• Home Improvement

Reid Household Signing Off!

By The Reid Household

The Live Net Zero journey has been extremely interesting and rewarding.  We considered ourselves to be fairly aware and progressive about our net zero / emissions-reductions choices before the contest began only to discover there was plenty we hadn’t thought of, a realization that has helped us create a more comfortable home AND will offer future financial savings too.

Our favourite part of the contest was definitely the community engagement / public messaging aspect, which I will touch upon at the end of this post, but initially let’s look at the physical home upgrades.

When we first talked over what home improvements we were planning, or open to at least, there were a few things that we thought put us ahead of the curve:

  • We installed solar panels several years ago.
  • We installed a heat pump far before they were fashionable and a wide-spread home improvement suggestion.
  • We had several older windows replaced.
  • We were very cognizant of time-of-day electricity use charges and were deliberate about using higher-draw appliances after the costs went down for the day.
  • We avoided using the dryer as much as possible, instead using both indoor and outdoor clothes drying lines/racks.
  • We use Bullfrog Power as a way to have our energy use be as green as possible.

It didn’t take long, however, to learn how much more we could still do.  Between the primers the contest organizers provided and learning from the work that other families in the contest did, we quickly realized we wanted to really dive into aiming for net zero.

Some updates are prohibitively expensive, others are more within reach (despite seeming to be a higher price tag) and still others are quite affordable.  One of the things that we were able to take advantage of was both the HER+ program and the accompanying rebates AND the Canada Greener Homes loan program, which required thorough planning and research but provided up to $40000 in interest-free money over a 10 year repayment plan.  Amazing.

Unfortunately more solar panels weren’t an option for our house given that we were already registered in a program to sell to the grid.  We also ruled out the idea of rushing into purchasing an EV, which is something we are eager to do; however, when our existing car dies is a more likely timeline.

However the loan made possible certain other projects, which we believe are significant changes to our house in the battle against climate change. I should mention that our house is 60 years old and hadn’t really been updated much until recently.  So, we successfully:

  • Replaced old single-pane windows with high-end triple-pane windows, resulting in instantly noticeable increased comfort in our main living area.
  • Enhanced our attic insulation by a factor of at least 3, taking it to R60.
  • Spray-foam insulated our crawl space, an area that previously did nothing but feed cold air into the bedrooms above it.
  • Updated our heat pump to a more modern cold climate heat pump that is rated to below -30C.
  • Replaced an older gas-powered hot water tank with a new electric heat pump hot water tank.
  • Replaced our gas-powered furnace with an electric air handler, a unit that filters and pumps the air AND has a back-up heating coil just in case it gets too cold for the heat pump to successfully provide us heat.
  • Caulked the entire exterior of the house, and the interior of the house too.
  • Added foam insulation behind all electrical outlets and switches on outside walls.
  • Added heat-shrink plastic over some of the drafty windows we haven’t replaced yet.
  • Gutted and rebuilt our basement to ensure the best insulation possible—this was something that was not able to be completed before the contest concluded, but we already can feel the basement is more comfortable just from the work to this point.

At the beginning of this post I referenced our enjoyment of spreading the net zero message within our community.  We posted on social media a great deal, both on Facebook and Instagram, but felt it was critical to engage in conversation with people directly. For that we felt we were very successful in engaging people, be it through our local neighbourhood climate action group or through the song rewrites we did for each challenge, and more.  

  • Jen spoke in various places (her church, her local teacher’s union, and her school) about the contest and about efforts to combat climate change we have been part of.  She also engaged in class in a media literacy campaign to spread the word about World Pulses Day on February 10th, and made dal with her students. 
  • Steve led a neighbourhood walk for a large group of interested homeowners who wanted to learn what steps others have taken and what could work for them.  
  • We hosted a virtual concert with the song rewrites we asked people to record. 
  • We had many people tell us that they made changes because of what they learned from us.

Overall we are thrilled to have been part of this contest and to have been inspired by the efforts of the other contestants.  Thanks so much Canadian Geographic!

Written by The Reid Household

Read more of their stories as they vie with the other seven households to reduce their carbon footprint.

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