Energy Efficiency Alberta is an incentivized program that provides rebates to Albertans seeking to reduce their energy footprint at home. Creating an energy efficient home saves owners money annually, with the main sources of savings being heating and cooling the property. The government offers both home and business owners incentives, as well as free in-home inspections performed by certified installers. Energy Efficiency Alberta also puts homeowners in contact with contractors that are registered with the program, and capable of performing the retrofit for your project.
Inspect for success
Another aspect of this initiative is being able to register to have a field agent inspect your home, and determine different ways you could improve your home’s energy efficiency. They will perform an evaluation on your home and within the next year, will install appliances for free. These might include dimmer switches for lights, energy efficient light bulbs, high-efficiency shower heads, and self-adjusting thermostats. These are only a few of the many ways to improve a homes’ energy efficiency without major construction or cost to the homeowner!
Improving the building envelope function (keeping heat/cold in/out, preventing moisture entry, and facilitating drying) is a point of focus of the home improvement rebate aspect of this program. This rebate provides money back based on the amount of insulation, the type of windows, and the addition of a tankless water heater to your home. Orata Engineering agrees that these are some of the easiest and most impactful ways of reducing your home’s operating costs; however, there are some considerations to be aware of.
Keep in mind
The construction of the existing building envelope and the local climate are important to consider when making these types of changes. A common solution to add more R-value to a building is to perform an exterior retrofit of the home, installing insulation to the exterior of the existing sheathing. When the correct building materials are used and installed in an Alberta Building Code compliant manner, this is a great solution. However, if the wrong insulation type is used, or is not installed in the correct plane of your building envelope, there is an increased potential for condensation to accumulate in the building envelope.
Preventing the proper function of your building envelope, including creating an additional condensation plane within the building’s walls, creates a situation where the building envelope and the surrounding materials could sustain significant moisture damage. The industry standard is to install this insulation to the exterior of the building envelope, that gives you the highest value for the least thickness and least amount of money. In this scenario, builders may lean towards a product called polyisocyanurate, which is a foil faced foam insulation that is relatively easy to install and provides a large R value during the warmer seasons of the year.
Polyisocyanurate is a great insulation product, but it is not vapour open and does not maintain its R-value once the outside temperature drops below freezing. Having vapour open insulation as exterior insulation is very important, especially in older homes (built before the 80’s). Buildings built in Alberta have building envelopes that dry to the exterior of the building. Adding a layer of insulation that does not allow vapour to travel through it to the exterior of the building envelope, prevents this drying from happening. Depending on the construction quality and workmanship of the building in question, this could lead to either a slow accumulation of moisture in the envelope over time or if there is a larger air leak through the building it could accumulate at a fast rate and become a serious and damaging problem. Any exterior applied insulation that does not insulate the surfaces inboard of it or have a vapour open characteristic will create this or similar moisture issues.
Each building encountered has it’s own unique challenges and assembly of material. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your energy efficiency efforts, enlisting the help of envelope engineers will ensure you find the solutions best fitted to your home.
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