Homeowners who invest in a geothermal heating and cooling system realize savings not only at the time of installation, but well into the future. The system reduces energy consumption, lowers utility bills and increases home resale values.
A geothermal home comfort system taps into the abundant source of free solar heat energy stored in the earth and uses a series of pipes (an earth loop) buried in the ground to move that heat into a home during the winter and remove it during the summer. This same heat energy can be used for a radiant floor system or domestic hot water heating.
Once installed, the system significantly reduces energy consumption, saving homeowners as much as 70 percent on their heating and cooling bills throughout the year. And because geothermal systems use the free renewable supply of energy found in homeowners’ backyards, the use of geothermal reduces dependency on foreign oil while encouraging energy production here and helping to create jobs in renewable industries.
Lower utility bills increase the list of benefits that a geothermal system offers the homeowner. In fact, a geothermal system delivers an astounding four units of energy for every one unit of electrical energy used. That translates to a 400 percent efficiency rating for heating, cooling and hot water costs. Additionally, once installed, a geothermal system requires less maintenance than a conventional heating and cooling system.
In addition to consistent temperatures, a geothermal system ensures good indoor air quality (IAQ). That’s because the system does not require combustion and therefore produces none of the products associated with combustion, including carbon monoxide, which can negatively impact the air you breathe. Nor does it require a system to vent carbon monoxide and other dangerous exhaust gases. So, the investment in geothermal has immediate and long-term benefits for the environment as well as the homeowner.
And unlike many conventional air conditioners or heat pumps, a geothermal heating and cooling system is quiet, requiring no noisy and unsightly outdoor units to disturb your outside environment or your neighbors. Instead, all equipment is located inside, conveniently sized and constructed for quiet, efficient operation.
In many cases, these benefits translate to higher resale values for homes that use a geothermal heating and cooling system, a benefit that becomes even more important in the current housing market. And according to the experts at WaterFurnace, homeowners who invest in geothermal systems and plan to stay in their homes can anticipate an average system life span of more than 24 years – compared to 15 years for a traditional system — less maintenance and lower lifecycle costs.
WaterFurnace International, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of geothermal and water source heat pumps. Products from WaterFurnace include energy-efficient and environmentally friendly geothermal comfort systems, indoor air quality products and pool heaters. WaterFurnace (TSX:WFI) was founded in 1983, and the company is headquartered in Fort Wayne, Ind. For the latest news and updates from WaterFurnace, connect with them on your favorite social media sites – follow them onTwitter (@WaterFurnace), like on Facebook or view the WaterFurnace YouTube Channel.
Two years ago I attended the press party for Nexterra LivingHomes. I was pretty excited about the concept of a green modular home that achieved the goals of being lighter on the planet, but was still functional and gorgeous. The house is now ready and, since I was in Toronto to attend the GreenLiving Show, Gary Lands of Nexterra, took me on a tour of the nearly completed and furnished model home. There are three other homes that will be built at 20 Senlac, blue prints and property positions are available on the Nexterra website.
Exterior Rainscreen cladding be Externit
Side view of house — double garage under scaffolding
The Nexterra LivingHome consists of 6 prefab boxes: four large boxes and two smaller ones. The finished home is a spacious three plus one bedroom, meaning three bedrooms on the second floor with a fourth in the basement. Ceilings are 10′ tall on each level so there is a real feeling of space — even the basement ceilings are 10′. The home has wonderful flow, with windows used both strategically and liberally so that there is plenty of natural light.
Laura Felstiner, involved with establishing Nexterra’s partners, told me they are targeting LEED Platinum certification, but won’t know until the house is completed and systems are operating, in order to monitor energy consumption.
Some of the features of the home:
Third floor tower leading to roof deck (also works as a heat stack)
Building envelope and HVAC system: The building is tightly sealed, with R35 insulation in the exposed walls, and R30 insulation in the basement walls.Insulation is Heatlok Soya, a sprayfoam insulation made from recycled water bottles and soy. It’s an excellent insulation with an R-value of 6 per inch. The key to Heatlok is that it doesn’t lose its R-value over time. Many sprayfoams lose a little of their insulation value due to natural shrinkage of the material.
There is easy accessibility to the roof via the third floor stairway, which also acts as a heat stack. When days are hot in the summer and (hopefully) nights are cooler, opening the door to the roof, while opening lower floor windows prompts cool air to be drawn into the lower floors while the hot air escapes through the open top floor door. There is also space for a whole house fan in the roof which would accomplish the same thing if the lower level windows are open. The roof is also solar PV panel ready, and there will be a roof deck as well.
Geothermal heating system by Geosmart provides both heating and cooling for the home. In addition, because the building is tightly sealed, there is a Heat Recovery Ventilator and air purification system by Water Furnace, that keeps the air clean and circulating through the house.
Windows have fiberglass frames, made by local Toronto business, Inline Fiberglass, and are double-glazed, low-emissivity, filled with argon gas. These windows are some of the best insulating windows on the market today. You can read more about the advantages of fiberglass windows in this article.
Appliance Bank: AEG microwave, oven and steamer oven
Franke Sink with culinary work prep sink and built-in compost bin
Recycling bins built into kitchen cabinets — by Scavolini
Kitchen: The cabinets were done by Scavolini, an Italian company that takes sustainability very seriously. Not only are the cabinets NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde), but there are thoughtful additions such as a recycling centre built into the island. The company itself also practices sustainability during the manufacturing process. The two manufacturing plants run almost entirely on electricity derived from the rooftop solar panels on their factories, waste is minimized as is the amount of water used in manufacturing. While the cupboards are manufactured in Europe, they are shipped by boat and flat-packed, and are assembled on site. Flat packing items allows companies the opportunity to ship more items in one container, lessening the number of cargo holders needed.
Countertop by Caesarstone, Faucet by Franke
Countertop: Caesarstone “Quartz Reflections” with up to 42% reclaimed quartz and with particles of recycled mirror and glass which adds a very nice sparkle.
Euro-Line Appliances provided all the appliances and the stainless steel sink. The sink is by Franke and includes a prep bowl and strainer, as well as a built-in compost bin. Appliances are by AEG and include an induction cooktop, and a wall of ovens consisting of a microwave, convection oven and steamer oven. The dishwasher is also AEG. European appliances use significantly less electricity than standard North American models and will lighten the electricity load for the house, Faucet is by Franke.
Barnboard in mudroom
Mudroom: Between the garage and the kitchen is a mudroom to which barnboard has been added for a great rustic touch. Barnboard comes from Muskoka Timber Mills, and was installed by Andrew Reesor, a local artist.
Dual flush Aquia II by Toto
Powder room: Just off the mudroom is a smart little powder room containing a dual flush (3/6 litres) toilet by Toto Aquia II, and a vanity and sink by WETSTYLE, featuring a proprietary WETMAR material for the sink basin. It is completely recyclable at end of life and can be made into new WETSTYLE products.
Inlaid cork flooring by Jelinek at entry way.
Other features of the main floor: The welcome mat at the front door is actually an inlaid cork flooring provided by Jelinek. Wood flooring through the rest of the house is Kentwood, FSC engineered oak. Engineered flooring is often used because it behaves more consistently than solid wood, not being susceptible to expansion and contraction.
Halo LED lighting in basement
LED pot lights throughout the house are 4″ Halo, 5Watt lights. When Gary was showing me around the house he asked me what was my favourite feature. I told him the LED potlights (he might have been a little disappointed with my answer). I thought they were 50W halogens because of their light temperature (colour) and brightness. I had no idea they were LEDs. Not only will these lights use 10 times less electricity than their halogen counterparts, they will likely not need to be replaced for 15 to 20 years. Now that’s great lighting.
The pendant lighting in the kitchen and over the dining room table is provided by Eurolite.
Living Room — furniture by Gus* modern, art by AGO
Furniture in living room is provided by Gus* Modern. Pillows are provided by Bev Hisey and are Goodweave certified. Goodweave is a not-for-profit group with the aim of ending child labour in the carpet industry while providing education opportunities for children in South Asia. Second life rugs were provided by Elte.
Cast-iron fireplace by Jotul
The fireplace is provided by Jotul, model F 370 DV. Jotul manufactures this fireplace from recycled iron in one of the cleanest foundries in Europe.
The desk in the home office was constructed by JM & Sons out of recycled metal and reclaimed wood. Gary explained that the home’s interior is set up so that if someone has a home office, any clients they might receive can stay in the main part of the house. This eastern-facing wall has large windows so that lots of natural daylight can stream in.
Master bathroom, bath tub, sinks and vanities by Wetstyle
The second floor consists of a Master-ensuite with floor to ceiling closets on the end walls providing lots of storage space. The washroom has been outfitted with Wetstyle tub and sinks and vanity. Other storage cupboards also come from Wetstyle.
Faucets and showerheads throughout the house are low-flow from Aquabrass. I should also mention that while all toilets and faucets are low-flow, they’ve also built the house to be grey-water ready. Grey water, water that comes from the shower drains, can be used to feed all toilets in the house, literally helping to reduce your water use in half.
Bunkbed in bedroom #2 by Kolan
Bedroom #3, crib by Oeuf
The two other rooms on the second floor are set up as kids’ rooms, one with a crib, the other a set of bunk beds. These rooms are bright and spacious and putting furniture in the rooms shows that they are big too — there is plenty of play area in both rooms. The kids’ bunk beds and bookshelf are made by Oeuf out of Baltic birch and eco-MDF and low VOC water-based finishes. The table in this room was made by Heidi Earnshaw, a local artist.
The crib and dresser are made by Kalon from FSC domestic maple and low VOC food grade dyes and stains.
The paint throughout the house is white, zero VOC provided by PARA paints.
What you notice when you walk through this house is not only is it a great example of a green-designed beautiful contemporary house, but also there is an absense of “new home smell” — ie., no smell of chemicals off-gassing into the air. Neither the products that were used to construct the house nor the furniture installed for modelling the home contain toxic chemicals providing a comfortable healthy indoor air environment.
If you’re at all interested in modern, low impact homes, take a look at this one. It will be available for sale at some point, right now it serves as the model home for three others to be built down the same laneway.
For the most part we rely on third party organizations to determine what is and isn't a "green building material." The only time we might not is when products are locally produced or no third party green designation is available for the product.