Climate Change Effects and Insurance — Berkshire Hathaway Should Be Worried

May 6th, 2016 by Cathy Rust No comments »

Forest Fire in Fort McMurray, AB, May 2016  By DarrenRD (straigntened and enhanced by CoolCanuck) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

According to a report on Green Tech Media, shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Insurance have voted to ignore climate risks. Apparently Mr. Buffett “doesn’t think climate change creates serious risks for Berkshire’s insurance business.”

Hmm, let’s take a quick look at what’s happening right in Fort McMurray. A massive forest fire has burned through a significant portion of the town leaving tens of thousands homeless and forcing the one of the largest evacuations in Canada’s history. The fires are due to a milder than normal winter combined with less snowfall, fostering an extremely dry spring. In fact, the situation is so bad in northern Alberta and BC, that BC can’t even send its own firefighters to help combat the blaze because they’re worried about their own fire problems.

Most of these properties will be insured — how much is this going to cost the insurers? Recent estimates based on a similar fire which burned through Slave Lake, Alberta in 2011 cost insurers $780 million. Fort McMurray is about ten times the size of Slave Lake. Currently, the estimate is $2.4-4 billion in property damage, however, if the fire keeps raging (and there is no weather relief in sight until tomorrow), it is predicted that the insurance price tag could be as high as $9 billion. To put that in perspective, the Alberta floods in July 2013 cost insurers at least $1.7 billion with more than another $4 billion in uninsured losses — a price tag that now seems paltry by comparison.

» Read more: Climate Change Effects and Insurance — Berkshire Hathaway Should Be Worried

Product Knowledge Forum – Innovative Ontario Solutions for Energy and Environmental Performance

May 4th, 2016 by Cathy Rust No comments »

SBC_logoPlease join us on Wednesday May 18, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. in the Steam Whistle Gallery for an exciting series of presentations and informal discussions featuring Ontario-based products and solutions. This forum will feature innovative approaches to radon control, energy storage, heat recovery, wall systems, and water re-use. The presentations will be followed by a cocktail and networking reception catered by Steam Whistle Brewing and Daniel et Daniel.

The featured products include: Vertical Indoor Garden (VIGA), SolarWall, Greyter Water Systems, RadonGuard, and Quad Lock Insulated Concrete Formwork technologies.

We look forward to welcoming our expert presenters Mr. Phil Fung, Mr. Todd Marron, Mr. John Bell, Mr. Richard Baumgartner, and Mr. Shawn Eldebs

Please visit our Eventbrite page to register – Cost is $47.46 to attend.

Visit Sustainable Buildings Canada for more information.

CoPower – providing green investing options for the consumer

April 29th, 2016 by Cathy Rust No comments »

Green Bonds are bonds that are designated as having some sort of environmental bent to them. The world of green bonds is still young, so there is not a lot of regulation around them yet. I have wanted to invest in green bonds for awhile, but until now they have not been available to the consumer. Enter CoPower.

CoPower was formed in 2013 when the founders identified a particular hole in the green investing and technology market. They have developed a market for people who want to invest their money in clean-tech while providing businesses who do clean tech with capital. But they are not looking at start-ups and risky investing. CoPower is providing money for a variety of businesses that install renewable energy projects and energy efficiency projects such as improving a building’s insulation and replacing lighting with LEDs. They only invest in projects using experienced designers-installers who use proven technologies.

» Read more: CoPower – providing green investing options for the consumer

LED Dynamics converts T8 fluorescents to LEDs

April 25th, 2016 by Cathy Rust No comments »
EverLED LED tube replacements for T8s.

EverLED LED tube replacements for T8s.

Made in Vermont is the sister show of the Vermont Home and Garden Show. In addition to some great foody exhibits, I found this manufacturer of LED lights EverLED. What I liked about this product was the ease of transition from fluorescent to LED. Basically, you pop out your old fluorescent tube and pop in the LED replacement.

This light uses about 40% less energy than a T8, which is the most common tube fluorescent in use today. Like all LEDs it contains no mercury and has no annoying flicker or stroboscopic effect that can happen to fluorescents over time. It also extends the life of the ballast because it doesn’t over heat it. The light output is the same as the T8.

Unlike fluorescents, it is not affected by how many times it is turned on or off during its use, nor does it have a warm-up period.

I spoke with Bob Sparadeo, Sales Directory, who told me that they have been in use for ten years so far, so they are rating them now with a ten-year lifespan, but they really don’t know because they haven’t had one burn out yet.

Colour temperature: The lights are available in three colour temperatures: 3500K, 4000K and 5000K.

They are recyclable at end-of-life.

Suggested applications for this LED light are:

  • Food preparation and service
  • Hard to reach, high maintenance cost areas
  • Clean rooms, laboratories and research environments
  • Museums and galleries
  • Hospitals and medical environments
  • Colleges and universities
  • Office buildings
  • Hotels and hospitality suites
  • Warehouses
  • Parking garages
  • refrigerator and freezer cases
  • retail signs and displays

For more information on these products, visit the EverLED website.



Pellergy, Service and Pellet Maker all together at the Vermont Home and Garden Show

April 21st, 2016 by Cathy Rust No comments »

On one of the nicest days so far this year my husband and I took a field trip to Burlington, Vermont to check out all the green exhibits at the Vermont Home and Garden Show.

The first exhibit I saw was a “tri-exhibit” of Pellergy, Vermont Renewable Fuels and Green Mountain Wood Pellets . These three companies work together to provide homeowners with a no-fuss wood pellet boiler system. I know very little about wood pellet boilers, so I imagined that every few hours you have to go down to the deep dark recesses of your home, grab a few scoopfuls of pellets and feed it to a big scary oven. I believed that having a pellet furnace would be both inconvenient and tie you down — you could never leave your house for longer than a few hours without the place freezing up. But that image is totally wrong and misguided; these boilers are like modern gas or oil boilers only with a much lower carbon footprint. They heat the water just as effectively as oil and gas, while the wood pellets are delivered to your house, directly to your storage container through a vacuum hose that looks not unlike an oil hose.


Pellergy Alpha Boiler

Pellergy Alpha Boiler

Pellergy Alpha Self-Cleaning Boiler is made in Austria and uses wood pellets to produce enough heat to boil the water that goes through your radiant flooring system or radiator system. The difference between this system and an oil or gas boiler is only the fuel source. The ignition system that is used monitors demand and temperature and adjusts accordingly. Pellets are fed through a vacuum transfer system to the heating chamber when needed. I asked the exhibitor about the insurance issues — what do home insurers think about a fuel system made from wood? He said that insurers don’t have a problem with it because oil and gas are significantly more explosive than the wood pellets. And in terms of spillage, he said, “If you have a pellet spill, you use a broom to sweep it up.” Quite a bit different from an oil spill!


Pellergy boilers keep track of how many tons of wood are burned and when it reaches a certain amount, it connected wirelessly to the pellet delivery service, which will then schedule a delivery of more pellets. While the delivery truck looks just like an oil tanker, it’s filled with wood pellets. A vacuum system feeds the pellets into the home’s storage tank.

Pellergy Boiler Cutaway

Pellergy Boiler Cutaway

Pellets are fed automatically to the boiler, so you never have to worry about feeding the system — unless of course there’s a power outage. There is a manual system available, but the company has never installed one.

What I really liked about this system was the vertical integration. Last year Vermont Renewable Fuels bought its own mill which uses local Vermont white pine — essentially a weed tree that needs to be cleared out of the forest anyway. Foresters now have a market for this tree. Another benefit is that the mix of the white pine fibers with its sap produces a “premium quality” pellet that burns at the optimal temperature for longer and cleaner than a “high quality” pellet producing less ash than other pellets. One of the issues with pellet furnaces is the amount of ash that can build up after burning. The Pellergy units are self-cleaning. Using it together with the low-ash producing wood pellets will also mean less maintenance.


The cost of the system ranges from US$9,999 (A-60 Manual Feed) to US$11699 (AV-100) Vacuum feed plus tax and installation.  There are additional costs for the storage container as well. Rebates and incentives for wood pellet systems will vary depending on where in New England you live. You can check with a Pellergy installer or look on the DSIRE website.  (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency)


Vermont Renewable Fuels delivery truck

Vermont Renewable Fuels delivery truck

 Fuel rates: there is a good cost comparison to oil on Pellergy’s website, but basically, the cost of a ton of pellets ranges between US$240-290/ton. Based on the amount used through a winter equates to $2.14 per gallon of oil.

Carbon neutrality: using wood as fuel is considered carbon neutral as it is considered the same as if it had decayed naturally in the forest at end-of-life. Carbon is stored in wood until it is released upon burning or natural decay.


Other good resources for information on financial help for renewable energy systems in Vermont are:

The Renewable Energy Resource Center and,

Efficiency Vermont.

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