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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 35 / Autumn 2020


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Better Builder Magazine brings together premium product manufactures and leading builders to create better differentiated homes and buildings that use less energy, save water and reduce our impact on the environment. The magazine is published four times a year.

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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 35 / Autumn 2020

  1. 1. PUBLICATIONNUMBER42408014 INSIDE Tapping into Water Spray Foam Insulation Tips for Electrical Professionals Battery Storage Benefits Reducing Air Leakage Effects of Window Selection ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 THE MechanicalISSUE
  2. 2. 209 Citation Dr. Unit 3 & 4 Concord, ON L4K 2Y8 905-669-7373 · Models C95 & C140 Condensing Combination Boiler Glow Brand C95 and C140 instantaneous combination ASME boilers for heating and on-demand hot water supply. The ultra-efficient compact design combination boiler has an AFUE rating of 95%. These units are fully modulating at 10 to 1 and 2 inch PVC venting up to 100 feet. Canadian Made
  3. 3. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 16 1 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 2 HVAC That Doesn’t Go with the Flow by John Godden THE BADA TEST 3 Tap into High-Quality Water by Lou Bada INDUSTRY EXPERT 5 If Only You Knew How Tight Your Houses Were Going to Be by Gord Cooke INDUSTRY NEWS 9 Leading by Example What’s Good for New Is Good for Old (Part 2) by Paul De Berardis INDUSTRY NEWS 13 Spray Foam Insulation Tips for Electrical Professionals by Paul Duffy INDUSTRY NEWS 22 Golf Tournament by Patsy Duffy SITE SPECIFIC 24 The Benefits of Panasonic Battery Storage by Alex Newman SPECIAL INTEREST 28 Seal of Approval A new method of reducing air leakage is opening industry eyes with its dramatic results. by Rob Blackstien FROM THE GROUND UP 31 Builder’s Window Selection Affects Sizing and Designing HVAC Systems and Occupant Comfort by Doug Tarry FEATURE STORY 16 Game of Zones The early results of Enbridge’s study using zoned modulating combination heating systems suggest dramatic energy savings and GHG reduction. by Rob Blackstien 28 ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 On our cover: Regal Crest demonstration home. Photo by John Godden Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited. 5 22
  4. 4. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 HVAC That Doesn’t Go with the Flow 2 PUBLISHER Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street Toronto ON M4B 3N5 416-481-4218 | fax 416-481-4695 Better Builder Magazine is a sponsor of PUBLISHING EDITOR John B. Godden MANAGING EDITORS Crystal Clement Wendy Shami To advertise, contribute a story, or join our distribution list, please contact FEATURE WRITERS Rob Blackstien, Alex Newman PROOFREADING Carmen Siu CREATIVE Wallflower Design This magazine brings together premium product manufacturers and leading builders to create better, differentiated homes and buildings that use less energy, save water and reduce our impact on the environment. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 Copyright by Better Builder Magazine. Contents may not be reprinted or reproduced without written permission. The opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the authors and assumed to be original work. Better Builder Magazine cannot be held liable for any damage as a result of publishing such works. TRADEMARK DISCLAIMER All company and/or product names may be trade names, trademarks and/or registered trademarks of the respective owners with which they are associated. UNDELIVERABLE MAIL Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street Toronto ON M4B 3N5 Better Builder Magazine is published four times a year. M ost homes currently built in Ontario have a furnace and a separate hot water heater. This is the status quo. However, energy performance standards in the Ontario Building Code are more demanding. More insulation, better windows and tighter envelopes result in lower heating and cooling loads. The reference house in the SB-12 (2017) Package A1 prescriptive tables yields a space heating load of 28 MBtu/ hour for single detached homes and likely under 20 MBtu/hour for townhouses. It seems logical to integrate space and hot water heating into one combination system. Envelope losses and ventilation account for 50% of space heating, while hot water accounts for another 18% (refer to the pie chart). One gas appliance – a condensing hot water heater with a forced air fan coil – can easily and comfortably heat a large single-family home. This is the finding of a recent Enbridge research project. Unlike P911’s tested and matched systems used in ENERGY STAR, the iFlow system goes one step further, with the full integration of a tankless domestic hot water (DHW) heater with a smart air handler monitored in large production houses. Enbridge’s study was conducted in five homes, and the early results of using these modulating combination heating systems suggest dramatic energy savings and GHG reductions. Read about it in “Game of Zones,” our feature, on page 16. In a continuation of an article from fall 2019, Paul De Berardis brings us up to date on his renovation project on page 9. His tips and tricks show that incorporating mechanical upgrades into an existing older home can achieve performance close to that of a newly constructed one. Meanwhile, Lou Bada shares his thoughts on incentivizing responsible home owner water consumption behaviour. On page 3, he explains why he believes the BWT Woda-Pure filtration system will make home owners want to live sustainably. Equipment sizing and load calculations are important for HVAC. Gord Cooke discusses the impact a serious approach to airtightness has on performance and comfort in the design stage (page 5). We also take a close look at AeroBarrier, an acrylic sealant that’s showing impressive results. It’s also available to builders through an Enbridge program (page 28). In addition to airtightness, proper window selection can enhance performance and comfort. Doug Tarry gives us a clear view for making the right choice on page 31. We all know that the easy improvements for home energy efficiency have already been made. Moving forward requires developing and embracing new, creative technologies and going with the iFlow. The right envelope design, integrated with advanced combination heating, is the way to go. BB publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN  Domestic hot water Hot water is a fairly large load  Air conditioning, lighting, appliances  Envelope heat losses  Ventilation losses 32% 31% 18% 19% NBC Reference Home Household Energy Use Combo systems can work on 68% of the load
  5. 5. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 FILTRATION • Removal of chlorine and other residual substances of odour and taste through highly effective and food safe activated carbon • Safe removal of particles and suspended solids • Reliable retention of certain organic concomitant substances • Filtrate has good sensory qualities for perfect taste ANTI-CHLORINE Instead, I’d like to talk about water filtration systems. There are lots of them on the market today; many are good at filtration, but there are differing advantages and disadvantages with differing products and technologies. My usual rant about having a value proposition for our customers and a cost-benefit analysis applies to water filtration as well. It is important, however, that we keep our goal in mind: achieving sustainable building practices and behaviour. Rather than letting governments regulate everything that moves, it is usually more effective to design a better product that consumers will actually want and use. In commerce, we usually view economic transactions and consumer behaviour through the lens of the participants’ (perceived) self-interest. We do not necessarily rely on the buyers’ and sellers’ good nature for the success of a product. I believe the BWT Woda-Pure filtration system will lead our customers to an “enlightened self-interest” by providing a cost-effective, convenient and high-quality alternative to using plastic bottles. Cost and convenience are the primary drivers of this ecologically friendly product and the reason for BWT’s success. A little more about the product: The rated capacity for the BWT Woda-Pure S-C Filter Cartridge is 12,000 litres. It has been system tested and certified by NSF International against CSA B483.1 and NSF/ANSI 42 for chlorine reduction, taste and odour reduction. Additional facts include: • High-quality, made by The BWT Group – Best Water Technology GmbH (; • Technologically advanced features – Aqua-Stop and Non-Return Valve; • Extremely easy to replace, reasonably priced and easily accessible filter cartridges – like changing a light bulb; • Incapsulated filter cartridge for the most hygienic conditions – no contamination; • Great tasting water with all the natural minerals included – directly from your kitchen faucet; • Eliminates the need for plastic water bottles and inexpensive to use and maintain; • Locally supported (BWTservice; and • Great water right from your kitchen faucet without an extra fixture and completely hidden under your sink. Water is a limited resource shared by 7.5 billion people. 250 billion litres of water per year are supplied using plastic water bottles, which is about 200 billion bottles a year – most of which are not recycled. This staggering 3 thebadatest / LOU BADA Tap into High-Quality Water S ome things are worth repeating. Starlane Homes’s “bottle-free” community in Oakville, which I introduced in my last column, deserves some further attention. The environmental benefits of reducing the amount of plastic produced and consumed are well documented and self-evident, and I won’t belabor the point any further. Starlane’s decision, along with Rosehaven Homes, to install high-quality in-line under-counter water filters in every new home in our Ivy Rouge community in Oakville was a good one. SOURCE:BWTSALESCATALOGUE2017 BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020
  6. 6. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 Don’t just breathe, BREATHE BETTER. As the industry leader in Indoor Air Quality systems, Lifebreath offers effective, energy efficient and Ontario Building Code compliant solutions for residential and commercial applications. To learn more about our lineup of products contact us today. Visit tolearnmore! orcallusat 1-855-247-4200 4 number is rising by nearly 5% every year. BWT took up a challenge to reduce plastic waste and created a product that makes sense. Builders should get credit for improving the sustainability of our homes, especially when it comes to water usage and waste reduction. When it comes to sustainable building, the low-hanging fruit has been eaten. We should now tackle the more daunting and difficult task of modifying the most important component of a new home – the occupant. Products that reduce plastic waste and water consumption seamlessly, and in a cost-effective manner, will enable socially responsible behaviour by our customers. If we fail to recognize how important it is to intelligently motivate everyone to act responsibly, we will fail in our efforts to make our homes more sustainable. If we neglect to understand what motivates people to make good choices, then we’ll have a pandemic of plastic on our hands. BB Lou Bada is vice- president of low-rise construction at Starlane Home Corporation and on the board of directors for the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). If we fail to recognize how important it is to intelligently motivate everyone to act responsibly, we will fail in our efforts to make our homes more sustainable.
  7. 7. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 If Only You Knew How Tight Your Houses Were Going to Be The easy answers are the ones I – and every other building scientist/ energy rater/certified energy advisor – have been giving you, builders and contractors, for over 40 years. To start, the first, most important reason in cold climate houses is to ensure warm, moist air doesn’t leak into ever-better insulated wall and attic cavities, condense and result in mould and rot. That is why the requirement for a comprehensive, continuous air barrier was written into the Ontario Building Code (OBC) in 1990 – 30 years ago. Then, of course, we reminded this VP that reducing air leakage was the most cost- effective energy savings opportunity in all climate zones. We then threw in the bits about improving comfort by reducing drafts, noise, dust and even odours in multi-family dwellings. You’ve heard this all before, as had this builder. He stopped us short by asking: But why specifically 3 ACH50? He understood that tighter is better and noted they write air sealing requirements into the scopes of work of at least six different contracts: framing, insulation, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and, of course, insulation and drywall. He wanted to know why it was so important to test and know that they had achieved a specific number, other than that it is a code requirement in eight of the 10 states they build in. Moreover, he wanted to know what was in it for them. It’s an insightful question that turned, for him, what seemed like an arbitrary, almost notional level of airtightness that is hard for trade contractors to visualize into a solid, purposeful objective. We pointed out that the airtightness level is used in two objective design algorithms: (1) the energy simulation software used by leading builders to optimize the cost of energy features in their homes and (2) the heating and cooling system sizing software algorithms. The VP was quick to note that both of these algorithms would have to be applied before a house is built, meaning he would need to know 5 industryexpert / GORD COOKE J ust recently, I was asked to weigh in on a question from the vice president of contracts for a large national builder. This company builds thousands of homes in more than 10 states that each have their own airtightness requirements written into their codes. The question was: Why three air changes per hour at 50 Pascal pressure (3 ACH50) rather than 5 ACH50?
  8. 8. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 20206 or commit to a level of airtightness before design documents were submitted for permit. We assured him we had strategies to overcome that risk, but first we wanted to demonstrate the impact of applying an airtightness value – being able to know the level of airtightness they were going to achieve well before they started to build. In that builder’s case, much of what they build is in the southeastern states, where air conditioning loads and dehumidification are the prime concerns. For this article, we can focus on demonstrating the impact on heating loads, although there are some important benefits on the summer loads as well. In future articles, we can explore the opportunities to optimize energy code requirements using better airtightness commitments. The OBC and the National Building Code of Canada both direct builders to design and install heating and cooling systems that are in compliance with CSA F280: Determining the Required Capacity of Residential Space Heating and Cooling Appliances. (Technically, you can choose to use other engineering standards, but F280 is the most commonly used). F280 has a comprehensive algorithm to assess the implication of air leakage on heating and cooling loads. Factors such as size and height of the building, local wind speeds and local shielding, design temperatures and humidity, and the type of ventilation are considered. Most importantly, however, the algorithm requires inputs on the expected airtightness of the building and even an estimation of the size and location of “holes” in the building envelope. If you know what your blower door results are going to be, you can ask your HVAC designer to enter them. Otherwise, the designer has to choose a default airtightness level. Most designers want to play it safe, of course, so they choose a relatively high airtightness level. From my experience, HVAC designers think like this: If they don’t know much about you as a builder or your construction quality, they choose an airtightness level of 4.55 ACH50. This is from a dropdown menu in the standard labelled as “average” construction. If they have some history with you or confidence in your ability to build tighter homes, they may choose 3.57 ACH50, which appears in the dropdown as “present” construction quality. If you choose to build to a specific energy efficiency program, they can enter a blower door value equal to the highest airtightness target allowed by that program. For example, the ENERGY STAR for New Homes program requires homes to achieve an airtightness level of 2.5 ACH50 or less, and the R-2000 and Net Zero Energy programs have a limit of 1.5 ACH50. The table below shows examples of the impact on heating for three houses in southern Ontario, if you knew you could achieve an airtightness of 1.5 ACH50 rather than the default 4.55 ACH50. In addition, the table shows the possible reduction in water vapour or humidity that would enter the homes via air leakage on hot and humid days. That is, air sealing doesn’t offer a significant reduction in overall air conditioning loads, but the reduction in latent load is helpful in maintaining proper indoor summer humidity loads. The table shows that, in larger homes, knowing that you are able to achieve an airtightness level of 1.5 ACH50 would allow your HVAC designer and contractor to install a furnace up to one size smaller. That would also allow the main duct distribution plenums to be smaller. For example, by lowering the heating DESIGN LOAD REDUCTIONS WHEN SELECTING 1.5 ACH50 RATHER THAN 4.55 ACH50 DESIGN HEAT LOSS REDUCTION MOISTURE REDUCTION IN SUMMER LOWER LEVEL, TWO-STOREY, STACKED TOWNHOUSE (1,000 SQ FT) 3,950 BTUS/HR 2–3 LITRES/DAY THREE-STOREY, END-UNIT TOWNHOME (1,800 SQ FT) 9,450 BTUS/HR 3–4 LITRES/DAY TWO-STOREY DETACHED HOME (3,200 SQ FT) 16,150 BTUS/HR 5–8 LITRES/DAY The technology is now readily available for any builder to ensure that 1.5 ACH50 can be achieved for any type of home.
  9. 9. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 capacity by 16,000 BTUs/hr, a typical main furnace supply plenum could be reduced by 4" to 6" in width – an 8" x 20" duct becomes an 8" x 16" duct. Reductions in the size of return ducts, and the number and size of supply runs to individual rooms, could also be realized. You could easily expect the total HVAC system cost reduction to offset the cost of doing airtightness testing and pay for some of the extra air sealing effort. The directives laid down by that VP provide useful next steps for all large builders. They made a corporate-wide directive that every house be tested and the results reported back to head office. They set a limit of no more than 4.0 ACH50 in southern climates and under 3.0 ACH50 in colder climates. Moreover, they have set a three-year goal to be under 2.0 ACH50. Most importantly, those numbers became part of the key performance quality assurance measures for all site staff, and they direct all their HVAC designers to size equipment and duct work based on these airtightness levels. They consider this airtightness initiative to be cost-neutral, even before they use the results to further fine tune their energy code performance measures. In a Canadian climate, and knowing where codes are headed, a more sustainable target is 1.5 ACH50. As I have written in previous articles, the technology is now readily available for any builder to ensure that 1.5 ACH50 can be achieved for any type of home. I invite you to check out the Aerobarrier technology and discover the opportunities presented by knowing your airtightness levels before you build. Check it out at BB Gord Cooke is president of Building Knowledge Canada. 7 All these products meet ENERGY STAR’s higher standards For more information or to order, contact your local distributor. vänEE 100H vänEE 200HvänEE 60H vänEE 60H-V+ vänEE 90H-V ECMvänEE 40H+vänEE 90H-V+ vänEE 60H+ vänEE 50H1001 HRV vänEE Gold Series 2001 HRV vänEE Gold Series vänEE air exchangers: improved line-up meets ENERGY STAR® standards Superior Energy Efficiency Ideal for LEED homes and new building codes 5-year warranty* FRESH AIR JUST GOT GREENER *ON MOST MODELS.
  10. 10. • PROVIDES A CONTINUOUS THERMAL RESISTANCE OF R-5; perfect for meeting the requirements of the Quebec & Ontario Building Code. • DOES NOT REQUIRE ADDITIONAL BRACING; one-step installation saving time and cost. • INTEGRATED AIR-BARRIER; no additional housewrap required saving material costs. • LIGHTWEIGHT AND EASY TO INSTALL; allows for fast installation saving time and cost. R-5 XP C O M B I N E S T H E W I N D B R A C I N G P R O P E R T I E S O F W O O D F I B R E W I T H T H E T H E R M A L R E S I S T A N C E O F E X T R U D E D P O L Y S T Y R E N E F O R O V E R 1 0 0 Y E A R S INSULSHEATHING Panel Introducing a Unique Innovation:
  11. 11. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 The abundance of innovative product offerings and advancing technology has enabled new homes to constantly evolve and helped builders deliver a superior product to new- home buyers, ultimately improving the overall occupant experience. However, new housing typically adds less than 1% to the existing housing stock each year in Ontario. Therefore, if governments really want to move the needle in terms of reducing GHG emissions, the greatest potential lies with existing housing stock – especially homes built more than a few decades ago. While it is no easy task, if governments are serious about climate change, they need to develop a framework towards improving the existing housing stock instead of pushing minimal gains in the already high-performing new housing sector. In the fall 2019 article, I mentioned I was undertaking a renovation of my home, originally built in the 1980s. Now that I’m in the finishing stages of the renovation, I thought I would share some of my experiences to date. In trying to lead by example, I try to incorporate, where possible, aspects of new-home construction into my renovation to improve the energy efficiency and performance of the home. I made some improvements to the building envelope – but since this is the mechanical issue, I will try to highlight the relevant mechanical components I incorporated into my renovation using the best of my knowledge from the world of new- home construction. While it is easy to get caught up in and focus solely on updating a home’s aesthetics during a renovation, I also tried to take the opportunity to improve upon the performance and thermal comfort of the existing home. Let’s start with the lungs of the home. The original, natural (Type B) vented furnace had already been replaced once since the home was built, but the newer, mid-efficiency unit had been haphazardly fitted to the original supply plenum (under the previous home owner) and was definitely not conducive to optimal operation. After having heat loss and heat gain calculations performed by Martino HVAC, the existing furnace and air conditioner were found to be oversized, which led to new, right-sized heating and cooling equipment being specified. Since I plan to improve the home’s airtightness by using AeroBarrier, an interior-applied air sealing system that seals building envelope leaks, the anticipated airtightness level was also a consideration of the mechanical system. The heat loss and heat gain calculations incorporated this improved airtightness. I opted to have a new 96% AFUE two-stage, variable- speed electronically commutated motor (ECM) natural gas furnace and a 16 SEER two-stage condenser installed. The new heating and cooling equipment were notable improvements over the existing units and offered considerable efficiency improvements. While fitting new HVAC equipment, a Lifebreath energy recovery ventilator (ERV) was also incorporated to mech­ anically control the supply of fresh tempered air and help modulate humidity levels. I selected an ERV over a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) due to its ability to transfer moisture, prevent excess dryness in the winter and reduce demands on the air conditioning system in the summer, thereby also warranting the welcome removal of the original and maintenance-prone drum- style humidifier system. The ERV was also installed in a hybrid configuration, with a connection to the forced air system, and ducted to draw from two bathrooms complete with push button 9 Leading by Example What’s Good for New Is Good for Old (Part 2) industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS S ome of you may have caught my fall 2019 article titled “What’s Good for New Is Good for Old,” where I discussed some of the leaps and bounds in new home construction practices over the last 30 to 40 years. Given the continually evolving Ontario Building Code (OBC), generally updated every five to seven years, each generation of housing stock benefits from improved energy efficiency as well as refinement of construction practices and materials. Advancements in the OBC have transformed how homes in Ontario are built, greatly improving operational energy efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Incorporating modern mechanical system upgrades into a renovation can go a long way in helping an older home perform close to that of a newly constructed home.
  12. 12. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 Save more. Worry less. Professionals who install Uponor PEX plumbing, radiant floor heating, and fire sprinkler systems report faster installation times, fewer callbacks and greater peace of mind. Exceptional products, tools and support. Uponor. Tested in the lab. Proven in the field. Connect with Uponor. Connect with confidence. PEX PLUMBING FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS RADIANT HEATING COOLING PRE-INSULATED PIPEFind your solution at
  13. 13. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 controls, thus eliminating the need for two bathroom exhaust fans. When it comes to domestic water heating, the original hot water tank consisted of an atmospheric vent-type gas water heater, leaving a lot of room for improvement. By using a hot water tank commonly specified in new homes, I upgraded to an A.O. Smith 94% thermal efficiency condensing gas water heater that is power-vented, nearly doubling the efficiency of the original unit. The new tank also has secondary side-mounted taps for a recirculating hot water loop, which I am utilizing by pairing to a hydronic radiant floor heating system, retrofitted in the basement using Amvic insulation, to provide supplemental heat. After looking into the original installation of the exhaust ventilation fans, both for the bathrooms and for the kitchen range hood fan, several deficiencies were discovered. The second-storey bathroom ventilation fans were found to be ducted into the attic and exhausting near the soffits, which caused moisture-related damage in the attic. New Panasonic bathroom ventilation fans (using a DC motor and selectable airflow cubic feet per minute [CFM]) were installed as replacements, along with proper insulated ducting connected to roof-mounted exhaust vents. The DC motor-equipped ventilation fans offer greater operational efficiency compared to the original units, and the selectable airflow CFM allows each ventilation fan to be suited to the installation conditions. A new, properly sized kitchen range hood fan was installed as the existing unit was found to be oversized (it had a capacity of more than 600 CFM, which has the potential to create a negative pressure condition). Even more concerning was the potential for depressurization, given the fact that the home had an atmospheric-vented hot water heater, which can be spillage susceptible to backdrafting carbon monoxide into the home. Incorporating modern mechanical system upgrades into a renovation can go a long way in helping an older home perform close to that of a newly constructed home and achieve GHG reductions and notable energy savings. Although these types of improvements are not always easily achievable or economical, this is what is needed to improve the performance gap between the existing housing stock and newly built homes. The federal and provincial governments must work to devise practical programs to meaningfully incentivize and support home owners to raise the bar when it comes to improving the bulk of the existing housing stock, which generates significantly more GHG emissions than new housing. With the vast availability of highly efficient building systems and construction practices, certain elements of a new home can be practically incorporated into a renovation. The next time you hear someone say “they don’t build houses like they used to,” think again – we build them a lot better nowadays. BB Paul De Berardis is RESCON’s director of building science and innovation. Email him at 11 Contact us for product inquiries: | 800.267.6830 Your builds aren’t cookie cutter. Why should your HVAC systems be? Take your builds to the next level with Navien’s High performance for better builds. The H2Air kit is an add-on accessory for the Navien NPE-A Series tankless water heater that creates a high efficiency space heating and endless domestic hot water system. The H2Air Kit comes with the highest rated performance using CSA P9.11 test standard.
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  15. 15. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 O ver the last few years, spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation has been gaining popularity as a premium insulation product for the construction market. SPF is particularly useful because it is air impermeable; it bonds and creates a seal with adjacent materials, and insulates more effectively than other products. In the past, you might not have encountered it too frequently, but SPF has been used in buildings for more than 30 years; in fact, the basic chemistry for making this foam has been known for more than 80 years! Polyurethane foam is all around you: in your car, in appliances, in foam cushions and in other household goods. Now it is becoming a common material used in buildings, and the electrical industry needs to understand how to work with and around it as part of the everyday process of doing business. Most electricians are at least peripherally aware of the need to air seal exterior walls, ceilings and floors over unconditioned space. Air leakage is not only a major cause of comfort complaints but can also cause increased energy consumption, concealed condensation and related problems, such as mould, corrosion and wood rot. Architects and builders striving for increased airtightness and energy efficiency often specify fea­ tures like air-sealing electrical boxes, polypan enclosures behind electrical boxes and airtight enclosures for potlights to avoid these problems. SPF insulation can greatly simplify these sorts of issues. With spray foam, the insulation itself provides the air seal, allowing other trades more flexibility in some of the products they choose, and how they are subsequently installed. Getting to Know Foam Typically, rough-in electrical will be done before spray foam is applied, with the final connection of fixtures and other devices occurring afterward; however, it is often impossible to avoid running at least some circuits in insu­ lated walls after the spray foam has been completed. Running circuits after spray foam application can be challenging, depending on the type of foam that has been applied and the extent of the supplemental electrical work. When foam is applied in wall, ceil­ ing and floor cavities, the type you will typically encounter is low-density SPF. This type of foam is often referred to as “half-pound density foam” or “open cell foam” (or maybe even “Icynene foam”). It has the softness and consistency of angel food cake and can be easily cut to allow wiring to be tucked in. A pocket knife or even a credit card can be all that’s needed to get the job done. Minimize the damage to the foam and practically no repair work will be necessary. So long as you do not fully penetrate the foam (for example, by drilling holes directly from the interior to the exterior surface of the foam), you will not compromise the air sealing it provides. In other cases, particularly on the outside of the framing, you may encounter a tougher, denser, harder type of spray foam referred to as “medium-density spray foam” (also known as “two-pound density foam” or “closed cell foam”). It is much more firm, similar in strength to extruded polystyrene foam board you get at the lumber yard. The key difference is that its closed cell structure and adhesive properties are frequently chosen to provide a continuous vapour barrier as well as an air barrier. If you damage but do not repair this type of foam, an inspector may require repairs to it before construction can proceed. 13 Spray Foam Insulation Tips for Electrical Professionals Use potlight enclosures that are compatible with spray foam and do not rely on air movement through the enclosure for cooling thermal protection. industrynews / PAUL DUFFY
  16. 16. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202014 In either case, minimize the damage and you minimize the need for repairs. Should you remove large sections of foam, they will have to be repaired/replaced. If you are work­ing around foam, it’s a good idea to contact the foam installer for recom­ mendations and a “kit or canned foam” product that is compatible with the material installed. Remember, foam is produced by a reactive chemical process. When you apply even a small quantity of kit foam, be sure to wear protective gloves, glasses and clothing, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding ventilation and/or breath­ ing protection to avoid having that chemical reaction occur on your skin… or in your lungs. Spray foam does not only produce amazing thermal performance results, but can help the project avoid common issues related to air sealing and moisture control. Likewise, it can also produce unwanted surprises when you do not take steps to avoid them. Follow these tips to minimize problems with your electrical work. At the Rough-In Stage 1 Ensure all wiring is pulled tight and tacked at least roughly every 24 inches to minimize displacement as the foam expands. SPF will also produce heat as it expands. National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) approved wiring is compatible, but it may be necessary to run speaker wiring, network cabling and other services after the foam is applied to avoid problems with unrated wiring. 2 Mask the front of all electrical boxes, panels and equipment to avoid foam migration into unwanted areas. 3 Use air sealing electrical boxes if available to minimize the amount of foam migrating into the boxes from the back and sides. 4 Use potlight enclosures that are compatible with spray foam and do not rely on air movement through the enclosure for cooling/thermal protection. 5 Even though SPF has only one- quarter of the flame spread of wood products, it is still considered combustible. Follow all codes and manufacturer’s recommendations for separating heat-producing equipment and appliances from spray foam. Gypsum drywall and/or an air space may be recommended. 6 Follow normal de-rating procedures for wiring heavy loads in well- insulated assemblies. Low- density SPF has an R-value that is comparable to other insulation types. Medium-density SPF is comparable to board stock products. 7 Do not do any wiring while SPF is being sprayed. A safe practice is to avoid working in the area while spraying is taking place plus a period of up to 24 hours thereafter. At the Finishing Stage 1 Remove any foam that has been oversprayed onto equipment or into electrical boxes. 2 If additional circuits/electrical are required, run wiring along a path that minimizes the distance through foam. Go through interior walls and floors to get to exterior walls and ceilings. 3 Try to avoid penetrating supple­ mental wiring through foam. Supplemental air sealing may be required if holes are drilled through finished foam directly from the interior to the exterior. 4 Patch/repair spray foam with compatible products (for example, a low-density SPF should be repaired with a low-density kit foam). Conclusion As spray foam insulation’s use within residential and commercial construction continues to increase, it makes sense to avail yourself of the resources and education offered by industry to better understand the products and their functionality, and how they work in conjunction with other building materials. Through education and collabor­ ation with subject matter experts in the insulation space, electricians, designers and other contractors during the design or build phase can better grasp the various types of SPF available and how they are used in the building envelope. BB Paul Duffy has more than 20 years of building science and engineering experience, and he’s an active contributor to the code changes within the United States and Canada. Paul is currently chair of the Spray Foam Coalition and chair of the SFC Research Committee for the American Chemistry Council – Center for the Polyurethanes Industry. Spray foam does not only produce amazing thermal performance results, but can help the project avoid issues related to air sealing and moisture control.
  17. 17. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202016 The early results of Enbridge’s study using zoned modulating combination heating systems suggest dramatic energy savings and GHG reduction. featurestory / ROB BLACKSTIEN F rom a public perception standpoint, many simply see Enbridge Gas as a natural gas distribution company. The reality is that Enbridge is on the forefront of sustainability, constantly exploring bleeding-edge energy efficiency technologies and creating programs to help make them accessible and more affordable for both consumers and businesses. Game
  18. 18. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 17 From its Home Efficiency Rebate program to Savings by Design (issue 26) to its AeroBarrier program (see “Seal of Approval” on page 28), Enbridge has become a world leader in energy efficiency. We now have further evidence of this in the form of a recently completed trial in which the company examined the effects of using the iFlow smart air handler (and its zoning capability) with a combination heating system. The trials were conducted on five homes from participating builders Brookfield Residential, Campanale Homes, Empire Communities, Heathwood Homes and Regal Crest Homes. The study tested this system over the course of a heating season in various housing types across different regions of Ontario. Enbridge’s goal was to determine the gas savings and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction this system would offer compared to conventional heating systems (furnace and domestic water heater). For the test, Enbridge wanted either new homes that were connected to natural gas with a new ducting system designed to suit the iFlow/combi boiler installation, or retrofits with at least two zone ducting systems. of Zones From left: Kwon Taesung and Choi Youngshik, Navien, Inc., Mohamed Rani Abdelsalam, Enbridge Gas Inc., and Park Joonkyu, Navien Inc., South Korea, at the Regal Crest demonstration home.
  19. 19. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202018 Launched in summer 2019, the pilot was run by Enbridge’s Residen­ tial Technology and Development Group, a division focused on “trying to understand different technologies, how they work,” explains supervisor Matt Cable. According to Enbridge project manager Mohamed Abdelsalam, around 75% of Ontario homes use a gas furnace for heating and a separate tank or tankless hot water heater for water heating, so there’s a huge opportunity here to reduce GHGs if this system proves viable. The main objective of the study? “We want to test the technology and we would like to understand, determine and quantify the gas savings, operating cost savings and GHG emissions savings if we replace traditional heating systems with this modified combo heating system not used by most builders,” he explains. Cable says that his group’s raison d’être is to seek out and test more efficient technologies that will help home owners save energy. By pushing the technology towards commercialization, his group helps provide assurances to home owners that they can buy and install this equipment with the confidence that it’s both top quality and will deliver savings. He admits that, “I don’t think people fully understand what we do here. And our group in particular really does some cool stuff.” Abdelsalam adds that Enbridge runs these types of programs because it believes it has a responsibility to test manufacturers’ statements that everything works as advertised and delivers the projected savings. “Before we recommend any new technologies to customers, we should make sure 100% that it’s working and providing what it’s promising to provide,” he says. The preliminary results have been eye opening. Abdelsalam says that based on computer modelling, this system offers up to 29% reduction in gas usage and thereby GHG emissions. Beyond a savings on their energy bill, home owners will also experience other benefits. “The thermal comfort aspect of the home becomes much, much greater,” Cable says. For instance, he notes, if you spend a great deal of time in a particular part of the home under blankets or in a room that includes a gas fireplace or wood stove, you likely won’t need as much heating there. This is where the zoning plays such an integral role. Other benefits include: • On the heating side, Abdelsalam says the fact that the system can modulate between 20,000 BTU and 199,999 BTU will help achieve energy savings. There’s also a modulating flow on the AC side, but he says you’ll need a unit with a variable capacity compressor to maximize energy savings. • By combining two pieces of equipment into one, there’s a smaller footprint. “If you eliminate one, it makes your life a lot easier as a builder,” says Steve Doty, quality assurance manager, low-rise for Empire Communities. Even in a 6x6 room, there’s more than enough space to install this equipment, says Gary Dhillon, director of multi- residential housing for Martino Paul Duffy checks the system air flow at Brookfield Homes. Based on computer modelling, this system offers up to 29% reduction in gas usage and thereby GHG emissions.
  20. 20. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 HVAC, the company contracted to perform the design and installation in four of the five test homes. (In the fifth house, the builder wanted to use its own heating contractor, and designs were modified by a separate HVAC designer.) • Builders will appreciate the fact that they only need to run a single gas line and single venting system into the unit. Dhillon explains that this allows for quicker installations, so builders will save on labour costs. • At 98%, Abdelsalam says this is the most efficient system in the market. • The Navien tankless water heater can provide endless hot water. • The iFlow air handling system can provide up to four different zones in the home, meaning greater comfort for the occupants “because it prevents hot and cold spots,” Abdelsalam says. “When we’re talking about zoning, it means gas savings because, instead of heating the entire house, you’re only heating specific zones when required.” • Martino HVAC’s vice president of business development, Jeff Martino, raved about the system’s flexibility. “You have a lot of flexibility when it comes to heating with hot water because you can adjust the flow of the water, the temperature of the water and the cubic feet per minute (CFM) of the actual blower motor of the air handler.” Cable concedes this system does offer some challenges, especially in going from a traditional to a tankless water heater. Because it’s on-demand, there’s no large tank of hot water that’s available instantly when the taps are turned on, so there will be some delay. This is particularly an issue with most homes in the retrofit market as they are not likely to feature a recirculating loop to keep pipes hot. However, Abdelsalam says Enbridge did test two different models of tankless systems, one of which includes recirculation, and that version was installed in Regal Crest’s Anchor Woods house in Holland Landing. As for the other participating builders, Empire was a natural fit for the program as it’s recently been eschewing traditional furnaces, getting more involved in the examination of combi systems, Doty says. Based on what he’s seen of the system, he believes it will be especially useful in smaller townhomes, because “we can’t necessarily get a furnace small enough to actually meet our townhouse heat loss requirements,” he explains. “So these kinds of systems might be good solutions moving forward.” Tested in one of Empire’s TEETH (Three Energy Efficient Test Homes) units in Breslau (see issue 32), the system offered the advantage of minimizing the number of venting pipes required, Doty notes. With just the two (intake and exhaust for the hot water heater) to deal with, it makes life easier for builders. This model home was retrofitted with the iFlow air handler and the Navien tankless water heater (replacing a two-stage furnace), with the hot water tank removed. He says this will also help by allowing builders to downsize on the air conditioning unit, a trend which 19 Gary Dhillon of Martino Contracting commissions system at Empire house. Builders will appreciate the fact that they only need to run a single gas line and single venting system into the unit.
  21. 21. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202020 will definitely help push forward the GHG reduction agenda. Of course, this will also require a little home owner education. “People are still in the mindset that bigger is better,” Doty says. He’s dealt with home owners that believe they’ve undersized their heating system because a contractor came in and told them the builder put the wrong system in. Ultimately, Empire has to get involved and explain to the contractor that the house was designed that way. Zoning offers a solution to this challenge, given that you don’t need as much power to drive hot or cool air specifically to where the home owners want it. This test home was zoned for air conditioning purposes from the front to the back. In the afternoon, the west windows at the front of the house can receive more air conditioning to offset the heat gain. “If you’re able to put the cooling or the heating where it’s needed, then yes, you’re saving energy at the end of the day,” he says. Doty says one of the things he found most interesting about this combi system was that, thanks to the iFlow application for installers, contractors can remotely monitor the unit – so if there’s an issue, they’ll know the error code and have a clear idea of how to proceed. The ability to diagnose the system offsite is another benefit for builders, he says. Overall, Doty was impressed with the trial. “As a facilitator, it was won­ derful. It went off without a hitch.” The results speak for themselves. Based on computer modelling, annual energy consumption dropped nearly 4%. The CFM rose from 662 with the Lennox system Empire originally had in the house to 779 with the iFlow – using the same ductwork. “This sys­ tem seems to have outperformed our standard typical furnace,” Doty says. He thinks the iFlow’s zoning will also help eliminate the dreaded comfort calls. Combining this with the way Empire designs mechanicals (right-sizing them) and building a good envelope will go a long way towards achieving greater customer satisfaction. “[Zoning is] something I think every builder might want to look at,” Doty notes. Dhillon explains that the reason the iFlow was used in this program is because it’s a premium product compared to the equipment normally employed in construction. It is only one of two modulating systems tested in the lab. Martino HVAC is proving that it performs in actual production houses built to the current building code. He adds that the iFlow is also the best-suited system for a retrofit because the zoning is built in and the product can adapt to conventional ductwork. That means less design work in terms of changing the ductwork in an existing house, which is another plus for the contractor. While the contractor had no previous experience with the iFlow, Dhillon was impressed with how easy it was to learn and install the system, as there are lots of sensors – compared The iFlow air handling system can provide up to four different zones in the home, meaning greater comfort for the occupants “because it prevents hot and cold spots.” iFlow co-founder Kevin Moon demonstrates the zoning operation of the iFlow air handler.
  22. 22. 21BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 to other air handlers – that automate much of the process. “It preconfigures with a lot of the sensors that iFlow has designed in their product,” he adds. Martino is hopeful this type of solution ultimately opens the door to letting builders choose which fuel source they want to use. “What we’re excited for would be a form of control that would allow us to switch from gas to electric heating [heat pump] when electric heating costs are lower [during off-peak demand periods],” he says. As the cost of energy fluctuates, having that option would be beneficial. “That’s kind of what we’re hoping is the next step in this industry,” Martino says. Now that Phase I is complete, the next step will be to repeat the test in occupied homes (as opposed to test or show units) to get an idea of the domestic hot water savings. Abdelsalam says that Phase II (scheduled for the 2020–21 heating season) will consist of Enbridge putting another five systems in retrofit houses in Ontario to determine the savings for this market and compare it with the new construction market. Cable says that discussions have already begun with the demand side management (DSM) team – the group that develops Enbridge’s incentive programs. Once the savings are proven and the results are modelled, everything will be handed off to the DSM team to develop an incentive program around this system. Abdelsalam says it will be similar to the Savings by Design program, except designed specifically for consumers rather than builders. With the potential for increased flexibility for builders – and dramatic energy savings and GHG reductions for consumers – we’re certain to hear more about Enbridge’s testing in the months to come. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. AMVIC AMDECK MODULAR ONE-WAY CONCRETE SLAB ICFVL FLOOR LEDGER CONNECTOR SYSTEM ELECTRICAL OUTLET
  23. 23. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202022 The Sustainable Housing Founda­ tion’s 12th annual Green Builder Challenge™ Golf Tournament was held on June 25 at Flemingdon Park Golf Club. Nine teams teed off for a socially distanced best-ball round of nine holes on a beautiful, sunny day. The history of the tournament dates back to John Godden’s 50th birthday, when he challenged his green builder clients and friends to build 50 homes that were 50% more efficient. It became known as the “Green is 50” challenge. They celebrated by holding a golf tournament, which has now become an annual event and a fundraiser for the work of the Sustainable Housing Foundation (SHF). This year’s COVID-19 restrictions posed a barrier, and the event was postponed until June 25, when groups of 50 were allowed to gather outdoors. The golf course owners accommodated our need to socially distance, even providing a packed lunch and drinks cart so that players could participate without compromising their distance. As a golfer and SHF Board member, Paul Lowes of BP Canada commented, “the event helped bring industry friends and colleagues together after a prolonged period of isolation to participate in the annual event. The weather was spectacular and Flemingdon Park Golf Club did an excellent job ensuring protocols were met by making modifications to the pins and catering a delicious boxed lunch for each player. It was evident that everyone felt comfortable with the safety standards implemented and happy to see each other.” BB Team Rodeo, from left: Frank Muto, Sergio Conforti, Howard Cohen and Nolan Leiska. Team Heathwood, from left: Daryl Pirocchi, Emidio Tramontozzi, Bob Davis and Silvio Longo. Jeff Martino (left) and Nick Samavarchian at the fifth hole for longest drive. industrynews / PATSY DUFFY The winners of this year’s prizes were: WOMEN’S LONGEST DRIVE Jennifer Hurd BEST TEAM Frank Muto team MEN’S LONGEST DRIVE Daryl Pirocchi CLOSEST TO THE PIN Richard Lyall MOST HONEST TEAM Silvio Longo team BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 GREEN BUILDER CHALLENGE BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020
  25. 25. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202024 sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN For now, Canadians enjoy cheap hydro bills – but those rates aren’t going to last forever, says Kevin Smith, general manager of Panasonic’s Life and Device Solutions Division (LDS). He now oversees the company’s growth and culture changes, particularly as it relates to the home building community. But when he lived in the United States for four years – working at Cisco’s headquarters in Silicon Valley – he regularly saw power bills of $500 a month (thanks partly to owning a hot tub). “Electricity in the US is crazy, [at] painful rates,” he says. “Right now in Canada, we’re blessed with an abundance of hydroelectricity. But eventually we’ll end up with more realistic energy costs, and people will need to conserve and manage.” That’s the need that Panasonic seeks to fill with its new battery storage system, EverVolt, which works both with or without the grid using solar PV (photovoltaic) panels. How It Works The money-saving potential is great. As Smith points out, you basically become your own utility, and it allows you to easily “peak shave.” That’s a term used for averaging down – or “shaving” – energy costs, by buying and storing electricity when it’s less expensive at night, then using that stored electricity during the day when it’s most expensive. It becomes an energy management and backup system. The cost savings are even greater when the battery storage is used with solar PV panels, although that also depends on where you live (that is, the amount of sunlight you get) and how much roof you can devote to the panels. “PV and EverVolt would be the most complete solution,” Smith says. “But there are still huge benefits to using the storage without panels because of the peak shaving cost savings. As well, the EverVolt is a reliable power backup. Not as comprehensive as a generator, obviously, but it can keep devices operating during a short brown-out, and even for longer outages depending on how your system is set up.” While Smith figures the system is around the $20,000 mark, builders buying in bulk should be able to reduce that somewhat, especially if they’re doing multiple homes in one go. “We work with builders to develop pricing that makes sense for them,” he adds. That said, this isn’t something a builder promotes for short-term gains – it has to be seen as a long-term buy-in. Given the cost, builders probably want to know what the incentive would be for home buyers. Smith believes there are three things to consider: The first is being able to create the most energy-efficient system for your home The Benefits of Panasonic Battery Storage L ife has changed dramatically, and it’s not just from the coronavirus. More of us are working from home, especially since COVID-19, and there’s been a steady rise in electric vehicle (EV) and e-bike sales, creating more need for at-home electricity. As well, climate change is creating hotter summers, colder winters and correspondingly greater hydroelectric usage. EverVolt battery storage system. “… eventually we’ll end up with more realistic energy costs, and people will need to conserve and manage.”
  26. 26. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 EcoVent™ —The fan that meets designed airflow requirements. For true performance under the hood, install Panasonic EcoVent™ with Veri-Boost.™ Ideal for new residential construction, EcoVent is the perfect solution for home builders looking to meet designed airflow requirements the first time and avoid the hassle of replacing underperforming fans. EcoVent is a cost effective ENERGY STAR® rated solution that delivers strong performance. If you need to bump up the CFM output to achieve airflow design, simply flip the Veri-Boost switch and increase the flow from 70 to 90 CFM and you’re good to go! Learn more at
  27. 27. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202026 through peak shaving, and reducing costs as utility bills go up. The second is the security of knowing your energy system can maintain key functions in case of temporary power loss, which is especially important when working from home. The third is that it maximizes the potential if you have solar panels. The reason for the battery’s high cost isn’t because of economies of scale, especially since Panasonic has scaled up production massively, Smith says. The real culprit is global competition for a limited supply of lithium, a main ingredient in the battery. Panasonic enjoys a long-standing reputation for being one of the largest producers of batteries in the world, especially now that the company has developed electromagnetic interference (EMI) technology for cars. The Nevada factory produces product for Tesla, and it partners with Toyota as well. But builders may not realize the company has, for 50 years, had a housing arm – the Life and Device Solutions Division (LDS) – which provides related products for the home. In addition to solar and battery storage solutions such as EverVolt, the products are wide ranging: air source heat pumps and interior solutions such as door systems, storage and organization products; and insulation products such as vacuum insulated panels (VIPs). An Electrifying Career Smith has been instrumental in bringing those various product groups together to help the building community benefit from the full range of Panasonic products and solutions related to home building. His extensive background in electronics and the electrical industry is partly from family (his dad was in the industry) and partly from education (a degree in radio and TV arts from Ryerson University and one in economics from the University of Waterloo). His career has taken him to companies such as LG (introducing the brand to Canada in 1988), Daewoo, Flip Video, Linksys and Cisco. After four years in Silicon Valley, he returned to Canada in 2014 to lead Panasonic’s Canadian launch of the Homes Living business, as business manager of housing solutions. In fact, one of the first things he did when he returned to Panasonic in 2014 was to engage Environics for a study on the housing market and what the home buyer’s journey was. “It was important to understand why people do things,” he says. Among other things, they found that millennials are looking for turnkey solutions. They want to move in and have friends over tomorrow, Smith says. His specialty, it seems, is understanding consumer mentality. “It’s partly nature, partly experience, to be empathic and try to look at any business from the standpoint of the end user,” he explains. This is why Panasonic is well positioned to help builders hookup home owners up to these emerging opportunities to save on their energy costs. For information about Panasonic’s industrial energy products, contact Tony Attard (national sales manager) at For information about Panasonic’s energy solutions, contact Scott Kraus (group sales manager) at scott.kraus@ BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at Kevin Smith, general manager, Life and Device Solutions Division at Panasonic. “It’s partly nature, partly experience, to be empathic and try to look at any business from the standpoint of the end user,” Kevin Smith explains.
  28. 28. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202028 buildernews / ROB BLACKSTIEN Despite all this advancement, air leakage remains a challenge for home builders. Many builders employ techniques that involve a fair amount of guesswork, which means they grapple to make strides in what is likely the biggest energy loss issue within houses today. That’s what makes AeroBarrier such an exciting prospect for the housing industry. Capable of sealing holes as small as a hair follicle or as large as 5/8, AeroBarrier is an acrylic sealant that is misted into a pressurized home, creating a fog-like mass that will be driven to areas “where any of those unintended leakages are,” says AeroBarrier sales and marketing manager Brian Cooke. As AeroBarrier finds these spaces, the particles accelerate, causing them to gather together, coagulate and ultimately seal the leakage. While the technology behind this product is hardly new, it’s never been applied in such a manner. Fortunately, the award-winning AeroBarrier is starting to gain enough traction that energy behemoth Enbridge – no stranger to constantly testing new methods to save energy (see “Game of Zones,” page 16) – has embarked on a new program to help take the risk out of trying it for builders. Cooke explains that Enbridge is “always on the lookout for ideas that can transform the marketplace.” Enbridge’s program, which allows builders to register a maximum of 20 homes to be sealed, costs $1 per square foot of finished space (with a minimum base cost of $2,500). This Seal of Approval A new method of reducing air leakage is opening industry eyes with its dramatic results G iven the leaps and bounds the housing industry has made in recent years to make homes more energy efficient, there are precious few areas left in which dramatic improvements may still be gained. A blower door is used to pressurize house during air sealing.
  29. 29. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 price includes the first five gallons of sealant, with additional product costing $190 per gallon. The carrot here for builders is the rebate: $1,500 per house for those that are 2,400 square feet or larger and $1,200 per house for those that are smaller. Cooke advises builders to simply continue doing their usual great work, but when something slips through the cracks, that’s where AeroBarrier can really benefit them. “AeroBarrier’s going to seek out, find and seal that mistake or difficult area to seal,” he says. By allowing builders to develop consistent levels of airtightness, it will help reduce the anxiety of a house failing a blower test, he adds. As mentioned above, this technology is hardly innovative. The sealant – made by Tremco – has been used in commercial applications for almost 25 years, Cooke notes. All AeroBarrier is doing is mixing it with compressed air and using it in a different manner. “It’s really just caulking that we’re applying in a new way,” he explains. The original technology, developed by AeroBarrier’s parent company, AeroSeal, was used to seal ductwork. A few years ago, Cooke says, AeroSeal went back to the original creators at University of California, Berkeley to see if the product could be modified to reduce air leakage in the entire home. In 2018, AeroBarrier was launched at the International Building Show in Las Vegas, arriving in Canada in June of that year. In December 2019, Enbridge launched its program, with an original scope of testing the product in 200 new homes. To date, Cooke says around 100 homes have been completed, with data available for around 50. So far, the results have been eye-opening, with an average air leakage reduction of 50% to 55%. “It’s pretty incredible. This is why Enbridge is so excited about it. It’s pretty game-changing in the impact it can make from an air leakage perspective,” he says. Cooke estimates the air leakage improvements will translate into a 10% to 20% reduction in heating needs and gas consumption. The process takes four to five hours, and it’s safe to go back into the home within a half hour, making it easy to work into a production agenda. The company recommends scheduling the process before flooring, railing, cabin­ ets, etc., are brought into the home. Royalpark Homes – a graduate of Enbridge’s Savings by Design program – is no stranger to seeking better ways to build efficient houses. The challenge when a house fails a blower test, explains service manager Joe Dilecce, is that “finding the leak is like looking for a needle in a haystack.” That’s why he was so intrigued by AeroBarrier. So when Royalpark was approached about participating in Enbridge’s AeroBarrier program, it was a good fit, Dilecce says. “We’re committed to 29 519-489-2541 As energy continues to become a bigger concern, North American building codes and energy programs are moving towards giving credit for and/or requiring Airtightness testing. AeroBarrier, a new and innovative envelope sealing technology, is transforming the way residential, multifamily, and commercial buildings seal the building envelope. AeroBarrier can help builders meet any level of airtightness required, in a more consistent and cost-effective way. Take the guesswork out of sealing the envelope with AeroBarrier’s proprietary technology. Brian Cooke, AeroBarrier sales and marketing manager.
  30. 30. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202030 LowCostCodeCompliancewiththeBetterThanCodePlatform This rating is available for homes built by leading edge builders who have chosen to advance beyond current energy efficiency programs and have taken the next step on the path to full sustainability. BetterThanCode This Platform helps Builders with Municipal Approvals, Subdivision Agreements and Building Permits. Navigating the performance path can be complicated. A code change happened in 2017 which is causing some confusion. A new code will be coming in 2022. How will you comply with the new requirements? Let the BTC Platform – including the HERS Index – help you secure Municipal Subdivision Approvals and Building Permits and enhance your marketing by selling your homes’ energy efficiency. 45 BetterThanCodeUsestheHERSIndextoMeasureEnergyEfficiency TheLowertheScoretheBetter–MeasureableandMarketable OBC 2012 OBC 2017 NEAR ZERO 80 60 40 20 Email or call 416-481-7517 building energy-efficient houses for our home owners to achieve a high level of interior comfort and perhaps lowering emissions so their houses can also be cost effective.” Having seen AeroBarrier in action, Dilecce believes using it can give Royalpark a competitive advantage from a marketing perspective. He believes it will say to the world: “hey, look what kind of builder we are compared to the rest of the builders that just do the makeup and the lip­ stick to the interior part of the home.” While Dilecce believes this tech­ nology really caters to the educated purchaser, the fact is home owners won’t need to be rocket scientists to notice the difference from a comfort perspective, not to mention appre­ ciate the savings on their utility bill. He explains that while Royalpark uses the most up-to-date HVAC systems in its homes, “a lot of exterior walls are taken for granted.” Given the challenges these walls have with heat loss in colder conditions, Dilecce says the company was interested in putting its craftsmanship to the test by trying this. Employed in Royalpark’s semi- detached test home in Brampton, AeroBarrier managed to reduce the unit’s air leakage from 2.43 ACH to 1.84 ACH – a dramatic improvement. Dilecce says once the home is fully complete, the company is hoping for an even better result. So for Royalpark – a builder that’s already well ahead of the curve (see “Royalpark Powers On” from issue 30, page 12) – a house that was 20.7% better than Code is now 23.4% better than Code after the AeroBarrier application. “It’s pretty brilliant if you think about it. They’re onto something here,” Dilecce says. Cooke says that while Canada is on the cutting edge of energy- efficient home building, trying to minimize air leakage – and doing it consistently well at scale – is one of the last hurdles. As a highly efficient and safe (GREENGUARD Gold certified) product, AeroBarrier is poised to dramatically help builders deal with one of their biggest headaches. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer.
  31. 31. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 In reality, windows play a critical role in the homes we build and should be selected carefully for their performance attributes along with their looks. Windows function as a health and safety device installed to keep the weather out, while letting daylight, vistas and fresh air into the home. They help to protect the home and the occupant. For example, installing triple glazed windows will allow the home owner to have a higher overall relative humidity during the winter without having excess humidity or moisture collecting on the windows, where it can lead to mould if not cleaned regularly. Choosing the right window can improve energy performance, provide greater occupant comfort and reduce common callbacks. Here’s where the codes and energy programs go off the rails a bit. In Canada, our windows are rated using U-value, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) and Energy Rating (ER). ER rating is a Canadian thing, and it’s a red herring as far as improved energy performance is concerned. ER favours solar heat gain and windows that gain heat. Using ER to specify your window performance can result in selecting windows that will overheat rooms of the home that face south, west, east and even north, depending on overhangs, the home’s geographic location and the time of year. There are those out there that consider Canada as a heating climate, so they perceive solar heat gain to be a good thing. But does it make sense to dump a bunch of uncontrolled heat gain into a high-performance home, where it will cause discomfort and energy performance issues? Alterna­ tively, selecting a window with a low U-value and a low SHGC can result in a more balanced heating and cooling load, reduce overheating and provide better overall occupant comfort. Desired Outcome Selecting the right window glass to help overall energy performance while increasing occupant comfort and reducing peak energy usage. Note: It is critical to select windows before doing mechanical design, and then not change them (unless it is to improve performance). What’s the Benefit? Proper window selection can reduce the cooling load by half a ton or more of cooling, depending on the size of the home and its orientation. More volume is needed to move the same amount of cooler air than warmer air, which means the cooling load now dominates the design of high-performance homes. Selecting and installing low solar glass can reduce the amount of cold air that needs to be moved to cool the home, resulting in smaller duct sizes that are right-sized for heating and cooling. Spending a bit more on the windows can actually result in overall savings. Personal Experience I’ve done a great deal of work on this file over the years, and it has been an extremely frustrating journey – especially because the answer appeared fairly quickly. Getting the regulatory 31 Builder’s Window Selection Affects Sizing and Designing HVAC Systems and Occupant Comfort fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY W indows are often an afterthought in the overall specifications process. I mean, as long as the window looks good, why spend more on a better one? Well, I’ve come to find that it is pretty common for one window to be specified for its performance values, yet a totally different window performance is selected when the windows are ordered. And that can lead to significant performance issues. High performance window label displaying low U-Factor and low Solar Heat Gain Coefficient.
  32. 32. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 202032 approvals to use the answer has been the source of frustration. The new National Building Code is addressing this with a section noting that, if your proposed home uses more energy for cooling load than the reference home, then you have to address solar gain to reduce the cooling load. That is a welcome change that should be applauded. Over our years of experimenting, we’ve landed on a triple glazed vinyl window with a warm edge foam spacer and low solar triple silver low emis­ sivity glass. The total product U-value is 1.4 and the SHGC is 0.25. I think this is a great window for our climate location. The window’s additional cost is offset by smaller ductwork and reduced AC size for the home. The windows also result in a much quieter, more comfortable and healthier home that our home owners consistently appreciate. Expert Advice Jeff Baker from WESTLab has been working with manufacturers on energy-efficient design of windows and doors for over 30 years. “Getting the right windows specified into a home at the design stage before the HVAC equipment is sized is vital to creating a comfortable and healthy home. Ordering windows that actually meet these specifications is critical as the windows become a vital part of the house design,” he explains. He shares a further insight: “ensur­ing that the windows used in highly energy-efficient homes do not cause overheating is critical to creating the highly energy-efficient, comfortable and healthy home a home owner is looking for.” Jeff also indicates that selecting low U-value windows with lower SHGC values will result in better house designs for highly energy-efficient homes. Action Plan It is important to select a window that will actually perform well in a number of climate settings. We need to consider this because Canada has some pretty extreme weather, anywhere from 40°C to –40°C. Depending on where you live and build, it’s fairly common to have a 50°C to 60°C swing in overall temperature throughout the year. That’s a lot of climatic variation to manage. If you live in an area with a fairly low cooling load, you might want a higher solar heat gain window. In that case, something like the single silver, high solar gain, low-e glass or double silver, medium solar gain, low-e glass might be appropriate. On the other hand, if you are in an area where cooling loads are climbing and the season is getting longer, you should take a close look at triple silver low-e glass. A pretty good place to start would be selecting a window with a U-value 1.4 and an SHGC 0.3, while ignoring the ER. Another factor to consider is the spacer between the windowpanes. There are a number on the market, and they have varying degrees of performance. Selecting a warm edge window spacer that will reduce conduction heat loss will help to keep the window warmer during the cold winter months. One critical step that is often missed in window selection is sharing the information with your energy advisor (EA) and your HVAC designer. They need this information to properly size the mechanical equipment for the home. Once you’ve selected the specification for the windows and shared them with your EA and HVAC designer, do not change the specifications without consulting them. Such changes can result in significant performance issues for the HVAC system and comfort complaints from the home owner. Below are the approximate costs of these options: • Triple glazed windows average + 21% premium vs. double glazed windows • Triple silver low-e glass averages + 3% premium vs. regular triple glazed windows This article is an excerpt from A Builder’s Guide to Net Zero Homes, which I hope to have available later this year. BB Doug Tarry Jr is director of marketing at Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario. “Getting the right windows specified into a home at the design stage before the HVAC equipment is sized is vital to creating a comfortable and healthy home,” Jeff Baker explains.
  33. 33. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 35 | AUTUMN 2020 Trailblazer Matt Risinger Builder and building science expert COMFORTBOARD™ has received ICC-ES validated product acceptance as continuous insulation for multiple applications. For more information visit Continuous stone wool insulation that improves thermal performance Trailblazing requires confidence, expertise and a desire to do things right. Matt Risinger uses non-combustible, vapor-permeable and water-repellent COMFORTBOARD™ to help wall assemblies dry to the outside, keeping clients comfortable inside. It cuts down on heat loss and improves energy efficiency so that what you build today positively impacts your business tomorrow. 3773