Kemp partners with FortisBC on a Deep Energy Retrofit

In the summer of 2023, Kemp Construction was invited to participate in a pilot project with FortisBC to complete a Deep Energy Retrofit (DER). The goal - to see how low we could reduce the energy consumption and improve the energy efficiency of a 1990's  home. This video series introduces the concept of the Deep Energy Retrofit and what elements of the renovation were implemented to improve the home energy performance.

To watch the whole series on YouTube Channel, go here.

Video Segment 1 - Steve introduces the Fortis Retrofit Project

In this video Steve introduces us to the project and what a deep energy retrofit is.

We're very proud to have participated in this Deep Energy Retrofit with our partners FortisBC. They have sponsored this project in order to see how much they can save the homeowners in terms of their energy cost. Here we talk to the clients and ask them how they feel about the new improvements and then we show what we've done to make this a Deep Energy Retrofit.

Video Segment 2 - The Homeowners discuss the benefits of the retrofit

In this video we followed up with the homeowners to hear about their experience of the home comfort and performance since the completion of the Deep Energy Retrofit.

Video Segment 3 - What is a Deep Energy Retrofit?

In this video we learn about the role of the Energy Advisor to the design of the Deep Energy Retrofit and also talk in detail about the fireplace as a component of the renovation.

The FortisBC website states it this way -

A deep energy retrofit aims to improve the energy performance of existing homes and buildings using a holistic approach that targets improvements in two major areas:

  1. the building envelope (including walls, windows, doors, and insulation)
  2. mechanical systems (heating, hot water and ventilation)

Deep energy retrofits help make the whole building more airtight and well-insulated as well as upgrading mechanical systems to high efficiency. The goal is to reduce whole-building energy use by at least 50 per cent.


“A Deep Energy Retrofit - what exactly does that mean? It means that we're making improvements to at least three different areas of the home. It all starts with the energy advisor, certified by the Home Performance Stakeholder Council. These people will come in and they'll measure the performance of the house in its existing state and they'll provide the contractor with the road map on where improvements can be made.

The energy advisor is also a key part of the rebate process. So, if you're looking at getting some of these items rebated - going to government grants either from Fortis, BCHydro or government - it starts with the energy advisor. You need that report before you can make your application.

One of the first places that we looked at is the fireplace. This is an easy one. The old fireplace that was in here was a traditional B vent, which means it's using room air for combustion. When you're using room air for combustion, it's drawing the air into the fireplace, then up the chimney. There is lots of energy wasted and also a big impact on your comfort level. The new systems are sealed units and they're using outside air for combustion. This makes for a significant difference in terms of the overall efficiency of the house.

he energy retrofit is basically looking at the house as a whole system. We can't just make one improvement and expect big results. We do have to look at it systematically so they all work together. So, the next big step in the program is the windows and we'll talk a little bit about the window improvement we made.

Video Segment 4 - Windows and window installation for energy efficiency

Did you know that it’s not just the type of windows but how they are installed that can improve home energy performance? Join Steve as he talks about windows considerations to improve home performance.

“The next area we're going to look at is the windows - a big part of the energy improvement for your home. Windows are not all the same. They come in various different styles, makes and performance ratings. So that's key that when we're doing these upgrades that we get the highest performance for the best dollar. In the case what we're using here - we're looking at windows that are in the U value of roughly 1.0 or less and that should be the goal.

One of the other benefits from windows is that the installation methods have vastly improved from what they were years ago - particularly when this house was built. When we take apart homes, we see quite often that there's very little insulation or sealant between the window and the frame of the house. It's a major leakage area for the house. So it's a bit of a bonus - you get the new windows and of course the upgraded performance - but you also get a modern installation which makes a big difference.

Next, we're going to go to the mechanical room, and show you the heat pump, hot water system and talk a little bit about that.

Video Segment 5 -  Mechanical  upgrades for the retrofit

The heating system of this Deep Energy Retrofit (DER) includes, a heat pump, forced air and an HRV. Listen in as Steve reviews the components of the home's heating system.

“Now, we're in the mechanical end of the renovation. What you see in front of you is an on-demand gas boiler. That is, for the hot water. It replaces the hot water tank that was previously here. Beside it on the right, that's the second half of your heat pump system.

The first half is the fan that's sitting outside. What that fan is doing, is extracting the heat from outside. It's heating up a glycol fluid and then sending the fluid to this guy here which looks like a furnace, but it's actually just an air hammer. It's taking those warm fluids and then pumping air past it. That is the essence for your heating - the forced air heating is the warmth from the outside.

Now, what determines the efficiency of a heat pump? One of the main aspects of the efficiency is its effective range - where it can manage temperatures from very high to very low. This is where the lesser heat pumps fail - they're not able to go efficiently down into the lower temperatures and they have to rely on a secondary heating source. So, in our case, this is a great system. We have a on-demand boiler that feeds the heat to the air handler when it calls for that additional heat to keep your home up to nice temperature.

In addition to doing this, we have the attic that had to be upgraded. You can see that some of the equipment up there is an HRV - that's bringing fresh air into the home 24/7 - while you sleep, while you work, the whole time. We have insulation on the underside of the roof. That creates what they call a hot roof, or a conditioned attic. That allows us to run the ducting through to that part of the house and then down into the bedrooms. The heating starts here and goes up into the system and then through the attic.

Now, to make all this work we had to upgrade the panel. It started off as a 100 amp service which is very typical back in the day. It has been upgraded to a 200 amp and now they can plug in their electric cars and run the additional equipment.

Video Segment 6 - Conclusion and measuring the improvements

Steve Kemp summarizes the Deep Energy Retrofit process and how Kemp Construction achieved the objective for energy performance of the home - a 74% improvement on energy consumption.

“Thanks for joining us on our tour of this deep energy retrofit home. This retrofit was done with keeping the home in the similar shape as to what we started.

Many times these improvements are made through a whole house renovation where you have easy access to walls, ceilings, etc. That is a far easier time to do these upgrades. So, when you're doing a major renovation, make sure that the energy performance of the home is a key part of the process.

Our objectives coming into this renovation was a 74% improvement on the energy consumption based on the modeling done at the very beginning. We're going to be measuring the performance for the balance of the winter and we'll be able to get back to you with some actual numbers on where we ended up. Keeping in mind that yes it is an investment, but it does pay dividends in terms of your comfort level and certainly on the resale. You've seen by buying a secondhand car or a new car that the energy consumption of that vehicle is a major part of the decision-making process and that will be the case more and more with homes as we move further into the higher codes or minimum requirement.”

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