Energy efficiency in cold climates

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 15:43

Everyone is always looking to save money and cut costs when they can, especially in this day and age. However, that can be a daunting task if you live in an area with a harsh climate. Usually, you either have to sacrifice aesthetics or efficiency when building a home in locations suffering from conditions like extreme cold. There are some tips and tricks you can implement during construction to ensure you have a home that won't break the bank long after it's completed. Even if the structure is already built, there are many upgrades and renovations that can be done to reduce your carbon footprint in the environment while still paying less in the long run compared to more traditional methods and technologies.

The harsh Quebec winters

Kate Alvo and Bernat Ferragut tried their hand at building a sustainable and efficient house in the northern forests of Quebec, Canada, an area with particularly difficult winters, according to Inhabitat. Weather conditions often expedite wear and tear on buildings, making many eco-friendly materials that would normally work in moderate or hot climates relatively lackluster and ineffective. No one wants to spend time and money building something that's not meant to last.

One of the main problems with a house in the cold is the process of heating it and keeping that warmth inside. If you want to ensure you don't waste your money and resources, selecting the right building material is very important. Alvo and Ferragut decided to use a prefabricated straw bale for the walls of their home. These walls can be built off-site and then moved to the construction are to be assembled. They're made from a combination of straw, lime, wood and cement, as stated by Biomur Distribution. Their composition allows them to ward off insects and insulate your house, while retaining the look and feel of normal wooden walls.

Since it's made from such a blend of materials, the walls reduce the consumption of wood needed to be made and decreases its impact on the environment compared to other substances. Alvo and Ferragut also filled the layers of walls with cellulose to cover it even further because of the naturally higher insulating value per surface area cellulose has.

Other tips to keep in mind when designing and constructing your home that can reduce energy costs even include the geographical position of the house. The couple built their home facing south so the sun keeps it warmer in the winter, but cooler in the summer. Frames for their doors and windows are made from fiberglass to prevent the continuous expansion and contraction that comes with extreme changes in temperatures too. All of these design features affects the monthly heating bill by effectively containing the heat used.

Produce less heat to waste

When you live in the cold, it's imperative you use the best heating system available to you. Typical methods can keep you warm, but drive up costs from drafts and leaks that let your precious heat escape to the cold outdoors, according to Energy.gov. Radiant heaters offer an efficient alternative to other practices by warming the surfaces in your house instead of the air around you. The heat is transferred in a natural process to your objects and furniture as well as you. That allows your home to retain a far greater amount of warmth while reeling in the costs that can get out of hand during a particularly difficult winter with convection heating. Heated flooring and proper insulation go a long way in the chilling climates closer to the poles and will keep your house nice and toasty with fewer negative effects on your wallet.