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Old house doesn’t have to be drafty

by Joan Churchill


Joan Churchill welcomes you to her home renovation series.

​In early 2010, I bought a fixer house. A little pre-war bungalow with a nice backyard for the dogs and a list of sweat equity projects for me. It needed work, but on my budget I had to compromise. The house had potential and I had a dream to convert this unloved former rental into my own unique interpretation of a comfortable, stylish and energy efficient home.
It would be almost a year before I could start any major renovations, so after taking possession, I hung up my cherished photos and art work and got to work making the drafty old house as comfortable as I could. I started with a programmable thermostat and a carbon monoxide detector given to me as a housewarming gift, and a window film kit I treated myself to for sealing up the single pane windows. I spent one of my first evenings in my new home taping up window film and sealing drafts around the window trim with a tube of caulk.
Installing my programmable thermostat was easy, and by doing so, I knew I could save money on my heating bills. I’m pretty stingy when it comes to spending money on intangible things, like heat.  I’d rather spend it on a designer sweater and wear it to keep warm instead of turning the thermostat up a notch. And who wants to waste heat (and money) having the furnace run all night to stay warm?  I’ve got two furry dogs and a comfy duvet that do the job for free. The programmable thermostat ensures I don’t accidently go to bed or to work with the heat turned up past 17 C.

Filtering the savings

Speaking of heat, did you know that furnaces have filters? I don’t think the former residents did, because it didn’t look like it had been changed. Ever. It was caked in a black dense hard layer of soot, dust and whatnots. And the furnace was almost 20 years old. In my opinion that old filter was the cause of the furnace choking, sputtering and dying those first few nights. Once I replaced it and had the furnace serviced and inspected by a natural gas contractor, the furnace worked for the rest of the winter without incident.

I’m now into year four of my home’s transformation. And it all began with a window film kit, a tube of caulk and a trip to Canadian Tire for some fresh new furnace filters. Renovations have been slow, but they’ve also been steady. I always have a project on the go; some to make the place pretty, but many to make it more energy efficient and comfortable. And I’m still a few years away from finishing.

Every month I’ll tell you a new story about my energy efficiency renovations, like the time I went tankless, or the discoveries I found in the attic before blowing in the new insulation. Next month, watch for Creative ways to finance a new furnace.

My savings journal

Did my simple low cost and no cost energy saving activities result in savings? I compared my February 2010 natural gas usage with the usage by the previous occupants for February 2009 and 2008. Sure, it was on average more than two degrees warmer compared to 08 and 09, but as I say, the proof is in the savings.

February 2008   15.1 GJ
Average max temp – 7.6

February 2009  14.5 GJ
Average max temp – 7.1

February 2010  7.4 GJ
Average max temp – 9.7

Joan Churchill spends her days writing about energy efficiency for FortisBC. In her spare time, she’s renovating her house and taking care of a houseful of fur kids.