April 21, 2016 | Joel Schlesinger
Five tips to go net-zero without the hefty price tag
Calgarians seeking a more net-zero lifestyle don't have to rely soley on big-ticket solar panels, geothermal heating and other energy-efficient technologies, say experts.
"There are plenty of little things people can do in their homes to move toward a net-zero lifestyle that aren't necessarily costly," said Areni Kelleppan, executive director of Green Calgary, a non-profit urban environmental organization that encourages Calgarians to live greener.
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asked some green experts to offer up a few low-cost ideas to walk a more net-zero path:
1. Pull the plug
Even when not in use, many electrical appliances draw power when plugged in, said Kelleppan. "You can cut up to 10 per cent of your energy use in the home by just turning off the power-bars, for example, to avoid using what's called 'phantom power.'"
2. Shop local
Chris Stevenson, who is building his own net-zero home in Calgary, said apply the 100-mile diet concept when purchasing materials to upgrade your home. Even if what you're buying isn't the greenest product available, at least by "going local, the material spends less time in transit, reducing the carbon footprint. And it's better for the local economy, too."
3. Think small
Rather than draping your home in expensive solar panels, seek out lower cost solutions, said Don Barrineau, Calgary division president with Mattamy Homes. "Either you have an unlimited budget or you are going to have to make trade-offs," he said. You don't have to go with geothermal, for example. Instead, choose to add more insulation and a high-efficiency furnace at less cost, but with similar results.
4. Be passive
Take advantage of passive sources of energy such as the sun. You don't need panels; all you really need are windows, said Domenic Buonincontri with Calgary-based design firm Kubix. Close the blinds in the summer to keep the home cool and open them in the winter to provide heat when the sun is up. In fact, many green home designers now incorporate the concept of passive energy capture into their projects.
5. Seal that envelope
A leaky house is an energy pig, said Stevenson. Fortunately, it's usually a relatively easy fix. A good place to start is blower door energy test to help determine where the leaks are in your home. Once a dwelling is air-tight, install a heat-recovery ventilator to ensure fresh air can still enter the home. "Homes need to breathe a little bit so moisture doesn't build up," he said. A heat-recovery ventilator will allow cold fresh air to come in while exhausting hot, stale air. At the same time, it removes heat from exiting air and uses it to warm air entering the home.
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