Canada Greener Homes Grant

The federal government recently launched its Canada Greener Homes Grant. In brief, the grant provides various incentive options for existing homes to upgrade their energy efficiency, however no grants are available for new homes, even though housing starts in many parts of the country continue to grow (in our own local area, new builds are huge in a hot real estate market). In this article, we ask why the government won’t also support homeowners in building highly energy efficient homes right out of the gate.

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What is a smart home anyway?

Measuring how smart a home really is

When we talk about ‘smart homes’, there is a general bias towards technology. Consider this definition:

Standard smart home definition: noun “a home equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by phone or computer.”

At EkoBuilt, we see the smartness in homes very differently, using a sustainability lens.

EkoBuilt smart home definition: noun “a home designed to be autonomous without the use of electronic devices for heating or ventilation control.”

We also think the smartest homes can be affordably net-zero, taking their energy from renewable energy sources. Truly there is much confusion over what a smart home really is. Conventional thinking holds that a ‘smart home’ is one that uses more technology for control. But is that really very smart?

Shouldn’t a truly smart home need less technology?

We feel that a smart home is one that uses the least technology possible. It’s possible to design homes that don’t require all kinds of devices for control.

For example, a home should not need to be heated when the occupants are not there, and blinds should not be required because unwanted heat needs to be kept out. In a true passive house excess technology is not required because the space requires little heating or air-conditioning to be comfortable.

Using energy from the sun as a heat source, the home can be heated naturally even in extremely cold conditions. To reduce the need for air conditioning in hot summers, windows are strategically located to naturally shade themselves so unwanted heat is not coming into the home. This is a smart home!

It is more sustainable, and much smarter to use less technology, both environmentally and physically. There is simply no need to have a wi-fi thermostat. Why spend money to operate a furnace in an occupied or unoccupied home when you don’t have to? It is smart to spend as little money and to acquire as few devices for your home as possible.

Why passive homes are the smartest homes

Our point is of course, to communicate the intelligence of building to the passive house standard. It is, after all, the only truly resilient home known to man.

It is a home that uses so little fuel to heat and cool the space that the electric bills are approximately the same amount every month of the year, whether the home is being heated or not.

Not to be coy, every house, even a passive house, requires a heating system – especially in this part of Canada – but the passive house leaks so little heat (even during extreme cold conditions) that it costs very little to keep the space heated. Less energy, in fact, than a refrigerator uses in a year. Now, that’s a smart home.

Ever compared your home to a thermos?

Thermos passive house analogyA passive house is as close as you can get to living in a thermos! The key difference is the passive space has constant access to fresh air, while a thermos does not.

Seriously though – a good thermos can keep keep tea extremely hot for 24 hours, which is really quite unbelievable when you think about it. Well, a passive house is basically the same thing in a home. And that really is a smart home.

From a health perspective, it’s much safer to live in an environment virtually free of interior toxins or exterior pollution (propane or gas emissions), full of ample fresh air, and designed to last generations. Again, that’s a smart home.

Another vital feature of a truly smart home is that it be electrically operated. We’ve come to the point where a home designed to operate by propane and/or gas, is a home designed for the past. Fossil fuels are not the way forward. Homes for today and tomorrow need to be 100% electrically operated — it’s simply the only fuel source for sustainability. It’s also the best for our health and for our pocketbooks.

A home that helps to create a healthier environment is a home that is healthier for us, and energy savings translate into lower operating costs, and that means more money in our pockets.

In conclusion, a truly smart home designed for today should be one that is built to passive house standards. Realistically, every home in the near future will be required to be built this way, but why wait when you can start now!

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about building your passive home.

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Save the Date: Green Energy Doors Open 2018

EkoBuilt will be taking part in Green Energy Doors Open ’18 this year (Sept 21-23), and we’ll be opening the doors of the EkoModel home as we do every year! It’s always a great weekend, we hope you’ll join us! This year they have secured Catherine McKenna to speak, and they are showcasing more EVs and Exhibitors than ever.

Did you know the event is free to attend? This year your ticket will also entitle you to a free ride on OC Transpo to and from Lansdowne Park on September 22nd (the Saturday), as well as 20% off a meal at The Table Vegetarian Restaurant and 10% off purchases at NuGrocery Zero Waste (both of the discounts apply all three days of the event).

This year the event will again include a one-day EV Exhibition, showcasing electric vehicles, in Aberdeen Square in Ottawa (Sept 22).

Green Energy Doors Open, is a province-wide, year-round communications campaign and showcase of individual, community, and commercial sustainable energy projects. It is organized and spearheaded by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association. The initiative aims to showcase advancements in the sector, demonstrating that Ontario is already on the path to building a 100% clean, sustainable energy system.

Save the Date

EkoBuilt Demonstration Home
21 – 23 September 2018
9am to 5pm
Full details >

Quick Links

Green Doors Energy Open 2018 – List of Host Sites

See you there!


Midsummer Pause

We hope this part of the summer finds you enjoying a break, just back from one or perhaps just getting ready to go. Maybe you’re sprinkling mini breaks through these warm months when we can get outside more easily.

At EkoBuilt, we’re very excited about the engagement we continue to enjoy with so many of you, so many folks interested in sustainable living, coach homes and tiny homes, comfortable high performance homes of many different shapes and descriptions.

We hear from some of you every week, and we’re bursting with news on our latest projects and an update on the first Eko Community that we’re hoping to see move to the design phase shortly. We hear from folks interested in forming an Eko Community regularly, and we encourage you to get your name on our list if you’re keen in participating in one.

Feast by Firelight cookbook coverFor now, we hope you’re getting to enjoy time doing what you enjoy most.

If you’ve got any camping or outdoor cooking with a campfire on the horizon, you might enjoy Feast by Firelight by Emma Frisch, a book we recently came across.

Happy midsummer.

 

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Tree Planting for Homeowners in Eastern Ontario

Nearly two years ago we first wrote a post here about the Trees for Tomorrow and Green Acres programs that help homeowners wishing to reforest a part of their own land. It’s such a great idea, that we’re writing here about it again. This spring they planted the six millionth tree.

Young Fraser fir treeFor many of us building a custom home, we’ve chosen to build on a patch of land outside of the city. That often means we have some extra space that can be considered for various uses. Sometimes there are obvious uses that come to mind for ourselves, whether gardening, small scale farming, recreation, etc.

Have you considered planting trees in volume? Planting seedlings for future trees will improve a property and its value, provide wildlife with new habitat, help to cut down on land erosion, create shade and livable spaces, and even offset carbon emissions.

For any landowner with property sitting idle, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority offers technical and financial assistance to reforest that space.

Applicants for 2019 Tree Planting Season

The RCVA is now looking for new planting areas for the 2019 tree planting season. Could it be you? Or someone you know? Anyone with a large area of one acre or more for planting is welcome to contact the RCVA for a site visit:

Scott Danford
Forestry Program Manager
Rideau Valley Conservation Authority
613-692-3571 ext. 1175

Imagine your property filled with more than an acre of trees for a small fraction of the real investment required, where all of the hard work is done by others, including site assessment, clearing and planting. The program includes survival assessments in the early years.

The only commitment on the part of landowners is to cover the heavily subsidized planting effort (this really is a good deal), order a minimum of 500 trees, and to make reasonable efforts to protect the trees from damage.

There is also a Butternut Recovery Program for the endangered butternut species.


Our experience at Toronto’s Green Living Show 2018

We were delighted to take part in the Toronto Green Living Show this year. It was a great event that really felt like a 21st-century show!

There were electric cars from a number of different companies, lithium ion power walls, vertical gardens for your living room, vertical farming out of a container, and geodesic domes where you can grow produce year round even in our climate.

We loved being part of the showcase of green living options and really enjoyed talking about about our electrically operated homes, which are designed to cost just pennies a day to operate.

Cartier table top fire featureCongratulations to the winner of our Eco-Feu raffle at the show, Stephanie Hahn of New Hamburg, Ontario.

Stephanie won a Cartier tabletop unit from Eco-Feu. These ethanol units make perfect centerpieces and/or accent lighting. Burning for 2 to 3 hours, they feature a soothing, vibrant, real flame.

The future is now and we need to embrace it! Photos below from the event.

Check out this video about the Green Living Show from The Tesla Model 3 owners club.

 

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