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Documentary on Passive House shows 90% less energy, 0% more cost

PHIUS-certified Passive House and Homesol's Ross Elliott featured on CTV

Homesol wins EnerQuality Evaluator of the Year Award!PHIUS-certified Passive House (click image above to listen to mp3 audio file of interview Spaces Places Faces)







 Energy design specialists
for sustainable green building

High performance homes make a world of difference. From ENERGY STAR® for New HomesR-2000 and LEED, to Passive House, Zero Energy+ homes and deep energy retrofits - healthier, durable, resource-efficient building is the way of the future. We can help you get there today.

Homesol Building Solutions provides accurate, cost-effective energy design solutions throughout North America. Count on Homesol’s decades of experience for your green building projects.

Homesol inspires builders, contractors, designers and owners to create, verify and certify energy-efficient, comfortable, sustainable and economical residential and commercial buildings.

Our team of advanced building performance specialists earn your business by delivering fast, reliable and accurate energy design and green building consulting expertise. 

Homesol offers the following services:


ESNH Builders: Are ES furnace changes affecting your new homes?

By Abbie Coates, Building Performance Specialist

It’s recently come to our attention that some furnace manufactures have discontinued having their units ENERGY STAR-qualified. 

This poses some concern for homes enrolled in the ENERGY STAR for New Homes (ESNH) program, as an ENERGY STAR-qualified furnace may be required for certification. 

Here’s a summary of the ESNH requirements for furnaces: 

ESNH – version 2011 (which will end in November 2014)

ESNH – version 12 (known as the 2012 version)

Min efficiency 92% AFUE ENERGY STAR-qualified, and

ECM motors qualify for an Electrical Savings Credit

Min. efficiency 95% AFUE and either

1) ENERGY STAR-qualified, or

2) With furnace fan efficiency ≤ 2.0%


ENERGY STAR-qualified furnaces are listed on this website:

(NB: this is a US website, so be sure to check off Canadian) 

A list of furnace specs is available here, but ENERGY STAR information is not provided):

Please feel free to contact us if your ENERGY STAR homes have been impacted by this change, and we’ll help you get it corrected so you can continue to build cost-effective, high-value ENERGY STAR homes!


Tech Corner: Do you use Combo space/water systems in your ENERGY STAR Homes?

The new CSA P.9-11 Combo System Testing… what you need to know

By Abbie Coates, Building Performance Specialist

What is it?
Third party testing of combo space/water heating systems accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (CSA). The performance metric resulting from the testing is known as the Thermal Performance Factor (TPF).

Which types of systems are tested?
The scope of CSA P.9-11 states that it applies to:

  • Forced-air or radiant packaged combo (heating and hot water combined) systems, and
  • Combo designs/configurations with heat inputs up to and including 87.9 kW (300,000 Btu/h) for boiler-based systems, and a maximum input up to and including 73.2 kW (250,000 Btu/h) for water-heater-based systems, that are intended for field assembly.

How does this affect ENERGY STAR Homes?

  • By September 30, 2014, all ENERGY STAR Homes using Combo heating systems must use products tested and listed as meeting CSA P.9-11

How do I know if my current system has been tested?

  • All qualified systems will be listed on NRCan's site found here 

Basement Insulation: Myths and Realities 

By Ross Elliott, CPHC, LEED-AP

Basements seem to be one of the most problematic areas for builders and buyers alike. Digging a hole in the ground and putting a concrete box into it is a good way to create a cold, damp, musty and sometimes even leaky space in new homes. Basement foundations are also among Tarion's most prolific and expensive conciliations, so getting it right is essential to building a quality home.

Exterior basement insulation is the premium method. Foamboard or rockboard insulation on the exterior side warms up the concrete mass and helps ensure a drier, more comfortable basement, but it can be expensive to meet an R-20+ insulation level with exterior insulation alone. Protecting the insulation above grade is another consideration and expense.

Durable means of long-term protection for above-grade exterior insulation is important, to resist lawnmowers, snow shovels and the occasional hockey puck. It can be parged with a hard mortar coat on wire lath, or proprietary coatings that bond directly to the insulation, sometimes with fiberglass stucco mesh embedded in the base coat. Pressure treated wood, sheet metal and cement board are some other ways to protect above grade exterior insulation. One thing to keep in mind when using exterior-only insulation is that unless the basement is finished, the homeowner can see the concrete foundation inside with nothing hiding it, so they need to understand the difference between normal shrinkage cracks and major structural issues - a potential source of call-back headaches?

Insulating on the interior side is more common in Ottawa, using batt insulation in wood framing. This is one of the cheapest ways to insulate a basement, and also the most problematic. "Full height" basement insulation has been mandated by Code since 2009, and is defined as no more than 300 mm / 12" off the floor (for ENERGY STAR homes it must be less than 200 mm / 8" off the floor). This is thought to assist in letting the foundation dry to the inside, or to protect the insulation from minor flooding, but insulating right to the floor is usually best.

Builders and buyers often report condensation on the poly in their interior-only-insulated basements in summer, particularly with solar exposure on the foundation causing water vapour to be driven inwards to the cooler impermeable poly layer. They may also complain about condensation forming on the concrete or the floor header behind the batts in winter, particularly in the first few years of ownership. These issues can be expensive and annoying for builders to deal with, but seldom indicate anything seriously wrong with the assembly. Maybe the cheapest way initially isn't worth the subsequent potential for call-backs?

There are several solutions to these moisture issues, starting with eliminating the poly vapour barrier on the inside. Perhaps this sounds like a radical idea, given that we've been installing poly in basements with abandon for decades, but the next Building Code will most likely mandate the elimination of basement poly vapour barriers, since building science shows this simply makes hygrothermal sense. The latest R-2000 Builders Training from NRCan, which I delivered to some of you in Ottawa recently, even says quite emphatically that poly vapour barriers should never be used in a basement. So what can you use if your building inspector, following the current Code and standard practice, expects to see poly in your basements? Try using a smart selective permeability membrane for at least the top half of the wall over your insulation batts. It looks just like poly, but you'll never see any moisture condense against it in summer. Eliminating condensation call-backs is well worth the small additional cost. To eliminate condensation in floor headers, spray foam them instead of using batts, cover them with your continuous exterior wall insulation (which everyone will be using soon!), or step them in 2" and add polystyrene insulation over the outside to warm up the interior header space behind the batts. See this R-2000 Technical Bulletin for more information, there are also pre-insulated floor headers available.

Interior batts plus interior insulation board is another way to build problem-free interior-insulated basement walls. Although past advice has been to allow the concrete "to breathe to the inside", by using permeable board insulation like rock board or expanded polystyrene, the latest research shows much better results with a less permeable board insulation applied directly against the concrete, such as extruded polystyrene or polyisocyanurate foamboard. One and a half inches of foamboard, covered with R-13 rock wool batts in a 2x4 stud wall at 24" o.c. meets Code, and some municipalities will allow the rock wool batts to act as the fire barrier over the foam be rather than requiring drywall, which can save you a lot of money if you hadn't intended to build a finished basement - but be sure to check with your building inspector first! You may also find that using a straight R-20+ foamboard, covered with drywall, skipping stud walls and batts entirely, is cost-effective, particularly if you planned to finish the basement anyway.

Combination basement insulation, with the board insulation on the outside of the concrete and the batts on the inside, may be the most ideal method. One of the better builders in Ottawa is already implementing this on all their new developments with great success. Putting the foam on the outside means the basement doesn't need to be drywalled for occupancy, the batts on the inside hide any cosmetic imperfections in the concrete, and the warmer concrete on the inside eliminates condensation and moisture call-backs. ICF foundations, although more expensive, are another very successful variation on combination interior + exterior basement insulation.

Finally, putting R-20+ insulation board on the outside of the foundation below grade only, then insulating with R-20+ insulation on the interior, overlapping the exterior insulation by at least 2', is another way to reduce basement problems while eliminating the costs involved with above-grade protection of exterior insulation and interior fire protection of foamboards, while allowing the basement to dry easily to the outside above-grade, and to the inside below-grade.

There's a lot to consider when determining the best way to insulate a basement, finding the best balance between cost, thermal effectiveness and moisture management. For further background on this subject, check out the Ontario Ministry of Housing's Best Practice Guide: Full Height Basement Insulation, or give the building science experts at Homesol a call for the best solutions to suit your needs.


Homesol's President Ross Elliott Wins EnerQuality Award of Excellence

On Feb. 27, 2014, Ross, who is already a 2-time winner of the Evaluator of the Year Award (2007, 2011), was awarded the prestigious EnerQuality Hall of Fame Award "In recognition of an individual who, over the course of their career, has made a lasting impact on energy efficiency and green building in the housing industry"



Insulated Sheathing – Soon to be a Code Requirement?

By Stephen Magneron, Advanced Housing Specialist It is not a matter of “if” but “when”. The OBC is increasing the insulation levels of building assemblies every five years, and Continuous Insulation (CI) will be virtually a Code minimum requirement by 2017, because standard 2x6 walls just won’t cut it anymore. Will you be ready? There are two main approaches to installing CI: from the interior or the exterior. Both approaches have the ability to increase a wall's effective R-value to meet future Code requirements. Here are a few options:

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