Our earth is remarkable and miraculous. To harness the energy of the earth and put it to use for mankind while leaving it unspoiled is the challenge of true stewardship.
Many of us know that the sun’s energy can be harnessed by what we label “solar power.” But your home can be powered by the sun without solar panels. Thanks to some refining of engineering ingenuity that has been around for decades, we can now make significant changes to the way we heat and cool our homes.
Regardless of the season the sun emits energy which is stored in the air that surrounds us. Our homes can draw heat from the air without the need of equipment that creates heat. To simplify this, think about a refrigerator. It’s actually a heat-removal device. It creates cold air by transferring the heat from the interior of the ‘ice-box’ out. The heat you feel on the outside of a fridge is actually being moved away from foods that need to be kept cold.
An air source heat pump, in a really simplified engineering principle, does the same. It moves heat rather than creating it. The heat pump extracts the heat from even the coldest outdoor air and brings it inside. In summer, it does the reverse and homes can be kept comfortably cool.
A heat pump water heater uses similar technology to move heat instead of creating it. A heat pump water heater is the energy-saving equivalent of seven solar panels and costs one-sixth the price.
CanmetENERGY, a branch of National Resources Canada, has verified the cost-effectiveness of cold climate air source heat pumps, showing in a recent study that their operation is more efficient than natural gas and cleaner with less greenhouse gas emissions too.
Fin MacDonald, program manager of the Zero Carbon Building program at the Canada Green Building Council, a non-profit that advocates for and certifies green buildings, agrees. In provinces such as BC, Ontario, and Quebec whose power grids don’t produce a lot of emissions, fossil fuel combustion from buildings represents the biggest source of carbon dioxide, he said.
While people may be concerned about a car idling for 10 minutes, your house is basically idling all day.
And it’s not just the gas it’s burning that’s the problem. Natural gas or methane — a greenhouse gas that traps heat far more effectively than carbon dioxide and is causing much more global warming per molecule — also leaks from the entire distribution system used to deliver gas to people’s homes and furnaces. Electricity is a clean and efficient source of power for homes in Canada.
Watercolour, in Westport, Ontario, is an entirely Net Zero Ready community. That means homes are ready for solar panels and battery walls ready to be completely Net Zero at the homeowner’s choice. Net Zero Ready is a standard, certified by the Canadian Home Builders Association and enforced by Natural Resources Canada, which the Watercolour developer, Land Ark Homes, is achieving through skilled design and remarkable efforts.
Triple pane windows, increased insulation, super-efficient cold climate air source heat pumps, and super-efficient electric hot water heaters means the entire community can operate free of fossil fuels.
Net Zero Ready homes are also “future-proofed” as they are built to building code that won’t be enforced for another 10 years. There are less than 1,000 Net Zero Ready homes in Canada.
Land Ark Homes is also committing 15% of the development to green space, with seven kilometres of sidewalks and walking trails to share with the whole village of Westport. Land Ark has also made reforestation a priority with tree planting and ponds which are curated with native plants and ecosystems to protect natural habitats.
And if longevity is the new sustainability – the earth will thank Land Ark for choosing materials that are rated to outlast the homeowners. The next generation of homebuilding and environmental stewardship is happening now in Westport.