The Carlington Summit
by Sharon Boddy.

If your home is too drafty, you're probably wasting energy and your hard earned money may be flying right out the window. Home heating, whether it's with natural gas, oil, or electricity, also puts greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Alan MacDonald of the Main Street area in Ottawa knew he was losing energy in his home and was thinking about renovating to add extra insulation. He contacted EnviroCentre to arrange for its Home Comfort Service, which is based on EnerGuide for Houses, a federal program initiated by Natural Resources Canada.

Jonathan Ham, EnviroCentre's certified home inspector, met with MacDonald last month. Ham first inspected the house from top to bottom to determine its size, the type of heating system and insulation levels, the type of windows, even the water flow in the shower head and the toilet.

Then the "blower door" test was performed. A calibrated fan was placed in the front door to depressurize the house and show exactly where the drafts were in MacDonald's home. The blower door test, Ham explained, also shows where a house is too "tight." A home that is too airtight may have moisture build up problems causing mold and mildew that can be health hazards and weaken the structure of the house.

During the visual inspection, Ham had pinpointed the most likely culprit of heat loss: a loose hatch that leads from the second floor to the attic. The blower door test confirmed that a very strong draft was coming through the hatch, sucking warm air up through the attic and straight outside. Ham then ran all the data collected through a software program. A full report is usually ready within a few days' time and gives the homeowner the energy consumption of their home and suggests priorities for where and how improvements can be made.

MacDonald was relieved to find that his biggest air loss was the attic hatch as it is relatively inexpensive to fix. Ham also recommended a new furnace and sealing the other drafts found by the blower door test. "Those changes alone would likely cut his bills in half," he said, saving much more than the $150 cost of the service. In fact, of the 126 home inspections done to date in the Region, each homeowner has saved an average of $400 in annual energy costs.

If you're interested in an energy check up for your house, call the non-profit EnviroCentre at 244-5624, or you can book an appointment online at their web site: http://www.envirocentre.ca.