Energy Efficiency

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Energy Terms & Definitions

About this Page

When you're getting into energy efficiency, you might hear a lot of new words - it can feel like a foreign language! We've set up this to give you a bit of background on some of the keywords you might use when talking about energy efficiency. Plus, These words all make great additions to Energy Efficiency Bingo and Jeopardy games for all your community energy education fun :)

We are always looking to expand this page. If there's a term you want to see added to this page, please email ccote@indigenouscleanenergy.com

Energy Efficiency Terms & Definitions

Energy Efficiency Terms - A to F

  • Air Barrier – Air barrier is a system designed to control airflow between indoor and outdoor air. Often a film or housewrap such as Tyvek.
  • Air Changes per Hour (ACpH) – A measurement of the air volume that is removed or added to a room over an hour span. Identified through a Blower Door Test.
  • Blower Door Test – A test which assesses the air tightness of the home and identify whether air leaks exist. A large fan is mounted to an exterior doorframe and pulls air out of the home so that air leakage can be measured.
  • Building Envelope – The barrier between the interior and exterior of the home (ex. Walls, roof, windows, doors, insulation, etc). The building envelope is a system which is designed to protect the inside of the home from the external environmental effects such as rain, wind, humidity, and temperature. A well-built building envelope is one of the most impactful approaches to reduce heat loss and ensure better energy efficiency.
  • Climate Zone – Zones or regions which have been classified according to their climate and latitude.
  • Energy Audit – An inspection or analysis of a building to better understand how and where energy is being used. The purpose is to identify opportunities to upgrade and save energy, and determine where energy is being lost and what measures can be taken to improve energy efficiency.
  • Electric Heat Pump – A unit which heats and cool your home. One of the most efficient heating and cooling systems available as they can be up to 300% efficient, meaning that for every unit of energy it consumes it can create 3 units of heat.
  • EnerGuide Rating System – The official Government of Canada mark that rates the energy consumption of products for the home, at work and on the road. EnerGuide labels have helped consumers choose more efficient appliances, furnaces & vehicles for over 20 years.
  • Energy Star – Energy Star is a government-backed symbol for energy efficiency products and practices. Canada uses the EnerGuide Rating System to rate appliances and then products that are within the top 30% of the industry are identified as ENERGY STAR qualified.
  • Energy Rating – An energy rating is a way to show how energy efficient an appliance is, based on how much energy it consumes. This allows consumers to compare efficiency of different models.

Energy Efficiency Terms - G to O

  • GHG Emissions – Homes in Canada account for 17% of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions. A less efficient home will cost more energy to operate and have a negative effect to climate change.
  • Heat Loss – Can account for up to 50% of a home's energy consumption. If heat is escaping a building, it will costs you more money and use more energy to heat your home.
  • Home Occupant Education – Teaching home occupants how to properly operate and maintain equipment in the home, and learnings of simple actions that can be done to reduce home energy consumption. Requires little to no cost to implement and builds an essential understanding to ensure that efficiency is properly managed and kept for long-term sustainability.
  • HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) – An electrical device which is designed to circulate air in the home by driving out the indoor air and pulling in fresh air from the outside. HRV’s will filter incoming air, and also regulate the temperature of air that is brought into the home so that air is fresh, and temperatures are consistent.
  • LEED – (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.
  • Net-Zero – A building or home which generates its own power using renewable energy sources (such as solar panels) and uses only this self-generated energy to operate the heating, cooling, and utilities of the home thus equalling a net-zero energy consumption. A Net-Zero home is constructed to a high-performance standard, often up to 80% more efficient than the National Building Code.
  • Net-Zero Ready  – Built to the identical high-performance standards as a Net-zero home. The key difference is a Net-Zero Ready home does not yet have the renewable energy source installed, but has the systems in place and is 'ready' for future install.

Energy Efficiency Terms - P to Z

  • Passive House – A highly energy-efficient building standard. Constructing to passive house standard will offer greater comfort, air quality, and consistent temperatures, while consuming up to 90% less energy than a home constructed to standard building code.
  • Passive Solar – A home's ability to collect the natural heat of the sun and harness it to help heat the home. (Ex. windows can be strategically placed so that sunshine enters, the heat is retained and reduces energy demand on other heating systems).
  • Phantom Energy – Energy waste in your home that is caused by your devices and appliances even when you are not using them. (Ex. a plugged-in TV will use energy even when you are not using it).
  • R2000 – A voluntary home construction standard which was developed by Natural Resources Canada. The R2000 building standard encourages the use of higher efficient building practices and air control measures to improve overall comfort of the home.
  • Retrofit – A home energy retrofit is the action of improving your home’s energy systems. The purpose of a retrofit is to improve energy conservation by reducing the energy used to heat and cool the home, improve the indoor air quality, and eliminate opportunities for mould to form. To learn more about different retrofits and why they are important, click here.
  • R-Value – R-value is the thermal resistance of an insulating material (insulation, windows, doors, etc). The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power from heat and cold.
  • Thermal Bridging – Thermal bridging is a source of energy loss which leads to a less efficient building. It is the movement of heat through an object that is more conductive than the materials around it. (Ex. a stud or wooden frame which allows the heat to bypass the insulation and escape).
  • Thermal Imaging – Thermal imaging is a technique used to detect heat. This can be used to diagnose your home and can help you to detect things like air leakage, insulation gaps, and poor heat dispersion.
  • U-Value – Thermal transmittance (transfer of heat) through matter. This is typically used to describe the energy performance of windows and doors. Contrary to R-Value, the lower the U-Value, the more energy efficient the system will be. 
  • Vapor Barrier – Material (often plastic or foil sheeting) that's used in homes to reduce the amount of moisture that gets into our walls where, if it doesn't dry, can lead to mold and rot. Given our cold climates in Canada, vapor barriers are typically put on the inside of our homes. 

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