Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What eco-upgrades would you do with $1000

This is a repost of a 2012 article that Tyler Hermanson wrote for Scotia Bank's Eco magazine and the Canada Green Building Council - Alberta Chapters Newsletter. 

Q: What eco-upgrades would you do with a $1000?

A:

Good question $1000 can go a long way, no not far at all depending on how you look at it.  Its a great threshold since many of us can justify $1000.  I once had over $800 in just change when I finally sat down and rolled it. 

In all the performance upgrades we recommenced when working with clients we find its always balance between good smart choices vs. those that are exciting (solar, geothermal, net zero etc).  Some of the best improvements are simple, boring and people glaze over them. 

Also as with all performance upgrades wether a new home or a renovation, there are NO silver bullets.  No single solution will instantly create a high performance home.  Its about many small steps and pieces that fit together to create a efficient, healthy durable home at a reasonable price. 

So with a $1000:

$75  -  Swap out my ligthbulds to Energy Star certified CFL (Compact Florescent Light)  bulbs, or LED fixtures.  There is alot of hype out there about CFLs, but a good quality CFL bulb is really a great choice.  I don't recommend using any but EnergyStar rated, as these bulbs have been tested to produce good colour, quick start up and long life compared to cheap non-rated. 

$300 - New low flow toilet.  If yo've still got a large 12 L per Flush toilet this is a no brainer.  Good toilets now use 4.8 LPF or less, if you still think 6 LPF is low flow your out of touch.  Great impact for the environment easy to install yourself. 

$100 - Clean and tune the furnace.  Bring in a service company to make sure your equipment is running at as a efficiently as possible is important, even if its an older units.  Testing for combustion leakage is important for safety and clean ducts and a new filter is great for indoor air quality.   Your furnace will likely be quieter too.   When the time comes you can upgrade your furnace to a high efficiency condensing model.

$50 - By a CO detector.  Many people still die each year due to combustion spillage from furnaces and fireplaces.  These easy to buy and install monitors are now code required for new homes but likely aren't in peoples existing homes.  They should be located on the ceiling near your bedrooms where warm CO gases will collect first before settling. 

$75 - Programable Thermostat.   Consumer Reports says swapping out and properly setting your thermostat can save up to $180/ year.  Its important to buy one that is easily set up and not to set back the temperature too far.  2'C to 5'C is lots, if you notice increased condensation on your windows you've setback to far as the temperature goes down the humidity goes up in homes. 

$200 + one case of beer.  New seals and weather striping for the house.  Buy a few cans of caulking, some foam tape and new weather stripping for the door and have a sealing night.  On a cold or windy night you should be able to feel the drafts where you need to seal up.   Typical homes are very leaky, warm air literally blown out of the cracks and gaps and has to be heated again by your furnace, sometimes as much as 14 times a hour in very leaky homes.  In older homes with induced draft furnaces or hot water tanks ensure that you don't seal the combustion air source which your mechanical room needs for proper operation.  

So much for a short answer, but for the average homeowner these would be my recommendations.