Josh Silver wants Islanders building new homes to know the right questions to ask their contractor or carpenter when it comes to saving energy.
This includes the latest in building materials and insulation that could save decades of dollars.
Silver is a carpenter and instructor at Holland College. He took CBC PEI on his personal quest to make improvements to his 12-year-old Charlottetown home to save energy and money.
This summer, he is focusing on building new homes.
One of the main focal points, Silver said, is making sure a new home is well insulated during construction, rather than having to go back and renovate it later.
This includes adding extra layers of insulation under the exterior of a new home.
“It’s a great opportunity to see how a home is built and more importantly how it’s built energy-efficiently from the ground up,” Silver said.
“You’re going to see the insulation and the energy-efficient thinking, right through to the end of the project.”
One of those insulation decisions will come early in the construction process.
“Insulation along the exterior is going to help stop thermal bridging,” said Nic Cahill, energy efficiency consultant at Greenfoot Energy Solutions.
“Thermal bridging is when heat can work its way through a weak point in the insulation, through a stud straight out. So by putting a layer of stiff insulation, we’re going to cut this thermal break.”
Cahill said many new homes are also being built using structural insulated panels, rather than just sheathing,
“You have insulation combined with the sheathing, so you get structural integrity and insulation value in one product,” he said.
“If you’re installing the siding anyway, the labor will be the same whether you’re installing siding or siding with insulation.”
building blocks isolated
Insulated or Insulated Concrete Forms, known as ICFs, are another building material that will improve energy efficiency in new construction.
Silver said one of the nicknames was Lego, like the toy blocks.
“It’s basically just blocks that you stack them up to make a wall,” he said.
“There’s a void in the middle of this wall and we’re filling it with concrete, so very strong, very high insulation.”
Heat recovery ventilators
Cahill said there are also opportunities to save energy through heat recovery ventilators.
“As homes become increasingly airtight and more energy efficient, the need for mechanical ventilation increases,” Cahill said.
“So you have to allow the house to breathe and allow fresh air into the house and stale air out of the house.”
Cahill said heat-recovery ventilators are an important part of that, pulling air from bathrooms and blowing air into living spaces to improve air quality.
He said it’s important to consider the advantages of insulated flexible ducts over non-insulated ducts.
“A lot of the ductwork will go through the attic, so if you have hot air going through those ductwork, you’ll get a lot of heat that will be lost in the attic,” Cahill said.
“When you have that layer of insulation around, you won’t lose as much heat in that attic. That’s why it’s important in these types of applications.”
To save money
Cahill is a graduate of Holland College’s Energy Systems Engineering Technology program.
He said he has seen an explosion of interest in home energy efficiency since completing the program and expects that trend to continue.
“Everyone knows it’s getting more and more expensive to heat their home, and everyone wants to be able to save money,” Cahill said.
“There are a lot of new rebate programs coming out of the provincial and federal governments that people are taking advantage of. There is more interest than ever in energy efficiency,” Cahill said.
“I don’t really see things slowing down anytime soon.”