Posted by: righthandblink | February 11, 2009

No More Heating Bills . . . EVER!

No More Heating Bills . . . EVER!

Are you concerned about the high cost of heating your home? If you are a pensioner or if you are going to retire soon, one of the main things you are going to worry about is the energy consumption of your house. You will be on a fixed income and your energy bills don’t care.

The following is a short version of a presentation called “The Economics of Energy”. Energy is the lifeblood of everything we do. The World is faced with dwindling supplies of fossil fuels and we have an addiction to oil. But our addiction is a highly solvable problem. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for us not to do anything about it because it appears too complex a problem. But complex issues like energy can be understood by everybody. Most people are smart enough to get the basics. And the basics are what you need to start making sensible decisions.

Here are the basics. The best solution is greater efficiency in our use of energy. We must conserve. But the hardest part is knowing where to start. Getting an ecoENERGY audit performed on your house is a good place to start. It will help you to start to understand your house the fact that your house operates as a system. This is so important that we believe that it should be taught in schools. When we grow up, we find that we know nothing about the largest investment any of us make in our lives.

There are four parts to the house system: the building envelope, the outside environment, the mechanical system, and the occupants. Let’s figure out where should you focus. You have no control over the outside environment. The mechanical system is sized for the building envelope. There is really no control over the lifestyles of the occupants. The ONLY thing you can control is the design of the Building Envelope.

The Building Envelope or shell is composed of: basement walls and floors, above-grade walls, the roof, and the windows and doors. There are retrofitting opportunities that can be done on your house by simply upgrading certain parts of your house to keep the heat in. This means adding insulation, caulking and weatherstripping. Improving or replacing windows and doors. Improving the heating system.

Air-leakage control is the single most important retrofit activity. Because most houses are not airtight then you must realize that your heating dollars go to heating the outside. How big is the hole in your wall? The average Canadian house has a “hole in the wall” or Effective Leakage Area (ELA) of more than 16 inches in diameter or 1 to 2 square feet.

Even knowing all the retrofitting ideas can be confusing because how do you choose what to do? Where do you spend your money for the most best result? How effective are these retrofitting opportunities when you still end up with a heating bill? R-2000 houses are 80 percent efficient but that’s not good enough. You still get a heating bill. No matter how you look at it retrofitting should be done with the goal to minimize or even eliminate the ongoing costs of energy. Heat loss evaluations can help you to determine what has to be modified to improve the efficiency of your house.

So why don’t you efficiently retrofit your house, heat it with solar power, and get off of the electrical power grid? Better yet, why don’t you build a new house that is designed so that you will never have any heating bills? Why? Because it costs too much. Right? Does it really . . . . let’s face it, people don’t really know how much it would cost? Do you?

There is one thing you should know. Most of us know what the energy costs are for our houses. In 2000 Stats Canada found that the average homeowner with a family of 4 living in a single detached house spends about $3,000 per year on energy costs. Those costs are broken down to about 82 percent for thermal (hot water and heating) and the other 18 percent is electrical.

We would like to make a point here. It is important to note that we have been educated to look at things backwards. If it costs too much, we don’t want it. It’s called the “Wal-Mart mentality.” We don’t look at the life-time costs of things that we purchase, especially the larger ticket items.

So let’s do the math. Eight-two percent of $3,000 equals $2,460 per year. Prorated over the span of a 25-year mortgage that’s $61,000, with no allowance for interest, inflation, equipment replacement or maintenance, nor allowing for any increase in energy costs. If we allow a meager 5 percent increase per annum, the prorated cumulative costs of thermal energy alone is $123,279 over that 25-year period. In 2000, it’s like paying for your house twice. However, in 2004 alone, electricity rates went up 19 percent and natural gas rates went up 29 percent. Dare you prorate your accumulated costs with those increases! Still can’t afford it? You can’t afford not to do it!

In Scandinavia, which is at the same latitude as Ontario, their building code requires R50 walls and R70 ceilings. There must be a reason for it. The Ontario Building Code only requires R20 walls and R40 ceilings. That’s what’s called conventional construction. It will cost you at least four times more to retrofit and add renewable energy to your existing house built with conventional construction.

Don’t want to be bothered! I don’t blame you. We are so accustomed to just sitting around and having the comfort of adjusting the thermostat. Well, according to our Federal Government, and other sources, by 2010 we are going to start running out of natural gas in Canada. Shortly thereafter it’s going to be rationed.

One point about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Should there be an shortage of natural gas in the Maritimes and we wanted to cut shipments of natural gas to the United States so that we could provide for the Maritimes, that is illegal. NAFTA does NOT allow Canadians to cut shipments of natural gas to the United States even in cases of emergency. That’s illegal under NAFTA.

So here’s what you do. Build a house with ICF block, designed with passive solar, add radiant floor heating, thermal solar panels and a storage tank in the basement, and voila! . . . No More Heating Bills . . . EVER! And the best part is that the money you save from all those energy bills will pay for the up-front costs of installing your renewable solar energy system!


Renewable, Green and Healthy . . . for a Sustainable Tomorrow!

© 2016, Right Hand Blink



  1. I call this instant gratification mentality! Industry drives people to consume more and the best way to do so it is to promote fast rewards leading to overconsumption and since people can’t afford it then we produce cheap stuff that doesn’t last long. Voila we got Wallmart!

    From the building code perspective I think it is insane what it is allowed to build in cold Canada. Buildings are being built from “paper” in a country where minus 35C is not a rear phenomenon. This is unheard in Europe where they have much warmer climate.

    After my first year living in Canada I retuned for a visit to Lithuania and one interesting question was posed to me: “Is it true that when a car hits the house the car goes through the house?” Well of course as houses are built from “paper”. They couldn’t believe they thought it was just built for a purpose of the movie.

    So when we talk about energy we are spending lots of money on heating paper card boxes. If we build proper houses as David talks in his article we would eliminate number of issues: energy costs, better fire prevention, noise, buildings would last longer and would contribute to sustainable environment. This all means lots of $$$ in savings long term but higher costs upfront.

    I live in a purpose built two level duplex and I was so surprised to learn that separation of the flooring is not sound proof so I can hear my tenant below snore! This is absolutely ridiculous. And this is not only my house it is like that in every building. Even in condos. I lived in one where I could hear my neighbour in my living room what she was talking in her living room.

    So we have laws to prevent fire asking landlords to put smoke detectors, 20min fire rated windows and doors. How about changing a building code to built a house that will feel and act like one???

    My father build a house in Lithuania for himself with walls built from cement, with roof that will last over 100 years and heating system that costs hundreds not thousands a year to heat it and he nor my mother have to put on sweaters to keep warm. While I live in a well off country Canada and I have to move my bed from the wall because I feel a draft, wear sweaters so my bills don’t eat my disposable income and hear my neighbour snore. Am I well off?


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