Saturday, May 24, 2014 06:00 am
Water bylaw not needed, committee says
St. Albert shouldn’t bother with a water-efficient fixture bylaw, says the city’s environmental advisory committee. Instead, the city should focus on education if it really wants to save water.
The committee voted Thursday to advise city council not to proceed with a new water efficiency bylaw. That bylaw was meant to require water-efficient fixtures in all new homes and home renovations, and is part of the city’s 2012 water efficiency plan.
This law seemed like a good idea when the committee first worked on the city’s efficiency plan, said city corporate strategic services director Leah Kongsrude. Both administrators and the committee were surprised by what they found when they researched the details of it.
The committee found that it’s really difficult to buy or find a non-efficient water fixture nowadays, chair Brent Korobanik said.
“There wasn’t a lot to gain from putting in a bylaw to focus on that,” he said.
The city could instead regulate summer outdoor water use, which some studies suggest can spike by 50 per cent in the summer, Korobanik said. But this too could have limited impact – the committee’s research found that St. Albert uses just 15 to 30 per cent more water in the summer than it does in the winter.
The committee found that the city could get the greatest water reductions through a restructuring of its water rates and targeted education campaigns to encourage practices such as xeriscaping. Toilet replacement rebates could also help owners of older homes that have inefficient water fixtures.
The committee will present its findings to council June 23.
Double-length solar tour
City residents will have twice as long this year to check out homes on the annual Eco-Solar Home tour.
The 15th annual Eco-Solar Home Tour rolls out in Edmonton May 31 and June 1. The free event gives residents a chance to check out some of the most energy efficient homes in the Edmonton region. Past years have featured homes in St. Albert.
Edmonton is Canada’s capital when it comes to net-zero homes, said Gordon Howell, one of the founders of the eco-solar home tour.
“We almost have more net-zero homes in Edmonton than the whole rest of Canada combined.”
This year is the first time that the tour will happen over two days instead of one, a change meant to give people more time to check out all the homes.
There are 12 homes in Edmonton and Leduc on the tour, Howell says – a big improvement from the five that were on the first tour.
Eight of the homes on this year’s tour have solar electric power and seven are net-zero homes. Also featured is the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s alternative energy technology lab, which will showcase various efficient technologies.
Solar power has taken off since the tour started, Howell said. He used to have the only domestic grid-connected solar panel in western Canada in 1995, for example.
“Now, we have about 190 in Edmonton alone.”
Other technologies, such as heat-recovery ventilators and triple-glaze windows, have also become commonplace since the start of the tour.
Many of the homes on the tour feature three emerging technologies: air source heat pumps, heat pumps for water and urban cultivators.
“With an air source heat pump, it’s really like an air-conditioner system run backwards,” Howell said.
These systems can cool your home in the summer and – in really efficient homes – heat it in the winter, pulling in heat from the otherwise frosty outside air. They’re about the same price as a regular gas furnace, except they don’t require gas or a gas line.
This is a very important technology that will help advance development of net-zero homes, Howell said.
Heat pumps for water take the heat inside your home and dump it into your hot water tank, Howell continued. That saves you money in the summer, as you’re cooling your house to heat your water.
Urban cultivators are fridge-sized greenhouses that let you grow vegetables indoors.
“It’s like a little grow op!” Howell joked.
The tour is a great way for people to get ideas on how to build a more resilient, affordable home, Howell said.
It’s also of interest to anyone concerned about greenhouse gases, said Leigh Bond of St. Albert’s Threshold Energies.
“More than 40 per cent of our (electrical) energy comes from coal,” he notes – a major source of greenhouse gas.
“By building more efficient buildings, we use less energy which in turn produces less CO2.”
Visit www.ecosolar.ca for tour details.