Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Eco-Friendly Country Living

When Rick and Sharon Rosnak traded their house in Oshawa, Ontario, for a farm in the country, their goal was to leave the hustle and hassle of urban living behind them.

The 53-acre farm that they purchased north of Columbus, Ontario, came complete with a 1,700 square foot ranch style home and a 33 year-old oil furnace, which was desperately in need of replacing. The initial cost estimate they received for a new furnace and air conditioning system was between $ 8,000 and $ 9,000. Local contractor, Martin Versluis, from Maarch Mechanical in Raglan, suggested their property was ideal for an energy saving geothermal heating and cooling system.

Geothermal heating and cooling systems move the heat from the ground into buildings using the same technology refrigerators use to remove heat from food. The system reverses the process during the summer months to provide cooling that is twice as efficient as any other air conditioning system. Geothermal systems also provide hot water and dehumidification.

Geothermal systems work by circulating water through underground tubes. Approximately 50 metres of tubing is required for every tonne of heating and air conditioning. In the Rosnak's case, horizontal loops were buried 1.5 metres below the surface in four 100-metre trenches. Each trench contained a double line of piping, for a total of more than 730 metres of piping. A heat exchanger and pump system do the rest of the work.

While the Rosnak's large property provided space for a horizontal installation, vertical loops can be drilled when space is limited. For example, the Old Oshawa Hotel was recently retrofitted with a complete geothermal installation. An array of 60 metre boreholes was drilled down through an adjacent parking lot, effectively eliminating the building's heating and cooling and hot water heating costs.

The energy bill for the Rosnak's home prior to installation was an estimated $ 3,000 a year. With a total price tag of $ 21,000, Rick estimates that their new geothermal system will pay for itself in 7 to 8 years.

To further improve their homes energy efficiency, the Rosnaks have replaced the existing leaky windows and insulated the attic, which was hemorrhaging cold air.

"When we went up into the attic we were shocked to see that there was virtually no insulation," said Rick. "It effectively had an R value of zero!" The R value of building materials is the unit used to describe its thermal resistance.

While the Rosnaks qualified for a GST rebate on their energy efficiency improvements, they missed out on a $ 3,500 rebate that has since been made available from the federal government's EcoENERGY program for geothermal installations. Despite this, the Rosnaks think that it's money well spent.

"We're very happy with the result," said Rick. "The system provides all our heating, air-conditioning and most of our water heating needs. As an added bonus, the fan comes on in stages, so the system is incredibly quiet." The only downside that the Rosnaks have discovered is that this time of year - when their home is neither being cooled or heated - there is no residual recovered energy to heat water.

"Having to turn the hot water heater on for the few weeks in fall and spring is small price to pay for free hot water the rest of year," said Rick.

When it comes to environmental stewardship, the Rosnaks have not stopped with a carbon neutral heating and air conditioning system. This summer over 10,000 indigenous trees - native red maple, red oak, white oak, aspen, black cherry, white pine, hemlock and spruce - were planted on the couple's property. The planting was a four-way partnership between the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA), Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, Trees Ontario and the Rosnaks. The trees, which range in size from 10 centimeters to well over a meter in height, will return much of their property to native forest.


The ecoENERGY program offers homeowners up to $ 5,000 in grants and rebates toward the cost of energy efficiency improvements. For more information, or to book a home energy audit, visit or call toll-free 1-877-732-9888. is an all Canadian company specializing in independent property inspections that assess the condition of the property and building’s systems and components, required repairs, improvements and maintenance. The company’s website contains a wealth of information to help consumers make educated decisions about property purchases.


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