empowering your home

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“Going carbon neutral” is not a simple or short-term undertaking. Eden Mills’ strategies are three pronged: -- Reduce, Replace and Absorb. Key to this comprehensive approach is education. This handbook, Empowering Your Home, is an essential element in the process.


  • 1graphic by Charles Simon

  • 2ForewordIn the fall of 2007, Eden Mills, Ontario announced that it would be the first village in North America to go carbon neutral. This means that, over time, Eden Mills aims to emit no more carbon than it sequesters or absorbs naturally.

    Eden Mills is a community of 350 people only an hour away from the mega-city of Toronto. At the formal launch of Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral, the Community Hall was filled to overflowing. More than 50 percent of residents participated in a survey to determine the villages carbon footprint in 2008, the baseline from which progress can be measured annually. Already more than 2000 trees have been planted, and people are assessing what they can do at home.

    Going carbon neutral is not a simple or short-term undertaking. Eden Mills strategies are three-pronged: -- Reduce, Replace and Absorb. Key to this comprehensive approach is education. This handbook, Empowering Your Home, is an essential element in the process.

    Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral has enjoyed remarkable support from every quarter. One of the serendipitous surprises was this Handbook. In the fall of 2007, responding to media coverage of the project, Peterborough Green-Up and authors Rheanna Leckie and Michael Conboy contacted the village offering the rights to publish Empowering Your Home. This was a great gift and we thank them for compiling such a comprehensive and straightforward overview of the choices we can make in creating energy efficient homes.

    Richard Lay of Kitcheners Enermodal Engineering Ltd. generously volunteered his services, and Enermodal further donated the time of Christiane Aussant, to make the final technical review and provide footnote sources which enhance the content for the reader who is interested in researching further.

    With its publication on our website (only a limited number of energy-and resource-wasting hard copies will be printed) Eden Mills is happy to share the Handbook with all interested citizens of the planet.

    Heres to Going Carbon Neutral! Eden Mills, November, 2008

    7graphic by Linda Hendry

  • 3ContentsIntroduction 4

    Energy and Electricity 5

    Tips for Home Energy Efficiency 6

    Wind Energy 8 Earth Energy 9 Solar Energy 10

    System Components 12

    Instantaneous Tankless Water Heaters 12

    Radiant In-floor Heating 13

    Insulation and Building Materials 14 Passive Solar Design 15

    Getting Started 16

    Putting it All Together 16

    Managing Costs 17

    Resources 18

    Government Incentives 20

    With support provided by the Community Go Green Fund

  • 4Buckminster Fuller once described the Earth as a spaceship a finite place with finite resources, alone in the emptiness of space. Spaceship Earth is our only home and we must be good stewards of the resources it provides us if we are to continue living here. These resources are the things we take for granted all around us air, water, sunlight as well as our dwindling fossil fuels, forests or fish.

    These days we have a choice about the way we live our lives: whether to be part of the problem or the solution. Reducing our dependence on finite resources can be as simple as conserving energy, but thats not where it ends. We can make use of the abundant energy sources around us, such as wind and sun, and decrease or even eliminate the amount of fossil fuels we burn. Weve all heard of the problems associated with the combustion of fossil fuels climate change, smog, acid rain and the use of renewable energy can bring us a little bit closer to solving those problems.

    Conserving energy and using renewable energy is a great choice for you as well as for the earth. It

    can mean savings in your pocket from a lower energy bill every month, or even

    no energy bill! While you may have to put some more money into

    it up front, your investment will be paid back over time,

    along with the peace of mind of knowing that youre helping out. If everyone does their part, together we can learn to live sustainably on Spaceship Earth, and to take care of our home the only one we have.

  • 5 Energy and Electricity

    We hear a lot these days about energy. What does that really mean? Well, energy comes in many forms that we know well: heat, light, sound and motion are just a few. Electricity is another type of energy, and its the one we think of when we talk about producing energy and energy efficiency. The energy from the sun, of course, is in the form of both heat and light energy. When electricity is produced, it is usually first in the form of heat energy, which is transformed into kinetic energy (motion) with turbines and then into electrical energy for us to use. However, a lot of energy is usually lost along the way. Cars, for example, only get about 15 percent1 of the energy produced from combustion of gasoline. The rest is lost, mostly as heat and sound. Because there are always losses in any conversion of energy from one form or another, it is most efficient to use any energy meant for heating (such as space and water heating) directly, instead of converting it to electricity first.

    The electricity in our homes is in the form of AC (alternating current) power, at 110 volts. When it is produced, however, it is in the form of DC (direct current) power, and must be converted before it can be used for most appliances. Some appliances designed for RVs and similar applications can use DC power. For use in most homes, an inverter at the power source is used to convert DC to AC power.

    The average North American home uses about 890 kWh2 of electricity a month. Essentially, this figure comes from the number of kilowatts used at a given time multiplied by the number of hours its used for. So, using about 3.5 kW (3,500 Watts) for about 8 hours a day would mean that you used 28 kWh that day and you would use 870 kWh in a month. The electricity use in homes varies widely, however, since some homes use electricity for space and water heating and for cooking while others use gas or oil for some or all of these applications. If you measure the total amount of energy used in the average home, including electricity and other types of energy, about 57 percent is used for heating and cooling; 19 percent for water heating; and 24 percent for appliances and lighting.3

    Many appliances have what is called a phantom power draw. This means that they are using energy even when theyre not on. Electronics usually have a phantom power draw since they must be ready to be activated, and other things which charge or are at standby, like electric toothbrushes and razors, also use energy all the time. Connecting these devices to a power bar which can be switched off to turn all appliances off will prevent this waste of electricity.

  • 6

    Tips For Home Energy EfficiencyThe easiest way to save money and be more environmentally friendly is to use less energy. Here are a few suggestions as to how:

    Lower the temperature on your water heater Your water heater expends a lot of energy to maintain water at a consistent temperature. By lowering this a few degrees, youll reduce the energy needed to heat the water at all times. Do not lower the temperature below 54oC as bacteria can grow below this point. Installing a smaller water heater will also reduce energy needs since a smaller volume of water needs less energy to be kept hot.

    Change lightbulbs Install compact fluorescent lightbulbs (energy saver lightbulbs) in all fixtures. These can use about 75 percent less energy than regular bulbs and will last much longer. Note that most cannot be used with dimmers.

    Use Energy Star appliances Investing in a more efficient appliance for your home may cost more at first, but will save you money over time on your energy bill. Energy Star qualified products are also available for home electronics, heating and cooling equipment and lighting.

    Improve insulation Insulation can make a big difference in the amount of heating and cooling your house requires. The better your insulation, the more your house will keep heat in or out. Insulation is also important for fixtures which transport heat, such as water heaters and pipes. Older water heaters especially will benefit from being wrapped with an inexpensive insulation kit. Pipe insulation is particularly helpful if pipes carrying hot water travel through cold basements, so that less heat is lost along the way.

    Windows and doors Windows and doors can be a source of drafts and are often a significant cause of heat loss in the home. Making sure that your windows and doors are sealed well is important. Other easy improvements include adding heavy curtains which can be opened to allow light during the day and closed to prevent drafts at night or when no light is entering. Draft dodgers can help protect against drafts below doors.


  • 7

    Adjust your thermostat Almost half of your energy costs probably go toward heating and cooling your home. Keeping the thermostat a few degrees lower in winter and higher in summer can make a big difference. You can also adjust the temperature at night or when youre away. A programmable thermostat will make this easier to do: it can be set to turn temperatures down while youre gone, and back up before you return home or get up in the morning. Dont forget to dress appropriately for the season: if you feel cold in winter, put on a sweater instead of turning up t

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