How does Calgary’s winter climate affect home comfort?
Calgary and Alberta do of course have a fairly extreme climate. We’re well into the minus before you even factor in wind chill. If our home’s building envelope isn’t doing its job properly, if we don’t have good enough insulation or our windows and doors are letting in drafts, we will definitely feel it in terms of comfort and in our pockets when it comes to our energy bills. This is something all homeowners need to take into account when it’s time to renovate, and they should focus on the areas that are most likely to make the biggest difference.
What issues will you see with your windows in particular?
There’s some pretty easy to spot signs when it comes to windows and knowing when it’s time to replace them. The drafts and cold are a big one. With older, single pane windows, you just have to stand next to them sometimes to feel the cold coming in, even with the heating on full blast inside. Condensation is also something to watch out for. Condensation on the inside of the home is completely normal and is a sign that your windows are working the way they should. If you can draw a smiley face in it, then don’t worry. But if you have double pane windows and the condensation is between the two panes, that means there’s a problem and that sealed unit isn’t sealed anymore.
What kind of difference will we see with an older home when it comes to dealing with an Alberta winter?
Standards are much higher nowadays. Homes are built so that you shouldn’t need the heating on high every hour of the day and you shouldn’t need to run your A/C constantly in summer. With older homes, and we aren’t just talking 50+ years here but only a couple of decades, those standards weren’t there. And even as standards were improving, over time everything deteriorates and eventually needs replacing, and this applies the same to elements of the home as it does to anything else. When it gets as cold as here, it’s easy to see how big of a problem heat loss can be with older homes.
What parts of the home should we be looking at to keep ourselves comfortable?
There’s a lot of different aspects of the home that work together to keep you comfortable and protected from the elements. We think of it as the house as a system, everything plays a role. We’re looking at windows and doors, insulation, heating and air conditioning systems, siding, and ventilation. Improving these helps in winter and in summer too. You should look into what’ll make the most difference with your home.
We mentioned all the elements of home comfort and efficiency earlier, there’s a lot. How do we know what the best solution for our home is and what to focus on first?
It’s definitely worth investigating to see what change will have the biggest impact when you come to renovate. These are significant investments in your home. We can’t always do everything at once, as much as we may like to. We need to prioritize, and there are experts who can help us do that. You can speak to an energy advisor who will look at all the different elements of your home and help you make the most informed decision. That way, you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
And we see the team making windows and doors in the plant, what goes into new windows that sets them apart from older ones?
New windows are very different and they’ve come a long way, especially when you’re comparing single-pane windows with double or triple pane ones. Modern window coatings are great at reflecting heat back to its source. In summer this keeps us cooler, and in a cold Calgary winter it’s going to do the opposite and keep the heat in our homes. You also have gas fillings such as argon which insulate the glass unit and help prevent heat getting from one pane to the other and out of the home. Then there’s vinyl multi-chamber frames which are much more efficient than their aluminum counterparts and also help prevent that heat loss. There’s a lot of elements here that work together to keep you comfortable, just as there are in the house itself. An old single pane window will lose heat 10 to 20 times more quickly than an insulated wall beside it. If you look at an old window during a Calgary winter and check its thermal performance, you’ll see the worst areas are the glass near the frame. We’ll sometimes see ice buildup, and this is a good and very clear visual indicator of just how poorly they’re performing and demonstrates the kind of difference the newer window technology makes.
We’ve talked about Albertan winters and keeping comfortable in the home. What about in the summer?
When we talk about home comfort and the house as a system, this should apply all year round. Summers are getting hotter as we’ve seen the last few years, and energy efficiency improvements can really help you maintain that level of comfort. A lot of people also think of insulation as something that keeps you warm, but it prevents heat transfer and in summer this works in the opposite way, reducing the amount of heat from the sun that gets through your walls and into your home. Those glass coatings that keep heat in during winter will reflect heat in summer and keep your rooms cooler.
We could see savings on energy bills in winter, will they save on bills in the summer too?
Energy efficient upgrades may seem like a large initial investment, but in the long run they do save money by cutting down your energy bills in terms of heating, and in summer there’s much less need for A/C. When you think about these savings throughout the course of the year, you really see why we think of home renovations as an investment and why so many owners are eager to do their own.
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