Monthly Archives: June 2009

Coming To A Neighborhood Near You … Net-Zero Homes

solar-powered-homes net-zero-homes

Imagine living in a home that produces renewable energy equal to the total amount consumed each year in the form of heat, light and power. Sound impossible?

The Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition doesn’t think so. In fact, its goal is to see all new construction in Canada meeting a net-zero standard by 2030. So far, it has convinced the federal housing agency, through its EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative, to get the ball rolling with 12 pilot projects across the country, including Moncton’s VISION Home.

According to the coalition, housing is responsible for 17% of energy use and 16% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. A net-zero home would dramatically change those statistics.

Once the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s EQuilibrium demonstration homes are completed, they’ll be open to the public for six months for tours so Canadians can learn about what’s involved in lessening their home’s footprint on the environment.

But why wait for a project to come to a city near you?

Here are the basics of a net-zero home:

• Integrated renewable energy systems, such as solar electricity and thermal heat, ground-source heating and passive solar heating and cooling.
• Grid interconnection to allow the home to deliver excess electricity back to the grid.
• A climate-specific solar design tailored to take advantage of the local climate and natural environment.
• Natural “daylighting” through domes and rainwater collection.
• Low pollutant-emitting construction materials and finishes, continuous fresh air supply to all rooms and exhaust air extraction from kitchens and bathrooms.
• Energy- and resource-efficient construction methods, appliances and lighting.

The benefits? The most obvious is low utility bills. But keeping your family and the environment healthy? Priceless!

What are you doing to keep your home’s environmental footprint small?

Hollywood Homes For Sale

hollywood-sign, hollywood-homes

It’s the stuff dreams are made of — if you love beautiful women with rabbit ears.

Hugh Hefner and his wife, Kimberley, former Playmate of the Year, have put their Hollywood Hills mansion up for sale for a cool $27,995,000 US. That means bragging rights as the new neighbour to the Playboy party house are up for grabs to the highest bidder.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Hefners’ personal residence, which is adjacent to the Playboy mansion, is a two-storey, 7,300-square-foot English Manor-style home with five bedrooms and seven bathrooms. The stately home, which sits on 2.3 acres behind private gates, is one of the priciest on the market in the Hollywood Hills, where stars of song and film like to enjoy breathtaking views from the seclusion of their gated mansions.

But will Hef find a buyer? The new trend in celebrity real estate is to lease — not buy.

Rocker Courtney Love, the widow of Kurt Cobain, recently joined the stars who either want to keep their millions safe under the mattress or invest in buy-to-let properties. The Times, quoting the Multiple Listing Service, has reported that Love rented a five-bedroom, five-bathroom beauty in the Hollywood Hills for about $20,000 US a month.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old reality TV star Lauren “L.C.” Conrad is downsizing to a rented condo and plans to lease out her Hollywood Hills home for $11,000 a month.

If these Hollywood rents sound a tad high, over in Bel-Air, Michael Jackson is paying $100,000 a month to lease an estate fit for The Gloved One, according to his manager. Seems Neverland is giving La La Land a run for its money!

How much would you pay to brush elbows with the stars?

Keep Your “Cool” Underground

Think living underground is dark, damp and cramped? Consider:
underground-homes underground-house

The Pyramid Hill House
This 7,000-square-foot home, located in the hills of Ohio, was built underground in 1989 on the estate of lawyer Harry Wilks and capped with a glass pyramid to flood the sunken great room with light. The ceiling is supported by masonry block piers that create alcoves in each corner of the room — perfect for tucking away the kitchen, library, TVs, etc. Wilks, now 83, recently added a public Museum of Ancient Sculpture to his estate. “I enjoy living here so much,” he said in a recent interview with the Business Courier.

underground-room underground-living

Coober Pedy Underground Homes
Most of the residents of this town in South Australia live underground in refurbished old opal mines, mostly to stay cool — temperatures are so scorching they can’t even grow grass on the golf course! One of the hand-dug homes, built by Faye Nayler and a friend, is open to the public. According to, the subterranean home boasts a wine cellar, a billiard room and swimming pool!


Forestiere Underground Gardens
This historical site in Fresno, California, is the lifelong work of Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere, who began building his underground refuge in 1906. Before he died 40 years later, he had built a 10-acre underground oasis, spread over three levels, that included living quarters and beautiful gardens featuring fruit-bearing trees and grapevines. According to the Forestiere Historical Center, his unique home included a parlour with fireplace, a summer and a winter bedroom, and a courtyard with a bath and a fish pond.

What are “must-haves” in the underground home of your dreams?

Why That Old Beer Fridge Has Got To Go

The saying “they don’t make ’em like they used to” has never been more true today, especially when applied to major appliances.

And no, we’re not talking about how great your old beer fridge is, even if it has been in daily use since you were in college two decades ago. We’re talking about how much energy — and money — you can save by buying appliances that have been rated “Energy Star”.

According to Natural Resources Canada, that 1990’s era beer fridge in your basement or garage is costing you big bucks to operate, because it consumes about 190% more energy than the most efficient fridge on the market today.

Thanks to technological advancements — and a few nudges through tougher regulations in Canada and the U.S. — the energy efficiency of all major appliances has improved by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. For example, your 1990 beer fridge consumes more than 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, compared to about 465 kWh for an Energy Star model you can buy today.

What can 535 kWh of energy saved get you? Well, you could run your dishwasher 146 more times, run a hot shower for an extra 26 hours and run your clothes washer for an extra 250 loads! Great news for the environment, too.

So before you buy new appliances, do some comparison shopping. First, look for the Energy Star label. Then, look for the yellow EnerGuide sign, which tells you how many kilowatt hours of electricity the appliance will use each year. Finally, start saving money — and the environment! As a bonus, you could qualify for incentives such as tax rebates.

Have any energy-saving tips you want to share?