Older homes: a shortcut to energy efficiency

by Angela Keller-Herzog

Older homes
A thermography report, or heat map, shows cold air entry points that can be sealed or weather stripped to prevent heat loss. The dark colour indicates cold air intrusion.
Photo: Flir Systems

Some days you can’t find parking on Glebe side streets because there are so many contractors and tradespeople taking the spaces. What are you getting fixed, neighbour? What new surprise did your old home offer up that will be costly to repair? And what energy retrofits should you be planning today to prevent unwelcome surprises, reduce your bills, shrink your carbon footprint and take advantage of government financial incentives?

The problem is that there is a huge lot to learn about owning an old home and most of us don’t have enough time. Talking to contractors and tradespeople, doing background research, and getting and comparing quotes can take an enormous number of hours and days.

You’re in luck this spring, because we’re offering you a shortcut. We will have our very own energy-retrofit home-reno show at the Glebe Community Centre on Saturday, April 21 (Earth Day weekend). This year’s Old Home Earth Day Event is being organized by volunteers from the Glebe Community Association (GCA) Environment Committee in partnership with SMARTNet Alliance, Bullfrog Power, Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative and the Peace & Environment Resource Centre. Quite the secret society, these dedicated associates have been meeting at least once a month since November to brainstorm about the low-carbon future and to plan community events while consuming copious amounts of tea and wine!

The Old Home Earth Day Event invites attendees to go on a “journey” to discover the ins and outs of older–typically pre-1980–home energy retrofits. Attending the series of workshops will allow homeowners to understand the current map of energy efficiency programs that are available, get coaching on how to plan your home renovation, get ideas on how to deal with air leakage and heat loss from the basement on up, learn about insulation options and window replacement issues and understand the ever-improving equipment options for heating, cooling and ventilation. You’ll also learn about the latest rebates and incentives.

Organizers have one piece of advice that applies to all homeowners: get a home energy audit and a thermography report. The energy audit will give recommendations on what needs doing and the thermography will diagnose where the heat losses are most pronounced. The colourful thermography report allows you to “see inside your walls” and gives you a detailed set of entry points for draft sealing and weather stripping to prevent immediate heat losses (see photos of heat maps where dark means cold air intrusion areas).

Got so-called easy fixes you wish you could do yourself if you knew how? The Old Home Earth Day Event will have a hands-on Do-It-Yourself demo corner. Volunteers Kathryn and Judith will be delighted to get you behind that caulking gun to quickly learn to draw a steady bead that sticks.

Another bonus: the event will see the great hall of the Community Centre laid out trade-fair style so you can efficiently meet suppliers specializing in all aspects of old home energy retrofitting – much better than losing a half-day or more of your own work waiting for a tradesperson.

Angela Keller-Herzog is one of the organizers of the Old Home Earth Day Event and co-chair of the GCA Environment Committee. You can contact her at environment@glebeca.ca.

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