6 Ways to Build Greener (On a Budget)

We’re all feeling a greater sense of responsibility when it comes to our carbon footprint. Yet while it’s easy to say you want to build green, it’s a lot harder to fork up the cash to do it. Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to retrofit your current home, and a lot more you can do to design your new construction to be greener.

One trap many homeowners fall into is getting caught up in big, expensive ideas like solar panels. The unfortunate truth is that large scale projects like solar panels can easily break a budget. So, what about affordable alternatives? How do you build greener without breaking the bank?

1. LED Lights

You may think that changing the 15 lightbulbs in your house is an insignificant improvement. But when you consider that you would need to change your incandescent lightbulb 50 to 100 times for every time you change your LED bulb, you see that you’re saving not only money but waste as well.

Not only that, but LED lights also use far less energy than incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs waste up to 80% of their energy by way of heat loss, whereas the diodes used in LED lights produce almost no heat—meaning almost no wasted energy.

2. Low-Flow Toilets, Showerheads, and Faucets

Have you ever left the tap running so you can get the good water? Maybe you’ve taken a long, hot shower once or twice. The unfortunate truth is that Canada is one of the largest users of fresh water per capita in the world. In 2011, 43% of the water distributed by municipalities was for households. So doing our part to help conserve Canada’s greatest natural resource is a responsibility we should all take seriously.

A simple and affordable way to reduce your household water usage is to invest in low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets. Some of these are requirements in new home construction, as the Ontario Building Code leads us to more greener practices, but they’re a great reminder of what to look for with renovations.

Faucets: Purchase a faucet aerator that delivers 3.0 to 5.7 litres of water per minute. Sink faucets should be a maximum 8.35L/min.

Showerheads: Water saving showerheads with a flow rate of less than 7.6 litres per minute. Ensure your showerhead is also pressure balanced.

Toilets: Natural Resources Canada suggests purchasing a low-flow toilet that uses 4.8 litres per flush. For dual-flush toilets you’re looking for options of 4.1 litres per flush and 6.0 litres per flush.

3. Insulation

Increasing insulation in your home, especially in the Cold White North, will go a long way to reducing your carbon footprint and your heating bill. Basements can account for up to 20% of a home’s heat loss. There are a variety of reasons for this; heat can be lost through basement windows, through the floor, and because basement walls are often not insulated.

For renovators, simply adding insulation to your basement walls can make a massive difference. However, before taking this step you should do a thorough check for dampness in your basement, as insulation can rot. We highly recommend the use of Rockwool insulation in basements due to its moisture resistance properties.

If you’re building a new home one advantage you have over renovators is to insulate under your basement concrete floor slab. If you are renovating, and have the extra headroom, consider a dricore panel with rigid insulation as an alternative.

4. Drain Water Recovery Systems

A drain water recovery system, sometimes called a drain water heat recovery system (DWHR), is a technology that allows you to recycle the heat from previously heated water. This is achieved with a pre-manufactured pipe, that uses copper coils wrapped around a copper drain stack and pushing cold water entering your home through those coils. The heat transfer between the metal of the coils and the metal of the drain stack, which is draining hot water (from a shower for example), warms the cold water, reducing the stress on your water heater.

The best part is this technology’s longevity and simplicity; systems can last well over 30 years, and there are no moving parts. Some DWHR systems assert they can even raise the temperature by over 10 degrees Celsius.

5. Replace Your Furnace and Water Heater

Replacing your furnace or water heater can be intimidating, especially if you’re not familiar with the specifications or the terminology. Luckily for Canadians, both have high minimum requirements already, so purchasing the most cost-effective model is usually enough to help you save and be greener.

For example, new furnaces in Canada have a 90% efficiency requirement (meaning at least 90% of the gas that goes into the furnace comes out as heated air). This is a very high standard when compared to older models.

Another way to reduce the strain on your furnace is to invest in a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV), which—similarly to a DWHR—recycles heat from your furnace. Installing an HRV can significantly increase your energy savings. ERV’s, a type of HRV, can also allow you to control moisture levels in your home reducing the stress on your AC and preventing annoying side effects of dry, Canadian winters like dry skin.

6. Replace Your Windows

Purchasing the right windows is an important step for energy consumption in Canada because windows account for around a quarter of a home’s total heat loss. The average Canadian home also has around 12 windows. Thankfully, just like furnaces and water heaters, Canadian window manufacturers face strict minimum requirements. Purchasing the most efficient windows that fit you budget will serve you well.

Energy efficient windows have:

  • A low U-factor
  • A double glaze to help keep the heat out as a minimum (triple glaze is an even better option if your budget allows!)
  • Window frames to provide a barrier against weather
  • A high Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)
  • A high Energy Rating (ER)
  • A high R-value
  • A high Visible Transmittance (VT)

Consider implementing some of these simple upgrades in your next renovation.

Need help designing your renovation or new home? Schedule a phone consultation to get started.