New Homes give winter the cold shoulder
Remember last winter? Most of us have tried to block out the memory of biting winds, steady snow-fall and seemingly endless cold snaps. Even indoors, extreme weather conditions can create hardship in a dark, drafty old house – especially one that racks up big energy bills.
Luckily for Manitobans, natural light and energy-efficient systems are the norm in new homes, creating spaces that make winter cocooning a far more attractive option.
Rob Swan, co-founder and president of Huntington Homes, says changes to building codes over the past 15 or so years have made Manitoba’s new homes among the best-built homes anywhere – a necessity to accommodate the extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations we see throughout the year.
“Our local building companies are among the world’s best,” Swan says, adding industry experts from around the world come to Winnipeg to study our province’s home construction.
“Utilizing the right mix of technologies in your new home construction is the key to striking the balance between the greatest efficiency and comfort and the most cost effective approach,” he says.
Improved insulation and heat recovery ventilators are among the changes incorporated into building codes over the years to provide better minimum standards. But many builders set higher standards for themselves, integrating the latest options on the market and designing homes for maximum comfort and efficiency. Swan says Huntington Homes has been a leader on that front for almost three decades.
“Often, we have been doing things for 10 to 20 years before they became building code requirements,” Swan says. “We have spent the last 27 years in business constantly analyzing products. And everything we do from a structural point of view, we do it as standard in every house we build.”
Swan lists a number of key areas for new home buyers who want to maximize efficiency and comfort, all of which focus on working with natural law instead of against it. For example, the natural movement of air — hot air rises — is an important principle to keep in mind when building for comfort and efficiency.
There are several ways to maintain a comfortable temperature on every floor of your home. Dividing the house into different zones from floor to floor, with temperature controls for each level; adding ceiling fans to move the air around; using the best venting systems to regulate the temperature and using high-efficiency furnaces with the heat-saving advantage of side-venting systems.
“If you’re moving air, you’re keeping it the same temperature — like you’re mixing it,” explains Swan. “We use a multi-speed furnace, which runs more constantly at a lower speed to move the air. It also runs more quietly, and at the end of the day, it is more efficient.”
Swan says windows have an important function in terms of comfort as well. Because of our long, cold winters, it’s a good idea to integrate lots of well-installed energy-efficient windows to allow you to enjoy ample natural light as well as outdoor views.
A dark cold basement can also be transformed into a warm, inviting space with the addition of a wood structural basement floor. Huntington Homes installs suspended wood structural floors with a crawl space underneath, which houses the basement ductwork. Heat enters through registers at floor level, just as it would on the main floor of the home.
Upgraded insulation, especially in the attic, is another great way to keep outside air out and inside air in, as are exterior house wraps. Using spray foam in joist cavities and choosing manufactured joists — known as the silent floor system — will address areas of significant heat leakage which would otherwise result from lumber shrinkage over time.
Later this year, Huntington Homes will start working with the Mike Homes Group as a Holmes Approved Homes Certified Builder. This certification means the builder is using top innovations to produce an efficient, well-built home, and will put the home through a number of tests to ensure quality technology and workmanship.
During the Fall Parade of Homes, visit Huntington Homes’ show home at 130 Lake Bend Road in Bridgwater Lakes, or see www.huntingtonhomes.com.
By Caroline Kosheluk. Previously published in Parade of Homes Magazine, September 2014.