He huffed and he puffed, and he blew my house around: Stoked on my free Energy Diet assessment

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
October 19th, 2011

The fan stuffed into my front door roared into life, sucking out air at a rate “equivalent to 55 kph winds hitting your house on all sides,” energy assessor Bryce Eberle told me over the din.

Oh my, my! Cracks around windows, doors, and electrical outlets suddenly tickled my cheeks. We lit some incense to watch the smoke blow this way and that as we toured the house. Down in the basement, spiders hung on tight to their billowing webs as strong breezes hit them from all sides.

“Don’t forget this one,” Bryce laughed as he finally tracked down a mysterious air current we had first felt on the far side of the room.

This was super. Major improvements can be made to this old house with little more than caulk, weather-stripping, and spray-in foam.

In my defense, I roughly knew that already, but now someone else was going to help me pay for the fix! And the fan illustrated graphically how even the smallest crack can leak heat. I was already feeling motivated to strap on the tool-belt.

The assessment wasn’t just playing with my hairdo in front of the high-powered fan, however, fun as that was. It started with Bryce and his wife Nicky taking surprisingly detailed measurements of the house, noting materials, vents, and other information that will soon be entered into a computer program to calculate my house’s energy performance and EnerGuide rating.

We chatted while we marched around: Bryce and Nicky are seriously committed to sustainability and love what they do. The job takes Bryce through a lot of homes, and he’s happiest when the owner also takes a genuine interest in the assessment.

Bryce and Nicky are about my age and motivated by the same urgent sense that our communities must come together, and soon, to face the coming onslaught of economic, environmental, and social pressures.

“That’s why I’m running for council in Kamloops,” Bryce said. “They need some new blood, some young energy to push them towards sustainability. There’s one councillor whose been on for 30 years: she should really step down and let someone new in, but I don’t think she knows the damage she’s doing.”

I laughed, mentioned how I was also running—I’ve since stepped down—and told him about one of our long-standing councillors whose impact is not always positive.

“Hmm,” Bryce mused as he poked his head into the attic. “Vermiculite, probably from the Montana mine. It’s likely to have asbestos in it. You’ve got two choices: either add insulation on top without disturbing it at all, or get in some professionals to clean it out entirely first.”

Yup, I’d heard that from another inspector too. Looks like I’ll blow some insulation on top, much as I’d love to have the old stuff sucked out. It makes me think about how strongly the present is linked to the past.

Until now, I had visions of tearing down my siding—all five layers of it, no doubt dating back to Rossland’s gold rush—reinsulating, tacking on blue foam, taping it with tuck tape, adding vapour barrier for good measure, and tacking up new siding. This had “expensive” and “time-consuming” written all over it, as I know from having done just that on a friend’s house a few years back.

Looking at the costs and benefits now, even if I redid the whole house like that, I’d only be able to get funding support of up to $3375, far less than the project’s cost and not likely to yield a huge energy benefit.

Now I’m starting to think in terms of targeting fast fixes and easy grant money. For example, there’s $190 just for hitting my “target” air-tightness in a follow-up fan test in March, and another $740 if I beat that target by 25 per cent. That’s lots of money for caulk and foam.

I’ll have to wait until Bryce gets back with his report, but it’s likely I’ll qualify for some hefty grants to insulate the walls and header of my basement—up to $2800 for thick R23 walls or, more likely, up to $1500 for R10 worth of rigid foam—and up to $1500 to blow insulation into the attic.

It’s the old builder’s saying, “good boots and a good hat.” We’re all about the dress-up party in this town, and my house is no exception. Bring on that energy report and lets check out the new wardrobe!

Ten days remain to get your free energy assessment, part of a complete “Energy Diet” program designed to make it simple for homeowners to apply for federal, provincial, and FortisBC grants. Register soon online, or at city hall with FortisBC community ambassador Shelley Hastie.

The Energy Diet pilot project is unique to Rossland. It was spearheaded by the Sustainability Commission’s Energy Task Force and made possible by FortisBC, the Columbia Basin Trust, and the Nelson and District Credit Union.

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