Older Canadian home is becoming a "sink"

A 25-year-old home near Ottawa will soon surpass the concept of "net-zero" and become a carbon sink.

The original 3,340 ft2 building featured double-wall construction and faces south. Over the past three years, the home's interior has been refurbished to LEED guidelines by recycling materials and using FSC-certified hardwood, as well as swapping to low-flow toilets, adding water aerators and other ecological improvements.

The house upgraded insulation levels and added timers and motion sensors, an Energy Star metal roof, sealed walls against air leakage, purchased solar blinds to reduce insolation, upgraded to Energy Star windows and appliances, added small solar panels and wind turbines to charge a battery backup system, converted to CFL bulbs (now switching to LED bulbs to further reduce power consumption), integrated a heat recovery ventilator and installed a geothermal heat pump.

These actions boosted the home's energy-efficiency rating to 85, in the top 2% of all residences in Canada despite its quarter-century age.

"My green home consumes 5.3 kWh of energy per square foot of floorspace for space heating, space cooling, heating water, lights and appliances," explains Bill Eggertson, owner and head of the Canadian Association for Renewable Energies. "The average in Canada for all homes, new and old, is 21.6 kWh."

Eggertson now is roof-mounting 10,000 watts of solar electric panels under the Ontario feed-in tariff for renewables, and will retain 20% of the environmental attributes from the green power. With minor tweaking, the low energy demand and on-site generation will push the home past the concept of "net-zero" to become a "carbon sink" for GHG emissions, without buying offsets.

"We wanted to make a political statement that it is individuals who must take action against climate change," says Eggertson. "Our home is ready for the next grid failure or ice storm, our energy costs have declined dramatically, we have increased occupant comfort and home equity, and our home's carbon footprint has almost disappeared."

His commitment to the environment was the reason for his selection as a torchbearer in the Olympic relay, but Eggertson is auctioning his torch and uniform to fund additional energy components, including a web-based display of real-time consumption so other homeowners can learn from his experience.

A recent survey of energy behaviours among 27,000 citizens across Europe, found that 60% are taking personal actions to fight climate change, ranging from 78% who separate waste for recycling to 41% who avoid plastic bags. At the bottom of the list of actions, only 6% have made on-site energy improvements, such as installing solar panels or wind turbines.

"Europeans have a reputation for being more energy-aware than Canadians," notes Eggertson. "This makes our personal investment in low-carbon options for my green home to be quite significant."

The canadian association for renewable energies (we c.a.r.e.) was incorporated to promote feasible applications of green power, green fuels and green heat.

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