What is a smart home anyway?
Energy Efficiency, Home Building trends, Passive House facts, Simply Sustainable

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.

EkoModel News, Simply Sustainable, Solar Power

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!

EkoBuilt News & Happenings, Simply Sustainable

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
Landscaping & Gardening, Simply Sustainable

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.

Energy & Household Trends, Energy Efficiency, Simply Sustainable, Solar Power

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.

 

Photo Gallery

Passive house materials and construction
Energy & Household Trends, Simply Sustainable

Don’t forget Green Energy Doors Open this weekend

The EkoBuilt Model Home will be open for public viewing on Saturday and Sunday this weekend from 9am to 5pm each day, as part of Green Energy Doors Open Ottawa ’17. We hope you’ll come out and visit our four-bedroom passive house just west of Ottawa. Just stepping into the house you’ll feel the difference.

The Eko Solar Engine - passive house infographic

Click to learn about the EkoBuilt solar engine

The EkoBuilt Passive House is our premier offering for home owners seeking the best investment, exceptionally low energy consumption, and comfort from a home that is also supremely healthy. We offer 13 designs, all of which can be customized to meet your specific needs and preferences.

Almost all of our conversations begin with the passive house and what it means for home owners. To aid these conversations and to support your research into the best home for you, we recently developed an illustration that shows the component parts of what we call the Eko Solar Engine.

Throwing our doors open this weekend offers a perfect opportunity to ‘see’ the solar engine in action and to ask questions. We look forward to meeting you!

Saturday, 30 Sept and Sunday, 1 October
9am – 5pm
96 Libbys Road
McNab/Braeside, Ontario K7S 0E1

Quick Links

Full details for EkoBuilt’s participation can be found here on the GEDO website.

Review all participating sites and events associated with this weekend’s GEDO.

Green Energy Doors Open 2017

House with roof panels
Energy & Household Trends, Simply Sustainable

Going off grid

Inexpensive and Simple

When many of us hear the term ‘off-grid’ in terms of our homes, it’s easy to think it must be difficult or costly to get a off-grid, however it is actually very easy to implement and not terribly expensive. When viewed in line with typical utility bills, it simply makes sense.

A typical off-grid system might range from $20-$30k to purchase, which is a significant upfront investment for most of us, but seen over the duration of a mortgage, it would actually translate into a very manageable monthly payment, e.g. $170 / per month. This is actually more affordable than many typical monthly utility bills for homeowners.

All change…or at least, a significant shift

At this point in time, almost every off-grid project requires a generator, because the sun is not always shining and the wind is not always blowing, and the capacity for storing the energy generated by these sources in batteries simply hasn’t developed sufficiently.

The problem with conventional off-grid systems is that they require propane or gas, which are petroleum based fuels. As we all know, this represents a simply unsustainable energy supply. Which is why we turn to biofuel.

Why not use readily available bio-fuel?

We recommend using a generator that can burn vegetable oil or bio diesel.  These are the fuels of the future as they are non-petroleum based and renewable.

A European company, Gelec Energy, has a great selection of generators, including ones engineered for use with vegetable oil/biofuel.

With this technology, no one is reinventing the wheel; they are simply making use of existing diesel technology developed over 100 years ago. After all, deeply concerned about the pollution that accompanied the age in which he lived, Rudolph Diesel originally designed his engine so that it could run off peanut oil…

As a fuel, bio diesel is also reasonably affordable, costing as little as $.60 per litre, compared to much closer to a dollar per litre for gas at the pump.

What this looks like

In the summer period (mid-March to mid-October) an off-grid house is designed to run off solar PV panels and batteries. In the winter period (mid-October to mid-March) it’s engineered to run off a combination of solar PV, batteries, and the generator.

On average, a full-size family home will use 24 kWh per day in the warmer months, and 30 kWh per day in the cold season. The house can run directly off solar PV when the sun is shining, but here are the factors to consider for overcast days:

  • Battery storage is 15 kWh.
  • Batteries experience on average .5 charge cycles per day during the summer period and one charge cycle per day during the winter period.
  • Batteries cost $15,000 and are guaranteed for 3,000 charge cycles which equates to a battery lifetime of 12 years. This averages out to $1,250 per year.
  • Generator cost is $15,000; with limited run time it should last approximately 30 years, resulting in an annual cost of $625.
  • On average, the generator needs to produce 15 kWh per day during winter. The generator can do this with 1.5 L used vegetable oil or biodiesel: 1.5 L x 150 days = 225L x $0.60 per litre = $135/year.

Total annual costs

  • Cost for bio diesel approximately $0.60 per litre = $135 per year
  • Generator cost amortized over 30 years = $625 per year
  • 6 kW solar array and inverter $15,000 to last 50 years or more = $300 per year
  • Batteries amortized over 12 years = $1,250 per year

Total = $2,310 per year. We conservatively estimate that this is 50% less than what most full-size family homes cost to keep heated and cooled when connected to the grid.

Interested to know more?

We’re happy to answer questions about how to take your home off-grid, particularly if you’re building new and want to know the best decisions to make upfront to maximize energy saving potential. Give us a shout today.

Related reading:

Going Solar: the EkoModel Home
Your House Needs a Solar Engine, and We’ve Got It

 

Graphic courtesy of TheFix.com
Energy Efficiency, Home Building trends, House Design, Simply Sustainable

Add a little inspiration to your spring

It’s feeling like spring really has sprung, and it seems like a good idea to share some of the inspirational ideas we’ve been storing away over the winter. Fun and clever stuff that will get the cogs in your brain whirring!

Making your old wood ‘pallet-able’

How to upcycle pallets into “rustic-industrial” stuff for your home

Pallet safety infographicThis article from theFix.com was recently shared on Treehugger.

It helps to determine which pallets are safe to use, and which are not, and also contains a fun and informative infographic on how to prepare pallets for whatever project you might have in mind.

Also from theFix.com is Home Improvement Projects You Can Do with Reclaimed Wood, which gets the same cool infographic treatment, making for a quick and lively review of some neat design options.

 


Passive house on wheels anyone?

Cargo van conversionDigital nomad’s ultra-minimalist van conversion includes hidden bike rack (Video)

We’ve all seen our fill of tiny home projects, including many models designed for hitting the road. This sleek cargo van conversion is a really cool addition to the options available to anyone wanting to live on the road.


Just plain cool

10 Ways to Repurpose Vintage Furniture (Apartment Therapy)
All-in-one cube is ‘room within a room’ that hides bed, bike, closet & office (Treehugger)
Genius Trash to Treasure Crafts (Good Housekeeping)

Happy Spring!

Sustainable valentine's day gifts from LoveFresh and other Canadian retailers
Simply Sustainable

Put a little green in your Valentine’s Day

A sustainable Valentine’s Day is fun and easy. We’re sharing our Top 10 List of Canadian inspired eco-friendly Valentine’s gifts and ideas – have fun! If you have one to add to your list, we would love to hear from you!

Flowers

The CBC offers a great article on why plants should replace flowers this Valentine’s Day: For a more sustainable Valentine’s Day, ditch flowers for a plant.

Seed Cards from Botanical Paperworks

Valentine cards from Botanical PaperworksFlowers and cards are two top sellers every Valentine’s Day.

Botanical Paperworks ingeniously combines this sweet duo into one with their eco-friendly Valentines which are handmade from post-consumer waste cardstock and feature embedded seeds.

Drink Red & White from Connect

Southbrook Vineyards from southern Ontario is very serious about good wine and the environment. Connect is pro-green. Choose any Connect to show you don’t obsess about food-matching, but you do get serious about the environment. Connect White and Red are both made from organically-grown grapes. This Ontario vintner uses lightweight bottles, sourced locally, that are made from glass collected in the Ontario Bag-it-Back program. Available from most LCBO outlets.

Giddy YoYo Chocolate

Canadian-made, Fair-Trade vegan chocolate from Giddy Yo Yo.The flavours are so rich that you won’t mind sharing a bar with someone you love.

Matt & Nat Bag

Matt & Nat purses and bagsThis Montreal-based, vegan company has a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly design. Materials range from recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber and cork to recycled bicycle tires. Bag linings only made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.

The beauty of each bag is undeniable. Matt & Nat believes you should Live Beautifully.

Natural Beauty Products

LOVEFRESH is a Toronto-based luxury line of fun and natural beauty products that will keep your skin glowing. Think body butters, sugar scrubs, lotions and more.

Canadian Diamonds

When you see the CanadaMark logo inscribed on a diamond, you can be sure that it is completely natural, and free of treatments that are sometimes used to “improve” a diamond.

Red & White Hemp Fabrics

Efforts IndustriesHemp clothing made in Canada by Effort Industries has supplied eco-friendly hemp fabrics (Made in Canada) to environmentally conscious businesses across North America since 1994.

Clothing lines for women, men and kids, as well as accessories, fabrics, and home decor options.

Massage Oils from Saje Natural Wellness

Saje natural wellness offers something for everyone. Ingredients are derived from safe and renewable resources and haven’t been tested on animals. Packaging is simple and made of recycled or recyclable materials. The healing power of touch is right at your fingertips with essential oil blends in an organic, jojoba oil base.

Candlelight dinner? Soy Candles!

Campy Candles are handpoured in small batches using Eco Soy wax and a blend of phthalate free fragrance oils.

Wishing you and yours a very happy Valentine’s Day!