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Welcome to the REEP House
Drought tolerant plants naturally soak up more water than other vegetation, decreasing the amount of runoff. To further decrease runoff, we have installed a cistern with a gravity fed drip irrigation system to gradually drain the cistern into the garden, watering the plants and letting the rain soak into the thirsty soil. A black plastic hose is attached to the bottom outlet of the cistern. The hose runs through the garden, around the plants, with small drip feeders letting water out of the hose for each individual plant.
An infiltration gallery is an underground water storage system that helps reduce stormwater runoff, and lets the rain soak into the ground. At the REEP House, we installed an Aqua-Blox raintank under the ground to collect the overflow from our small cistern and downspout. The raintank is a porous box made from recycled plastic, that looks a little bit like a milk-crate, which is buried just under the surface, wrapped in landscape felt to keep out silt, and covered over with a layer of mulch on top to let the water drain into it.
The driveway and parking area feature permeable unit pavers. They are linked to a drainage and filtration system with a bio filter layer which deals with potentially harmful runoff, thus protecting a nearby surface drainage creek.
We like to say that not one drop of rain water escapes REEP House into the stormwater system. Our paving stones are nine times more water-permeable than standard interlocking brick, and the secret is in the gravel layers underneath.
Watch this video about our permeable paving, made by our RAIN team:
There are 2 cisterns installed at REEP House that collectively hold 1900L of rainwater, in addition to our standard rain barrel. They are designed to capture the majority of the roof runoff from a heavy rainfall. The harvested water will be used for watering our outdoor plants and will also be plumbed into REEP House for re-use in our Grey Water System.
A green roof uses plants and a growing medium to reduce water runoff and keep a house cooler. Our small green roof display is in a low, visible location, so it can be easily seen and understood.
Solar panels collect energy from the sun and turn it into electricity that we can use to power our lights and appliances, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas emitting energy sources.
A combination of a 1” to 2” layer of sprayed-in polyurethane foam combined with R12 rock wool batts is shown in REEP House's insulation truth wall. This option provides good air and moisture sealing, and serves as a good cost-saving alternative, particularly for basements where moisture is more of an issue.
A great option, made from renewable and non-toxic recycled materials — newspaper and paperboard, with some borax for fire-proofing. Cellulose can be blown into an existing wall or sprayed into an open one. It has less R-value than foam, but is more environmentally friendly than most other materials. Unlike batts it does fill the whole cavity, fills in odd-shaped cavities and around pipes, and provides a pretty good air seal. Like batts, it's also an inexpensive option, and an excellent choice for attics, where you have a lot of space to add more insulation to achieve the needed R-value.
When older homes were original built insulating was just not done, so unless yourself or someone else has added insulation, behind your plaster walls will be a gap, strapping and inner side of your exterior finish, often brick in this area. In general it would cost around $3000 to heat a home like the REEP house for a year.
Adding insulation to an unsulated house generally will make the biggest impacts in terms of making it more energy efficicent and saving money.
Closed-cell, two-pound polyurethane foam has among the highest R-values of any commercially available insulation, made from Isocyanate and sucrose-based polys. (Closed cell foam is about four times as dense as open cell, basically because it is less inflated by air when installed.) It maintains an excellent moisture vapour barrier and resistance to water, and it will make your walls stronger and more sound-absorbent, especially to bass tones. Compared to batts, foam has more durability and retains its efficiency over time without deteriorating.
However, foam is expensive and it is petrochemical-based. Its embodied energy is about three times greater than fibreglass batts, meaning a lot more fossil fuels go into creating it. You can reduce the carbon footprint of spray-in installation somewhat by choosing soy-based foam, although petroleum oil still makes up the majority of material content.
Open-cell polyurethane foam flows well so it can be pressure-injected or poured through small holes in the plaster, and can be deployed without ripping out your walls. Even if the cavity has only a 1" gap between walls, as is the case with most brick homes with lathe & plaster walls, this type of foam can have a big impact due to its draft-proofing and sound-proofing qualities. It has a lower R-value than closed cell sprayed-in foam. Like closed cell foam it is made from Isocyanate and sucrose-based polys.
Open-cell polyurethane foam flows well so it can be pressure-injected or poured through small holes in the drywall, and can be deployed without ripping out your walls. Another big advantage is that you can use it to fill in behind old batts already existing in the wall without much loss of efficiency. It has a lower R-value than closed cell sprayed-in foam. Like closed cell foam it is made from Isocyanate and sucrose-based polys.
Fairly standard and similar in terms of performance, batts are decent insulators and easy to install. Their disadvantages are that you don't get a great seal, resulting in more chance of air leakage, and they are not a good option for basements because of likely moisture damage. Also, oftentimes batts aren’t installed properly – they are shoved in instead of filling the air cavity completely and evenly, leaving areas compressed and pockets where cold-air convection loops retain a lower temperature.
Less irritating to the skin on a DIY installation, rock wool also has a higher R-value than fibreglass. Batts use about 40 per cent recycled materials from the mining by-products of rock or slag, spun into a fibre-like structure. Rock wool is also more fire-resistant, water-repellant and sound-absorbent than fibreglass.
Made from 100-per-cent recycled denim, so the material won't irritate your skin during installation. The recycled content also gives it a very low environmental impact. Cotton can be a difficult material to acquire locally — REEP House's sample came from a supplier in Toronto, and there is a company in Guelph that does install it.
Uses between 20 and 30 percent recycled industrial waste and post-consumer materials to create the spun glass fibres that gets under your skin during installation. Fibreglass generally has a lower R-value than other batt insulation options, although you can get better results by choosing a higher density.
The radiator in the REEP House bathroom also serves as a towel rack which pre-heats and dries the towels as they hang.
Heating the parts of a room that you actually touch (like the floor, or a towel) is a good way to increase home comfort without using extra energy.
You will save 60,000 litres of water and $200 each year if you replace a 13 litre-per-flush toilet with a three litre model (for an average family of four). This toilet is made by a company based in Vaughan, Ontario. The standard high efficiency toilet sold today uses 6 litres of water, but this ultra high efficiency toilet uses only 3 litres, the least amount used by any flush toilet on the market.
Another type of high efficiency toilet that is becoming more and more popular is the ‘dual-flush’ toilet, which has two separate flushing options, one for just liquid waste and one for solid waste.
A high efficiency shower head is a great investment for saving water and money. By replacing your standard 9 liter-per-minute (LPM) showerhead with an efficient 5 LPM unit you can save about 40,000 Litres of water per year, which will save you about $120 per year in water costs. Considering that a typical high quality, high efficiency (HE) shower head only costs between $20-$40, it’s well worth the investment.
At the REEP House we have a fun interactive display where you can see and feel a lot of different HE showerheads in use, and compare them with a number of standard non-HE shower heads. Recent research has shown that although many people have an aversion to the idea of HE or “low-flow” shower heads, when faced with a blind comparison test most of them cannot tell the difference between an HE shower head and a standard low-efficiency showerhead. The truth is that mainly different people simply prefer different types of shower heads (i.e. some like a stronger jet-stream, while others like a gentler wide spray, etc.), regardless of whether it's an HE showerhead or not. So please come to the REEP House yourself and take the "shower head challenge".
Because a refrigerator is on all the time, it tends to be the largest energy hog in most homes, in terms of appliances, and an older model can use from $100-$200 per year in electricity. This fridge costs $10 per year to operate. This is because of smart design, including extra insulation and a copper passive cooling component that extends outside to take advantage of our cold Canadian winters and reduce energy use further.
New ENERGY STAR dishwashers use less water, soap, and energy than even frugal hand washing. The average dishwasher built in the past 20 years uses 15-38 litres of water per load but this model uses only 11 Litres. Be sure to do full loads and turn off the dry cycle, if possible.
Heating water is the second-largest energy expense in most houses. Yet a lot of that energy literally goes down the drain!
This technology, made here in Waterloo Region, uses the warmth from the bathroom shower and sink drain water to preheat cold water. The copper coil wraps around a copper drain, providing great heat transfer. The simple design can save up to 35% on water heating.
We use a boiler to provide in-floor and radiator heating with three zones so that a different temperature can be chosen for each floor. Modern boilers are compact and this model is 95 percent efficient. Can you spot the radiator in the upstairs bathroom?
Three 120ft-deep wells were drilled into the backyard so that this system, powered by electricity, could both heat and cool REEP House using the consistent temperature of the ground. Our system is connected to duct work and uses forced air, like a regular home furnace unit.
An air exchange system is an important part of any energy efficient home. Since REEP House is very well sealed, a ventilation system is used to make sure enough fresh air enters the home and to maintain a comfortable humidity level. This system uses the outgoing air to pre-heat incoming air in the winter and pre-cool in the summer.
Basement Water System
A greywater system can save the average household 75,000 L of water a year – enough to fill 7,500 baths! The water from our shower, bathroom sink, and reverse osmosis drinking water system is reused to flush the toilet. Kitchen tap water is too dirty for re-use, but captured rainwater can be used for this purpose.
The water in the Grand River Watershed tends to be fairly hard, so a softener is often required to avoid calcium build-up inside hot water heaters and pipes. Choosing a softener that uses less salt, water, and energy helps to conserve and protect our precious water resources while lowering your household expenses at the same time.
At the REEP House we have installed the Kinetico 2060s water softener which uses no electricity and very little salt. It also uses less waste water than the typical softener. We also have a de-chlorinator which improves the lifespan of the water softener, and improves the water quality by removing chlorine. In addition, we have installed a reverse osmosis filter for our drinking water. Although reverse osmosis filters require quite a bit of extra water for backflushing, at the REEP House that extra water is diverted to our greywater system, and is used for toilet flushing.
Heating water is the second-largest energy expense for most homes. Tankless systems save space and energy by producing hot water on demand when you need it, rather than heating water that is continually kept hot in a storage tank until used.
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