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Hay River Energy Efficient Housing Project

Technical Series 94-205

Key Messages

  • In 1988, 5 prefab homes were constructed at Hay River, NWT. The houses were modified to be close to R-2000 standards and they were monitored for one year.
  • Actual energy consumption was 25-30% higher than predicted.
  • This was attributed to:
    • high indoor temperatures - averaging from 21 C to 28 C;
    • higher air change rates - up to 1.78 AC/hr @ 50 Pa; and
    • higher occupancy.
  • Characteristics:
    • Ceilings: RSI 10.6, Walls: RSI 4.9, Floor: RSI 7.0;
    • Size: 1275 to 1395 square feet;
    • Windows: double glazed, low-E;
    • Unheated airlock entry; and
    • 2270 litre heated water storage tank.


In 1988, five modified prefabricated houses were constructed on the Dene Reserve at Hay River, NWT with the financial assistance of the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation (NWTHC), Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Energy, Mines and Resources Canada (EMR). The purpose of this exercise was to train Band members in construction techniques for energy efficient housing, and to show residents how to operate and maintain these houses since they would be assuming responsibility for energy costs. Backup wood-fired heating systems were installed in each house to study an alternative to oil heating. These five units, and two additional houses, were monitored over a full year.

Research Program

The Band at Hay River chose a prefabricated Nelson house which was upgraded close to R-2000 standards. They preferred this model because it was a familiar model and simple to build. The Band created a contracting company, and three training workshops were held to acquaint the members with energy efficient construction techniques. All five modified houses were constructed and occupied in 1988. From August 1988 to August 1989, the energy and water consumption for each house was recorded, foundation movement was monitored, airtightness testing conducted, and interior temperature and humidity readings were recorded.

Two other houses were monitored for comparison. One was an unmodified Nelson house on the Dene Reserve and the other was a HAP (Home Assistance Program) house located near Yellowknife. These two houses were monitored in the same way as the five modified Nelson houses.

House Characteristics

Houses 1 and 3 are each 118.5 m2 (1,275 sq. ft.) while the remaining three are 129.6 m2 (1,395 sq. ft.) each.

The modified houses have higher insulation values to conserve energy. The floor assembly consists of RSI 7.0 (R40) batt insulation, 16 mm (5/8 in.) tongue and groove plywood, glued at the seams so that it acts as a vapour barrier, and 9.5 mm (3/8 in.) particleboard glued to the plywood. There is an unheated crawlspace under each house. Wall insulation, total RSI 4.9, consists of RSI 3.5 (R20) batts and 38 mm (1-1/2 in.) styrofoam. High-heel roof trusses accommodate three layers of batt insulation (for a total RSI 10.5). Double glazed low-e windows, an insulated metal door RSI 2.6 (R15), and an unheated air lock entry also add to energy efficiency of the house.

The 2,270 litre (500 imp. gal.) water storage tank is located underneath the back steps, closed in and heated enough to prevent freezing.

House 1 is an R-2000 house equipped with an air-to-air heat exchanger, an oil-fired boiler and an airtight wood stove. Combustion air for the boiler is provided through an automatic damper, and a fresh air intake for the wood stove is located on the floor under the base of the stove. Domestic wat

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