older home shows how to score

in the top of energy retrofits


... it can be done      ... it has been done      ... it must be done


double wall construction

geo trench

winter power chart




Older homes can significantly reduce their consumption of energy and their emission of carbon, critical actions to address the energy & environmental challenges facing Canada.  (this task is easy for new homes, but that's another story)
Our 3,500 ft2 home was built in 1984.  When we purchased in 2006, we dramatically upgraded insulation levels and implemented basic measures such as insulating basement headers, adding water restrictors & low-flow toilets, converting to LED lights (none of the toxic hazards of CFL, less cost to operate, better selection of colour spectrum, allows use of 12V DC from solar panels or wind turbines), adding set-back timers & motion sensors, sealing walls against air leakage, installing destratification fans, adding rain barrels, planting dozens of trees, covering ashpalt shingles with an Energy Star metal roof (decreases cooling demand, increases efficiency of roof-mounted solar PV panels), and upgrading to Energy Star for all appliances & windows (our last round involved triple-pane glass with double low-E coating, filled with Krypton gas).
We installed a heat recovery ventilator and replaced the propane furnace with a ground source heat pump with horizontal loop; this final decision automatically qualifies our house as a Net Zero Plus building.
Inside, we refurbished in compliance with LEED guidelines (Canada had not yet adopted the standard for residential retrofits) by recycling most original building materials and installing FSC-certified hardwood flooring, among many other actions.  Our eco-sin was to import granite from Brazil for the kitchen countertops.
This investment boosted our EnerGuide for Houses efficiency rating to 90 which makes this house one of the top energy-efficient private retrofits in Canada despite its quarter-century age.  An ATIP request showed that 17 homes have been rated higher, but their age is unknown.
For the 4.8 million households in ON, each square foot of floorspace consumes 21.2 kWh every year for space heating, water heating, appliances, lights & space cooling (total combined electric AND thermal).  In 2012, my green home was consuming 4.8 kWh per ft2 per year  ...  75% lower than the provincial average.  Government data estimate that the average house of this size would consume 70,000 kWh of all energies each year; in 2018, our house consumed 16,500 kWh.  Because the renewable energy from a NetZeroPlus heat pump is a dispatchable source of energy, 90% of total power is consumed outside of peak TOU period (we need power to run our fridge, computer, sump pump, etc) which benefits our electric utility in terms of load levelling.
For GHG emissions, 13.4 million households in CA have total floorspace of 1,816 million m2 and emit 61.6 megatonne of carbon each year, so the average emission per household is 5.1 tonne  (3.5 t for every 1,000 ft2 of floorspace).  At 3,500 ft2, my-green-home should emit 12.2 tonne for combined electric & thermal, but it emits 1.6  ...   83% lower than average and due solely to the combustion of propane for cooking & for emergency space heating.
Not only does my-green-home show that it  IS possible to take personal action that makes a real difference in the climate fight, but our energy expenses have declined dramatically and continue to drop under time-of-use metering (avoid operation during peak periods).  Our home is ready for the next ice storm or grid blackout; we have increased occupant comfort & safety; and we have increased the equity in my green home.
We're getting older ... and getting better.
As part of our complete commitment to sustainability, we were the first home in eastern Ontario to mount 10 kW of rooftop solar panels under the Ontario feed-in tariff .  We cannot use this output (in a power failure, our roof panels will not work) but the metal roof increases the efficiency slightly, another demonstration of integration for a green home.

To put our investment in context:

In 2005, the average EGH rating for all Canadian homes that had been assessed (a self-selecting universe of energy-conscious homeowners) was 66.  Of homes built in the 1980s, the average 'start' rating (before renovations) was 65, and 72 for the 'finish' rating (after all upgrades are complete).  To qualify as R-2000, a new house must be EGH 80.  NRCan reports that, as of December 2012, 17 houses in Canada scored above 90.

On the international scene, a EuroBarometer survey (Dec 2009) of 27,000 citizens in Europe found that 78% of respondants separate waste for recycling and 41% avoid plastic bags. “Greener energy options are the least popular, with only 9% switching to a greener energy tariff or supplier, and only 6% having installed their own energy generation equipment" such as solar panels or wind turbines, the report notes.  When asked about greener forms of energy, 25% said they were willing to pay 1-5% more, 20% would pay 6-20% more, and 4% were willing to pay a premium of 20%, but 27% were unwilling to pay any extra for renewable energy. Europeans have a reputation for being more energy-conscious than Canadians, and behaviour surveys skew to the positive (eg: respondants say they recycle even if they have done so only once). This makes a large after-tax investment in low-carbon options to be quite significant.


Bill Eggertson has been involved in the renewable energy sector since 1985, managing the canadian association for renewable energies, the Canadian chapter of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, the Earth Energy Society of Canada, the Solar Energy Society of Canada, as well as contract positions with the Canadian Solar Industries Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association, among others.  He was senior editor for the major renewable energy publications in the UK (RenewableEnergyFocus) and in the US (SolarAccess.com).

He was the programme manager for the UK government's climate security program in Canada, and was trained by Al Gore under The Climate Reality initiative to explain the implications of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.

His strong commitment to the environment was the reason for his selection as a torchbearer in the 2010 Olympic relay.






Sources for data and conversions: