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Serious problems of dampness and moisture are often accompanied by unpleasant odours. Before deciding to ventilate in the winter or to install a dehumidifier in the summer, try to locate the source of the problem.

What are the indoor sources of humidity?
During the summer, humidity can be the result of condensation that occurs when warm, humid air comes into contact with cold basement walls. If your cold water taps seep with moisture after you use them, it is possible that the lower part of the foundation walls are experiencing the same phenomenon. A poor quality or badly installed vapour barrier will allow the water vapour contained in the warm air to travel through the walls via the electrical boxes or window frames.

If the concrete underneath the wood or carpeting has not been protected by a damp proof membrane, the origin of the odour is usually rotting wood or damp carpeting.

What are the outdoor sources of humidity?
Water infiltrating through cracks can also be the cause of such a problem. Ground that slopes down toward the basement rather than away from it, or rain gutters that empty into a tile drain or a drain that is blocked by leaves might also be the source. Other potential causes are window edges that have become blocked with organic deposits, or a perimeter drain that is clogged with sand or tree roots. Damp ground is more subject to frost, which can cause cracks in the concrete walls.

What temporary measures can I take to disperse the humidity?
Heating your home will help reduce problems of humidity. Once it is warmed up, however, the ambient air may still contain a substantial amount of moisture. As soon as the temperature drops back down, the humidity condenses on cold surfaces and the cycle begins again, adding even more water to porous materials.

While waiting to determine the specific source of the problem and to proceed with corrective measures, clean any mold or black stains with a solution of 1 part bleach and 3 parts water. The solution should stay in contact with the mold or stain for at least 20 minutes. Wear a mask and gloves when performing this task.

If the exterior relative humidity exceeds 70% during the summer, you should use a dehumidifier. Bringing that outdoor air into your home would have the effect of increasing the relative humidity of the basement. During the winter, you can ventilate by opening two windows for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the outdoor temperature.

What are permanent means of eliminating humidity?
Once preventive measures have been taken and the sources of humidity definitely determined, corrective measures must be taken. Hire a specialist if this involves major renovation work.

A perimeter drain can be unblocked using special equipment. If that approach doesn’t work, the ground around the foundations will have to be dug up and the drainage system replaced. Once the foundation walls have been exposed, insulate them from the outside, especially in the case of concrete block or stone foundations.

The largest cracks in a concrete wall are usually repaired working from the outside, although some specialists guarantee repairs of medium-sized cracks done from the inside.

Source: Agence de l’efficacité énergétique du Québec

Insulating the foundations and insulating the roof of your home will help it withstand extremes of cold or heat while maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature, thereby avoiding exorbitant energy bills. Without adequate insulation, your home risks losing a substantial amount of its heat as follows:

  • 17% through the above-ground walls;
  • 15% through the underground walls and the foundation footings;
  • 11% through the roof.

Poor insulation is also responsible for cold floors and walls, condensation at the wall base and the proliferation of mold. Insulating your home can make a big difference.

Procedures & Materials
There are various types of insulating materials: rigid foam panels, fibreglass batts, loose cellulose fibre, injected and foam insulation. To be effective, the insulating material should:

  • uniformly fill the space to be insulated;
  • be resistant to heat transfer;
  • be long-lasting;
  • resist humidity (in certain cases).

Its thermal resistance or R factor (RSI, in the metric system) indicates an insulating material’s performance. The higher the R or RSI value, the more resistant it is to heat transfer and the better it is as insulation. Nevertheless, regardless of the material chosen, its installation must be faultless, for its thermal resistance depends on it being properly installed. When selecting an insulating material, the first consideration is what use it is destined for, rather than its thermal resistance (R) or cost. For example, certain materials are not suitable for insulating a basement but are perfect for insulating the attic.

Is your house well insulated?
Do you have plans for construction or renovation projects? Here are a few important things to consider when carrying out the work:

  • Insulating your house from the basement to the attic will not only eliminate the problems of cold floors, condensation and mold, but will also reduce your heating costs.
  • Pay special attention to structural components during any construction or renovation project.
  • Install the insulation in continuous, seamless fashion on the surface of studs supporting the exterior walls, and the floor joists of overhanging beams.

Insulation that has been well planned and installed in your construction or renovation project will make your home more comfortable and reduce your energy consumption.

How should I insulate a concrete basement wall?

Insulating from the inside

Insulating or adding to the existing insulation of a foundation wall from the inside increases the risk of freezing. If the ground is damp and the foundations are close to the frost line, it is best to keep the foundation footings warm by leaving a space at the base of the wall that is not insulated.

Check for any cracks that might be the source of water infiltrating from the outside. The humidity caused by condensation during the summer is apparent in black stains at the base of the wall, while water infiltration from the outside is apparent in deposits of mineral salts on the wall.

The thermal resistance of a foundation wall should be between R-10 and R-15. Use water repellent insulation. The best material is styroplastic foam (Type 3 or 4), but it must be covered with a fireguard as quickly as possible. Mineral wool or fibreglass batts give good results as long as the insulation is protected with a damp-proofing membrane.

Insulating from the outside

If the perimeter drain needs to be repaired, take advantage of the occasion to insulate the foundations from the outside. Stone and concrete block foundations must be insulated from the outside.

After excavating the foundations down to the footings, use rigid foam board insulation (Type 4) that is at least 50 mm (2 in.) thick and extend it to the full height of the wall and on top of the footing. The insulation must be protected from the rays of the sun. Use a water repellent membrane and premium granular backfill to keep the foundations dry. In terms of comfort, as long as you remove the inside insulation, the thermal mass created by the concrete is equivalent to that of an old hot water system.

Source: Agence de l’efficacité énergétique du Québec

Energy plays a role in our environment, our economy and our everyday lives. It is no surprise then, that we must consider this topic when discussing sustainable communities. By making certain choices on a small scale, our citizens and communities can contribute towards creating a positive, long-lasting change on a grander scale. Many of these choices involve energy efficiency. There are two main points to consider when discussing energy efficiency: habits and products.

Firstly, the manner in which you interact with your energy-consuming products greatly affects the overall energy efficiency of your lifestyle. Behaviors such as leaving your lights on all night or having your computer screen on maximum brightness contribute towards your energy consumption. Creating and maintaining energy-efficient habits can save you a good amount of money, while contributing to creating a more sustainable community.

Secondly, your choice in energy-consuming products has a very significant impact on your energy consumption. By switching to more energy efficient products, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs or by choosing high-grade insulation for your new home, you can enjoy a better lifestyle while saving money on your energy bill.

In energy efficiency, every little thing counts!

Approximately 60% of household energy expenditures go towards heating, representing more than $1,000 on average per residence. It is however possible to improve the energy efficiency of your heating system at low cost, regardless of the energy source.

Here a few simple things that can help improve the efficiency of your heating system.

Close the curtains at night and open them during the day
In wintertime, open your curtains during the day so that the sun can warm up your house. As soon as night falls, close them to cut down on heat loss.

Remove the dust from your warm-air heating system
Dust is the enemy of warm-air heating systems. Clean the air filters and the air intakes and outlets. Clean the inside of the unit with a vacuum cleaner. After a few years of use, clean the fan so that no dust impedes the movement of warm air throughout the house.

Watch for rust and bleed your radiators
When you notice rust on the pipes or on the furnace or boiler, contact your service technician, as such oxidation can lead to leaks. Don’t forget to bleed the air out of the radiators at the start of the heating season.

Keep an eye on the flame in your oil burner
From time to time, look through the inspection window to check the flame in your oil-burning furnace. Note whether it is burning well, and make sure there is no soot build-up. The flame should burn bright yellow and emit no smoke. If that is not the case, call in a specialist for a tune-up. He will conduct a combustion test and analyse the furnace’s performance before adjusting the burner. You’ll save on fuel and also reduce your carbon footprint. You might also have to upgrade your heating unit.

Clean your direct-fired heating system
If you clean your oil or gas heating system immediately after the heating season, the accumulated sediment is easier to dislodge than when time and humidity make it sticky and hard to remove. Leave burner adjustments to a specialist.

Assess your heating needs
If you want to change your heating system, make sure that the furnace installer doesn’t just simply replace the existing unit with a system of the same capacity, for equipment that is over 25 years old is often twice as big as today’s more efficient models. The heating load for your house should determine the type of unit required. To compare the performance of heating units, check the EnerGuide Label that lists seasonal performance.

Source: Agence de l’efficacité énergétique du Québec

Energy has played an integral role in the development of our civilization as well as life in general; as far back as we can tell. As our knowledge on the topic of energy grew and discoveries were made, we eventually developed techniques that allowed us to control the flow of energy in controlled systems. Today, you can flood a room with light, with the simple flick of a switch. Energy consumption has become such an essential part of our everyday lives that most people forget that we depend upon it.

Consider where your energy is coming from. Approximately 86% of the world’s energy is based on fossil fuels. You can help reduce global carbon emissions and make a positive contribution in the fight against global climate change by being more energy efficient. Here is an example of how simple changes can lead to large-scale repercussions: If every household in Canada changed just one traditional incandescent light bulb to an ENERGY STAR labelled CFL, the country would save over $73 million in energy costs every year and reduce GHG emissions by 397,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) - which would have the same impact on climate change as taking 66,000 cars off the road for one year…