When considering energy solutions for your home, solar power is a popular option that is practical and requires very little space to operate in comparison to other forms of energy production. Solar panels emit no greenhouse gases, making them a great option when considering the influence that your actions, and energy use at home, have on your local and global environment.
A major concern that many homeowners have when it comes to Solar Power is the cost. Although initially expensive, the cost for solar panels have significantly reduces of the past few years. For example, in the last 10 years the average cost of a solar panel has fallen by 60%. This decrease in cost has made solar power a viable option and, over time, cheaper than retail electricity for most people.
Solar systems are also known for their ease of use, requiring little maintenance because they are stationary, making them easy to take care of. The most significant maintenance of solar panels are monthly inspections and cleaning them of any dust or debris.
Solar panels also have positive effects on the quality of your roof. Installing a solar panel system on your roof can increase the lifespan of your roof by decreasing the snow and hail that falls on the shingles, as well as reducing the impact that ultraviolet radiation has on your roof. Another beneficial aspect is that solar panels can cool your home during the summer, reducing the amount of energy used on cooling in the hotter months.
Keep in Mind
Current solar panel systems have lifespans of about 40 – 50 years, allowing for longtime use. When considering installing solar panels on your roof it is important to consult a roofing contractor on the current lifespan of the shingles on your roof. Replacement of roofing while a solar panel system is on your roof adds additional expenses.
Most residential roofs can handle the weight of solar panels, however roof strength is an important factor to consider when installing solar panels. Depending on your roof’s age, angle, and other factors, it may not be able to handle the extra constant weight that solar panels would impose. In this case, roofs are often reinforced to handle the extra weight.
Depending on the type of solar system chosen, space will also need to be used for the batteries, Inverter, Charge Regulator, and other components associated with your solar system. Depending on the set up of your home, the basement or garage are the most common places to house these components.
Solar Panels are a source of renewable energy that have been of growing popularity, especially for homeowners. There are many different options for having clean energy at the household level!
Who Can Help You?
Find out more about the benefits of installing Solar Panels in your home and what system works best for your needs and budget. We have another post on Solar Panels that discusses installation and other factors in lesson 11 of our informal course ‘Home Energy 101’
To help you get started, we provide a list of businesses, organizations and services that work with renewable energy. Rather than recommending any of them, we suggest you research them and get written quotes.
Written By: Andrew Jackson
Edited By: Christine Tan
Did you know that in a typical home, approximately 30-50% of the surfaces are impenetrable to water? This means that water cannot pass through into the groundwater and instead runs off into storm sewers. As it runs off it can pick up some nasty stuff, like contaminants, and lead to flooding and erosion problems downstream. So, how can you, as a homeowner, do your part to address this serious issue?
One solution could be installing permeable pavement in place of concrete!
What is the difference between traditional and permeable pavement?
Traditionally, construction of driveways, walkways, patios and sidewalks is done with the use of impervious concrete or asphalt. When water fails to get soaked up by trees or natural surfaces, it runs off these surfaces and straight into the storm sewer system. This results in water that can become polluted with oil, grit and other contaminants that flow into our local streams, rivers and lakes.
What are the benefits for the environment?
The main environmental benefit is the reduction of water runoff, which can reduce risk of flooding and erosion. Permeable interlocking pavement attempts to solve this problem by allowing for ways for water to pass through the pavement and infiltrate into the ground. The key though is the stone reservoir installed underneath the pavers which retains the water and gives it a chance to percolate back into the ground.
So, now that you know all the various benefits, it is important to know what type of permeable surface is best for your property and your wallet!
Choosing the Right Permeable Hardscape
The first step to creating pavement that is permeable is to choose an option that matches the space given for the project and the budget that is being utilized. Some types of pavement include:
- Permeable pavers, which are similar to traditional stone pavers, but have special gaps filled with small stones that allow water to seep into the ground.
- A plastic or concrete grid system, in which the gaps are filled with gravel or grasses for easy infiltration.
- A porous asphalt, porous pavement (local company!) or pervious concrete, which is a lower cost option, that allows water to flow through final example and a lower cost option.
Considerations Prior to Installation
Before you begin implementing the installation of permeable pavement, it is important plan ahead and consider all possible options beforehand. Installation of permeable pavement requires professional installation to ensure it is done properly so that it can withstand the weight of people or vehicles that will be on it.
Can’t do Permeable? Try a Ribbon driveway!
Since permeable pavement options are expensive, require a contractor and have specific slope requirements, they are not viable for everyone. So what can you do if you are unable to install permeable pavement but still want to make a difference? There are other methods you can use to create a more permeable driveway or sidewalk without implementing a full project.
One way that this can be done is to remove some of the concrete, and leave only enough pavement for the tires on your driveway. These ribbon driveways were once quite common and are having a mini-renaissance.
As a homeowner, there are many ways to help the environment and reduce the stress on your local storm sewer system, such as with replacing concrete pavement with permeable surfaces. Contact local contractors to find out more about installing permeable pavement on your property for professional help and proper planning.
Edited by: Christine Tan, Communications Assistant
12 Apr 2018
Watch Executive Director Mary Jane Patterson tour the Reep House and explain all its incredibly practical green home features for the Climate Atlas of Canada mapping project.
The Reep House is a 100-year old house in Waterloo, Ontario that has been retrofitted to be maximally energy efficient. This demonstration project shows how older housing stock can be an effective part of the climate change solution through a combination of cutting edge technology and simple upgrades.
The Climate Atlas of Canada
The Climate Atlas is an interactive tool for citizens, researchers, businesses, and community and political leaders to learn about climate change in Canada. It combines climate science, mapping, videography, and storytelling to bring the global issue of climate change closer to home, and is designed to inspire local, regional, and national action and solutions.
02 Apr 2018
UPDATE: The Region of Waterloo, and cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo councils have unanimously approved an 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target by 2050!
If you’re interested in being involved in real change happening in our region to take action on climate change, read on. ClimateActionWR (co-led by Reep Green Solutions and Sustainable Waterloo Region) will be presenting a long-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to the councils of the three cities and the Region of Waterloo in the coming weeks. We are proposing a target of 80% below our 2010 levels of greenhouse gas emissions, to be reached by 2050. Within the next several weeks we hope that the four councils will approve the target
We encourage you to reach out to your city council and/or regional council to share your views on the long-term target. This could be in the form of a delegation (5 minute speech) or an email.
In a short email or delegation you may speak as citizens, professionals, or parents explaining why addressing climate change and investing in the green economy is a priority for you, your business or your family’s future.
The long-term target will be considered on the following dates:
• City of Waterloo – COMPLETE
• City of Cambridge – COMPLETE
• Region of Waterloo – COMPLETE
Below, I have included a list of email addresses for councilors, as well as information on how to register to give a delegation.
Points that you could address in an email or delegation speech include:
- Strong scientific consensus confirms the global economy must eliminate carbon by the middle of the century and we need for our community to do our part in achieving that.
- The necessity of being leaders on climate change to support the development of clean-tech business across Waterloo Region and to keep more of the money we spend on energy in our community.
- Our community’s ongoing leadership and innovation on the environment and preparing for a sustainable future.
- The additional benefits of reducing our GHG emissions such as cleaner air, mitigating severe weather, healthier and more liveable communities and diverse transportation options.
If you are able to provide a delegation, please register as soon as possible! You may also visit the ClimateActionWR for more updates on this target and the upcoming delegations.
This is a historic moment for our community that you can be a part of. We want to give councillors as much support as possible in approving this target!
Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director
Councillors’ email addresses:
Region of Waterloo (all council members): <[email protected]>
City of Cambridge: <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]bridge.ca>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>
City of Kitchener: <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>
City of Waterloo: <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>
Register to speak to council as a delegation:
Region of Waterloo: https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regional-government/communicate-with-council.aspx
21 Mar 2018
By Sarah Lukaszczyk
On a late spring Saturday morning, I made the walk from my home in Waterloo to the Mount Hope Neighborhood; I was planning to volunteer at a rain barrel fundraiser for a local charity. As I walked I began to notice subtle changes in the landscape. From diverse, grass-free lawns blooming with wildflowers to pollinator-friendly plants, it was easy to see the different ways residents in this neighborhood were safeguarding the environment and bettering the overall community aesthetic. Peoples’ desire to improve their yards was not limited to their lawns – standard grass boulevards were commonly replaced with an eye-catching arrangement of colourful flowers and other succulents.
I noticed these neighbourhood improvements following my opportunity earlier that week to interview Mount Hope resident Stephen Barath, who recently installed a rain garden. In our interview, Stephen made me acutely aware of the neighborhood’s heightened conservation ethic. However, it was not until I saw the gradual transition from grass lawns to little forests during my walk that I felt like I was entering a little utopia.
As part of Reep’s RAIN Smart Neighbourhoods project, and under the watchful eye of his wife and two young daughters, Stephen installed a rain garden on one of his rental properties. Digging holes and choosing native plants was rewarding, Stephen explained, a sense that was increasingly evident to me over the course of our interview. As a daughter of a professional landscaper myself, it was invigorating to see the enjoyment and pride Stephen had towards his garden. It warmed my heart further to hear that his two-year-old daughter even got her hands dirty to help her Dad dig holes. That evoked memories of time spent with my own Dad as a child. Stephen’s understanding of the importance (and fun, as he reminded me repeatedly) of these projects to safeguarding our water and beautifying the community left a lasting impression, as he has already decided to build another rain garden on a different property.
Not entirely convinced it was all fun and games, I challenged Stephen to tell me something unexpected he had experienced while building the rain garden. He explained that in jest neighbours would stop and say things like ‘Did the water main break?’ while only one neighbour was able to correctly identify what Stephen was actually up to. A little girl who was walking home with her grandmother after school even exclaimed, “Look Grandma that man is still digging holes.” After describing them, Stephen went on to say that these exchanges with his neighbours were always welcome so he had a reason to take a break from digging and chat about the wider benefits of rain gardens for the community.
For his tenants the rain garden removes almost all the grass on the property. There is no longer a need to mow and Stephen imagines this could be seen as an added benefit for the renter and the landlord. Although, based on my brief time in the community, initiatives such as these are not merely done for the sake of convenience but also for their environmental benefit.
Being that Father’s Day had recently past, Stephen’s father came for a visit and while in town the two made time to see the new rain garden. Stephen admitted to me that while the garden didn’t look like much at present, his father observed that, “Like the acorns they used to plant together when Stephen was young, the garden will begin to bloom in due time.” And just as Stephen’s father continued to point out the different trees the two had planted in his youth, I imagine Stephen would likewise do the same with his own daughters in the years to come. Thanks to the help of Reep’s RAIN Coach, the family had resources that helped them to identify which native species were best suited for the area and whether they should be placed in the shade or sun.
Overall, my greatest take away from meeting Stephen and his family is that while fun, you don’t start these projects – especially the do-it-yourself ones – simply for yourself. These spaces are created to be shared, whether that be with the little girl and her grandma who live in the neighborhood, the Environmental studies student casually strolling by one Saturday morning or the busy bees and butterflies attracted by your hard work. It’s all worth it for the joy your rain garden brings to all who see it.
Visit Reep Green Solutions’ RAIN Smart Neighbourhoods web page to learn mo re information build your own rain garden and incentives available residents of Mount Hope on a first come, first served basis.
By: Andrew Jackson, Communications Volunteer
There are many options out there when it comes to heating and cooling your home. One viable, easy to install, and low energy consumption option is an air source heat pump (ASHP).
How ASHPs work and operate is pretty simple. They extract the heat from outside. They can do this down to -15 C, and distribute it inside the home. They are also able to do this in reverse allowing them to cool your home by extracting the warm air from inside the house and distributing it outside. Depending on the system being installed an ASHP can also provide water heating capabilities. You can also get a dedicated ASHP water heater like the one at the Reep House for Sustainable Living.
ASHP systems vary greatly in size and ability, and it is important to consider your home’s needs to ensure that you select one that operates properly and efficiently.
If you’re transitioning from an electric furnace to an ASHP, you can expect savings of up to 50%, depending on your local climate, what system you had previously, the fuel used in that system, and your local costs for fuel or electricity. Your habits also play a big role in the efficiency of your ASHP. Until December 31, 2017, a generous rebate is available to help you make this transition.
An ASHP works slower than a conventional furnace, often taking a few hours to heat a home when a conventional furnace may take half an hour. Remembering to close windows and doors, and having good insulation can greatly affect the efficiency of your ASHP system.
Traditionally, ASHPs have been considered inefficient in colder climates, like Waterloo Region. However, the technology has advanced considerably in the past few years, so many of the better models work great for most of the year. They experience setbacks only during a few of the coldest days in winter when temperatures drop below their operational level. As temperatures decrease an ASHP can become damaged due to a buildup of frost in the filters. For this reason it is important to have some form of alternative backup heating system.
Depending on the model, an ASHP will automatically shut down between -8 C and -22 C to reduce wear and tear. It is important to understand how often in your region the temperature will drop below your ASHP’s operational level to understand how often you will require an alternative heat source. Understanding your regional temperature range also greatly influences the type of ASHP you should purchase.
Incentives and rebates are available to help reduce cost of installation can be found through the Home Reno Rebate offered through a partnership of Union Gas, the government of Ontario, and Save On Energy. Depending on the ASHP system being installed rebates of up to $4000 are available to homeowners that heat with electricity.
Learn more about the rebates available through the Home Reno Rebate program.
Adopting a storm drain makes our streets safer and prevents flooding
Kitchener – As the last of fall’s leaves are collected and before winter settles in, Reep Green Solutions is calling upon residents of Waterloo Region to show the lowly storm drain some love. Specifically, they are asking people to adopt a storm drain near where they live, work or go to school. When someone adopts a storm drain, they are making a commitment to keeping it clear of snow and ice in the winter, leaves in the fall and litter and debris year round. Making and keeping that commitment is important as it helps ensure rain and melting snow can enter the storm sewer system. People can claim the storm drain they are adopting at reepgreen.ca.
“Storm drains are easy to take for granted but they play a critical role in protecting people, homes and our water system,” said Patrick Gilbride, RAIN Program Manager at Reep Green Solutions. “They are underappreciated and deserve some care and attention from the people who benefit from them. Show a storm drain some love. Adopt one today!”
Adopting storm drains is important because when water cannot get into the sewers, it can cause flooding that can make it difficult to use the road and may affect nearby homes. Even a little bit of water can cause problems as it freezes into ice or makes leaves slippery. Both situations cause accidents that make our streets unsafe for people. A clear storm drain is also important in preventing pollution and salt from entering the storm water system that makes its way to local rivers and lakes.
“Anyone who lives or works in Waterloo Region can adopt a storm drain,” said Gilbride. “It shows that you care about having safe, dry streets, preventing flooding and preventing pollution from reaching our water system. Use our interactive map and commit to showing some love to a storm drain near where you live or work. Or perhaps adopt one as a part of a group?”
Reep Green Solutions is an environmental charity that helps people to live sustainably. Programs and services focus on residential energy efficiency, managing storm water, water conservation and waste reduction. It co-leads ClimateActionWR with Sustainable Waterloo Region. The Reep House for Sustainable Living is a model home with a variety of environmentally friendly features and often hosts workshops and presentations.
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For more information, please contact
James Howe, Communications Manager, Reep Green Solutions
519-744-6583 ext. 222
20 Nov 2017
Here’s one of the stories that we share in our 2017 Report to the Community about how we help you live sustainably. On November 28, Reep Green Solutions is participating in Giving Tuesday.
When we asked the community if they thought of Reep Green Solutions as a charity, 58% said no. That is probably because a number of our services, such as home energy evaluations, operate as social enterprises. Like many charities, Reep Green Solutions looks for ways to fulfill our mission that also help cover costs. Charging a fee for some services helps us offer others at no cost, such as workshops at the Reep House for Sustainable Living.
Simply put, Reep Green Solutions is a registered environmental charity that helps people live sustainably.
We have a great appreciation for our supporters who recognize how their financial gifts enhance our capacity to fulfill that mission.
Mary Louise and Evange Kattides of Waterloo donate to Reep Green Solutions because they believe we all need to minimize our environmental footprint. They recognize that Reep Green Solutions offers the community many valuable hands-on services that help people to become more environmentally responsible and it does so effectively and in a way that’s easy for people to access and understand.
“When you donate money, even a modest amount, you want to make sure that it’ll make the greatest impact possible,” said Mary Louise. “And much like its messages on energy and water efficiency, Reep Green Solutions itself is a highly efficient organization. They manage to make a dollar go a long way.”
She continued, “While Reep Green Solutions is a local organization and is particularly relevant to our homes and this region, its impact reaches far beyond by addressing issues relating to climate change. It is exactly this kind of effort at the community level that collectively will make the greatest difference globally.”
Caring about the environment means caring about each other and the world we live in. That is why Reep Green Solutions helps you to live sustainably and why your gifts of time and money are so important. For example, with your help we are making the Reep House for Sustainable Living available as a showcase of ideas for your home, and bringing people together to learn at informative workshops and tours.
Together, we can make a difference. Give online today!
14 Nov 2017
Soakaways and rain gardens have many similarities; however, it is important to know the differences when deciding on which rain smart addition to add to your yard.
Adding a soakaway will provide a low maintenance, and low profile feature that will allow rain to percolate down into the groundwater. Here is some information you need to make decisions for your property.
What is a soakaway?
A soakaway, also known as an infiltration gallery, is a way to infiltrate water underground. Whether that water comes from rain barrels or downspouts it allows for some space for it to sit and gradually go into the ground, instead of running off into storm sewers or flooding in unwanted areas. Soakaways are installed by digging down into the ground to provide a hole at least one meter deep.
Once you have a hole, you have a couple options to consider on how to fill it.
1) You can install storm water crates. These can hold more water in less space but are more expensive. They can be found in the pond section of your nursery or can sometimes be purchased through a landscaper such as those on our list.
2) Line the hole with landscape fabric and fill it with clean gravel (avoid gravel that has sand mixed in). Gravel can be purchased in bulk from a landscape supply company that sells to the public. It requires more space to hold the same amount of water as the crates but is the cheaper option.
Rain is directed to the soakaway from a downspout. It is a good option to create a rock lined channel before the inlet which slows the water down and can prevent any debris that runs off the roof from clogging up the soakaway. You can top if off with more rocks if you like that look or there is the option to cover up the soakaway with grass, plants, or if you are using storm crates, a permeable pathway or patio. If you choose to cover your soakaway be sure to add another layer of landscape fabric to prevent soil from entering and causing clogging. Also ensure you have access to be able to inspect and clean out the inlet and outlet. .
Groundwater recharge is a primary benefit of installing a soakaway in your yard.
Watch our video on how to install a soakaway
Why a soakaway over a rain garden, or why not both?
The main difference between soakaways and rain gardens is that rain gardens are filled with a sand and compost mix and soakaways use storm water crates or are filled with gravel or stones.
Unlike rain gardens which require a larger surface area in the yard, soakaways only require one meter squared of space, allowing even small yards to accommodate a soakaway. This size difference allows you to use a soakaway in tight spaces or spots that aren’t suitable for plants.
Soakaways come in many shapes as well! For these reasons, a soakaway can be built in addition to a rain garden, since the rain collected in the soakaway can provide additional water for the garden.
How and where should a soakaway be built?
A soakaway must be carefully designed and maintained to properly work and achieve the desired results. How, you might ask, should it be designed? Using the following considerations:
Soil type: Porous soils surrounding the soakaway work better than clays
Location: Ensure a proper distance from foundations and consider the slope of the land (less than a 5% grade is needed)
Utilities: Call or click before you dig.
Overflow: Always have a place for the soakaway to overflow if it fills up. Use gravity as your guide to direct any overflow to an area downhill away from the foundation of the home.
Space: Although limited space is needed, establish there is enough space for the soakaway
Soakaways allow water to be diverted away from the home, which reduces the likelihood of your yard or basement flooding.
Soakaways can be a cost-effective option for most homeowners to live sustainably and do their part in being rain smart.
To learn more about soakaways, or to compare information about different rain smart solutions, attend demonstration or workshops that Reep Green Solutions offers.