It’s urgent. Climate change is affecting the stability of our planet. We must take action now by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Natural Resources Canada, our country’s residential housing sector emits roughly 13 per cent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, with 61 per cent of these emissions from space heating and 21 per cent from domestic hot water heating.

As a Canadian homeowner, your actions can make a substantial impact on the country’s total emissions.

Upgrading your home envelope (all components separating the building’s interior from the outdoor environment, such as exterior walls, windows, roof, foundation walls, etc.) is the most effective method of improving your home’s energy efficiency.

If you are planning on renovating, it’s best to focus on the simplest options that will improve your home’s envelope. This includes straightforward renovations, such as installing high-performance windows and doors, upgrading attic insulation, and using air-sealing techniques.

Improving wall insulation is complex and costly due to the large amount of labour associated with disassembling the wall, replacing the insulation, and reassembling the wall, as well as the many complications that can arise once the wall is opened. This process requires access to your whole house, which means you will have to move out during the renovation process.

If you have an older home, due to the complexity associated with upgrading wall insulation, it might remain relatively inefficient. Instead of targeting your older home’s inefficient nature, it’s best to accept that it will use excessive energy, but focus on powering it with renewable energy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

HVAC systems are responsible for emitting the majority of a home’s greenhouse gas, so replacing your existing HVAC system with a heat pump is the most cost-effective and sustainable solution. Air-source heat pumps are electrically powered and are one of the most efficient methods of conditioning indoor air. Ground-source heat pumps are more efficient than their air-sourced counterparts, but they come at a more expensive upfront cost. Both systems heat and cool your home efficiently with electricity, and most importantly, lead to substantial reductions to your home’s greenhouse gas.

Hot water heaters are the home’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. Conventional water heaters can either be replaced with a heat pump water heater or an electric on-demand water heater. Both will run off electricity, further reducing the home’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Before installing solar panels, it’s essential to improve your home’s energy efficiency and upgrade its mechanical systems.

These steps reduce the energy demand of your house and allow your home’s systems to be powered by electricity, ensuring solar panels are effective at supplementing or providing your home’s energy demands.

Solar Panel pricing has plummeted over the last decade due to the uptake in installations globally. It is now less expensive to produce your own electricity than it is to purchase it from your Hydro provider. In Ontario electricity consumers are able to utilize Net Metering, where home and business owners get to use the electricity generated by the solar panels. Net Metering also allows solar panel owners to generate excess electricity and store it in the grid and avoid the expense of a battery. During non daylight hours and all winter long the Net Metering program allows the solar panel owner to retrieve that electricity back from the grid so all electricity required for any building for the entire year can be produced by the sun. This program provides a consistent, cheaper cost of electricity.

Many factors affect the performance of solar panels, such as location, orientation and roof design. Ideally, solar panels should be installed in conjunction with high-performance building systems; but if solar panels are not practical, focusing on your home’s mechanical systems and home envelope will still provide a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

There are many small steps in the reduction of a home’s greenhouse gas emissions, and there is no one solution that will work for every home.

Consider meeting with an industry professional to plan what the best course of action will be. These renovations are relatively hassle-free when compared to a full renovation, and you can take them at a comfortable pace that suits you.

Roy Nandram s president of RND Construction Ltd.