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© Copyright 2006 Work-4 Projects Ltd.

Renovation Energy Upgrades

By Jon Eakes

Many contractors have difficulty selling project upgrades that are not "sexy" design elements. Appropriate piggy-backing upgrades can often save your client money, make them more comfortable and increase your profit on the job. The upgrade sales job is not that difficult if you are prepared to show the client the advantages of improving something while you are working in that area anyway - hence the term piggy-backing.

Re-roofing - CMHC research has shown that light coloured shingles have a greater attic cooling effect for air conditioning than increased attic ventilation.
Creating proper roof overhangs to give summer shading to south facing windows will make a more comfortable house with less air-conditioning.

Bathroom - renovation A bathtub on an exterior wall should have a sheet of foam insulation on the wall, and perhaps polyurethane shot on the underside of the tub itself. A small job like this can be done with a two-component store-bought foam spray kit called Spray N'Fill.

Siding - Always evaluate the possibility of adding an inch or two of rigid insulation under the new siding. It is the siding job that is expensive, not the foam.

Open walls - Think about using an air sealing foam like Icynene rather than batt insulation. You get your perfect air barrier, even in a very old house, with no extra work.
Consider the installation of an HRV ventilation system. While the walls are open, the cost is minimal and the benefits are fantastic as you go about making the rest of the house more efficient and airtight.

Staged Renovations - If your client is planning more renovations in a year or two, see if running some plumbing, electrical or ducting rough-ins through your present job might make the next renovation an easy continuation. Always think about running communication wiring through renovations that would be difficult to open up later.

Thermostats - Always suggest upgrading thermostats to electronic thermostats for both energy conservation and comfort. On forced air furnaces, they give better temperature control and the possibility of setback programming. On old electric baseboard radiators, wall-mounted electronic thermostats transform an old technology into a fantastically even heat source. They are commonly available in full 220-volt models, eliminating the need for a transformer or relay. In Quebec, this conversion is even subsidized by Hydro Quebec.

Windows - When faced with the standard barrage of questions from homeowners about windows, give them the best independent publication available on the subject: Consumer's Guide to Buying Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors by Natural Resources Canada. You can download a copy, or send your client to the on-line interactive copy at www.oee.NRCan. gc.ca/publications, where they can enter the keyword "windows". That will give them an objective understanding about all the upgrading options available for windows.

Landscaping - When major landscaping is happening, this may be the time to dig around the foundation and improve drainage with a Platon or Delta membrane, perhaps even adding some exterior basement insulation. The plants or hardscaping elements are more expensive than the insulation.

Piggy-backing is cost effective when the major part of a job, like opening the walls, is already done because of another project. It is one of those "while you are at it" things that really makes sense and often costs very little. Rather than emphasizing how much extra this will cost, point out how much they will save by doing it now rather than later. HB


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