11 Must Haves for Energy Efficient Homes in Canada and the Northern U.S.
North America’s long-cold, sub-zero winters demand energy-efficient homes that save Canadian and American homeowners money while keeping their families warm and comfortable.
The latest proposal for Canada's National Building Code (NBC) emphasizes energy performance by mandating that contractors achieve specific energy performance targets — guiding the Canadian construction industry towards higher performance levels expected by 2032. Builders may choose material and methods based on economic circumstances as long as the final structure earns the required overall energy-efficiency score. However, for homeowners in Canada and the Northern U.S. to ensure manageable heating and cooling bills, a comfortable and healthy indoor environment, and a long-lasting and durable house, they should include these eleven energy-efficient elements in their homes.
1. Continuous Insulation
An energy-efficient home design needs continuous insulation (CI) throughout all components of the building envelope to stop thermal bridging. A thermal bridge allows energy and heat to flow through it quicker than the surrounding spaces, lessening the wall system's effective R-value. The 2017 National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (section 3.2.4.) mandates the building envelope's design and construction include a continuous air barrier system to control the air leakage into and out of the conditioned space. CI prevents air leakage in a home, saving homeowners money and energy by reducing mechanism ventilation, heating, and cooling costs.
Fox Blocks ICF Provide Continuous Insulation
For new energy-efficient home projects, builders can quickly and simply apply CI by utilizing the Fox Blocks ICFs wall system. Fox Blocks ICF, with an R-value of 23, ensures an energy-efficient, high-performing home with continuous insulation.
2. Thermal Mass Building Products
Builders and architects of energy-efficient houses in Canada and the northern U.S. recognize and include high thermal mass materials, such as Fox Blocks ICFs, in the home's design, particularly in the above- and below-grade walls. High thermal mass materials absorb and store heat energy and stabilize temperature shifts within a house by lowering the heat transfer rate. These high mass walls contribute to lowering the operating cycles of heating systems resulting in yearly utility savings.
3. Air and Moisture Barrier
An air and moisture barrier stops moisture (both in the air and from leaks and rain, etc.( from penetrating and accumulating in the wall system), critical to designing an energy-efficient home. Keeping water out of the wall assembly stops the growth of mold. Mold can significantly degrade the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and structural integrity of a house. Air tightness of the building envelope allows for more efficiency for the heating systems, plus provides better control over the IEQ.
Fox Blocks for Moisture Control
With a waterproofing membrane and a dependable drainage system, Fox Blocks produce energy-efficient walls with moisture control. Fox Blocks' solid continuous monolithic concrete walls, with a perm rating below 1.0, control moisture intrusion and accumulation in the wall, protecting the home's air quality and the wall systems' integrity.
4. Insulated Below-Grade Walls
Contractors and architects of energy-efficient homes will separate the house from the ground with a concrete foundation and a continuous layer of rigid foam insulation below the slab. High thermal mass concrete holds radiant energy and keeps a home dry and warm.
Fox Blocks ICF's Create Energy-Efficient, Below-Grade Basement Walls
Fox Blocks ICFs, along with a waterproofing product, provide durability and insulation for a below-grade wall, stopping thermal bridging, lessening heat loss through the foundation, and contributing towards a comfortable and healthy IEQ.
5. Insulated Roofs
Insulated roofs lower energy needs during the cold winter and hot summers — improving indoor comfort and lengthening the roof's service life. During the cold winter, heat rises in a house, warming the roof and melting the snow, which leads to ice dams, water-intrusion, and condensation – all which compromise the integrity of a roof. Furthermore, improper or inadequate roofing insulation can trap warm-moist air, leading to mold. Mold can ruin the roof and negatively impact the health of the home's occupants.
6. The Heating System
In Canada, a home's heating system accounts for 61.6 percent of a house's energy use. Canadian and American energy-efficient homes should include ENERGY STAR certified heating equipment (like boilers, dehumidifiers, heat pumps, furnaces, smart thermostats) that reduce energy use, saving long-term money. To ensure a heating system’s performance, service the system annually, and clean and replace filters regularly.
Energy-efficient, air-tight houses utilize energy recovery ventilation systems to manage ventilation by transferring energy from conditioned air going out to fresh incoming air, thereby reducing energy loss in the home. Spot ventilation, like exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen, along with natural ventilation, also contributes towards ventilation for an energy-efficient home. Energy recovery ventilation systems also control ventilation by preventing pollutants (like volatile organic compounds, radon, and formaldehyde) from becoming trapped in a home.
8. ENERGY STAR®-Certified Appliances - Washers, Refrigerators, Stoves
The average Canadian home uses 13.6% of its energy on household appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and washing machines. Therefore, Canadian and northern U.S. energy-efficient homes should install appliances with an ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation — products that save you energy and money and lessen your carbon footprint. For example, ENERGY Star fridges and freezers use 10% less energy, on average and an ENERGY STAR certified washing machine uses 25% less energy and 33% less water than a standard model.
9. Create Net-Zero Homes With Renewable Energy Sources
Net-Zero houses generate as much energy as they use by applying renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, wind system, small hybrid-electric system, or microhydropower. In Canada, renewable energy sources contribute 16 percent of the total energy supply, with wind and solar providing the fastest-growing sources. Renewable energy will reduce, if not eliminate, a home's energy bills.
10. Glazing Systems
Energy-efficient doors, windows, and skylights provide warmth and light ventilation, along with financial and energy savings to a homeowner. Canada's energy-efficient homes must include ENERGY STAR® certified windows, doors, and skylights designed especially for the Canadian climate.
11. Energy-Efficient Water Heater
Water heating contributes to 19.3 percent of a home's energy costs - one of the largest energy expenses in a Canadian home. Installing an ENERGY STAR certified water heater will cut your electricity bill and lessen your carbon footprint. In Canada and the northern U.S., homeowners can select from several ENERGY STAR certified products: heat pumps, water heaters, solar water heaters, storage tank water heaters, tankless water heaters, and commercial gas water heaters.
Why Build an Energy-Efficient Home in North America?
Energy-efficient homes save homeowners money and protect the environment. They also keep families warm, comfortable, and healthy. An energy-efficient design preserves the integrity of a house and increases its lifespan and value. An energy-efficient home's significant features include ENERGY STAR certified products, renewable energy sources, and materials that ensure a moisture-resistant, tight building envelope, like Fox Blocks ICF's.
Please contact Fox Blocks professionals today for more information on building durable, energy-efficient homes in Canada and the northern United States.