Passive Systems in the Green Design Process

This is perhaps the more interesting side of the green building process because this is where form and function meet. Lets start off with a simple illustration to give you a clear understanding of passive design. We will use a sailboat as an example; to keep things simple, this sailboat is made up of a hull, sails, and a small auxiliary engine. When designing this sailboat, the engineer wants to maximize the efficiency of the hull and sails (the passive components) - by reducing drag and increasing effectiveness of the sails. As these passive aspects of the boat are improved, the need for the auxiliary engine (the mechanical system) is reduced. 

This translates to your building as well, the more ambient resources (sun, water, and wind) that can be taken advantage of due to passive design means less of a need to use the cities utilities, or expensive and invasive mechanical systems.

Now that we have an understanding of the purpose of passive systems, lets look at some of the most popular ones in more detail. 

 

Daytime Lighting

There are 3 main reasons that natural daylighting should be integrated into the design of your building, lets review them below:

  • The sun is constant, it appears every day and unlike the lights in your home, you don't have to pay for it. The sun is a free source of energy, its advantageous to you and the environment to use as much of it as you can.
  • Sunlight is more appealing to us than artificial light, there is nothing like it. Natural sunlight has a warmer more comforting tone that reduces stress and actually makes people feel more positive. It also supplies us with important Vitamin D, a vitamin necessary for your immune system to function properly. According to some studies it also makes us more productive during the day, and helps us sleep better at night. You can read more about this here. Architectural Lighting 
  • There are also clever ways to actually absorb the suns heat energy into your building - this is mentioned below.

 

Passive Heating

Is achieved mainly through product selecting products that have a high thermal mass, or resistance to temperature changes. Certain materials such as stone, concrete, and tile can absorb the suns heat energy quite effectively. This can be used to your advantage when designing your project, for example; when a tile floor is exposed to sunlight during the day it absorbs that heat energy. As the sun sets the sunlight disappears but the tile floor stays warm and slowly radiates that heat back into your building. This effectively gives you free heating during the evening and night. 

What if you don't want this heating during the summer months though? Your architect and us as your contractor can work hand in hand to have your building designed accordingly - because the suns path changes from season to season, we can make sure that your design lets sun on these thermal mass areas more during the winter months and less during the summer ones.

This image was taken in December at our Evergreen project. Firstly note how deep the sunlight penetrates into the room, this was by design; during the summer months the floor in this room sees almost no direct sunlight at all. You can see the dark stone floors that absorb the daytime sun (yellow arrows). The floors would then radiate heat throughout the night (orange arrows,) majorly reducing winter heating costs. If you find a certain space too warm, you can add an area rug (as seen in the picture.)

 

Cooling & Natural Ventilation

In the previous entry that talked about mechanical systems, we covered Radiant Heat, Heat Recovery Ventilation, Forced Air Heating, and Air Conditioning. What we didn't talk about is how to offset those systems using the design of the building itself. 

Your site typically will have a predictable air current that usually peaks during temperature surges (in the morning and evening.) By placing windows on opposite sides of the building, parallel to the air current, you can channel the earths natural air current through your building to cool your space. To take this design idea even further, you can apply a solution typically called “stack ventilation” that will work even when there is no breeze.

The images below from our Belmont project illustrate the way that stack ventilation works -  warm air rises, so we give it a place to escape usually at the highest place in the building. That warm air leaving the building through the elevated window stack pulls cool air in from the windows on the stories below. This creates a naturally ventilating space that supplies itself with cool and fresh air. 

When planning a ventilation stack, you need an open space that connects the different stories in your building together. Usually a staircase is the best location to implement stack ventilation as all floors are connected to it. We can help you decide on the most practical yet convenient location and products to implement stack ventilation.

 

 

 

At Meister Construction Ltd. we put forward our best effort to work with our clients and their architect in order to implement the best design, and to build you the best quality product that will suit your needs. If any of these concepts or solutions are something that you would like more information on, please feel free to contact us at info@meisterconstruction.ca for further discussion and inquiries. 

Considerations When Choosing Mechanical Systems

Mechanical systems have always been present in buildings, they control our temperature, give us water, and provide us with light. Looking into more efficient versions of these systems has only become practical in the recent years due to advances in technology which have lowered initial installation and purchase costs.

Before we look at specific mechanical systems to consider, its always important to remember:

  • that depending on the scope, size, and location of your project, not all systems may be practical or beneficial
  • to plan out your timeline of ownership in order to understand which systems will be most cost effective for you
  • research the cost of your utilities - the prices of natural gas, electricity, and water - as this may help you decide the best solution for your project

With these ideas in mind, lets have a look at some of the most popular solutions and products that are on the market today.

 

Radiant vs. Forced Air Heating

Heating is a necessity here in Vancouver, and there really are only two realistic ways of heating your building. Although forced air has been the accepted standard for years and is still a favourite due to its low cost of installation, radiant heating is ideal in terms of comfort, flexibility, and efficiency.

Radiant heating uses a technology that dates back to the Roman empire believe it or not, and is achieved by having tubes of warm water run through your floors. The warm floors then radiate heat upwards through your building creating a very even and comfortable heat. Because radiant heating does not rely on forcing air throughout the building, floating particulate and dust accumulation is drastically reduced. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of radiant heating is that you can completely remove the furnace which would be required to heat the hot air. Radiant heating uses the same boiler which heats the hot water for the fixtures in your home, offering a massive savings of up to 25% reduction in energy consumption versus a typical forced air counterpart.

*you can read more about radiant heating HERE at one of our other blog entries.

 

Air-Conditioning

The Energy Star Logo

The Energy Star Logo

Vancouver’s climate does not necessarily require an A/C system as temperatures here are quite mild year round. For most clients, the summer temperature highs are quite manageable especially with the use of passive strategies alone - which we will talk about in our next post. Although, if your future building is large, or the utmost comfort is desired, we recommend  energy star approved units, one perfectly suited to the application - we will work with you to find the very best solution for your project.


Ventilation, and Heat Recovery Systems (HRV)

Advances in building science and construction practices have allowed the exterior of buildings to be increasingly water and air tight, both very important qualities for Vancouver’s mild and damp climate. The problem here is that when your doors and windows are closed - especially in winter time - there is no fresh airflow throughout your building. When there is no way for fresh air to enter or circulate, your indoor air becomes stale and quality begins degrade as it gains particulate creating an unhealthy environment. In the summer time you can simply open a window to solve this problem, but in the winter, opening windows means major heat loss and therefore large energy consumption and high utility costs. The solution is to instal an “HRV” or a Heat Recovery Ventilator. This unit pulls fresh air from the exterior, filters it, then the air passes through a heat exchanger which brings it to room temperature by using the stale interior air as its heat source. Once the fresh air is heated it is sent into the building while the stale air is expelled outside.. This unit is infinitely more efficient than opening a window, and supplies the inside with filtered, warm, and fresh air, we recommend these to every client we deal with who uses radiant heat.


Water Saving Appliances and Fixtures

Saving water can be as easy as just being conscious of what you are buying. We can lend a hand and make sure you are making the best purchase for the environment and for you as the owner. 

  • Before purchasing faucets and shower heads, inspect their water consumption ratings and see that water saving spouts can be installed
  • Dishwashers and clothing washers are very large water consumers, make sure to look for water and energy efficient options - they are usually energy star certified


Energy Efficient Lighting

Has really only been viable within the last couple years due to the fact that energy efficient light solutions have been quite expensive, unreliable, and inaccurate. The unappealing and un-natural light sent out by LED’s are finally coming to an end as warmer tones similar to incandescents are becoming achievable. There are many reasons why you should consider LED lighting, the major ones include:

  • up to 75% less energy used than a conventional incandescent bulb
  • 40-50 times longer life span than a comparable incandescent bulb
  • LED bulbs produce far less heat

If you are considering using LED lighting in your home, make sure that you are buying a quality product, as there are many poor LED products on the market. If you would like to consider LED lighting, we will find the very best quality product for the desired budget.

 

 

If any of these concepts or solutions are something that you would like more information on, please contact us. When working with us,  we make sure that these systems will be integrated in to your project for maximum efficiency while maintaining function and aesthetics.

 

 

A Quick Word on Green Building Strategies

Throughout the next few weeks, we will be releasing a more detailed look at some of the most popular “green” strategies in construction today. We will be focusing on the design and mechanical elements that can be applied to your building. We hope that this gives you an in depth understanding of what is possible for your next project with us.

Green building, which is hardly a new concept, has really only been able to make a mainstream appearance in the last few years thanks to a much larger concern and the ever growing list of benefits to both the owner and consumer. As green building continues to become the new standard, products and technologies required to achieve these goals will continue to decrease in cost and increase in efficiency. The initial cost to design and implement green building strategies is still more expensive than a conventional method, and although you can see some financial savings immediately, the majority of savings usually take place cumulatively over time. This is usually not a problem as the buildings we build last far longer than required for the owner to recuperate their initial added investment. There are also some immediate but often overlooked benefits which include greater interior comfort through natural lighting and a higher air quality.

There are two main areas of focus which should be considered when designing a building with green strategies in mind, we will get into more depth as blog posts continue but here is a brief list.

 

Mechanical Systems: 

These have the ability to either be implemented right into new construction or down the road by replacing old systems (usually a more expensive route). They still use purchased energy like electricity or natural gas, savings for these systems is found in their greater efficiency.

    They usually are made up of:

  • high efficiency heating, ventilation, HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator), and air-conditioning systems
  • water saving appliances and fixtures
  • energy efficient lighting solutions
  • radiant heating

 

Passive Systems: 

Work in the background using the environment, and are integrated into the actual design of the building. When applying passive systems to your project it is important to keep form vs. function in mind. These systems are incorporated right from the beginning of the life of the building, as they are extremely expensive to add later and can require large alterations. 

    Some of the most common passive strategies include:

  • daytime lighting
  • natural ventilation / heating / cooling
  • solar energy
  • rainwater collection
  • massing and orientation

 

 

Any of these systems on their own when applied and installed properly will be beneficial to both the owner and user. But it is when they are efficiently used together that you will see maximum benefits, thats where we can help. If you have questions regarding this topic please do not hesitate to ask.

The Kitchen Backsplash

One of the top trends this year for modernizing your kitchen is to add a tiled backsplash. We are seeing a shift this year from the all white kitchen trend towards more natural materials, brass accessories, monochrome minimalism and patterned backsplashes.  


With everything being streamlined and clean looking people are looking to add a bit of excitement to their kitchens. By adding a tiled backsplash you can achieve that wow factoryou may be looking for.  Of all the elements in your kitchen, backsplash are fairly affordable to replace, so you can safely dare to get creative knowing that if you grow tired of the look you can change it in a few years.  

Patterned Tiles or Mosaics

Look for tiles with interesting patterns, colours, or exotic designs, keep the rest of the kitchen minimalistic. With companies like Bisazza, mosaics are becoming more and more popular for backsplash as they are easy to maintain and you can choose from a stunning array of patterns and colours.  The only downfall to tiles is cleaning and maintaining the grout.

 

Subway Tiles

photo courtesy of www.portlandsubwaytile.com

photo courtesy of www.portlandsubwaytile.com

Subway tiles have also been very popular this past year, with their clean, sophisticated look.  They also add dimension and texture to your kitchen. Subway tiles are available in many colours from neutrals to bright hues, and some with a mirror finish, you can find one that suits your home and the look you are trying to accomplish.


Glass

Another way to add colour to your kitchen is by adding a glass backsplash.  The use of glass splash backs will always be popular due to the versatility in colour,the ease of cleaning, the cost and aesthetics.  You can have your local glass company cut and paint tempered glass to fit the space you have in any colour.  Monochrome glass backsplash are trending right now, but you can also customize your own with photo imagery or graphics of your liking. Another reason by glass is popular is because it is easy to with any household glass cleaner.  


Granite and Marble

Getting back to the more natural look people are loving now, granite offers that warm earthy feel that is trending.  If you have granite countertops you can create a seamless look by adding it as a backsplash.  Granite is durable, however with all natural stones it must be resealed 1 to 2 times a year to maintain its protective properties.  Marble also looks beautiful in slab form and is generally a low-maintenance material, however it should be sealed as it is porous will absorb grease and dirt if not properly treated.  

Building a Pathway That Works for You

There are a few key elements to think about when designing your walkways.  You must choose the right materials, think about the shape and width, and know what space you have to work with.  For instance, if your walkway is going to be short and connecting the street to the front door then it will probably be straight and narrow.  You will also want to be aware of surrounding trees as roots could push your pathway up.  Another important thing to think about is drainage, you don’t want water to pool on the surface of your path.  So before you choose your materials and start building, do your research or hire a contractor.

 

There are so many different styles and materials to choose from. What you choose will depend on the style of your home, how much you want to spend, and how much maintenance you want to invest in it.  Here are a few ideas to get inspired for building your perfect walkway (some can be DIY projects, some you will want to hire a professional for).


 

Stepping Stones

Using large flagstones laid over grass, or sand and filled in with decorative landscape rock, form a classic walkway.  A project like this can be an easy weekend project, even for beginner DIYers.

 

Brick

Brick allows for many design options.  There are different grades of brick out there, so make sure you choose one that is rated for severe weather or “clay pavers”.  There are many colours of brick to choose from and patterns so you can customize to make it your own.  

 

Pallet Wood

Recycled pallet wood makes for a unique look and is ideal for any short walkways.  You can place the planks with spaces between allowing grass and plants to grow creating a rustic look. This way is more vulnerable to movement over time, but you can also fix them to the ground, or make a bed of mortar and concrete.

 

Gravel

Gravel is popular as it is an extremely versatile material and is available in many colours and sizes and crushed granite is especially becoming popular.  You can also lay this down yourself and not have to worry about spacing or measurements.  Just lay down some landscaping fabric, create a border with larger stones or edging and fill.


 

Bark Mulch

Bark mulch is affordable and very DIY friendly walkway material.  The path can be edged in large stones and you can create a winding walkway for a natural, cabin-in-the-woods type of look.

 

Pavers

If you are looking for a more formal look, pavers can dress up your garden or lawn.  The material is pricier than some of your other options, but requires less maintenance.  The

installation of them is also a bit more laborious, but worth the effort.

 

Mosaic Pebble

Mosaics are becoming more and more popular in the home and if you really want a decorative walkway then try a mosaic made with pebbles.  Unless you are an artisan and have the skills to do this, we would leave this to a professional to install.  Each path is a unique work of art.  

 

Stamped Concrete

Concrete can be coloured and textured to look like other types of stone or paving materials, so if you wanted to use concrete but have it look and feel warmer, then this is a good option.


 

Tumbled Glass

Tumbled glass mulch is a recycled material that comes in a wide array of colours.  It is long lasting, doesn’t fade and will definitely make your walkway sparkle.  There are no sharp edges and it is definitely a unique look.

 

Bamboo

Bamboo is on the rise, as it is a sustainable, natural building material.  By laying them in long rows and alternating direction, it makes for an interesting walkway into any modern home.

Bathroom Trends

The Bathroom - Your Homes Sanctuary

 

The bathroom can be a sanctuary in our homes, sometimes the only place to escape the non-stop notifications on your phone, take a break from your never-ending demands of daily life, the one place most people should respectively leave you alone.  So why wouldnt you want to put as much care and love into designing your bathroom as you would any other room in your home.  

Here are some design trends we are seeing in bathrooms this year to help create that relaxing space we all are looking for in our busy lives.  

 

Home Spa

More and more people are investing in creating their own spa like escapes in their own homes.  Designers and architects are adding features like steam shower rooms, saunas, whirlpool baths and hot tubs into their designs knowing that people are looking for that space to relax and meditate.

 

Living Walls

You may have noticed these living walls around in public spaces, kitchens, restaurants, spas, and now some bold designers are bringing them into the bathroom.  Not only do they improve air quality, but they are breathtaking, vibrant, and bring life to the room.  The main concern people have is watering them, but there are watering systems that automatically water based on time or level of moisture in the soil.  


 

Custom Built Open Walk-In & Frameless Showers

People are looking for something different, individual, and unique and having an open walk in shower is definitely that.  With a large monsoon-like over head shower this space is sure to impress.  What is also popular right now are frameless showers.  Minimalist and sleek they cut back on all the frills using only what is necessary to maintain its structural integrity.  Chrome brackets, heavy glass panels, sturdy handles, and water tight design will create that classy look that will be on trend for several years to come.


Natural Materials

A trend that is popular throughout the home is using natural materials to give your home a warm and rustic feel.  These materials are generally timeless and will last a long time.  If you are renovating you may look to see if there are natural aged beams in the ceiling which have the potential to be uncovered and treated.  Rich toned wood flooring will warm the look and feel of your bathroom.  Natural slate, stone and other earthy textures are all viable options and so you are likely to find a natural option that will work with your design.  Driftwood is also becoming more popular in furniture design and in decorative features.

 

Copper

Copper and brass are making a comeback, as we move from the stainless steel look to warmer tones.  Copper light fixtures, faucets, sinks and other accessories are popping up giving an old world charm feel to the space.

 

Mosaic Patterns

Patterned tiles are showing up in kitchens and bathrooms in 2014.  It is a way to get creative and put your own stamp on things.  If you have vintage looking features, such as a claw foot bathtub, try and keep to traditional patterns if you want a more timeless look.  Or you can create a very modern look and feel with bold and bright tiles which will give your bathroom a vibrant edge.  Whatever your taste and look you are going for, you can find tiles and a pattern to go with your design.


 

 

 

   

 

Top 10 gifts for your home

This year we would like to suggest a few ingenious items that will make gift giving a blast thisseason. Give your friends and family gifts they will love, use and cherish.

Are your friends avid cooks?

They will love Joseph Joseph. Their range of nesting implements are incredibly space saving and come in a wide range of colours to make their kitchen a little more fun. Or if that’s not their style, the collection also comes in stainless steel.

Another great kitchen addition is a spaghetti measurer

Not often bought for yourself, it is a useful addition to any kitchen. They also come in a variety of interesting shapes and sizes adding an additional flair to the implement.

 

Why not give slate boards?

They are beautiful, versatile and can be used to identify what’s on it. Slate is a wonderfully tactile way of displaying food and would be a welcome addition to any cubboard.

 

Give easy-to-care-for plants

Many people love having plants in their home, but are incredibly inept at keeping them alive.

Air plants get their nutrients right from the air around them and are almost miraculous in their ability to stay alive. Give your family and friends plants that they can love with an elegant globe housing an airplant.

 

Add some inspiration to their cooking

 

Give your loved ones the gift of dinner decisions. A set of die that will suggest a course of action for dinner, making choosing what to cook a doddle.

 

Cunning Hidey Hole

Everyone needs a space to hide safe keys, emergency cash and other valuables that need to be readily available. Why not give them a cunning space to put these necessary trinkets. A hollow book would be the ideal place for these things.

 

Get to know the neighbourhood

 

Give a map to the new neighbourhood with a handy set of map coasters.

 

Prevent them from ever losing their keys again

With these magnetic key holders, your loved ones will never again have to search for their keys.

 

Help free up some space

Give a storage carousel to help keep their cupboards neat and tidy.

 

For the avid whisky drinker

For those of you with loved ones who are partial to a nip of whiskey, whiskey rocks provide a neat gift.


Meister Construction would like to wish you and your families a wonderful festive season.

Radiant Heating Explained

Discussion on Radiant Heat

If you've ever been met by the chill of a cold floor first thing in the morning, you may want to consider radiant floor heat as an option for your new home or renovation. Seemingly a relatively modern idea yet subfloor heating was used by the ancient Romans and Turks for their baths and by architectural greats such as Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 20th century.  Here in North Vancouver a developer built 500 ranch style homes completed in 1952. The homes were built on a slab and the radiant heat systems used are still operating today. For those of you that haven't had experience with radiant heat, lets explore its characteristics, uses, advantages and disadvantages.

Types of Radiant Heating

Hydronic systems are used as primary heat to a home and consist of a series of flexible tubes installed over a subfloor, set with a layer of protective concrete allowing for installation of the chosen finished flooring. Heated water is circulated through the tubes by a boiler that also will supply the homes hot water. Any type of flooring can be used with your hydronic radiant heating and although solid wood is not recommended by most due to the possibility of warping we have had long term success through our proven installation techniques.

Hydronic for multi-surface flooring

Hydronic for multi-surface flooring

Hydronic for wood flooring

Hydronic for wood flooring

Electric systems, are generally used for smaller areas like kitchens and bathrooms and not for general heating. The system is achieved through a matted looping of resistance wires installed over a subfloor and set in place with a thin coat of mortar allowing for installation of the finish floor product.

Electric radiant heating

Electric radiant heating

What Are the Benefits?

Radiant heat is hidden from view, with no heat registers to or ducting to have to clean. Heat is produced silently and steadily without the typical fluctuations in room temperatures and drying of air that leads to winter dryness.  Aside from comfort there are health benefits with the absence of dust and allergen circulation.  When a high efficiency boiler is used, heating your home becomes extremely cost effective. With these benefits to your comfort, health and budget we would argue that radiant is the most ideal system for heating your home.

The system comes with a higher cost to put in than a traditional forced air system however this extra cost will soon be absorbed with your lower cost of your monthly heating bills and you can feel good about reducing for energy footprint by at least 30% which is better for the environment.

Let's Compare Radiant to Forced Air Heating

Aside from energy efficiency, radiant systems heat where the people are giving a warmer more comfortable feeling. Forced air blows hot air throughout your house via air ducts and cycles on and off and rising quickly to the ceiling creating fluctuations in temperature.  So may find you are fiddling with the thermostat often to try and get the heat just right.

With radiant heat, the room warms from the ground up, so the warmest areas of the room are the first 6 feet where people typically are. As the tubes are encased in concrete the floor actually retains heat helping with efficiency and stability of temperature.

Comparison of forced-air heating (left) and radiant heating (right)

Comparison of forced-air heating (left) and radiant heating (right)

Innovations and Sustainability

In the 50s and 60s copper tubing, while effective had its drawbacks such as leaking and higher cost but with the innovation of PEX tubing, radiant floors are easier to install and through the innovation of a oxygen barrier they have overcome issues that lead to corrosion of metal components. New products such as Warmboard that enable installation of hydronic radiant systems for retrofit applications are now available.

Solar heating is becoming more popular and mainstream and their thermal collectors are very sufficient at supplying enough energy to heat the low temperature water needed for heating a home. New homes in the District of North Vancouver now require a conduit to be in place for easy future installation of solar energy systems.

Considerations

We will be happy to discuss your project and help you decide whether radiant floor heating is the right option for you according to your budget and feasibility of installation. If it is something that will fit within your parameters then we would highly recommend considering it for your home. When choosing a boiler for your system we recommend a high efficiency one that is capable of supplying both your domestic hot water and your radiant floor heated water.

Feel free to contact us at info@meisterconstruction.ca for further discussion and inquiries.

11 Things You Should Do To Prep Your Home For Winter

photo by Steven & Courtney Johnson & Horwitz - licensed under CC BY 2.0

photo by Steven & Courtney Johnson & Horwitz - licensed under CC BY 2.0

Winter is coming and the cold weather is already creeping in.  It is important for every home owner to take the time to prep their home for the upcoming months to ensure energy savings and to prevent possible future repairs.  Here is a list of the top 10 things to do before you light up that yule log.

 

1. Check Your Furnace

If your home is heated by a furnace you will want to make sure it is running efficiently.  Check the fan belt that runs to the blower, clear out the dust, and change the filters if needed.  Consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat if you have a manual one and set the temperature between19 and 20 Celsius to save energy.  Program it to be a cooler temperature when you are away and warmer when you are at home.  This will keep your home regulated and keeps heating costs more consistent.  If you dont feel confident in doing the work yourself, have your furnace inspected by a technician to make sure it is running efficiently and to measure carbon-monoxide leakage.

 

2. Check Your Roof

Check your roof for damaged, loose, or missing shingles that may cause a leak during a winters storm. Replacing one or two shingles is easy and inexpensive compared to more severe roof damage that can be caused by ignoring the problem.  Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys too.

 

3. Seal Leaks

Doors and windows arent the only areas in your home you should be sealing.  Holes where venting, pipes, and electrical work run are also areas where you could be losing a lot of heat.  You should look for gaps around entry points from outside in the kitchen and bathrooms and fill them with insulating foam sealant.  Add weather stripping to windows and doors.  If you have single pane windows, consider upgrading to double glazed windows with an Energy Star rating to increase performance. Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it wont shrink and its impervious to the elements.

 

4. Insulation

photo by dunktanktechnician - licensed under CC BY 2.0

photo by dunktanktechnician - licensed under CC BY 2.0

Good attic insulation keeps heat in the interior of your home and prevents temperature fluctuations that can damage or warp roof structure.  Check that your insulation is filled to the proper depth of about 30cm. Also consider adding foam insulation to your pipes to prevent them from freezing. Most hardware stores sell foam insulation tubing to wrap around pipes in order to increase efficiency by keeping the water hot en route to your taps. 

 

5. Clean your gutters

If your gutters are blocked the water can back up and damage roofing, siding and wood trim, plus cause leaks and ice dams.  Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them.  Also consider adding extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation. 

 

6.  Turn off exterior faucets

Un-drained water in pipes can freeze which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands.  Disconnect all garden hoses and drain the water that remains in the faucets.  If you dont have frost-proof faucets (homes more than 10-15 years old typically do not) turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.  Drain your lawn-irrigation system as well to avoid freezing and leaks. You may have to call your sprinkler service to do this.

 

7.   Mulch your leaves on your lawn

Instead of raking your leaves, if you mulch your leaves with your lawn mower (you can buy a mulching blade for $15-$25) they will decompose and nourish your lawn over winter.  

 

8. Water Heater

photo by Behrat - licensed under CC BY 3.0

photo by Behrat - licensed under CC BY 3.0

Most conventional water heaters require a lot of energy to keep hot water in the tank.  Tankless water heaters could be a good alternative upgrade for the upcoming winter.  They are energy efficient, lower in cost, and a greener approach to home energy use. Tankless water heaters are usually installed in areas where you use hot water (the bathroom and kitchen) and work by supplying hot water to a specific area on a need based cycle, rather than keeping a tank of hot water at the ready all the time. 


9.  Test your Sump Pump

Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on.   You should do this every few months, especially after a long dry season or before a rainy one.  Most sump pumps last about ten years. 

 

10.  Chimney Sweep

Make sure your fireplace, or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal, chimney and vents are clean and in good repair.  You want to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide from creeping into your home.  A thorough cleaning of the chimney will remove any build up, such as bird nests or leaves, and scrape the ashes and creosote out of the fireplace or stove when done.  Also, if you dont already have a screen over your chimney you should install one.  If this sounds like too much dirty work, you can always hire a chimney sweep!

 

11. Stock up on Essentials

Be prepared and stock up on cold-weather essentials including candles and flashlights in the case of a power outage. Consider purchasing a generator that can power your essentials in an outage and dont wait for the first winter storm to hit to buy your salt or ice melt.  Make sure your snowblower is working or you have a shovel at hand for that inevitable snowfall.

 

Remember, when you take care of your property you will save money on your energy bills, prevent the need for costly repairs, and increase property value.  If you take the right steps to ensure your home is weather proofed this winter, then you will save time and money in the future.