I know enough about energy efficient construction to know there is a lot of room for improvement in the little old shack. To get a baseline I booked an energy audit through the province’s Energuide for Houses program. Reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated; however, don’t rule it out for 2011. The federal rebates are no longer available but the provincial rebates are available until March. That gives me a built-in deadline for improvements to windows, doors, air sealing and insulation to be completed.
I don’t expect the rebates to amount to much, but the audit comes with an air leakage test. Air leakage is the main source of energy losses in most houses, so I intend to make that and insulation the priorities. Then I will worry about windows, doors and appliances. Solar hot water, photovoltaics and wind power are not even on the list. It makes no sense to incorporate expensive renewable energy sources when the primary energy is being used so inefficiently. In other words, when there’s a hole in the bucket you don’t need more water. Just plug it, Dear Henry.
The auditor will come back after the renovations are done and he will retest the air leakage and verify the other improvements. I will use the decrease in air leakage as one of the measures of my energy retrofit success. The energy nerds reading this want to know the numbers for initial air leakage and the rating? Drum roll —- 11 ACH @ 50Pa and an EnerGuide rating of 68. I can believe the 11 Air Changes per Hour. It means in a stiff wind the entire volume of air contained in the house leaks out 11 times every hour. Some folks think that might be great, because “you gotta let the house breathe.” That’s a nice but misguided idea because it means you also have to heat up the cold infiltrating air 11 times every hour. That’s a lot of heat. I have tested old Victorian houses that hit 13 ACH. My friend’s place is 150 years old and was something like 26 ACH in its pre-renovated condition. That is like leaving a door wide open all winter long. In comparison, a new R2000 house must be 1.5 ACH or less with an EnerGuide rating of 80 or more.
The EnerGuide Rating is on a scale of 100, so 68 at the shack is surprisingly high considering they recommended a final target of 78. The auditor said that I am getting credit for the rowhouse side walls that are not exposed to exterior temperatures. It makes sense, but if you felt the wind whistling through the drywall holes during the air leakage test, Brrr! And there is no insulation in the walls. None!