Although typically requiring more repair and restoration if they haven’t been maintained, many older houses not only have more charm, but are also made of solid wood and “built to last,” says April.
“Someone has to take care of them. Heritage properties don’t look after themselves,” she adds.
So when the couple and their three children moved from Halifax to Sackville (New Brunswick) last spring, it’s not all that surprising they chose a 150-year-old Victorian farmhouse overlooking the Tantramar marsh as their new home – even though they were well aware they had their work cut out for them.
Far from energy efficient and with plenty of restoration work to be completed on the home, the couple knew they would be kept busy over the next few months transforming their new house to not only make it more comfortable but to also reduce the high heating costs that came with the aging structure.
Over the next five or six months, the family took a top-to-bottom approach to make their home more efficient. Starting with replacing their home’s electric baseboards with an energy efficient central heating system to installing new windows and adding spray foam insulation to the basement stone walls and blown-in insulation to the attic, the extensive upgrades have had a significant impact.
In fact, all their efforts have earned them provincial recognition. Jeff and April were recently chosen as the recipients of the Premier’s Energy Efficiency Champion Award (Residential Sector) for their impressive retrofit, which improved their home’s EnerGuide rating by 40 points and reduced their energy consumption by over 60 per cent.
The awards, which were presented to 13 recipients across the province during a ceremony in May, were created by Efficiency NB to recognize innovation and leadership in energy efficiency in New Brunswick.
The MacKinnons’ heritage home that, at one time, was the site of a post office, blacksmith shop and grocery store, was upgraded from an EnerGuide 36 to 76, as energy efficient as an average new home built today.
Jeff says the most significant impact came from replacing the baseboards in the large, drafty home with the new geo-thermal heat pump.
He admits it was costly to install the new system “but we’re seeing immediate results,” with an expected seven or eight year payback. He also points out that grants are available through the Efficiency NB’s Residential Energy Efficiency Program.
The new insulation has also helped lower their power bills, taking the dampness out of the basement and reducing the heat loss.
“We noticed a difference right away,” he says.
The MacKinnons also had a wood fireplace insert installed in the front section of the house, and also put in new eavestroughs and gutters to draw the rainwater away from the house.
Energy efficient upgrades are not new to the MacKinnons, who improved the EnerGuide rating of their Nova Scotia home by 30 rating points, thus reducing their energy bills by almost 50 per cent.
So even before taking possession of their new home in Sackville, they began to research how to make their home more efficient.
Shortly after moving in, they had an energy advisor conduct a pre-upgrade assessment, the first step in their extensive energy efficiency retrofit.
“He came in and identified the worst sources of leakage,” says Jeff. “So the energy audit basically laid the groundwork of where to go and what to focus on.”
The couple, who feel that retrofits are better for the environment than building a new home, continue to be advocates for energy efficiency.
They say the carbon footprint required to clear land, create and transport new materials, construct the building and dispose of waste, is much greater than putting efforts into upgrades.
“The greenest and most efficient home is one that's already built,” he says.
Jeff says they tried to use local contractors wherever possible as well, including Sackville General Contracting, Darrell Morice (masonry), Tantramar Building, and Advanced Heating Solutions based out of Springhill.
Sackville Tribune Post