Homeowner Tips on Energy Efficient Living

Whole House Performance

Congratulations on purchasing your new Energy Efficient home! Now that you’ve moved in, you may be wondering what makes your home unique. Here are some quick facts:

  1. Your home has been designed and built to your Builder’s exacting standards.
  2. Your home has been designed and built around the principles of “Whole House Performance.”
  3. Your home has been third-party tested by a Certified Energy Advisor licenced by Natural Resources Canada.

This is an interactive system between the efficiencies and performance of the following:

  1. Mechanical systems
  2. Thermal envelope and insulation levels
  3. Building envelope and air-tightness
  4. Ventilation requirements
  5. Window performance
  6. Lighting and electrical consumption

Your builder has delivered to you a home with all the essential energy efficiency and healthy living elements.  It is the homeowners’ responsibility to ensure that this balanced system continues to operate as it was designed once you have moved in. This on-going maintenance is no different than the energy you would put into maintaining a car. Some should follow a schedule, some are preventative, and some are just common sense. The following pages will attempt to answer some common questions about your home and provide maintenance tips and guidelines for keeping the system well balanced. We sincerely hope you will enjoy your newly purchased home for many years to come! Welcome home from A&J Energy Consultants.


The basement walls may have blanket insulation with a thermal performance rating of R-20. This blanket was installed to just above the basement floor and has a vapour barrier made of polyethylene covering the fibreglass insulation. After moving in, you may see condensation on the inside of the poly, either on the blanket or between the floor joists above. This is a NORMAL occurrence as the foundation dries and responds to changing humidity levels and climatic conditions. This also means the vapour barrier is doing its job. This usually happens during the summer months when air-conditioning is pumped into the basement.  It is recommended that you run a portable dehumidifier in the basement at least for the first year of occupancy. Keep furniture and boxes away from the outside walls to ensure good air circulation during this drying process.

Heating Systems
Forced Air Furnace

The heating system in your home is provided by a high-efficiency gas furnace. This system is meant to run for long periods of time instead of the “old-style” systems that constantly cycled on and off. The fan is equipped with a high-efficiency electronically commutated motor, which is designed to run continuously. There is no need to worry about the costs as this motor consumes approximately 60% less energy than a conventional PSC motor. The advantage: better air distribution through the entire house.


This system will supply your hot water from a high-efficiency gas boiler and provide heat for forced-air heating through an air-handler.  Hot water from the boiler is circulated through a heat transfer coil in the air-handler and when air is forced through the coil (like the radiator in your car), it is heated and sent through your house. These can be mid to high-velocity systems and are great for confined spaces and moving air through multi-storey units.

Furnace Filters

Maintain your furnace and change the filters regularly. Some manufacturers tell you to change your filter every 3 months; we prefer every 6 weeks depending on lifestyle and other factors. Change your filter more often if you:

  • Have pets
  • Have teenagers
  • Never open your windows
  • Have a lot of people living in the house
  • Live in a construction site
  • See a lot of dust on furniture and floors

The best purchase is a MERV 8 – 12 filter (a higher number is better). These will filter out mould spores, pet dander, and most air-borne particles.  Although more expensive, the trade-off is cleaner air and improved indoor air quality. Not changing these filters regularly will also cause the furnace blower to work harder, reducing air-flow and using more energy. Make sure the arrow on the side of the filter points towards the furnace.


Your gas fireplace will provide comfort and ambience without the mess and fuss of a wood burning unit. There are; however, other significant differences:

  • The units are power-vented through the outside wall and will sometimes feel cold to touch during the winter months
  • The unit has an electronic ignition system which is also sensitive to extreme cold. Think about trying to start your car at -25
  • Have your fireplace inspected once a year by a licenced professional
Ventilation Systems
Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)

The HRV is considered the “Lungs of the House.” It takes warm stale air from the house and vents it outside as “exhaust” air. At the same time, it takes fresh cold “supply” air from outside, where it passes through a heat exchanger and sends it back to the furnace as clean, pre-heated “supply” air.

Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)

This unit is similar to the HRV, except the heat-exchanger core also allows for the transfer of water vapour, resulting in less dehumidification in the house.

The HRV/ERV is interconnected to the furnace blower and provides the following functions:

  • Recirculate: it mixes-up the air in the house and refreshes the air
  • Ventilate: gets rid of stale air and replaces it with cleaner outside air
  • Heat recovery: the HRV saves energy through its heat exchanger
Care of your HRV/ERV:
  • Clean filters regularly, usually seasonally, but again, it depends on the living environment. There are two filters, one located on the exhaust side and the other on the intake side. These are washable in warm water and will dry overnight.
  • Make sure there is no snow covering the outside exhaust and intake vents.
  • Don’t turn off the unit! Your house is built tight to reduce drafts, air leakage and condensation. Your HRV/ERV is your source of fresh air. Turning it off may create moisture air quality  problems inside the home. 

FACT: Studies have shown that he indoor air-quality of the average home is at least 7 times worse than the outside air. Running your HRV will ensure a high indoor air quality

Exhaust Fans

The fan should be turned on when using bathrooms, especially after showering. We recommend running the fan continuously for at least 20 minutes after showering or bathing. The fans are vented to the outdoors and remove excess humidity from the room. Not running the fan may result in:

  • Condensation on windows and mirrors
  • Mould growth in showers, tiles and grout
  • Poor indoor air quality

The fan cover should be removed and cleaned regularly with mild dish soap. This is a simple process where the cover is pulled straight down and released from the metal clips… Make sure the fan is turned OFF before attempting to remove the cover.

 Do not get water into the electrical components!

Water Heater

The water heater in your home could be a storage tank style or an instantaneous (on demand) unit. These have the following features:

  • High-efficiency condensing type
  • Works well with all water quality types (hard or soft)
  • Low maintenance required
  • Tanks have little waiting time for hot water
  • Instantaneous (hot water on demand) have an unlimited supply of hot water but take a little longer to get to the tap
  • Safe. Power vented exhaust and can not backdraft
Drain Water Heat Recovery

Your home may be equipped with a Drain Water Heat Recovery pipe. This pipe is a heat-exchanger where hot water going down the drainpipe preheats the cold water in the outside coil. The pre-heated water goes to the water heater reducing the energy required to heat the water. A few points:

  • The heat recovery only works when running the shower
  • Water heating can account for up to 25% of total energy consumption
  • A Drain Water Heat Recovery pipe may recover up to 40% of the heat energy from your shower
  • The energy savings are depend on lifestyle and the number of occupants using showers
  • This system requires absolutely no servicing

Most of the light bulbs in your house are either Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). These bulbs use a fraction of traditional incandescent bulbs’ energy and although more expensive, they have a quick pay-back period. Here are a few tips on bulb replacement:

  • When a CFL burns-out, drop it off at your local recycling centre or a store that will recycle them because CFLs contain small amounts of mercury
  • Not all bulbs are created equal. For replacement, buy ENERGY STAR certified bulbs as they last longer and are of better quality.
  • Both LEDs and CFLs have different spectrums from cool white (bluish) to warm white (almost yellow). Choose the one that works best for you.
  • LED replacements are more expensive than CFLs but last a very long time (10,000 hours +). They make a great alternative to traditional 50-watt halogens pot lights bulbs and consume 5 – 7 watts/bulb.

The windows in your home are high-quality, energy-efficient and have been chosen with your comfort in mind. They have been professionally installed and sealed to the framed opening with urethane spray-foam. They require very little care except for the occasional cleaning. Windows are made to be opened, so don’t hesitate to let some fresh air in!

Windows are the most susceptible part of the house to heat loss and under the right conditions; condensation may result. Condensation on windows usually means that there is high humidity in proximity of the windows; however, under extreme cold weather conditions, some condensation may be unavoidable.

Ways to reduce condensation:

  • Run the HRV and bathroom fans to reduce humidity
  • Run the range hood when cooking
  • Make sure the dryer vent isn’t obstructed
  • Keep bedroom doors slightly open to encourage air circulation
  • If you install certain types of window treatments, such as California shutters, etc., don’t close them all the way as this will reduce air-flow over the windows. If condensation appears, open the window coverings
  • Don’t turn the thermostat too low as this will increase the moisture in the home and promote condensation
  • Remove snow from basement window areas

Remember: High indoor humidity + cold surfaces = condensation

High household humidity and condensation in your home are usually a result of lifestyle choices.

Building Envelope 

Your home has been built with a tight building envelope to reduce drafts and heat-loss and improve occupant comfort. Your home has been tested with a “Blower Door Test” to ensure your builders’ exacting standards. This is also a requirement for ENERGY STAR® certified homes. A tight building envelope, along with superior window performance, mechanical system efficiencies and insulation levels, all work together to provide a reduction in energy consumption prescribed by the Ontario Building Code. Any changes to the building envelope or mechanical systems will change the designed whole-house performance and may have unintended consequences.

Here are some tips:

  • Installing shelves or hanging pictures: buy a stud finder. Don’t put random holes in the drywall as this will result in air leakage; aim for the studs
  • Inspect weather stripping around doors regularly
  • For renovations or finishing basements: hire an expert experienced in energy-efficient construction.

Your exterior finishes have been chosen to provide a durable and maintenance-free finish. Please remember; Water is the Enemy! Keep water away from your house with these simple tips:

  • Inspect chalking around windows and vents every spring.
  • Keep gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and properly connected, so the run-off goes away from the house
  • Do not water your house; keep that swing and sway away from the bricks and siding.
  • Shovel snow away from basement windows, not towards them

The ENERGY STAR name and symbol are administered and promoted in Canada by Natural Resources Canada and are trademarks registered in Canada by the United States Environmental Protection Agency