Before I start this week, we are very excited to announce the uploading of our new project’s very own web site. Have a look at www.alltechgreenchurch.ca and don’t hesitate to comment. We are working on getting the blog up and running and when that is accomplished you can join us there, too. Making this sustainable and affordable effort a public information renovation/restoration will allow readers to see, hopefully understand and maybe question what we doing. The outcome might result in giving others confidence to take on a major energy retrofit.

     This week, in our continuing series on the revitalization of our heritage church, we investigate the present heating system. We brought in a Technical Safety Standards Association (TSSA) multi-ticketed professional for this part of our inspection. Local technician, Brad Skaug, owner of Dr. Comfort is a rare breed in the HVAC business, holding certification in oil, natural gas, propane and solid fuel (WETT) installations. In a rural area, finding a skilled, professional technician is a prime consideration. A home without heat in the winter becomes uncomfortable very quickly. Every homeowner, either urban or rural, should have a relationship with his/her HVAC contractor, at minimum for annual service work.

    On entering the crawl space to allow Brad to start his inspection, we were disappointed to find that there was no oil in the tank. Brad advised that there were a number of areas he could comment on, none-the-less, and proceeded to crawl around the empty tank. He immediately noted that the tank lacked a fill gauge and that the oil supply line was not coated, both of which are now required for an oil system. The tank, at about 12 years of age, may well be an issue for insurance purposes, he advised. While the governing body in Ontario, the TSSA, has no age dating for replacement, nearly all of the home insurance companies do, some requiring replacement after 10 years. The majority I hear about demand replacement after 15-20 years of use. Many insurance companies are now demanding the heavier tanks, 12 gauge vs. the older 14 gauge, thinner walled tanks and some are starting to demand the double walled oil supply tanks. This upgrade can cost anywhere from $1,200 - $2,000 plus, for the new double wall tanks. The advantage to the double wall tank is they have a pop-up sensor that tells you if they have developed a leak. I might add that even with a fully upgraded oil heating system, many insurance companies charge a surcharge for an oil heated home, some as much as 15% of your premium.

     Brad then moved over to the furnace and here he noted deficiencies in the vent system, again something that must be addressed. Brad made a number of suggestions and advised that the system must be inspected and documents placed on file with the fuel oil supplier confirming that the tank and furnace meet the regulations. If you do not have these, your fuel oil supplier can refuse to sell you furnace oil. Brad also commented that, depending upon the severity of the deficiency, a homeowner may be allowed up to 90 days to correct any deficiencies, after which the furnace oil supplier can cease delivery until such time as the corrections are made.

     Brad then took a close look at the ducting system and here he found a number of areas where the overall efficiency of the system could be improved. The size of the return ducts, their location and the overall duct sizing needs to be corrected. Taping all of the joints and insulating the actual duct runs was suggested during the conversation. Brad noted that even with the best furnace, if it can’t get the warm air circulated due to restrictions in the air flow, heating costs will be affected.

     Our energy auditor Marty Verk ran some numbers based upon his blower door test and they were certainly eye-opening. Based upon the test and averaging using the EnerGuide software, Marty came up with a figure of close to $10,000 for annual oil heating costs with the current system; this figure quickly caught the attention of my lady!!

     Marty went on to explain that the church has air leakage the equivalent to a four foot square hole in the wall; this air leakage can account for up to 35% of the heat loss. He then ran the numbers converting the oil system to a 95% efficiency dual stage, DC fan propane furnace and the costs dropped to under $7,000. We discussed the introduction of an air source heat pump and the numbers showed a reduction in the neighbourhood of $4-$5,000. This is without making any air loss improvements. Our final energy model, including the upgrades in insulation, new windows and doors, brought this down to just over $1,000, annually. When you look at our budget, the savings alone would justify the expense and recover the majority of the capital investment in 7-10 years, not to mention the benefit of a more comfortable home.

    Brad joined the discussion about the benefit of installing a propane furnace, along with a SEER 16 or 18 air source heat pump. He agreed with Marty that these systems in a home with an EnergyStar rating are a good idea.  Using a multistage heating system that has the advantage of air conditioning, which a heat pump can provide, makes this an interesting alternative. This gives us lots to consider as we go forward.

    Marty made some interesting comments about air leakage, which were worth noting. Sealing up the small leaks, without sealing the larger ones, is usually not effective, as this creates a “conical” effect in the air flow through the larger openings in a home. If you are going to spend money on insulation upgrades, have your auditor explain this condition and show you where you should really spend your time, money and energy.

     Next week, we start into the “inside wall assembly,” which will bring our church into the EnergyStar level of comfort. Don’t forget to go to www.alltechgreenchurch.ca and follow our progress.  If you have missed earlier columns, you will find them there.