Renovate your home to net-zero

Have you ever dreamed of living in a net-zero home? According to Peter Darlington, that dream may be closer than you think. In fact, you might already be living in your future net-zero home.

Darlington runs Solar Homes Inc., a Calgary company specializing in renovating existing homes to net-zero–a home that produces as much energy as it consumes. Net-zero might seem like a remote, ambitious target, but Darlington insists it’s more attainable than you might think. In fact, his first green reno project was on his own 1980-s era home.

“It’s really quite simple to do,” says Darlington. “You can just add some insulation some solar panels and you can have a home that doesn’t require fossil fuels anymore. It’s much more comfortable. Cost you less to operate. And it’s really a pretty good return on investment.”

4 steps to take your home to net-zero

To get your home closer to net zero, Peter outlines four key steps. And, he stresses that you don’t need to do it all at once.

1. Get an energy model done for your home

First, get an energy model done for your home to prioritize the stages of your project. This is critical because it tells you how much insulation you need, how much of a difference windows make, what size of heating system you require and what size of solar system is needed to power your home.

2. Add insulation, air sealing, siding and efficient windows

Then you will probably start with an exterior renovation, adding insulation and triple-paned windows, and then improving your overall air tightness. This will cost about $30,000 for the insulation, improving air tightness and siding and about $15-20,000 for windows.

3. Upgrade your mechanical systems

As your furnace and water heater wear out, replace them with electric heat pump models (furnace and water heater) and add a heat recovery ventilator to provide pre-warmed fresh air in your tightly sealed home. Mechanical upgrades will run about $15,000.

4. Add a solar system

Then add a solar array that is sized big enough to provide all of your electricity needs, which now includes your heating and hot water systems. If you require a larger solar system, about 10 kilowatts, it will run about $30,000.

“All these things can be done individually, so that you don’t have to bite off this massive capital cost right up front.”

“We put 10-kilowatt solar on the garage and that generates about 90 per cent of our annual requirements.”

And there’s never been a better time to think about going net-zero: “In Alberta there’s a bunch of incentives available from province towards insulation windows solar panels and there’s almost 15 grand available to a home that’s looking to renovate to net zero,” says Darlington. Currently there are rebates for insulation, windows and solar.

Article By David Dodge and Scott Rollans

The Smart Home series was created by for the Alberta Emerald Foundation with financial support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

Source Article

Federal Reserve leaves key rate unchanged, but expects another 2017 increase

Fed to begin cutting its $4.5 trillion US of Treasury bonds in October

The Associated Press

Federal Reserve policymakers say they still expect to hike short-term interest rates one more time this year and three times in 2018, if persistently low inflation rebounds.

They also have lowered their long-run forecast for the benchmark interest rate the Fed controls to 2.8 per cent, down from three per cent in a previous forecast in June. That suggests they expect growth to remain sluggish and inflation low, and therefore don't need to raise rates as high to keep prices in check.

Fed officials say they also foresee a slightly slower path for rate hikes in 2019. They now expect there will likely be two hikes, down from three.

Fed officials decided to keep their short-term benchmark rate between one per cent and 1.25 per cent. The Fed views the job market as strengthening, but it notes that inflation is running below its two per cent annual target.

Still, the Fed said in a statement that prices for gasoline and other items might temporarily spike because of the damage caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The Fed also said it will start in October to gradually unwind its $4.5 trillion US balance sheet, which expanded to unprecedented levels in efforts to spur economic growth after the 2008 financial crisis.

The balance sheet primarily consists of government and mortgage-backed bonds. As the bonds mature, the Fed plans to spend less money each month to replace them, which reduces the balance sheet. The U.S. central bank intends to spend $10 billion US less on bonds beginning next month, a figure that will eventually reach $50 billion US a month in October 2018.

​Additionally, the Fed said it expects the U.S. economy will grow this year at a slightly faster pace than it projected in June. It has also trimmed its inflation forecast.

The Fed says in its latest quarterly economic projections that economic growth should reach 2.4 per cent this year, up from a June forecast of 2.2 per cent.

The central bank also expects inflation will remain stubbornly low. The Fed now projects it will be 1.9 per cent by the end of 2018, a touch below its earlier forecast of two per cent. That would mean inflation would fall short of the Fed's two per cent target for the sixth straight year.

At a news conference, Fed chair Janet Yellen said the Fed still believes that persistently low inflation is temporary. Yellen said several factors have held inflation down: A job market still healing from the Great Recession, lower energy prices and a strong dollar, which has reduced the costs of imports.

She said the Fed would adjust its policymaking if it thought the causes of low inflation had become permanent.

Some Fed officials have questioned whether the central bank should continue raising rates, which it typically does to forestall inflation, at a time when price growth remains so low.

Source Article

Single-family home selection grows in Calgary's resale market

Calgary’s resale market this past July and August offered potential single-family home buyers the most selection they’ve seen over the period of a month in about five years.

The count of listed single-family homes in the city reached 3,280 in July and equalled that total in August, says the Calgary Real Estate Board. These months posted the most supply for the segment since 3,299 homes were listed in June 2012.

For August, supply was up 20 per cent from the 2,728 homes available a year earlier.

“Employment growth is contributing to the stability in sales activity, but it is not enough to meet the recent rise in listings and make a substantial dent in inventory levels,” says CREB’s chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.

August saw 1,677 new listings of single-family homes, rallying nearly 10 per cent from 1,528 additions to the market during the same month in 2016.

Another factor in more people listing homes, say Lurie, is the improvements in price compared to 2016. As a result, more people looking to sell their home are seeing the current market as a more promising opportunity.

The benchmark price on single-family homes was $510,900 last month, a 1.5 per cent climb from $503,300 in August 2016. There was a year over year increase for the single-family benchmark in each of the past five months, says CREB.

“Buyers have several options in this market, and sellers need to continue to be realistic regarding the price they expect to receive for their home,” says CREB’s president David P. Brown. “While some of the buyers are re-entering the market, they are also considering all of their options prior to making a commitment.”

Resale of single-family homes recorded a 0.4 per cent uptick in August, increasing to 987 transactions last month from 983 a year ago.

An area CREB defines as south Calgary paced all ends of the city in both sales and new listings of single-family homes in August. During this time, it saw 194 of these homes change hands and 329 additions to the market.

The strongest price growth for single-family homes last month came from west Calgary, where its benchmark of $738,900 jumped 5.5 per cent from August 2016. This end of the city had 174 new listings and an inventory of 337 homes last month.

Other areas with price growth included the city centre with a three per cent rise, two per cent from southeast Calgary, 1.4 per cent in south Calgary, and 0.16 per cent on the north end of the city.

Single-family homes from $400,000 to $449,900 led all price ranges in sales with 157 in August, however, higher-priced listings paced year over year sales growth, says CREB. The $700,000 to $799,999 range jumped to 63 transactions from 43, and homes from $500,000 to $549,999 improved to 119 sales from 102 a year earlier.

Josh Skapin, Calgary Herald 

New Listing: 304-1080C Cougar Creek Drive, Canmore

Single Family Home - $450,000

This 2 bedroom,2 bath top floor, south facing corner apartment has an open concept with a full wall of south facing windows that offer Three Sisters and expansive mountain views. The large deck is partly covered and also offers stunning mountain views. There have been numerous upgrades, including granite countertops with undermount sinks and new faucets in the open kitchen and both bathrooms, and a new gas fireplace in the living room. Enjoy new flooring in the living areas and both bathrooms. The two large bedrooms offer mountain views and morning sun, with the master bedroom having a 3-piece ensuite and a walk-in closet. There is a separate laundry room with additional storage. Park your car in the underground parking that also has secure storage. Residents enjoy the use of a rec room and a seasonal hot tub in the complex. View this immaculate and spacious apartment, for full time living or as your second home, in the Rocky Mountains!

View the full listing

Bike Safety

Bicycling is one of the best ways to stay in shape, see the sights, save money on gas and reduce pollution. The benefits are well-known to cycling enthusiasts and local leaders nationwide who have created bike-friendly communities, complete with paths, special bicycle parking areas and other conveniences.

The Risks

Bicyclists must take extra precautions when they ride. They often share the road with vehicles, which creates a host of hazards, but injuries can happen even on a designated path.

Did you know in 2015, bicycles were associated with more injuries over all age groups than skateboards, trampolines, swimming pools and playground equipment combined? According to Injury Facts 2017, the statistical report on unintentional injuries created by the National Safety Council, 488,123 people were treated in emergency rooms in 2015 after being injured riding a bicycle. The only sport resulting in more injuries overall was basketball, at 493,011. Football was third, at 399,873.

According to Injury Facts, about 1,100 deaths resulted from cyclists colliding with motor vehicles in 2015. With about 80 million bike riders sharing the road with millions of motorized vehicles, the importance of safety precautions in traffic cannot be overstated.

Use Your Head, Protect Your Noggin

Cyclists who wear a helmet reduce their risk of head injury by an estimated 60% and brain injury by 58%. That statistic makes sense when you consider the first body part to fly forward in a collision is usually the head, and with nothing but skin and bone to protect the brain, the results can be fatal.

Helmets must meet federal safety standards and should fit securely.

Follow These Rules to Keep Safe

  • Get acquainted with traffic laws; cyclists must follow the same rules as motorists
  • Know your bike's capabilities
  • Ride single-file in the direction of traffic, and watch for opening car doors and other hazards
  • Use hand signals when turning and use extra care at intersections
  • Never hitch onto cars
  • Before entering traffic, stop and look left, right, left again and over your shoulder
  • Wear bright clothing and ride during the day
  • If night riding can't be avoided, wear reflective clothing
  • Make sure the bike is equipped with reflectors on the rear, front, pedals and spokes
  • A horn or bell and a rear-view mirror, as well as a bright headlight, also is recommended