Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region

Some criticism of sustainable technologies.

Sustainable technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal heating are just really starting to take off. The more these type of technologies are used and become popular, the more efficient they can become, allowing  different and new types of technology to emerge onto the marketplace.

There are criticisms of many of the systems and those who use them will surely tell you they are not without their flaws. Some of the first earthships created, for example, were designed in such a way that they produced excessive, unlivable amounts of heat. They had to be tweaked and perfected in such a way that would address the problems so that they could be livable. As a result, newer earthships are better designed and more comfortable to live in. They needed to be used, tested and tried to even discover what the real problems were to be able to even begin to address them.

Tree hugger

Renewable energy and sustainable technology is really only at its infancy. We are just beginning to realize the true potentials and possibilities that are out there. The best is yet to come.

One of the biggest problems I see with many of the renewable energy technologies (such as solar, geothermal and wind turbines) being truly sustainable is the resources that they require in batteries or heavily mined materials to manufacture them. All batteries require mined metals and minerals that are non-renewable and incredibly waste intensive. Many of the technologies are also incredibly waste intensive during their manufacture, distribution or at the end of their lifecycle, as they wind up in landfills leaching toxins into the garbage soup that may eventually find its way into our groundwater.

Sustainable means thinking about the entire lifecycle of a product, not just how much energy it will save during its usage. How much energy went into its manufacture? How much waste was created? How far did it travel? Where will it go when its done being useful? Will it wind up in a landfill, or can it be recycled? I always like to add to this, was it created/distributed/disposed in a manner respectful of all human rights, because to me, this is also part of being truly sustainable. If a product was manufactured using slave labour or disposed of in a way that will toxify other human beings– it is definitely not sustainable.

So what’s best to use? Which technologies are best? How should we live our lives in the most sustainable way?

There’s no magic answer. Mostly, because the way the world is set up right now, it’s next to impossible to really find out the full details of every product you are using, even if you wanted to. The average product makes at least 10 stops along the way before it ever reaches our stores and we throw it away when its finished its use with little regard for where it will truly end up. This is not being sustainable. There are many great technologies out there waiting to come out and many companies trying to be as fully sustainable as possible, but unfortunately they are being shrouded by all the greenwashing that’s out there.

It’s time to stop greenwashing, and instead really focus on being truly sustainable. This won’t happen overnight, and will take some trial and error. It will take companies looking into the entire lifecycle of their products and finding ways to reduce their impact overall, people wanting to be more conscious and governments strong enough to make responsible legislation.

If you find faulty “green” claims out there or cases of greenwashing- you can report them under the Competition Act.

Do you want to view homes and businesses utilizing sustainable and renewable energy technologies and have all your questions answered?

Hello all!

I will be running a tour of homes and businesses in the K-W region that are currently utilizing sustainable or renewable energy technologies in collaboration with University of Waterloo’s Sustainable Technology Education Project (STEP) so that you can learn about these technologies from those who use them every single day!

The tour will be absolutely FREE and everyone is welcome!

Included in the tour will be solar technologies, geothermal technologies, wind turbines, green roofs, heat recovery systems, straw bale construction and grey water systems, as well as some local community gardens. See how the technologies work and ask all your questions directly to the home or business owners who use them.

You can take the tour with your own transportation, or join a group and tour with others who will be taking the bus, walking, riding bicycles, or using rollerblades and skateboards to get from site to site!

The tour will be running Sunday September 20th starting at 10am.

If you would like to join the upcoming tour or want more details please contact me at or directly at 519-591-4299.

If you own a home or business that is using sustainable or renewable energy technologies and would like to be part of the tour, please let me know about it!

Hope to see you there!

Please be sure to add yourself to the facebook events page!

Sustainable Contacts in K-W
May 8, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent, Sustainability | Tags: , , , ,

Did you know that the K-W region is home to many advanced renewable energy technology firms, sustainable buildings and businesses? In fact, we are one of the country’s leading regions for these types of technologies.  When I first started researching sustainable technologies, I was incredibly surprised to learn this. I really had no idea. So I thought I would share with you the sustainable technologies/builders/businesses/etc. in our region that are doing sustainable technology research, information distribution, installations, services and sales.  This list is only a handful… there are many others, which I will try to add to along the way. If you see any services or suppliers missing, please let me know and I will add them!

Prometheus Energy- distributor of renewable and solar energy supplies

321 Shoemaker Street
Kitchener , Ontario
N2E 3B3

Rapid-Eau Technologies Inc.- small hydro power installation and upgrades

1220 Shouldice Side Road
R.R. #4

Cambridge , Ontario
N1R 5S5

Advanced Design & Drafting (AYR) Inc.- Engineering and drafting support for solar and wind energy

24-140 McGovern Drive
Cambridge, Ontario
N3H 4R7

Alternative Energy Resources-Solar Panels, WindMills, Water Pumps, Power Inverters, and more.

138 Bakersfield Dr.
Cambridge, Ontario
N1R 6X7

Natural Power Products-sells solar power and wind turbine products

500 Trillium Drive
Suite 18

Kitchener, Ontario
N2R 1E5

Batteries Expert Waterloo / RET Power- Solar and wind battery and charging systems

105 Lexington Rd.
Unit #11

Waterloo, Ontario
N2J 4R7

Free Breeze Energy Systems- Renewable energy products

100 Frobisher Dr. Unit #11
Waterloo, Ontario
N2V 2A1
(519) 885-9021
(519) 885-1588

Merlyn Enterprises Inc- Solar Thermal systems

80 Krug St
Kitchener , Ontario
N2H 2X7

ARISE Technologies Corporation- complete solar and wind solutions

65 Northland Road
Waterloo, Ontario
N2V 1Y8
(519) 725-2244
(519) 725-8907

RenewABILITY Energy Inc.- Cost-effective energy solutions

60 Baffin Place
Unit 2

Waterloo, Ontario
N2V 1Z7

Spheral Solar Power, Inc.- Photovoltaic solar cells

250 Royal Oak Road,
Cambridge, Ontario
N3H 5M2

MTE Consultants- Environmental engineering service520 Bingemans Centre Drive

Kitchener, Ontario N2B 3X9
Phone: (519) 743-6500
Facsimile: (519) 743-6513

Viessmann Manufacturing Company Inc.- Solar water heaters

750 McMurray Road
Waterloo, Ontario
N2V 2G5

BRC Mechanical Inc. – geothermal and heat recovery systems
79 Woolwich St. South, Unit 2
Breslau, Ontario
Tel: 519.648.2222

AET Group- Environmental Consulting

133 Weber Street North
Suite #3-504
Waterloo, Ontario

Canada N2J 3G9

Telephone: (519) 576-9723
Fax: (519) 570-9589


The North House
in Hespeler (Cambridge)
Community Renewable Energy Waterloo– resources

Sustainable Waterloo– Not for profit

Residential Energy Efficiency Project Waterloo– Not for profit

Cambridge City Hall Going Green
EMS Services Cambridge Going Green
Green Roofs Over Waterloo– promoting sustainable technologies

Sustainable Technology Education Project– Education and resources

What is geothermal heating and cooling?

Heating and cooling of indoor space is one of the biggest energy wasters in our homes and businesses. What if we could let the earth do this naturally for us, reducing our heating and cooling costs by as much as 50-70%?

A geothermal heat pump moves heat into or away from the earth through a ground loop system (a system of pipes that run deep into the ground). It quietly and comfortably controls the temperature in the home, providing more consistent heat that stays on longer and changes the temperature more gradually. It also has the capability to heat water in your home in place of a traditional water heater. In the summer, the system works as a cooling system with no need for a separate air conditioning system.

The geothermal heating system is made up of 3 main components:  the ground loop system, the heat pump furnace unit, and the distribution system. The ground loop is a system of polyethylene pipes which extract heat from soil beneath the frost line deep into the earth. In the cooling mode, the pipes return heat to the earth. The heat pump furnace unit moves heat from one place to another, and the distribution system channels it around your home through duct work and vents.

A geothermal system starts at about $20,000. With federal and provincial incentives and rebates, you can receive about $7,000 back on your system ($3,500 under federal rebate, matched in Ontario), provincial sales tax can also be waived, resulting in a further savings. Ontario also has programs for those who qualify for between $8,000 and $9,000 in possible rebates. See below for links to rebate programs.

Geothermal heating and cooling is best for new home construction or in rural areas since these present the fewest construction barriers when installing the system. Low levels of electricity are required to move the heat about, but electricity is not required to create the energy. There is no combustion taking place, therefore there is no need for a chimney or flue and there are no combustion hazards or concern for carbon monoxide gases.

Since the entire system is either indoors or below ground there is little potential for vandalism or destruction from weathering that can occur with other cooling systems. Other than at installation, noise from the system is minimal.

The initial costs are about two times as high as normal heating systems, but when you consider that the system is also responsible for cooling, the costs don’t seem nearly as high. Payback for the system can occur from savings in only 2-7 years, depending on which fuel/or system you are trading from. Most systems come with 10 year warranties, but can last much longer (20-30 years). The pumps have an average life span of about 20 years. The earth energy pipes are typically warranted for 25 years, but have a useful life of 50 years if maintained and installed properly and depending on local conditions. The best time to think about geothermal heating or cooling is when it is time to replace your old furnace. With rebates and incentives, the cost is not significantly higher than traditional systems and can result in great overall savings.

There are some concerns over the use of geothermal energies. These systems are different than the air to air heat pumps that were installed in the 1950s and 60s. They have become much more efficient and environmentally sound, and the more they are installed and used, the more options will start to come out and the cheaper they will become.

There are environmental impacts to consider when heat mining (which is what geothermal essentially is doing) and an environmental impact assessment (EIA)should be done in advance of any development to make sure the ground is suitable for this type of extraction. You are getting heat from deep aquifers in the ground, and in this process certain minor emissions of gases from the earth are possible. Geothermal heating is said to produce approximately 79 g/kWh of CO2 when the electricity is generated.  Compared to the 955 g/kWh of CO2 emitted from coal generated electricity, this is significantly less.

There is also the possibility of waste water pollution if the waste water is not treated properly. Solid wastes of calcite and silica are also possible to deposit in the pipes as travertine and siliceous sinter build up. These can cause blocking of pipes and boreholes and reduce the permeability of aquifers being developed. The environmental impact assessment should detail ways to help reduce these negative impacts. If done properly, the system should be significantly less wasteful and environmentally impacting than traditional systems.

Geothermal heating and cooling is not for everyone, but for new home construction or rural properties it can make a lot of sense. It is best when used in combination with other renewable energy systems so that the electricity needed to move the heat can be created renewably and so the environmental impact is less and the home is more self sustainable.

How geothermal works:

Check out to find an Ontario installer.

ecoEnergy rebates:

Ontario rebates:

Ontario power authority (rebate of up to $550):

Cambridge Hydro (rebate of up to $1,500), call them directly at (519) 744-9799 to find more details.

If you would like more details on rebates and incentives, please talk to me.