These expert tips will help make your home more eco-friendly

By Jane L. Thompson, Toronto Star

Catherine Rust of Toronto-based Butterfly Effect Consulting – which specializes in green building products – offers these eco-friendly tips for your home:

Seal your building

A home energy audit weighs the pros and cons of filling leaks and helps you decide where to spend money. If you skip the audit, use low-VOC (volatile organic compound) caulking to plug trouble areas.

High-efficiency furnace

If it is time for a new furnace, look for one with 97-per-cent efficiency or higher that runs on a DC current. If it has an electronically commutated motor you will be entitled to a provincial rebate.

Low-flow toilet

Toilets use 30 per cent of the water in a house – an old-style toilet uses 12 litres per flush. To conserve water, Rust recommends changing the toilets. Her best bets: a dual-flush Caroma, which comes in three-litre, 4.5-litre and six-litre models; and the three-litre Proficiency by Water Matrix. Or simply install a toilet dam that reduces it to six litres per flush.

Low-flow shower head

The average shower uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute and the average person spends eight minutes in the shower. Rust recommends the low-flow Delta H2Okinect Technology showerhead. It feels like a regular shower with large water drops, but uses only 1.5 gallons of water per minute.

Grey water systems

A great way to feed your toilets is by reusing water from showers and washers. But, as Rust notes, the pipes for a grey water system can’t be installed unless you’re gutting or putting in an addition.

Low-VOC paints

If you really want to be green, Rust says, don’t use paint, paint less often or use recycled paint from Rona –Rona Eco. Otherwise go with Benjamin Moore’s Natura Zero- VOC line or Homestead House Paint’s Zero-VOC line.

Alternative decks

Try a deck made out of recycled plastic and wood from Trex, or go with Cali Bamboo’s BamDeck composite, featuring 30 per cent recycled bamboo fibres and 70 per cent recycled plastics.

Geothermal heating and cooling

Buried tubes use the relatively constant temperature from the ground system to heat and cool a house. More expensive to implement in the city (15-metre vertical tubes), than the country (horizontal tubes, buried 1.8 metres), tubes have a high up-front cost, from $9,000 to $12,000, but have a 50-year life expectancy.

Fibreglass and low-e glass windows

Windows should be the last to do in terms of energy efficiency but have good curb appeal, says Rust. Her favourite window is fibreglass from Inline Fibreglass with low-emissivity glass because the glass and frame expand at the same time. If you can’t afford new windows, Rust suggests heavy drapes and caulking.

First published in the Toronto Star on April 12, 2011.

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