Renovating? From drafty and uncomfortable to a Net Zero home the owners love to live in

The Lakeview Farm house renovation story

In 2017, Stephen was approached by homeowners looking to renovate their home that was built in 2002 and situated on a 100-acre farm. He was ready for the challenge presented.

The owners shared that the home, although less than 20 years old, was incredibly drafty. Candles on the dining table flickered when it was windy out, and overall the house was very uncomfortable. Since they wanted to make significant interior renovations, taking the home back to the studs and starting almost from scratch was the logical approach. This decision allowed Stephen to do what he does best, introduce innovative techniques and technologies to deliver a comfortable, healthy, sustainable, and quality constructed home that the homeowners would love to live in. Through the planning process, the decision was made to renovate the 3500 square foot bungalow to Net Zero Energy specifications, making it comfortable, efficient, and beautiful.

Stephen Snider is President of Steve Snider Construction, a custom home building and renovation company founded in 1980. Early on, Stephen decided he wanted to be a leader in the industry when it came to evolving home building technologies. This is why in 1984 he took R2000 training and began the process of building homes to the R2000 and ENERGY STAR® for New Homes programs. Today, Stephen continues to build on his promise and legacy by offering homes built and renovated to the Net Zero Home and Net Zero Ready Home specifications. As defined by the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA), "A Net Zero Home is one that is designed, modelled and constructed to produce as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis." A Net Zero Ready Home is built in the same way as a Net Zero Home, except the renewables haven't been added yet. In 2020, CHBA launched the CHBA Net Zero Renovations in answer to the call for a Net Zero energy efficiency labeling program and pathway for existing Canadian homes.

What these industry-leading programs have in common is they are based on Canada's own leading HOT2000 energy modeling software and the EnerGuide Rating System, owned and run by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). Canada has been a world leader in the advancements of energy conservation in homes, building science, and the house-as-a-system principles, so it makes sense that this Canadian energy modeling system is the right choice for Canadian homes.

With the drafty bungalow situated on a windy hill, Stephen knew several challenges were to be resolved to ensure the homeowners would end up with a comfortable home they would love to live in. Through the design and planning stages, several costing scenarios, and Stephen's guarantee to the homeowners that their home's comfort level would be improved, the clients decided to move forward with the Net Zero Energy renovation.

Some of the renovations undertaken were:

No alt text provided for this image

· Exterior walls filled with R30 closed cell spray foam insulation and air sealed to ensure drafts are eliminated, energy demands are reduced, and the home is comfortable and quiet.

· Attic treated with a hybrid insulation technique of closed cell spray foam application over the bottom chord of the trusses providing insulation and air sealing, and topped with R50 cellulose insulation for a combined R70 attic.

· Windows and doors upgraded to low solar heat gain, triple glazing, offering better-insulated windows for both summer and winter that are comfortable and reduce outside noises.

· Hydronic heating system installed on both levels of the home.

· Heating and cooling system changed to a geothermal system using a water-to-air system for cooling in the summer months and heating in the shoulders months of spring and fall. For winter months, the water-to-water geothermal system is tied into the hydronic radiant floor system providing heat during the cold winter months. This system is right-sized, delivering the right amount of heating and cooling to the occupants year-round.

· Fully ducted Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) fresh air supply system installed, providing healthy fresh filtered air and improved indoor air quality for the homeowners all year-round.

· Solar photovoltaic system installed, included 10 kilowatts of net metering capabilities to offset the energy use of the home.

· The air test came in at an impressive 0.7 Air Changes per Hour (ACH) @ 50 pascals, compared to a typical code-built home that can range from 3.5 ACH or more.

· Additional features included in the home are a Renaissance Rumford approved wood burning fireplace unit, new kitchen cabinets, new hardwood flooring and tile work throughout, and extensive landscaping and outdoor entertainment features.

Increasingly people are concerned about the comfort, indoor air quality, and efficiency of their home. The CHBA Net Zero Home offers the promise of "The ultimate in comfort and efficiency" and therefore designed with great attention to detail, built on the foundation of solid building science and the house-as-a-system principles. Therefore, they have the right amount of insulation, the right amount of air sealing, the right windows, and right-sized mechanicals and ventilation to ensure homeowners love the comfort, fresh filtered air, and efficiency these industry-leading homes provide.

Stephen delivered on his guarantee of a comfortable home, and the homeowners couldn't be more thrilled. As part of their testimonial, they shared, "Stephen met with us and identified the areas that needed to be addressed to help us achieve a more energy efficient home. His knowledge and attention to detail far exceeded our expectations and he combined the renovation with many energy efficient upgrades. Our finished home is now comfortable year-round, our basement is enjoyable to spend time in, our energy bills have been reduced by two-thirds, and the air tightness now exceeds R-2000 levels. Stephen and his team were extremely helpful in the planning and design and the craftmanship was second to none. Our only regret is that we did not have Steve Snider Construction build our house originally. ~ Peter and Lianne"

He shared three key pieces of advice every renovator or builder should know when pursuing energy efficiency in housing:

1. "Secure a qualified EA (Energy Advisor) and work closely with them early in the planning stages."

2. "It is important to take Building Science training to avoid unintended consequences, and to learn why and how various techniques are done to achieve the intended goals."

3. "If the trades are not aiming for the same goal as has been laid out for the project, it is important to train them so they understand what is expected and why."

The CHBA Net Zero Home labeling program is rooted in Natural Resources Canada's Hot 2000 software and the EnerGuide Rating System (ERS). Through energy modeling in the HOT2000 software, the ERS provides homeowners with information on the energy performance of their home. Like the nutrition label found on food packaging that shows pertinent nutritional information better allows for making wise food choices, the EnerGuide label and it's supporting HOT2000 software provides information on the home's energy performance.

Over one million Canadian homes have been modeled with the HOT2000 software and labeled with the EnerGuide Rating System. The Our Action Starts at Home - Home Energy Retrofit initiative's recent announcement by Canada's federal government has outlined funding for up to one million free EnerGuide energy assessments, expanding the total homes labeled to over two million. Additionally, they have announced funding for individuals looking to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. This is great news for homeowners and home buyers. Knowing how efficient a home is and areas for improvement can guide homeowners and homebuyers in making informed decisions when renovating or purchasing a home.

Answering the question where the future is headed, Stephen replied, "I think deep energy retrofits, like Net Zero Renovations will continue to gain in popularity as people want their homes to comfortable, quiet, healthy and energy-efficient. I also think home space upgrades, especially those that are a result from COVID-19, such as home offices, exercise rooms, theatre rooms and outdoor living spaces, will continue to gain in momentum as people spend more time at home."

More information on Net Zero Energy Homes found here: and

More Information on Net Zero Energy Renovations found here:

More information on the EnerGuide Rating System found here:

More information on the Our Action Starts at Home initiative found here:

Originally posted on LinkedIn by Stefanie Coleman.