Water Heaters 101: Getting yourself in hot water

Smart Homes Series: Part 1 – Choosing the best high efficiency water heater

By David Dodge and Scott Rollans

A typical hot water heater accounts for about one fifth of the energy used in most Canadian homes. Choosing the right hot water heater, therefore, can have a huge impact both financially and environmentally—especially as energy prices and carbon levies continue to rise.

Many of us still choose conventional, gas-fired hot water tanks, because they’re cheapest—or, are they? Over its lifespan, the initial price of your hot water heater can represent as little as 12 per cent of its overall cost. The other 88 per cent is energy.

For that 88 per cent, we wanted to get the biggest bang for our buck. So, we asked Ken McCullough of Think Mechanical to walk us through three high-efficiency choices: conventional-style high-efficiency power-vented tank, on-demand tankless, and hybrid heat pump.

“The more people you have in your home, the more hot water you’re going to use,” McCullough observes. “It’s important to know that you have the highest efficiency that you can possibly have. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money out of the window.”

Super-efficient water heater nirvana

These days, hot water heaters all come with an “energy factor” rating, or EF. A tank with an EF of 1.00 would be perfectly efficient—with all the energy being converted to hot water. This factor is often expressed as a percentage. A standard tank has an efficiency rating of about 60-65 per cent, meaning 35-40  per cent of the energy goes up the flue, or radiates out as the water sits in the tank.

You’ll also want to look at your new system’s recovery rate—the rate at which it can heat the fresh water flowing into the tank. The higher the rate, the less likely you are to run out of hot water during heavy use. Here we present three great choices for dramatically increasing the efficiency of your water heater.

High efficiency power-vented Water Heater

If you’re reluctant around new technology, you might consider a high-efficiency power-vented tank. It looks like an old-school water heater, complete with a 50 gallon tank, but it’s side-vented (like a high-efficiency furnace) to decrease heat loss. This helps boost its efficiency to 90 per cent—or, about 30 per cent more efficient than a traditional tank. Meanwhile, its very high recovery rate, 80 per cent in one hour, will help keep the hot water flowing. You can get a 79 per cent efficient model for $2,700, but the highest efficiency model we looked at clocked in at over $4,800 installed.

Tankless on-demand Water Heater

We were particularly interested in an on-demand tankless hot water heater. As the name suggests, this heater kicks in only when you turn on the hot water tap, heating the water as you use it rather than storing it in a tank. It heats the water quickly enough to provide an endless supply, assuming you’re not using a lot of hot water all at once (say, washing clothes and running the dishwasher while you shower). “You’re going to turn on your tap, and you’ll get hot water,” McCullough says.

With an efficiency ratings of 95-97 per cent, this is the highest efficiency available in a natural-gas water heater. At 95 per cent efficient and priced at $3,700 installed, our choice is more expensive than a conventional water heater, but the long-term savings more than balance that out. And, because there’s no tank, the system frees up a lot of space in your furnace room.

Heat Pump Water Heater

McCullough also showed us the state of the art in efficient water heating: a hybrid heat-pump hot water tank. It looks like a conventional tank, but with a cap on top containing a heat pump. The heat pump draws heat from the air in the (normally very warm) mechanical room—like a refrigerator in reverse—and transfers that heat to the water. This allows the heater to achieve an efficiency rating of 330 per cent, meaning the heat energy transferred to the water is more than triple the amount of electricity consumed.

Because the heat pump water heater is entirely electric, it is perfect for net-zero homes with no gas hookup (meaning you also save $60/month on gas-line administration and delivery charges). Some early adopters are choosing these in conventional homes as well. McCullough quotes $4,400 for this option, making it slightly cheaper than the high-efficiency power-vented tank. The one downside is its relatively slow recovery rate of just 80 liters (21 gallons) per hour.

For a summary of three high efficiency choices of water heater finish reading David’s blog on the Green Energy Futures website.

An innovative and cost-effective approach for building affordable housing in rural Alberta

By Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN)

In 2015, the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) issued a call for expressions of interest, asking Alberta’s rural communities if they needed affordable housing. The response was overwhelming, with over 35 communities responding with an emphatic YES! The need was there; now what were we going to do about it?

Within six months, ARDN began implementing its Sustainable Housing Initiative (SHI), to create an innovative and cost-effective approach for building affordable housing in rural Alberta. We had an enthusiastic and energetic volunteer in place, Joshua Benard, but no money and few resources. Interestingly, this seemed to parallel the experience of rural Alberta trying to build affordable housing! In the not-for-profit world, when embarking on a new initiative, the first dollar is always the hardest to get. Finding a funder who is willing to be first in on a new idea is a huge challenge – there are always easier investments, and few funders want to take a risk on an unproven idea. But thankfully, AREF made that leap of faith, approved a grant, and the SHI was officially launched.

The purpose of the SHI is to implement and demonstrate a multi-stakeholder approach to building innovative and cost-effective affordable housing in rural communities. It promotes the construction of high quality housing that is net-zero ready, with design elements intended to improve mental and physical health and wellness. The SHI also promotes the sharing of knowledge and best practices amongst rural communities.

Due to a lack of resources and capacity, Alberta’s rural communities are missing an integral part of the housing continuum. Rural Alberta has a critical shortage of affordable housing options, but this issue has not received the same attention as it has in urban centres. Without affordable housing, many small communities cannot prevent homelessness or help people through the housing continuum. This negatively impacts communities and individuals, who may be relocated to larger centres, removing them from their familiar environment and any support system they might have, and negatively impacting the community and its ability to grow.

In order to increase the inventory of affordable housing in Alberta’s rural communities, we must overcome their lack of capacity to navigate the lengthy and complex processes (including conducting research and securing funding) that are necessary to build a multi-unit housing project. Through the SHI, ARDN has been collaborating with a number of rural communities and community based organizations to develop strategic partnerships, leverage existing resources, and allow rural communities to address this growing problem.

SHI is already helping rural communities build capacity, by facilitating access to information and resources, and cutting costs, by sourcing lower priced services. ARDN is working with stakeholders and industry partners to develop a framework that is a step-by-step path to build, manage, and operate affordable housing projects, including templates for:

  1. An analysis of need and demand for affordable housing in the community.
  2. An analysis of financial viability.
  3. A business plan for funder investment.
  4. A generic design for a building that would be used for permitting.
  5. A plan for sustainable, long term management.
  6. Finding potential sources of funding.

ARDN is currently partnering with stakeholders in seven rural communities to implement this framework in a cost effective and timely manner, source funding, monitor progress, assist with challenges, collect data and report on outcomes. Our first project, with the Banff YWCA, is already at the permitting and design stage.

Coming Soon: Traversing Terrain and Experience: Atlas of the Battle River and Sounding Creek Watersheds

By Battle River Watershed Alliance

Figure 1 Sample Atlas page

The purpose of Traversing Terrain and Experience: Atlas of the Battle River and Sounding Creek Watersheds is to bring the maps and stories of this region to life for people of all ages. The atlas will contain various maps of our watershed along with accompanying statistics and information on topics such as land cover, land use, natural regions, water use, water quality, geology, biodiversity, population density, energy resources, and more!

It will also incorporate the stories of local people and places within the watershed. In this way, the atlas will serve as a tool to connect people to place by exploring the connections between landscape and experience throughout the watershed.

Copies of the Atlas will be available December 2017 and distribution is planned for school and communities across the Battle River and Sounding Creek watersheds.

To preorder your copy call the Battle River Watershed Alliance office at 1-780-672-0276 or email battle.river@gmail.com.

25th Anniversary celebrations at Friends of Fish Creek Park

By Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society

Figure 1: 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Signature Artwork  – Autumn Colour by Jim Pescottt

So far, 2017 is proving to be a pivotal year. As well as being the 25th anniversary of the Friends, it is also becoming the year where all our learning and relationships of the previous 5 years are coming together.

We launched two special fundraising initiatives to mark our 25th anniversary, the dedication brick program and the signature image program. Our brick program gives donors the opportunity to purchase a brick with their special message or dedication on it. The new pathway to the door of our office in the park will feature these bricks.

Our signature image program features a painting created specially for us by Canadian artist Jim Pescott. This image features the very essence of the park and we have had 25 limited edition art prints made, each one signed and numbered by Jim, which are available for purchase.

AREF funding has supported our work towards building the value we can add to the lives of our community. One area that has seen lots of growth is our wellness program suite. A lot has changed in our city in the past few years and the results of a slow down in the economy are only just starting to become clear. The previous season taught us a lot about the value the community saw in our wellness programs and the ways in which the park can serve as a tool to support both good physical and mental health. During this time, practitioners in wellness have reached out to us to collaborate in further leveraging the natural spaces in the park to support wellbeing.

Our hands on stewardship programs grow in both scope and complexity and we are now delivering riparian restoration activities in the park. In addition to the restoration activities, our invasive species management program continues to grow thanks to our amazing volunteers that have gathered a great deal of knowledge of this subject over the years.

Figure 2: Volunteers lend a hand in the care of Fish Creek Provincial Park.

Visit Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society’s website to keep up to date on our programs and upcoming events.

Fort McMurray Community Needs Assessment

By FuseSocial

Funded by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, FuseSocial has completed a Community Needs Assessment to identify the most urgent community challenges post-wildfire. As a support agency to the social profit sector Fuse Social’s role is to aid other agencies to not only recover from the effects of the 2016 wildfire but improve the quality of life in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The social profit sector provides communities with essential services such as healthcare, education, cultural services and recreational programs.

The purpose of this project was to initiate public engagement during the recovery process, while understanding the challenges facing the community, and identifying priority areas for the recovery effort.

The Community Needs Assessment Survey was based upon the objectives from Wood Buffalo Strategic Road Map.   Three hundred and two people responded to the survey producing a 5.63% margin of error at a 95% confidence level. The results identified Immediate, short-term and long-term needs for the community which were then mapped on the strategic road map and colour coded for urgency.   Below is a summary of the top ranked needs identified by the study.

      

Understanding the needs of residents will support community recovery and aid the social profit sector in prioritizing services. Thank-you to the Alberta Real Estate Foundation for funding this Community Needs Assessment Study and supporting the community of Wood Buffalo.

June 2017 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $520,000 in community investment projects at their recent meeting.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) supports initiatives that enhance the real estate industry and benefit the communities of Alberta. AREF was established in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded over 17.5 million dollars in community and industry grants to nearly 550 projects across Alberta.

Projects approved at the June meeting include:

CREB Charitable Foundation Building Affordable Homes in Bowness

Together as funding partners, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and CREB® Charitable Foundation will help low-income working families build strength, stability and independence through affordable home ownership. This project will create 10 affordable housing units for low-income working families with two units being fully accessible.

Green Energy FuturesGreen Energy Futures Smart Homes Series

Green Energy Futures will produce a four part series of stories called “Smart Homes on greening your home.” It will focus on providing homeowners with current information on energy efficiency in the home and how to produce energy on your own home in this innovative green energy series. These stories will be useful for Alberta homeowners who are both looking to buy an energy efficient home and want to make their home a greener more energy efficient place to live. The stories will be developed to tie to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs being launched in Alberta in April 2017.

University of Alberta – Alberta School of Business WellWiki Alberta

WellWiki.org is a groundbreaking solution to the problem of information access and transparency related to data on oil and gas development. While in many cases some data on wells is publicly available, interested parties face an arcane and obscure process for accessing it which deters many from pursing the information they need. WellWiki.org solves this problem, providing access to information in an easy to use format available to all and has been successful across North America. This project will launch of WellWiki as a comprehensive resource for Alberta stakeholders.

 University of Calgary – Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute The Alberta Solution to Reducing Radon Exposure in Homes

Radon gas is a radioactive but invisible danger that poses serious lung cancer risks if homes contain high levels inhaled over the long term. Scientists from the Institute recently published a landmark study indicating that a shocking 1 in 8 Southern Alberta homes exceed Health Canada’s maximum acceptable radon guideline. Surprisingly, they also found that newer homes had significantly higher radon compared to older properties. The gold standard for a radon test takes 90+ days, which is not feasible during the < 1 week typically seen in a real estate transaction involving a home inspection. So how can buyers and sellers accurately determine if a house is ‘radon safe’? The Institute will determine whether short term radon tests can be used to inform home radon levels with sufficient accuracy to ‘stand up in court’.

University of Calgary – Haskayne School of BusinessWestman Centre for Real Estate Studies: Housing Affordability Research

Typically individual social service agencies have addressed housing and affordability issues specific to the population they serve. The missed opportunity is understanding the ways in which housing affordability as a whole could offer a positive collective impact for all Calgarians. To facilitate a more collaborative and effective way to tackle housing affordability, the Westman Centre is an active partner on Calgary’s Community Housing Affordability Collective (CHAC). CHAC is a joint initiative that was formed between the public, private and social sectors to address housing issues in a collaborative manner. The Westman Centre’s role is to provide applied research oversight and leadership for key deliverables outlined in the CHAC strategic plan, thereby enhancing housing affordability along all points of the housing spectrum

University of Calgary – School of Public Policy Urban Policy Program

The School of Public Policy’s Urban Policy Program provides urban policymakers with original, in-depth and impartial research. The Program explores key issues that impact urban Canada as well as the political arenas in which these issues unfold.

Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative ‘Love Your Headwaters’: Protecting Alberta’s Water Sources and Natural Resources

2017-2018 represents a critical phase in Y2Y’s collaborative ‘Love Your Headwaters’ campaign, with the aim of securing a provincial announcement on permanent protection for the Bighorn, which supplies ~90% of Edmonton’s water, in early 2018. Additional, Y2Y will also start priming the campaign for protection of Calgary’s remaining unprotected headwaters.

Environmental leaders recognized

On June 6th, environmental leaders from across the province gathered at Edmonton’s Royal Alberta Museum for the 26th Annual Emerald Awards. Presented by the Alberta Emerald Foundation, the Emerald Awards recognize and celebrate outstanding environmental achievements across Alberta.

The awards place a spotlight on all sectors including – not-for-profits, government, business, educational institutions, individuals, and youth, with a total of 12 categories. The finalists are selected by a panel of knowledgeable third-party judges.

And the Emerald Awards go to:

To read about all of the nominees, visit the Alberta Emerald Foundation’s website.

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The Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s community investment program has enabled Albertans to understand and respond to changing land use patterns, growth pressures, and air and water management issues, and enhance the quality of their communities. We believe all have a role to play in taking responsibility for how we use our land and as such we are pleased to be involved in the Emerald Awards as an industry leader celebrating the good stories of land use excellence in Alberta.

Energy Efficiency for Homeowners!

The Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) has partnered with the Pembina Institute to educate REALTORS® and their clients on the value of energy efficiency.

As a collaboration, the project will leverage AREA’s expertise on the needs of REALTORS® and homeowners and the Pembina Institute’s expertise on clean energy, climate change and energy issues, to transform how Alberta’s REALTORS® understand and serve homeowners on this topic of increasing importance.

The first fact sheet provides current energy efficiency savings opportunities in Alberta, offering more information on how you can take advantage of energy efficiency.  Click here to download the fact sheet!

Look for more of these collaborative resources in the future.

 

 

 

 

Innovating Alberta’s Energy Future Showcase will explore ways Alberta will lead the transition to a low carbon future

CALGARY, April 11, 2017 /CNW/ – A diverse group of innovators and influencers will take the stage April 19 to share their ideas and work to help shape Alberta’s energy future. Presenters will include oil and gas executives working on innovations to dramatically reduce emissions in energy production, a First Nations leader helping bring renewable energy to his community, and an Albertan entrepreneur who is a semi-finalist in the global Carbon XPrize competition to find technologies to turn CO2 emissions into valuable products.

Presented by the The Natural Step Canada’s Energy Futures Lab (EFL), the Innovating Alberta’s Energy Future Showcase celebrates some of the most groundbreaking work of the EFL Fellows, a diverse group of leaders from industry, government, First Nations, civil society, and academia. Join Mayor Naheed Nenshi for his opening remarks, followed by an afternoon of thought-provoking presentations, cultural performances, and a compelling panel exchange.

Immediately prior to the event Andrew Ference, a former Stanley Cup champion who has played with the Calgary Flames and served as captain of the Edmonton Oilers, will try his hand at the Newtonian Shift, an engrossing role playing board game that condenses decades of energy transition into hours of exploration. Ference, who started working on environmental issues after surfing in polluted waters off California, is personally committed to sustainable development.

“There are so many amazing projects in the works that are going to help with the challenge of building the energy system of Alberta’s future,” says Ference. “I’m excited to learn more about this groundbreaking work by the EFL Fellows.”

After the presentations, Ference will be part of the panel along with Melina Laboucan-Massimo from the Lubicon Cree First Nation; Arlene Strom, VP Sustainability & Communications at Suncor Energy Inc.; and Nicholas Parker, co-founder Global Acceleration Partners and a pioneer in cleantech venture capital.

“Energy issues are not as ‘black and white’ as they seem, and Alberta has a very different story to tell,” says Chad Park, Chief Innovation Officer of The Natural Step and Director of the Energy Futures Lab. “With polarized debates about energy as a backdrop, more people are joining us here in the very colourful middle ground and working together to find ways for Alberta to lead in the transition to a low carbon future.”

Innovating Alberta’s Energy Future Showcase Wednesday, April 19, Jack Singer Concert Hall

12:30 pm Media availability with Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Andrew Ference, Nicholas Parker, and the EFL Fellows plus brief demonstration of role playing board game, the Newtonian Shift.
1:00 Showcase begins
~1:15 Mayor Nenshi opening remarks
1:20 Round 1 EFL Fellows presentations
2:05 BREAK
2:45 Round 2 EFL Fellows presentations
3:25 BREAK
4:00 Panel with Andrew Ference, Nicholas Parker, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Arlene Strom

The Energy Futures Lab is an Alberta-based, multi-interest collaboration designed to accelerate the development of a “fit for the future” energy system.

Alberta’s energy system is at the centre of the most complex, fragmented and divisive debates. From disputes about market access for Alberta’s oil, to disagreements about the most strategic approaches to address climate change, to controversies about the health and wellbeing of affected communities, energy system pressures are impacting all stakeholders. In response, the Energy Futures Lab has brought together a diverse group of innovators and influencers shaping the energy system to discuss, experiment and innovate.

The lab is powered by The Natural Step Canada and supported by the Suncor Energy Foundation, the Government of Alberta, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Landmark Group of Builders, ATB Financial, Shell, and the Jarislowsky Foundation. Additional partners include the Pembina Institute, and the Banff Centre.

The Natural Step Canada is a national charity whose mission is to accelerate the transition to a TRULY sustainable society that thrives within nature’s limits. Through our academy, advisory services and Sustainability Transition Labs we use best-in-class science, systems-thinking and facilitation to help individuals and organizations collaborate, solve complex problems, foster innovation, optimize performance and drive systems change.

To learn more go to www.naturalstep.ca and check out our current Sustainability Transition Labs at www.energyfutureslab.com, www.circulareconomylab.com and www.naturalcapitallab.com.

For further information: contact Tyler Seed at tseed@naturalstep.ca – 647.707.4735

Scanning the Landscape – Celebrating 25 years

In the fall of 2016, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation celebrated 25 years of making a difference for the industry and Albertans. Since 1991, we have awarded grants to over 537 worthwhile industry and community causes—that’s more than $17.5 million dollars of support across the province.

Given the economic times in Alberta, the Foundation decided it was a good time to check in with our stakeholders to see how they think we’re doing and engage in a conversation about the state of our province. As such, we chose “Scanning The Landscape” to be the theme of the year’s strategy as we reflected on our current situation while looking forward to future opportunities to ensure the Foundation remains true to its mandate of funding initiatives and research that make Alberta great.

In the spirit of “Scanning The Landscape”, we held two World Café styled luncheons, one in Calgary and another in Edmonton. More than 100 stakeholders, including government, industry, and grantees, attended the events where they were able to network and provide input.

Following the luncheons, 65 former and current grantees were invited to participate in an on-line survey to give input on the Foundation’s strategy and values, grant process and evaluation process as well as communications. The findings from this survey, along with the notes from the World Café luncheons, will help inform the Foundation’s strategy and help it become a more effective funder.

The following report pulls primarily from data collected from the survey: