Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Make your home a comfort zone
By MARK SALERNO, CMHC, Special to QMI Agency

One of the best ways to make your home more comfortable, healthier and less expensive to operate is to upgrade the heating, cooling and ventilation systems. A properly functioning, energy-efficient mechanical system that is well matched to the design of your house will offer superior indoor air quality and be easier on your budget.

There are several reasons you might consider upgrading your home’s mechanical systems.

If you have an older furnace or boiler, for example, it may need replacing simply because it has outlived its useful life. If you are undertaking other renovation work that requires some adjustments to your present mechanical systems, you may want to upgrade your equipment to take advantage of new, more efficient products.

Renovating provides an excellent opportunity to upgrade your home’s mechanical equipment and improve how your house performs, making it healthier for you, the community and the environment.

The electronic controls of new furnaces and ventilation systems provide you with more performance options than the simple "on/off" function of older appliances. A renovation is also a good time to upgrade or install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), which will provide a controlled amount of fresh air at a lower energy cost.

Choosing a more energy-efficient furnace and water heater may make it possible to eliminate existing chimneys. Chimneys contribute to heat loss and are susceptible to backdrafting of combustion gases.

A new water heater can also ensure you have enough hot water to meet the demands of your household while helping to save money on utility bills. Replacing your old thermostat with a new programmable model that can automatically adjust temperature settings can result in greater convenience. Wouldn’t you prefer to wake up to a house already at a comfortable temperature?

However, before you start any work, it's critical to understand how the overall performance of the house will be affected by an equipment upgrade. Keep in mind that your lifestyle, the number of occupants and their ages, the climate and the insulation levels of the house all have an impact on the performance of mechanical systems.

Also consider that upgrading your mechanical systems is not a do-it-yourself project and you will need to consult a professional heating contractor or consultant to avoid causing other problems in the house.

The cost of a mechanical system upgrade will depend on the work that needs to be done. When reviewing bids from contractors, make sure that the quotes you are comparing are for the same work, including the same or truly equivalent equipment.

Your local utility will be able to provide advice or refer you to competent technicians who can assess your home and the mechanical systems. Heating contractors that install and service a variety of heating system types should also be able to give you advice. However, if they specialize in only one type of system, they may not be able to provide impartial advice on possible alternatives.

Energy-efficient equipment upgrades can be expensive but can be offset by lower operating costs and a comfortable interior environment.

To help you learn more about upgrading your mechanical systems, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has a free About Your House fact sheet called "Before You Start an Energy-Efficient Renovation – Mechanical Systems." For your copy, visit us online or call our toll-free number: 1-800-668-2642.

Mark Salerno is district manager for the Greater Toronto Area at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

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