Archive for the ‘Green Websites’ category

Zerofootprint: Energy Efficiency through Software, Architectural Design and Human Behaviour

November 14th, 2011

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Ron Dembo, CEO of Zerofootprint. We talked about the three different areas his company is working on right now and all are about achieving the same goal: reducing energy consumption, whether it’s through plug load, adding insulation or by altering human behaviour. Furthermore, Ron and Zerofootprint believe in benchmarking as a starting point. If this sounds at all familiar, then, hooray! you’ve been reading my blog, because I too in a firm believer of knowing where you’re starting from in order to develop a reduction strategy. There was so much to discuss, and Zerofootprint is involved in so many different projects that I separated the information into three different articles.

 

Finally, Zerofootprint works with organizations such as Earth Hour and provides one minute carbon and water personal calculators to help you find out how you stack up to the average Canadian. The calculators give you a very rough idea of how much CO2 emissions you are responsible for due to your transportation, diet, travel and home. I input my data and am sorry to learn that I am responsible for the emission of 10 tons/year of CO2 — half of which are due to the number of kilometers I put on our minivan. In fact when I switched my answer from my minivan to hybrid, my emissions dropped to 5.3 tons/year. Fortunately I fared much better in water consumption and came in at 85,000 litres per year, about 25% less than the Canadian average, but still not something I’d brag about. If you’re serious about benchmarking your carbon footprint, Zerofootprint offers a more in-depth carbon calculator, but you need access to your utility bills and should block out at least half an hour to fill out the forms. It’s worth it if you really want to know where you stand.

 

The TalkingPlug by Zerofootprint

November 14th, 2011

TalkingPlug

Zerofootprint provides the software for this genius device called  the TalkingPlug. Currently still in development, this plug could be groundbreaking in terms of what it could do for helping consumers and commercial activities reduce energy consumption. Any electricity consuming appliance plugged into the TalkingPlug can be monitored and controlled via a computer. From a consumer perspective it means that window air conditioners can be managed from afar via computer so they don’t need to be cooling your home while you’re away but you can turn it on an hour before you get home from your smart phone. You also can see exactly how much electricity that unit is using. This plug can be especially useful in identifying old and inefficient appliances. By plugging in refrigerators, stoves, etc., you’ll get an idea of how much energy each unit consumes. You will also have the ability to compare it to what an average similar appliance uses and whether yours is out of date, or not performing to where it should be, via the Zerofootprint website. This kind of information allows you to decide the most cost-effective you can make to lower your electricity bills.

Now imagine this system applied to fast food chains or other commercial applications. Because the TalkingPlug is connected to the internet, a company could see how its appliances are performing. For example a vending machine supplier could have all its vending machines across a city/country/continent  monitored and discover which ones are performing well, which ones are broken and which ones are using too much electricity. By being able to quickly identify which machines aren’t working properly, they can be fixed or replaced much faster than if machines are just left to monthly or quarterly visits from the technician.

The TalkingPlug isn’t on the market yet, but keep a look out for it sometime within the next year or so.

EcoInhabit Brings You the Healthy Home

May 18th, 2011

If you were in the lucky position of being able to build from the ground up, it would be an great time to sit down and have a chat with Tim and Jan Singbeil, the new owners of EcoInhabit, a green building store located in Meaford, Ontario.

Jan and Tim have lived in Meaford for about 20 years, and during that time have been farmers and owned a cabinetry shop. They’re big believers in restoring the land and using benign materials for building. “Benign” in this case refers as much to the off-gassing potential of the product as it does its environmental impact.

When EcoInhabit’s former owners put the business up for sale, Jan and Tim decided it was a good opportunity to expand their cabinetry shop into a full-service green building shop. The store itself offers a variety of green building products, such as American Clay, zero VOC paints and stains and reclaimed flooring. They still maintain their cabinetry operation so they sell solid wood furniture made in their own shop, including kitchen cabinetry and solid wood bed frames. They also sell biodegradable cleaners, reusable produce bags and a line of eco products for babies. It’s a fun place to browse through.

But what you’re really getting when you go into EcoInhabit, is a lesson on building and maintaining a healthy, durable, low-impact home. The Singbeils’ philosophy is that using local, durable materials and building with people from within the community are two of the keys to building durable, healthy buildings. They are also lucky to be able to work with some like-minded customers in the area who are willing participants. Jan and Tim continuously seek out better building techniques so that once built, these structures consume as little energy as possible and don’t off-gas any harsh chemicals.

Tim said that once they were working with a client and their objective was to build a home that would last, at a minimum, of 100 years. Then they decided, “if we’re building a home to last 100 years, why not 300?” The consequence of that target meant that as few mechanical systems were installed as possible; low-tech and no-tech are better than mechanical systems that are definitely not going to last 300 years, or 100 years for that matter. Homes are super-insulated, oriented to take advantage of passive solar energy in the winter and shaded in summer. Heating systems are as small as possible and mechanical cooling systems are avoided as much as possible.

A healthy home is mould and mildew free, sturdy and severe-weather proof, with no off-gassing of toxic chemicals from construction. The Singbeils construct homes with Durisol blocks, and encourage clients to choose American Clay for some wall applications since it works so well with the thermal mass of the Durisol blocks and regulates relative humidity.

They put a lot of thought into home construction and source as locally as possible working with expert trades who are familiar with their green materials. Any particleboard products are NAUF (no added urea-formaldehyde), and now they’re entering a new green area which is EMR, or, electromagnetic radiation, another form of pollution in the form of electricity. I confess that I’m not that familiar with EMR and, so, need to learn a little bit more about it.

To learn more about EcoInhabit and the Singbeils’ building philosophy, visit their website, or better yet, if you happen to be in the Georgian Triangle, make sure you stop by the store.

Website: http://www.ecoinhabit.com/

Location:

121 Old Highway #26
Meaford, Ontario
N4L 1W7

Tel: 1.519.538.0777
Toll-free: 1.888.538.0777
Fax: 1.519.538.0778

Email: info@ecoinhabit.com

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Unplug your cellphone after it’s charged — Action #6 on Practically Green

April 6th, 2011

Practically Green is a wonderful website that helps consumers go a little greener one action at a time. There are plenty of great things about this website, from helping you determine where you currently sit on “the green front” to helping you set goals to lighten your environmental load. It’s not a preachy site; they don’t tell you what you’re doing wrong, they just give you little steps you can take to make yourself and your family a bit greener — or a lot greener depending on what you want to accomplish. It has lots of suggestions of things to do, and suggestions of products to help you accomplish your goals.

Practically Green has branded April as “Earth Month.”  They have taken their top thirty most popular actions on their site and devoted a blog post each day to help all of us tackle these actions.

Today I wrote about “Unplugging your cellphone charger,” the sixth most popular action people have taken on the site. It sounds like it’s an easy thing to do, but you’d be surprised. Take a look around your home and see how many chargers are plugged into the wall without the cell phone in it.

Read my full post here, and to find out just how green you are (and how to help you become greener), visit Practically Green’s website.

EcoFitt: Water-Saving Fixtures and LED Lighting Options

January 25th, 2011

EcoFitt is a Mississauga, Ontario-based company that has been in the background of water and energy conservation for several years. The company works primarily with utility companies such as Enbridge, Union Gas, BC Hydro  and Manitoba Hydro and provides them with energy and water saving kits that the companies in turn give to some of their customers.

In the past six years I’ve lived in two different homes, and in both of them I have had visits from Enbridge representatives giving me a free energy and water-saving kit in addition to the offer of installing the items. The kit contained a water-saving shower head, two faucet aerators, a compact fluorescent light bulb — maybe two, I can’t remember anymore –and a few other things to help our household conserve water and electricity. Both of these kits, it turns out, were provided to Enbridge by EcoFitt.

Now, however, in addition to working with utility companies, EcoFitt is reaching out directly to consumers and property managers to help them save money and conserve resources. While they don’t have a retail store, all of their products are conveniently available through their website.

I spoke with Melinda DeNicola, Director of Marketing for EcoFitt, about a few of the products they carry.

There are a few different kinds available depending on what your needs are. Each of the kits is geared towards a specific goal. For instance, the “gas energy efficiency kit”  ($57.70) includes weatherstripping and ShrinkFit plastic sheeting that helps insulate old, drafty windows. It also includes a water-efficient shower-head and some aerators.

The “electric” energy kit ($32.80) aims at helping you lower your electric bill by providing you with a thermometer for your fridge (most people set their fridges and freezers too cold but don’t know it), an air filter whistle (it whistles when your air filter is dirty and needs changing — simple idea to increase energy efficiency!), two CFLs and 12 draft stoppers for your plug outlets. (Note: I noticed from the photos that the light switch and electrical outlet plates they’re showing are the older style. If you have a newer home with more modern square light switches, make sure you ask whether or not they carry those kinds of plates).

One of EcoFitt’s most popular items is their water-saving Niagara toilet line. They carry three different models including the Niagara Power 1.0 GPF pressure-assist toilet, which, as the name suggests, uses 1 gallon (3.8L) of water to flush ($395.60).

LED Lighting by Fawoo. A Korean company that makes high-quality LED lights at a reasonable price. They have unique 3W and 4W bulbs, the “04 LumiDas-H Spot” that were developed to replace the halogen 50W spot light. While not yet up on the Eco-Fitt website, these 3 and 4W bulbs are available in “warm” and “daylight” lighting temperatures. For LEDs they are reasonably priced at $28/bulb. According to the Fawoo brochure, the lights are

[m]ade of flame-resistant plastic instead of aluminum, the lamp saves dramatically its manufacturing cost and made it affordable at the price of 40% below than the existing equivalent LED lamps.

The quality of an LED light rests as much on design as it does on the quality of the chip that it uses. In this case the chip manufacturer is Nichia, a reputable chip manufacturer, according to Dmitri Shaffer, LED Lighting specialist. (Note, for a thorough explanation of how to choose LED lights, read “LED Lighting Illuminated.”)

Programmable Thermostat. The programmable thermostat is a great item for helping any household improve its energy efficiency. The problem with many programmable thermostats is that they don’t get used properly because people don’t know how to program them. Eco-Fitt now offers a Thermostat installation service (additional charge for thermostat installation), and the HVAC professional who installs it will also be able show you how to operate it.

Rebates: EcoFitt’s products qualify for local government rebates depending on where you live, however, you do have to do the paperwork yourself.

If you’re interested in increasing the energy and water efficiency of your home, but don’t feel like braving the cold temperatures and snow we’ve had lately, browse through EcoFitt’s website and order products from the comfort of your home.

For more information visit their website: https://www.ecofitt.ca/

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