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Retrofitting is simply upgrading or renovating a house so it will keep the heat in during the heating season and keep it cooler during the summer. This means adding insulation, caulking and weatherstripping, improving or replacing windows and doors, and improving the mechanical systems including adequate ventilation. Retrofitting also means including energy efficiency measures in all your renovation and repair activities. Within the context of the Canadian climate, retrofitting makes a lot of sense.

1.1.1 Why retrofit?

  • Energy efficiency. Retrofitting costs less than producing new energy supplies to heat a house. More than 10 percent of Canada’s annual energy goes to heat our homes, and this energy comes mostly from non-renewable resources such as oil and gas. By increasing energy efficiency, you can improve your home’s operating performance and increase its market value.

  • Comfort and health. A well-insulated, and ventilated house makes for a comfortable home. It is also much quieter, and there is less dust and pollen to worry about.

  • Durability. By retrofitting your home you can also improve air and moisture control. As a result, your house will remain in better shape and last longer.

  • Save money. Improving a home’s energy efficiency is one of the best investments you can make, paying tax-free dividends immediately in the form of lower energy bills.

  • Protect the environment. Consuming less energy means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, retrofitting uses fewer new resources than building a new house.

1.1.2 Seek professional advice

A professional energy evaluation service is the best way to assess your home’s energy improvement potential. An energy advisor certified by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) evaluates your home from the attic down to the foundation, including a measurement of your insulation levels and a blower door test to determine air tightness. You will receive a personalized report, including a checklist of recommended retrofits to improve overall energy efficiency, as well as an EnerGuide rating so you can compare the energy efficiency of your home with other homes. Your local utility may also offer this service or other assistance.

1.1.3 Retrofit opportunities

What is your best retrofit strategy? You will have to determine what shape your house is in and what can be done to improve it. Check the interior and exterior for signs of moisture damage and structural problems and maintenance and repair needs. Consider renovation opportunities, the level and condition of insulation, air leakage paths, and the age and condition of mechanical systems.

Although each house is unique, here are some typical retrofit opportunities:

  • Most houses will benefit from air leakage control, moisture control and ventilation to reduce the chance of condensation problems.

  • Insulate a poorly insulated attic.

  • Insulate an empty frame wall.

  • Insulate the basement. If the insulation can be combined with water proofing on the exterior or finishing the interior, it will be even more worthwhile.

  • Once building envelope upgrades are complete, it may be worthwhile to install a smaller capacity, high efficiency heating system, which may offer substantial savings.

  • Many houses will benefit from a complete heating system tune-up, including the distribution system and controls.

  • Make the most of repairs and renovations. Almost all home improvements can have an energy efficient component piggybacked onto the work, such as adding additional insulation behind new siding.

  • Retrofitting may offer the best opportunity to upgrade the wiring and electrical service. Many older homes have outdated, inadequate or unsafe electrical systems, and renovations may offer the perfect opportunity to upgrade your electrical system. You may need utility and building permits for this job, so check with your local authorities.

Visit the Energy efficiency for homes section of the Government of Canada website for more information.

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