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A Guide to Making Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

Posted on Apr 25, 2017 by Earl Raatz

A Guide to Making Energy-Efficient Home Improvements Energy Home imageMaking your home more energy-efficient is not just a trendy thing to do. When you convert or upgrade your home's design and appliances, you'll be investing in the future of your home while simultaneously saving a lot of money in the long run.

Many Canadian homeowners choose to have their homes inspected by an energy adviser who is certified by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). Once your home is inspected, you'll be given a detailed report on how to improve the energy efficiency of your dwelling. This article will give you some excellent tips on where and how to start to make your home a more sustainable and cost-efficient environment.

A Guide to Making Energy-Efficient Home Improvements Insullation imageFirst Step, Do Your Research

It's important to remember that the Canadian government does not endorse products or contractors. Even the energy evaluation of your home should not be construed as a home inspection, as the adviser cannot tell you whether any proposed renovations or products will meet all the local building codes and federal standards.

Only you and the companies you buy from or work with are legally responsible for verifying that the products and/or services are permissible and meet relevant standards and building codes. Before starting any work in your home, visit your local municipal office. You may need utility and/or building permits before any renovations begin.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a number of informative fact sheets that you can browse and download online.

A Few Things to Know About Canadian Law

Canadian federal law prohibits using any insulation materials that contain or are based on formaldehyde. Some insulation products sold or manufactured in the United States contain formaldehyde but are illegal to use in Canada.

Anything made entirely from asbestos cannot be used or sold as a consumer product. That being said, some products which have asbestos fibres encapsulated in a binder are permitted for use in Canada.

Another regulated type of insulation in Canada is cellulose fibre products. Many of the top insulation products use cellulose fibres. Be aware that these products must meet standards (with respect to flammability and many others) so look on the label or inquire as to whether a particular brand or product is permissible for use in Canada.

Choose the Right Product

The Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC) publishes Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on a number of products that list health and safety issues, including indoor air quality, fire safety, potentially hazardous ingredients, and emergency measures. MSDS are required for many home renovation products, including paint, caulking, and cleaners. MSDS are not mandatory for some items like insulation but may be available.

If you are uncertain whether any products you will be installing or using during the renovation comply with Canadian legislation, you can consult the CCMC's website. If you're unsure whether a particular product or appliance has a MSDS, contact the manufacturer.

A Guide to Making Energy-Efficient Home Improvements Window Replacement imageDIY Versus Hiring a Contractor

For homeowners with the DIY skills to do some or all of the renovations in your home; definitely don't forget about health and safety! Follow all the standard precautions and wear protective equipment when working. It's especially important to take precautions when working in areas like attics and basements that may have vermin or vermin droppings, mould, asbestos, and lead.

If you decide to hire a contractor, always insist on a quote in writing as well as a written contract before work begins. Any contractor you hire will be responsible for complying with both federal and local laws.

A few good questions to ask a prospective contractor are:

  • May I contact your references?
  • Will the renovation work comply with both municipal by-laws as well as any provincial and federal requirements?
  • Are your workers trained in the correct way to install products?
  • What steps will you take to protect my family during and after the renovation work?
  • What assurances can you give me that the products you will be using meet applicable provincial and federal legislation?
  • Do you have the MSDS for the products you will be using?

Whether you want to do a minor renovation and install a few energy-efficient appliances in your home, or prefer to do a full refit of your home to make it more sustainable and environmentally friendly, there are a number of great options for Canadians. Be sure that you (or your contractor) perform all work in concordance with local, provincial, and federal law and that you're aware of the potential risks and hazards of any product that you apply or install in your home. 

The good news is that proper research and planning will allow you to save money and benefit from a more energy-efficient home that your family will enjoy for years to come.

Did you know most new home builders should have energy efficient features that would be included in a new home build? If energy efficiency is important to you, consider the possibility of purchasing new – it can be more affordable than you think and, of course, save you money in energy bills long-term.

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