many of the resources made available to buyers, sellers, and investors,” Jim says. “These resources were the direct results of AREF’s funding initiatives.”

Jim was raised in Lethbridge and calls Southern Alberta home. He graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in 1978. He financed his education working as a self-employed contractor and started a successful automotive specialty business while still in school. Jim sold that business in 1982 to pursue a career in Real Estate.

In 1983, the year he was first licensed, Jim was awarded the “Rookie of the Year” by the Lethbridge Real Estate Board. Thirty-five years later, Jim has been recognized through membership of the RE/MAX Platinum Club and the RE/MAX Hall of Fame.

Early in his career Jim began volunteering on various industry committees and participating at the local, provincial and national levels—specifically the Lethbridge And District Association Of REALTORS® (where he is a Past President), Alberta Real Estate Association (Past President), the Real Estate Council of Alberta, and the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Jim’s first priority in his new role as Chair is ensuring the Foundation remains nimble and timely when serving Alberta’s communities. “With the rapidly changing landscape in Alberta—politically, technologically, economically and environmentally—we need to make sure we are focussed on making a difference where it matters most to Albertans,” Jim says. “My previous board experiences have taught me the importance of not just maintaining the focus of the organization, but continually redefining the goals.”

Jim is looking forward to continuing to work with the Foundation’s Board of Governors as Chair. “The wide range of experiences and perspectives of the Governors is our greatest asset, and by drawing on such varied and unique backgrounds we have an opportunity to create a dynamic, focused team,” he says. “The Foundation is in a strong fiscal position going into 2018 and 2019, with substantial funds available both from investment earnings and trust fund income. Coupled with an experienced, dedicated staff and an enthusiastic Board of Governors, we are aligned to make things happen in our communities.”

Jim will serve a two year term as Chair of the Board. His experience in the industry and insight on community initiatives will bring much value to the Foundation.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation Board of Governors Public Appointment Opening

The Foundation is seeking a candidate to fill the position of Public Appointment (Consumer Interests) on the Board of Governors. According to the Ministerial Regulations, the Foundation is seeking one person, who is not in the industry, who is appointed by the current members of the board then in office and is, in the opinion of those members, representative of the interests of real estate consumers. Preference will be given to a candidate who brings the following:

  • Is energetic and acts as an ambassador for the Foundation by networking and creating awareness among community and industry stakeholders.
  • Knowledge of Alberta, current issues and the ability to identify grant making and community investment opportunities.
  • Holds respect for diverging viewpoints and is willing to contribute their personal leadership skills towards creating efficient and effective governance.
  • An appetite for continuous learning and using that learning to benefit the Foundation and the community
  • An independent thinker who bases their decision making on analysis of available information and their own experiences.
  • Experience with financial management and investment responsibilities – current assets of the Foundation are around $15.7 million.

Responsibilities

  • The Governor is responsible for investing in community initiatives, conducting fiduciary matters as well as representing the Foundation at related events.
  • The Governor must attend three board meetings per year.
  • The term of the appointment is for three years and will commence immediately.
    Please note that the Foundation is independent of organized real estate and licensing authorities. The position does not pay an honorarium, however all expenses and travel expenses are covered.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Friday, April 13th 2018

For more information, please view the complete description here or contact the Executive Director, Cheryl De Paoli, at 403.228.4786 or cdepaoli@aref.ab.ca (Indicate in the subject line: Board Public Appointment).

March 2018 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $434,000 in community investment projects at their recent meeting.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) supports and originates initiatives that enhance the real estate industry and benefit the communities of Alberta. AREF was established in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded over 18.5 million dollars in community and industry grants to nearly 550 projects across Alberta.

Projects approved at the March meeting include:

Alberta Emerald Foundation – Environmental Recognition Program

The Alberta Emerald Foundation (AEF) is a unique and necessary charitable organization in Alberta. From celebrating environmental excellence during the Emerald Awards with 12 cross-sectoral categories and independent judges to recognizing the impact, innovation and achievements of Albertans through our Emerald Day events and Eco-Sharing. AEF shares these achievements and connects businesses, organizations and individuals which support environment to make a difference to locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.

Attainable Homes Calgary Corporation – Moderate-Income Calgarians’ Attitudes on Homeownership

In many other Canadian cities, most moderate-income jobs can accommodate a home purchase. In Calgary, it’s a little more challenging. The average price tag on a home in Calgary has increased greatly while salaries have not kept pace. We want to investigate three broad categories pertaining to moderate-income Calgarians who do not own a home:

1.Are they renters for life or do they eventually want to buy?

2.If they want to buy right now, what are the barriers (e.g. price too high, mortgage payments greater than rent, no down payment, lack of green options, waiting for right house)?

3.Are there housing forms they would like to see that are not currently provided in the development community?

Calgary Homeless Foundation – Building a Sustainable Non-Market Sector

Building a Sustainable Non-Market Real Estate Sector will help position housing providers for long-term sustainability and create capacity so that they can make strategic use of real estate assets. Based on feedback collected from the sector, we will develop training workshops and a speaker series for housing providers, empowering them to make use of strategies such as identifying redevelopment potential, real estate financing tools and investment strategies, or leveraging assets through strategic collaboration and partnerships.

Center for Public Legal Education Alberta – Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program 2018-2019

The Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program is the best source of easy to understand, accessible and accurate legal information about landlord and tenant matters in Alberta. This program provides vital information to Albertans online, in print and in person. Funding of this program will enable CPLEA to continue reaching and responding to the needs of over 700,000 resource users (and growing) per year.

The Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development – New Energy Economy

With our New Energy Economy project, we will reflect investments (and the associated jobs) in energy efficiency, renewables and clean tech already happening within Albertan communities, create a uniquely Albertan energy-climate narrative that appreciates a diversity of perspectives, and build the skills and capacity of Albertans to effectively communicate about energy and climate. The result will be a discourse surrounding energy and climate that is less polarized and more informed.

Stettler Learning Centre – Rural Climate Solutions – online resources and broadcasting

The project is to create and publish a podcast series and website covering on-farm climate solutions—from solar power to better land management—in order to empower members of the rural community with the tools and understanding to be part of the clean energy economy of the future.  This is an extension of an already existing program funded via the Alberta Government Community Environment Action Grant program to provide workshops and learning related to climate-positive agricultural and land-use practices.

The Sustainable Red Deer Society (ReThink Red Deer) – ReFraming the WaterShed

This project approaches watershed management for drought and flood resiliency from a Low Impact Development land-use perspective to literally build upon the success of the Piper Creek Restoration Agriculture Project. Conventional outreach activities by environmental non-profit organizations can be enhanced to deliver important lessons by offering hands-on experiential / skill-building learning that engages new audiences who otherwise would not be reached. Our initiative addresses watershed management through both active and passive rainwater and solar energy harvesting through a series of workshops that culminate in the raising of an open-air timber frame barn dubbed, “The Water Shed.”

University of Alberta – Faculty of Agricultural, Life, & Environmental Sciences – Coping with the Pressures of Fragmentation and Conversion of Agricultural Land in Alberta

A province-wide survey will assess attitudes of Alberta residents and municipal authorities toward fragmentation, conversion, and conservation policy tools. This research will help Alberta’s developers, provincial and municipal governments to better manage the fragmentation and conversion of agricultural land. This project involves two work streams with different deliverables at different dates: one on attitudes towards land use and the different policy tools; the other on the economics of land use change and the GIS planning tools. Final results will be disseminated in parallel.

University of Alberta – Faculty of Law – Subsidiarity in Action: Effective Biodiversity Conservation and Municipal Innovation

In Alberta, municipal jurisdiction over the environment, generally, and biodiversity, specifically, is experiencing expansion as a result of amendments to the Municipal Government Act. This project explores the implications of this expansion.

University of Lethbridge – Advancements in Irrigation Agriculture with Implications for Economic and Community Development and Environmental Stewardship in Alberta

Irrigation agriculture provides the foundation for economic and community development as well as environmental stewardship in southern Alberta.  This study will focus on the adoption of recent important advancements in irrigation agriculture (commonly referred to as ‘precision agriculture’) and implications for the ongoing benefits of irrigation in southern Alberta.

 

 

About Traversing Terrain and Experience: Atlas of the Battle River and Sounding Creek Watersheds

By Battle River Watershed Alliance

The land that drains into the Battle River and Sounding Creek- these watersheds- provide a backdrop for the unfolding lives lived full of courage and tragedy, heroism and heartbreak. Over time, this landscape has witnessed the retreat of glaciers, Indigenous peoples and great herds of bison, the arrival of the Fur Trade and European settlers, the ploughing of fields, and the creation of modern cities. This book tells these stories, and many more.

In 2014 with the help of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and others, the Battle River Watershed Alliance set out to tell these stories in an Atlas unlike any before. In 2017 the dream became reality and the Traversing Terrain and Experience Atlas was published. This is no ordinary atlas; this is a compilation of stories, art, photography, geography, and interesting facts that make our home unique. It blends the science with the social, it reflects on how the land has shaped us, and how we have shaped the land. It expands our understanding of place, as it takes you through the story of a landscape rich in history, culture, resources, and inspiration.

 

The 120 pages of this hardcover book contain 100% local information on everything from climate and weather, to population density, to art and culture. The watersheds region is expansive and diverse. The Atlas has equal representation from urban and rural perspectives, from the western headwaters at Battle Lake to the eastern confluence with the North Saskatchewan River, from the northern parkland to the southern grassland, from past, to present, to future.

The Atlas will be distributed at no cost to the 60+ schools and 40+ libraries in the watershed, ensuring all students and community members can have access to it. Books are also available for purchase through the BRWA website at www.battleriverwatershed.ca/atlas.

By reading through this atlas you will come to understand the deep and profound relationship between the land, water, people and all living beings. You will see the interconnection between our environment and our economy. You will learn more about the communities which make up this region, and the extraordinary people who call this place home.

Climate and Weather Pages

Population Density Pages

 

 

EnerGuide: How does your home rate?

Smart Home Series: Part 6

By David Dodge and Scott Rollans

Image: Brian and Laura Finley review their EnerGuide assessment that outlines what they can do and how much energy they can save by making energy efficiency improvements to their home. Photo David Dodge, GreenEnergyFutures.ca

Most energy-conscious Canadians wouldn’t buy a new appliance without checking its EnerGuide label to see how it rates. EnerGuide labels for homes are starting to catch on with energy efficient new home builders. But, did you know you can get an EnerGuide assessment for your existing home?

Edmonton real estate broker Brian Finley decided to do just that. He hired Jeff Paton of Sunridge Residential to evaluate his 1956 home. Brian had two motives. As a real estate agent, he wanted to learn about energy rating systems for homes. But, as a homeowner, he wanted to better understand how his house was using—and undoubtedly wasting—heat and electricity.

Bracing for rough news

Brian realized his house, at 61 years old and counting, would show drastic room for improvement. For the EnerGuide assessment, Paton began with a visual inspection—measuring the home and counting the windows. Once inside he quickly uncovered some obvious shortcomings—such as the old-fashioned wood shavings that insulated Brian’s attic. “Cellulose or fiberglass insulation would do a much better job and have a higher value per inch. So, that would be recommended for this attic,” he said.

High-tech tools

Next, Paton unpacked his technical gear. The blower door test involves sealing the front door with a red fabric and de-pressurizing the home with a fan.  This helps Paton calculate the air exchanges per hour of the home. Brian’s 1956 home is very leaky, at 9.6 air changes per hour. A typical new home today might come in at about 2.5 air changes per hour, while a super-insulated net-zero home would come in at less than one air change per hour.

While the home was depressurized Jeff pulled out his cool infrared camera to identify areas where the house was losing heat—places where the air was leaking, or insulation was disturbed. Looking at the camera you could see the wispy shape of cold air seeping into the house by the door, windows, joists, plug-ins, the fireplace, the attic hatch and other places.

Suggested upgrades:

 

 

After crunching the numbers, Paton generated a renovation upgrade report, focusing on specific steps Brian can undertake to reduce his home’s energy consumption. “In this instance, this home is losing 29 percent of its heat through air leakage,” Paton reported. “Another 25 per cent of it through the basement foundation, and the rest is made up through the attic, main walls, exposed doors, and windows.”

And, of course, Paton generated an EnerGuide rating number for the home. In most of Canada, the home EnerGuide rating reflects the number of gigajoules a house will consume in a year (the system differs slightly in New Brunswick and Quebec). Obviously, the lower the number, the better (a net-zero home would earn an EnerGuide rating of—you guessed it—zero). A typical new home has a rating of about 146 gigajoules.

And the EnerGuide number is…

Where did Brian’s home come in? As he suspected, the news was not good. “We can see on here that your energy rating in gigajoules per year is 236,” Paton observed. “That’s a significant amount of energy, but it’s not uncommon for this era of construction in the 1950s. And, this is a great tool that we can use to understand how the energy is used in your home.”

The EnerGuide label tells Brian his home uses 236 gigajoules of gas and electricity each year. If his home were built today to current code, its rating would be 116 gigajoules—a number Brian could reach if he completes all of the renovations listed in the “Recommended Upgrades” report. It should be noted that the upgrades for this 1956 home would be quite expensive. But, Brian now knows what steps he can take, and what gains he can expect to see from each one. He is already planning to add insulation to his attic.

Homeowner information sheet:

 

Perhaps the most insightful report you receive is the Homeowner Information Sheet, which breaks down where your home uses energy and where it loses heat. Brian’s 1956 home consumes most of its energy (90 per cent) heating the air and water in the home. See the images below to see what this report looks like for his home.

We learned a lot from our tour of the Finley home, but every home is different. For example, I also did an assessment on my own 20-year-old home and learned our energy use is 117 gigajoules—and, the most significant upgrade step we can make is to add solar.

Also, it’s very important to recognize that the EnerGuide assessment does not look at behaviour. You can cut your energy use with a few simple, low-cost changes—see our related story on the Top 10 Energy Efficiency tips. And, as we learned in our story on The Energy Detective, you can perform your own sleuthing to find and eliminate the biggest energy hogs in your home. In that story, Ron Kube was able to slash his electricity use in half by replacing lightbulbs, unplugging a beer fridge and taming some power vampires.

An EnerGuide home energy assessment will run anywhere from $300–$750—and, some municipalities such as Edmonton offer generous rebates to help cover the cost. Find an EnerGuide advisor at the Natural Resources Canada website. Either way, it’s a small price to pay for such valuable information.

This is Part 6 of the Green Energy Smart Homes series. To read more of the series visit the Green Energy Futures website!

Top 10 Energy Efficiency Tips for the Home

Smart Home Series: Part 5

By David Dodge and Scott Rollans

Here at Green Energy Futures, we love nothing better than to explore the latest high-tech, net-zero homes that are springing up throughout our province.

But, most of us live in ordinary, older homes. We’ve looked at some of the radical steps you can take to transform a typical home—taking it to net zero, for example, or installing large solar-power arrays. In this story, we look at both of the modest and extensive ways you can improve your home’s efficiency—small and big steps that can add up to big savings, and a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

To assemble our list of top ten actions you can take, we accompanied EnerGuide for homes auditor Jeff Paton as he conducted an EnerGuide assessment of Brian and Laura Finley’s 1956 home in Edmonton, Alberta. Then we pushed beyond the EnerGuide assessment and put together this list of the top 10 ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home.

Top 10 Energy Efficiency tips for your home

 

1. Conduct a home energy assessment


To save energy in your home, it helps to understand how you’re currently consuming—and possibly wasting—heat and electricity. A professional home energy assessment will provide comprehensive data on your home energy use, and help provide a road map for improvements. The investment—$500-750, depending on the size of your home—will pay off in the long run. Some municipalities (like Edmonton) offer rebates to help cover the cost. You can also self-audit your home as well, like Rob Kube did in our story The Energy Detective. The trick is to understand real data, so your improvements actually make a difference.

2. Insulate!

In a cold climate like Alberta’s, home heating accounts for about 63 per cent of your total energy costs. So, if you’re losing heat, you’re effectively burning money. Cold walls, uneven heat, and high indoor temperatures in the summer are all signs of a poorly insulated home. In older homes, attics and unfinished basements are an easy place to start—simply add insulation. Then, move on to tackle the other areas. Depending on the scale of your insulating job, you may qualify for up to $3,500 in current Energy Efficiency Alberta rebates. Insulation is the secret of the new net-zero homes.

3. Seal the envelope

If your house is leaking air, it’s also leaking energy. A home energy assessment can measure and identify the key problem areas, but basic improvements can begin with a caulking gun, to seal gaps and cracks, and weatherstripping, to prevent drafts around doors and windows. If you get an EnerGuide assessment, they will depressurize your home and use an infrared camera to literally see where cold air is seeping into your home. This can be significant in older homes. A 50 year old home has close to 10 air changes per hour; a new home built to code will have about 2.5 air changes per hour. Net-zero homes typically have less than one air change per hour, plus air exchangers that recover 65 per cent of the heat from exhaust air.

4. Upgrade your windows

Windows represent a big investment, and a long-term payback, but they’re a key element in any energy-efficient home. As a bonus, better windows will also reduce noise from outdoors. Look for triple-glazed windows with ENERGY STAR® High Efficiency rating and be sure to check for rebates in your area.

5. Install a high-efficiency furnace

Until fairly recently, furnaces were inefficient. A 20-year-old home, for example, may have a 77 per cent efficient furnace in it. Many newer furnaces operate at 97 per cent efficiency—saving you more than 20 per cent in heating costs over the life of the furnace. As usual, pay attention to Energuide ratings and ENERGY STAR®.  Super-efficient solar-powered net-zero homes use electric heat-pump furnaces, which are 250 per cent efficient.

6. Use a smart thermostat

You can spend less on heating simply by heating less. With a smart thermostat, you can reduce the temperature in your home at preset times—for example, dropping the setting to 15 degrees C at night, or during weekdays when the house is empty. Smart thermostats are very easy to set up—automatically learning how you use your home, and reducing heat when it’s appropriate. Most smart thermostats are also Wi-Fi-connected, allowing you to control them even when you’re away from home. They’re simpler to use, but (not surprisingly) cost more. Rebates are offered in some jurisdictions.

7. Tame your appliances

Your clothes dryer, even if it’s new, is likely your home’s biggest electricity hog. Consider partially drying your clothes and then hanging them to dry the rest of the way (similarly, let your dishes air-dry instead of running your dishwasher’s drying cycle). Other home appliances have improved dramatically over the years. For example, a fridge from the 1970s may chew through 1,750 kWh/year, whereas a modern fridge with an icemaker uses 500 kWh/year or less. Energy Efficiency Alberta currently offers rebates up to $100 on refrigerators and washers. Induction stoves and cooktops are another energy-saver we really like—superior appliances that consume roughly half the electricity of conventional stoves while heating many foods much more quickly.

8. Water heating

Check out the three most energy efficient water heaters in our story Hot Water Heaters 101. The energy used to heat water can account for a whopping one-fifth of your total home energy costs. Old water heaters are about 60 per cent efficient, whereas high-efficiency tank-based water heaters can now reach 90 per cent efficiency. Tankless water heaters are 97-98 per cent efficient, and have made great strides in user satisfaction. Even better, tankless heaters currently qualify for Energy Efficiency Alberta rebates of up to $944. Hybrid heat-pump water heaters run on electricity (great for net-zero homes) and are 330 per cent efficient.Upgrading from a conventional to a tankless 97 per cent efficient model will save up to 37 per cent on water heating.

9. Light smarter

This is your simplest fix, and will pay for itself in practically no time. Many homes still use incandescent bulbs, despite the technical advances and increased affordability of LEDs. An LED bulb uses roughly 25 per cent the electricity of an incandescent bulb, and generally has a drastically greater lifespan—paying for itself multiple times. In places where you use multiple bulbs (decorative fixtures, pot lighting) the savings add up that much more quickly. Efficiency Alberta regularly offers instant rebates on LED bulbs, but they’re a brilliant investment even at regular price. In our Energy Detective story Ron Kube replaced 80 bulbs in his home and reduced electricity use for lighting five-fold!

10. Be a ghostbuster

Countless electronic devices—TVs, PVRs, computers, printers, phone chargers, etc.—draw power even when they’re not being used—energy efficiency experts call this “phantom power.” Exorcise these demons by unplugging chargers when they’re not being used, or using power bars with single on-off switches. Newer “smart” power bars will actually shut off a circuit if it senses that a device is not in active use. In our Energy Detective story we found seven per cent of Ron Kube’s home electricity use was by phantom power.

Thanks to Jeff Paton for helping us put this list together after a tour of the Finley home in Edmonton. Some older homes may require more expensive upgrades to fix big problems, but many homes have many opportunities for energy saving. Take your inventory and then begin investing in the best bets for big returns. We have seen homes that have cut their heating bill in half simply by improving their furnaces and adding smart thermostats, and we have seen other homes where changing lights to LEDs, uplugging an old beer fridge and slaying your phantom power vampires likewise reduced electricity use by half.

This is Part 5 of the Green Energy Smart Homes series. To read more of the series visit the Green Energy Futures website!