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eco-home Toronto

Using Repurposed/Recycled Materials in Your Green Toronto Home

150 150 Nisha Muire

When it comes to green home construction or renovation, there are a number of innovative ways to lower your building’s footprint. Using recycled, reclaimed or repurposed materials is among the best ideas. Not only is it an eco-friendly way of using up materials that would otherwise end up in landfill but, in many instances, the materials themselves are more robust and durable that regular construction materials. Here we will look at a few of the most commonly recycled/repurposed/reused materials – and as we are not experts ourselves, we have included links to articles that discuss each material more in-depth.

Reclaimed/recycled, low-grade timber is a good place to start. It is much less expensive than finished wood, but it is just as effective in construction projects. There is an excellent article over here //bit.ly/1Jy1PN2 that talks about using reclaimed wood in your home.

Tires filled with earth or sand are actually one of the best materials around for creating sturdy walls that also help insulate a home very well. The science behind the use of tires is discussed in depth over here //bit.ly/1JOPz7t. Tires can also be used as flower boxes in your garden.

Shipping Containers
Shipping containers have emerged as a viable alternative to traditional framing. The actual container can be used as is or modified for a larger structure incorporating various green-home technologies. Wikipedia has a very good overview of how shipping containers can be used to build a home. You can read more about it over here //bit.ly/1bar5Kf.

Tin Cans and Plastic/Glass bottles
Other materials that make excellent interior walls are storage cans and/or plastic/glass bottles, such as wine bottles. The cans and bottles are great as non-structural walls and are usually plastered over with either plaster or concrete depending on if they are interior or exterior walls. Bottles have the added benefit of filtering light into the rooms and throwing a lovely rainbow of colours on the walls depending on the colours used. Wikipedia gets detailed with the explanation over here //bit.ly/1P32YKE.

For the Interior

The actual fittings inside your home can also be made from recycled items including sinks, bathtubs, door knobs, etc… Depending on your inclination, your style and your budget, the possibilities of using recycled and reclaimed items in your home are endless. As long as you approach your project holistically and you take into consideration your building site, your local climate, your neighbourhood’s constraints and any local by-laws governing construction, the sky really is the limit.

Water Saving Features for your Green Toronto Home

150 150 Nisha Muire

We tend to believe that water flows in abundance and, in our homes, we generally use more than necessary given the seemingly endless supply. However, with drought affecting many communities globally and water pollution on the rise, more communities are installing water meters to charge residents for their water consumption. In the following article we will cover strategies for keeping your water consumption down.

Water is one of those elements that can easily contribute to the greening of your home. There are some very simple ways that can you cut down on the amount of water that you use. Among the easier ways to lower your water consumption are:

– Don’t let water run when brushing your teeth or soaping up your hands
– Wash vegetables in a bowl, then use the water for your houseplants
– Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge to cool – it eliminates having to run the water to get it cold
– Only do laundry or run the dishwasher when you have a full load
– Don’t flush tissues down the toilet – either compost them or throw them away

If you are more serious about water conservation, then here is a list of things you can change around your home:

– Install low-flush toilets
– Install optimized-flow shower heads
– Install a tankless hot water heater
– Install flow restrictors on all taps

Doing a little maintenance is also necessary to make sure that the water in your home is being used efficiently.

– Change old washers in your taps to prevent leaks
– Protect pipes from freezing in cold weather – it might require adding insulation to exterior walls
– Fix any leaks that you currently have

For those of you who are interested in doing even more to save water, here are some more advanced ideas.

– Collect rainwater to use in watering the garden and washing cars/patio furniture
– Install a water treatment system to reuse wastewater for non-potable applications

There are many things we can do to green up our homes – cutting down on our water consumption is one of the easiest.

Renewable Energy for your Toronto Home

150 150 Nisha Muire

There is no question that energy costs in Ontario are high. There is also no question that renewable energy sources are gaining in momentum and that larger numbers of people are interested in finding out more about them. Although most folk are not ready to overhaul their existing power source structure, it is worth knowing that there are some very viable alternatives on the market and that they are becoming more accessible every day.

Forms of renewable energy

There are four basic forms of renewable energy:

Solar (photovoltaic)
Hydro power

Harnessing the Sun
The most popular form of renewable energy is that of solar power. Given the sun’s immense potential it makes sense to harness its energy. There are three types of solar power technologies available. Here they are as described on the Microfit Power Authority website:

Solar PV using crystalline technology
Solar PV panels using crystalline technology generate electricity by converting the sun’s rays into direct current electricity using a crystalline semiconducting material made of silicon. Generally, these systems use panels made up of a number of individually manufactured photovoltaic cells that are assembled together in panels. The panels are then strung together to form the arrays of a solar PV system to provide higher voltages and more power. These systems tend to make use of either monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells/panels. Monocrystalline panels are more expensive, but are also more efficient, and so produce more wattage that a similarly sized “polycrystalline” panel.

Solar PV using thin-film technology
Solar PV uses thin-film technology in which the cell and module are manufactured in the same production line, created by depositing one or more layers of photovoltaic material on top of a semiconductor material in a single process. These modules are much thinner and lighter than crystalline solar PV modules; however, they have lower efficiencies and therefore often require more panels for a given area than crystalline panels.

Solar PV using concentrated technology
Concentrated Solar PV concentrates the sun’s rays through a lens, or by using a mirror, onto highly efficient solar cells, increasing the power output of the system. These solar panels are generally mounted using a tracking system in order to use the sun’s rays more efficiently by increasing the amount of time the solar cell is exposed to direct sunlight.

Water (Hydro) and Wind

Water and wind power are also both very effective and clean forms of renewable energy although not quite as popular as solar as they require a large space and access to a windy spot and/or a constant water supply such as a stream or river.


Bioenergy is produced through the natural decaying process of residual waste products from a number of sources including agricultural by-products, forestry operations, livestock activities and food processing operations.

Renewable Energy and the Government

The Ontario government actually has a very attractive program to help subsidize those who are interested in switching to renewable energy sources. Through the Microfit program, you can have your renewable energy source hooked back up to your electrical grid so that any excess energy you produce will go back to the grid and you get paid for it. The full details of this program can be found over here //microfit.powerauthority.on.ca/.

For an indepth account of a homeowner who took the plunge and installed solar panels to his home, go over here //www.yourturn.ca/solar/. The informative site answers all the questions you might have on solar technology including the installation process for the entire system, the cost and how much you can expect to get back from the Microfit program.

Renewable energy systems are still in their infancy, but have since immense leaps recently. Moving forward expect to see more new construction projects offering these clean and green technologies as alternatives to existing technologies.