Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Just Ask an Expert

I made a boo boo. Last week I claimed that the installation of geothermal vertical loops makes an absolute mess. What I failed to do was put this ‘mess’ in relation to other types of messes. Does it compare to the mess of the Alberta oil sands? How about coal mining or radioactive waste from a nuclear reactor?

The Best Mess
As I reported in my September 6, 2006 installment, geothermal is a green alternative to heating and cooling your home. Liquid-filled coils run horizontally out or vertically down from your house, tapping into the consistent temperature of about 12.5 C a few feet into the ground. The system draws in this temperature to cool the home in the summer and warm things up in the winter (with the furnace kicking in the rest).

Naturally, installing a vertical loop is going to leave a mess in your yard. However, this is a piece of cake to clean up compared to the waste of our current energy sources - coal and nuclear, which, in the case of the latter, will take hundreds of thousands of years to become benign.

Thanks to Greg Bonser of Village Technologies for gently reminding me that the mess generated from installing geothermal is all but a memory after the clean up. His company retrofits old buildings, helping them to become more energy efficient, and provides alternative energy solutions, such as geothermal.

Geothermal can reduce energy consumption by 25 to 75 percent, and costs between $10,000 and $20,000 depending on your home. Pay back period is between five and 12 years. With vertical loop systems you can expect the higher expense.

Greg is also looking into air source heat pumps, which according to him is “approaching the low end of geothermal heat pump efficiencies without having to drill an energy well.” Air source heat pumps, like geothermal, rely on electricity but are highly efficient. With the rising cost of gas, they may also be a more affordable alternative to heating homes.

First thing first
Make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible. If you live in an older home like me, see about getting an energy audit and prepare for the retrofits, which average about $5,000 per household. The feds will give you a rebate depending on the effectiveness of your retrofits.

According to Greg: “Making the building more efficient is always the best option. We strongly encourage our clients to do so, and are not so interested in doing equipment installs before people improve the efficiency of the building. More work and less profit for us, but a better job for the client, so that makes it more worth while for me.”

Other Notes
The other Greg – Greg Labbe of GreenSaver, which performs energy audits on homes – reviewed my May 1st blog installment and made the following comments and recommendations:
Insuladd - the non-toxic paint additive that claims to act as insulation and reduce energy bills by 20%. This, according to Greg, can be compared to claims made by sleazy traveling salesmen promoting snake oil.

Retrofoam, the foam insulation that claims to have an R-value of up to 23.7 at 2x6 studs. Says Greg: “This foam cannot be installed in a cavity deeper than 2” or the water content of the foam will cause many problems with the finishes inside the house. I hope they were not claiming they can insulate 2x6 cavities?” – Ah, yeah they were.

Pella, the ‘state of the art’ energy efficient windows? - “Pella had the corner in the 70’s on double pane windows and always used nice wood, but the windows installed in the last 10 years were dogged by supper sticky messy caulking oozing out over time and making a mess of the windows. Frankly, they are not the most high performance window on the market. For top of the line windows look for Europeans triple pane windows or locally look to fiberglass (glass is dimensionally stable over temperature and humidity ranges) with Thermotech Windows or wood at Loewen or Marvin Windows & Doors.”

The Moral of this Story
The moral of this story is to ask an expert when it comes to product recommendations. When you have an energy audit, just ask the auditor for advice on the best products out there to assist with your retrofits and alternative energy needs.


McGuinty: Stop building dangerous nuclear power
If you live in Ontario, and have a big problem with nuclear, please sign this Greenpeace petition.

In the News

Gas Prices Send Surge of Riders to Mass Transit
Take that Hillary and John! The only time people will get out of their cars and into buses is when the price of gas becomes cost prohibitive.

Dell develops an ecological bamboo computer

Polar bears threatened: U.S.

1 comment:

Abbey Taylor said...

This is a very useful information for my husband who is going to re-paint our home this weekend. In doing so, he bought gallons of insulating and heat reflective paints from because he is convinced that using such paints to re-paint our home’s roof, interiors and exteriors will help us save energy and reduce our heating and cooling cost. As a housewife who deals with budgeting my husband’s monthly income, I think any kind of saving is worth the trouble.