Green real estate: Cool enough for you?

Some timely information given the current heatwave!

July 10, 2012

It’s true, as Jane Austen once said, that real comfort comes from home. But I’d like to interpret her words more literally. Real comfort does come from home but sometimes our homes need a helping hand providing that comfort.

I’m referring to air cooling systems that keep us comfortable during summer’s blazing heat. As air conditioning units blast more holes into the ozone layer, let’s consider what we can do to help our clients keep cool while staying green.

You can have a home that’s comfortable without air conditioning, say eco pundits. But you need to be mindful of your home’s ventilation, windows and double glazing and shading and insulation.

For starters, shade your house with awnings, pergolas, trees and other barriers that prevent the sun from getting into your windows and the rest of your home. Exterior rolling shutters are effective but expensive, while solar screens, which look like standard window screens, also cut glare in addition to heat. Double glazing your windows can cut the intake of summer heat inside your home by 30 per cent.

Ventilation is essentially that much-needed breeze that helps cool you down. This is assisted at times by ceiling or room fans. Use fans to draw cool air from your basement or the cooler side of your home. During the summer, try to keep your house sealed tight during the day when heat and humidity are high. Ventilate at night either by opening windows or with fans. Don’t forget to turn on your stove fan and to open your chimney flue, as these will help draw warm air out of your house.

Use insulation in your roof, ceiling and walls to repel that hot summer radiant heat.

Geothermal systems use the earth to heat and cool spaces and can be up to 40 per cent more efficient at cooling a home than conventional air conditioners. But they are very pricey to install. Still, consumers might look to recoup some of the cost from government grants and incentive programs.

If using AC is your only option this summer, let’s look at ways to do so more efficiently.

Make sure your air conditioning unit is the right size for the job. Using one that’s too small means your space won’t be well cooled, and this inefficiency will only drive up your energy costs as the unit overworks in vain to try to keep your space cooled.

Think about using new energy-saving air-conditioning technologies such as a two-stage compressor. Compressors use the most electricity but a two-stage compressor works less on cool days and more when it’s hot, which saves energy. They can run at two different speeds so when it’s operating at a lower speed it’s using less power.

While new technologies tend to be pricier, there are easy and affordable steps you can take now. Installing a programmable thermostat is a great way to green your cooling system. Homeowners can program the thermostat to stay off when the home is vacant and to kick in once household members return for the day.

See to it that your air conditioning unit is maintained once per year. HVAC professionals should inspect and service your AC checking for refrigerant pressure, accessing the unit’s air flow and checking for leaks.

Chances are pretty good that your cooling system is old. By old I mean it was installed more than 10 years ago. If that’s the case, you should know that these systems operate well below today’s environmental and energy-efficiency standards. So think about replacing your existing unit with a newer, greener one.

In Canada, staying cool as the mercury soars is a standard we’ve come to expect. But it comes at a cost, both financially and environmentally. By using these options we can help save money while sparing our planet.

The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provide a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email

Ciaran O'Neill

Ciaran O'Neill

CENTURY 21 A.L.L. Stars Realty Ltd.
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