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Renovating on a budget

​Learn from East Van’s energy efficiency mavens

To many, the dream of buying a house in Vancouver is impossible. But as the song goes, Laura Lee Schultz and Jacqueline Gullion dreamed the impossible dream and turned it into reality. 

“We wanted a property in Vancouver, and the only way was to buy a little old fixer with a mortgage-helping basement suite,” said Gullion.

After taking possession of their East Vancouver, 770 square foot on the main, 1929 era wood frame box they’ve affectionately called Georgia Cottage, the couple, with no prior handywoman skills and limited knowledge of energy efficiency, picked up their hammers and caulking gun and got to work.

Starting in the basement suite, they made some disgusting, if not odd, discoveries when tearing down the walls. “They were insulated with old couch cushions and upholstery fabric from the 1960s.” said Gullion.  “We also found old clothes stuffing the cracks in the shiplap.”

With help from their dads, friends and YouTube, the couple learned not only how to insulate properly, but also how to make other energy efficiency upgrades. Some small, and with help from professionals, some big. Like the furnace.

“With the basement torn apart it was pretty obvious that the furnace had to go. It was amazingly old and inefficient,” said Schultz.  So, with help from the federal government’s ecoENERGY program, they took the plunge and had it replaced with an ENERGY STAR® high-efficiency model. They had the original ducting system replaced too for even better efficiency.

The ladies have proven that you don’t have to spend a lot to save a lot.  “You can spend less than $50 on a tube of window caulk, a roll of weatherstripping and a window film kit and significantly change the comfort of your home,” says Gullion. 

“Plus everything is easy to install and anyone can do it,” added Schultz.

Now the couple has a comfortable home without having broken the bank. And they’ve got proof. Before they began making improvements, an energy advisor rated the house at 48% on the EnerGuide® efficiency scale. Now it’s up to 64%. 

And even though they switched out the electric range to a gas model, (“We just like cooking with gas,” quips Gullion.) the natural gas consumption has dropped by 26% since making all the energy efficiency improvements. 

To share their handiwork with family and friends and now the world, Schultz and Gullion created LezRenovate, a video blog that documents the journey into home ownership and the ensuing renovation dramas and revelations. 

As for future improvements, they hope to replace the windows. For now, they’re enjoying the joys of home ownership and practicing conservation. Like hanging their clothes out on the line, taking shorter showers and programming the thermostat to a comfortable, but efficient 20° Celsius when home. 

Links

  • Access rebates for furnaces, water heaters, insulation and more, through LiveSmart BC
  • Learn how to make easy, low-cost energy conservation upgrades to your home. Watch our series of how-to videos.
  • Follow Laura and Jacqueline’s escapades at LezRenovate.com.
  • If your household is considered low-income, you may qualify for a free Energy Saving Kit.
  • Use a registered gas fitter for gasfitting work.