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Three days to a warmer, more energy-efficient house

Posted by Nola Poirier

Tuesday Feb 3: Vermiculite removal

I feel like I’m in one of those happy home renovation commercials. You know the ones with a couple, radiant in their unsoiled renovation clothes, laughing and flirting, and flopping onto the couch while they take a break from painting or hammering or sanding.

My home renovation clothes are not so clean (I am however wearing the quintessential bandana scarf on my head), and we can’t flop playfully onto our couch as it’s pushed into a corner with all the other living room furniture piled on top of it. But we are renovating once again, and we are happy about it.*

The sun is shining through our south windows – bringing much-welcomed warmth, as our attic is officially empty of all insulation. It is astounding how much heat you lose through the attic. I’m back to having to wear a toque indoors once the sun goes down.

Our house had old Vermiculite insulation buried under batts of pink fiberglass. If you find vermiculite in your house, you don’t want to touch or disturb it, as it may contain asbestos that can become airborne if the Vermiculite is moved.

I had our Vermiculite tested and it did contain asbestos, so we had a company come and seal the house off and remove it all.** After a week out of the house, we moved back in yesterday and now we are madly re-insulating.

* I have been asked to mention that this blog is written solely by me and the views in it (particularly regarding how happy we are while renovating) may not be representative of the feelings of my husband.

** If you have Vermiculite and are having it removed, ensure you hire professionals who are certified by the Workers' Compensation Board to safely remove and dispose of the vermiculite.

Wednesday Feb 4: Upgrading to R50

We didn’t have a ladder until today, so one of us has been scrambling up the brick chimney and squeezing through a gap in the ceiling into the attic, while the other stays below to pass up the insulation batt by batt. And there are A LOT of batts. We are insulating the attic to R50, which has filled our house with bundles of insulation. And some of it got wet when we brought it here from Vancouver, so it’s hung up drying in every room.

Working in the attic is a little cramped, and every time I lift my head from tucking a batt of insulation into the rafters, I seem to bang against nails in the roof. I’m going to start wearing a helmet. 

Thursday Feb 5: Reasons to celebrate

With all the cramped hard work I have described from the past couple of days, you might be wondering, why we are so happy?

Many reasons.

Before we had any of the insulation installed, we already felt good about it. We are using this amazing recycled natural fibre insulation I ordered through Greenworks Building Supply in Vancouver. Dan and Leigh from the shop are very knowledgeable about energy efficiency, and were patient enough to let me fill half their floor space with the order for a few days. I am happy about the better health and environmental benefits of the nontoxic, zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) insulation contents, and the lower carbon footprint of how it was made. As an added bonus, it feels good to touch. No prickles, and no need for masks or gloves.

Another reason to celebrate is the incredible difference in comfort and temperature we can feel in the house already, and we still have more insulation to install. The combination of fiberglass and vermiculite in the attic before had a heat resistance of about R12. Upgrading to a higher R-factor has made the house much cozier, and I’m sure it’s going to make a big difference on our energy bills.

Costs and incentives

The Ultratouch recycled natural fibre insulation I used costs about one third more than using pink fiberglass batts. You can find Ultratouch at green building stores, and even at some Home Depot locations. Another option, for about the same price as fiberglass, is Roxul, a mineral wool insulation made using waste coal slag. Some Roxul insulation is made in B.C.

Provincial rebates (LiveSmart BC) for adding attic insulation are bigger than for insulating any other part of the house. For my zone, South Coastal, I will get a $790 rebate for increasing my attic insulation from R12 to R50. If you live in the Interior/Rural LiveSmart zone, you could save up to $910.

There are also rebates for increasing insulation in cathedral ceilings, walls, and areas exposed to the outside. Insulation is a great way to have year-round energy (and energy bill) savings, keeping you warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

For more information on insulation, read our Add and Upgrade Insulation tip in the Green Your Home guide.

Nola Poirier is a freelance writer and a key contributor to bchydro.com's Green Guides.

Previous posts by Nola Poirier, who lives on the Sunshine Coast:

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Source: BC Hydro News