Living Off the Grid in a Major City

Most people think living off the grid means living the countryside with your own well, reenable energy, and food source. The truth is that style of off the grid requires massive space to work (for example, a well needs a large area to collect water from), so that rural off the grid doesn’t work for everyone.

What is a person living in the city to do to get off the grid though?

Back in the 90s there was a competition throughout Canada to figure that out. One winner is still living in his house that is off the grid in Toronto.

“We promised to make the house self-sufficient and not use any non-renewable fuel,” Paloheimo said.

“Despite the home’s high-tech appearance, most of the products and systems are simple and straightforward,” said Chris Ives, CMHC project manager, said in a Toronto Healthy House report published after the house was built.

“Off-grid houses do not necessarily require hours of labour for upkeep. In fact, everything in the house is easy to maintain and available in today’s marketplace.”

Read more.

How to use Geothermal Energy in your Home

What is Geothermal? from Austin Wendenburg on Vimeo.

Geothermal energy is one of the most sustainable energy sources because it works off of heat transferring from the ground to your home. In Iceland, the majority of the electricity comes from geothermal energy because the country sits in a prime location. You can make use of geothermal energy at your home in a much smaller way.

Scotiabank Looks to Reward Eco Companies

Banks have a horrible reputation because of their inability to predict economic behaviour, this was highlighted by the ongoing economic claptrap that started roughly seven years ago. Canadian banks have also received a tarnished reputation because of their ongoing unethical investments in the Alberta tar sands. Perhaps as a reaction to this, Scotiabank launched an awards program in 2010.

Their EcoLiving Awards is focused on bringing attention and finances to companies that are improving the efficiency of households. This can range from better windows to new technology systems. You can nominate a company at their website, so if you know a Canadian company that makes the world a little more sustainable on the home front you should nominate them.

“The Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards showcase outstanding leaders in home energy efficiency. If you have a great idea or solution, we want to hear from you,” said Kaz Flinn, Scotiabank’s Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility. “We know that Canadian homeowners are likely to consider making their home more energy efficient or environmentally friendly with renovations. These awards bring forward new and innovative ideas.”

The Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards recognize winners in three categories:

  1. Business Leadership ($50,000) – a business or individual who is leading the way in home energy efficiency products, services or solutions. Focused primarily on executing a proven idea or program.
  2. Innovators ($15,000) – a business or individual demonstrating innovation in home energy efficient products, services and solutions. Focused on introducing exciting new ideas for products or programs.
  3. Student Leadership ($10,000) – a full-time college or university student who demonstrates promise for the future of home energy conservation.

Find out more at their website.

Homeowners Can Earn Cash From Solar Roofs

Energy is still delivered via large power stations which can fail and leave entire regions without electricity. The future requires a more distributed energy grid that is a combination of large and small electricity generators, doing so will ensure electricity is not so heavily impacted by a rise in the cost of single fuel source.

Light provides us with infinitely free energy, all we need is a way to capture it and year-over-year it’s getting easier to do so. Combing solar power and a distributed power grid opens up new opportunities and an enterprising company from always cloudy Vancouver have stepped up.

Gridbid will turn a homeowner’s roof into a power source and provide an ongoing revenue for the owner while making our energy source a little better.

Gridbid, allows homeowners to auction the solar installation rights to their roofs online. The company says solar installers can save as much as 80% of what they normally spend to find roof-top space, while the average residential utility bill drops between 10 and 35%.

He and his partners knew getting into solar was next. Proving the importance of engaging in customer discovery conversations, they talked to over 150 different people in the solar market to identify the key problems. The problems were roof acquisition and financing for projects. Thomas shared what’s driving him and his team, “we are going to learn faster than anyone, and ultimately build a very large solar auction and financing platform that will make going solar painless for any person, or organization who owns a roof.”

Read more here.

Heat Your Home By Hosting the Internet

As the internet continues its growth it consumes more and more electricity because larger server and data centres are required. Microsoft has come up with a brilliant idea to allow ‘the backbone’ of the internet to continue to grow while helping heat houses and providing a faster internet.

Microsoft has released a research paper that suggests that small data centers be put in people’s home and heat those homes using excess heat from the servers.

The research paper comes at a time where internet properties like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are building huge data centers housing thousands of servers that simply pump their hot exhaust into the frigid air of Oregon, or other chilly states. There have been a few prototype data centers that use their waste heat to warm the houses in local towns, but Microsoft’s Data Furnaces take this idea to the next step: instead of building mega data centers that are efficient in terms of scale, Data Furnaces are micro data centers that are housed in the basements of regular homes and offices. These Data Furnaces, which would consist of 40 to 400 CPUs (between 1 and 10 racks), would be ducted directly into the building’s heating system, providing free heat and hot water.

The genius of this idea is that Data Furnaces would be provided by companies that already maintain big cloud presences. In exchange for providing power to the rack, home and office owners will get free heat and hot water — and as an added bonus, these cloud service providers would get a fleet of mini urban data centers that can provide ultra-low-latency services to nearby web surfers. Of course the electricity cost would be substantial — especially in residential areas — but even so, the research paper estimates that, all things considered, between $280 and $324 can be saved per year, out of the $400 it costs to keep a server powered and connected in a standard data center. From the inverse point of view, heating accounts for 6% of the total US energy consumption — and by piggybacking on just half of that energy, the IT industry could double in size without increasing its power footprint.

The main problem with Data Furnaces, of course, is physical security. Data centers are generally secure installations with very restricted access — which is fair enough, when you consider the volume and sensitivity of the data stored by companies like Facebook and Google. The Microsoft Research paper points out that sensor networks can warn administrators if physical security is breached, and whole-scale encryption of the data on the servers would ameliorate many other issues. The other issue is server management — home owners won’t want bearded techies knocking on their door every time a server needs a reboot — but for the most part, almost everything can now be managed remotely.

Read the rest of the article at Extreme Tech.

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