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Scott BennettAs published by the Brooklin Town Crier - February 18, 2011

by Scott Bennett

The Zabudsky FamilyOne sunny day in early February, I had the chance to meet Andrea and Jon Zabudsky. Andrea and John along with their children Samantha, Sarah and Josh, live just north of Brooklin. Andrea is a JK/SK teacher at Meadowcrest P.S. and John works for Johnston Controls Inc. in Whitby. I was really looking forward to interviewing them for my green neighbours series because over the past two years they have installed both geothermal heating in their home and put up solar panels. Their home is definitely a green home.

Andrea contacted me after reading about our new solar rooftop in the Brooklin Town Crier. At the time they were in the process of finishing their own solar project. They installed a 10 kW solar array at the side of their home to produce clean electricity for the power grid. It's a project Jon was really excited about. I was curious to see this ground mounted solar installation as it is twice the size of mine, with 48 solar panels. This should contribute more clean energy to the electricity grid than what Andrea and Jon would use per year. You can see their real-time energy results for thier ground mounted solar installation.

The key part of what makes their home a green home is the geothermal heating and cooling system. With this system they use no fossil fuels to heat their home or hot water. Two years ago Andrea and Jon were looking at the energy grants that were available under the federal ecoENERGY program (which has since been cancelled). They investigated geothermal to replace their oil furnace and their air conditioner. As they learned more about geothermal energy, they realized that not only would it provide heating and cooling for their home, it would also heat their in-ground pool and help produce hot water for their hot water needs.

They had the system installed by the geothermal company EarthHeat. Jon said "they came in on a Monday, pulled out the oil furnace and took out the air conditioner". By the end of the day on Thursday, the system was installed and running. "It's worked like a charm ever since" says Jon. This four-day process involved digging long trenches, about 6 feet deep throughout the back half of their property. There were large flexible hoses installed in the trenches which are used to circulate fluid that either captures the heat (in winter) or disperses the heat (in summer).

Geothermal heating and cooling systems use a heat pump that converts the fluid from the pipes (that is a constant 10 to 15 degrees Celsius from the ground) into heat or air conditioning. This means that the only energy needed is electricity. Jon told me that the DC motor is much more efficient than the one in their older equipment, and he says their "electricity bill has gone up by maybe $20 per month."

The great thing about the Zabudsky's green home is that it has zero environmental impact. Without having to use fossil fuels for heating and cooling, and by generating an equivalent amount of electricity from solar as what they use, their home isn't creating any greenhouse gas emissions. I find this an inspiring example of how we can reduce our impacts on the environment by greening our homes.

As I am currently organizing a few contests for Earth Hour in Brooklin, I had to ask this green family what their plans were for Earth Hour. They are going to turn off all lights and electrical devices, and play a family board game by candlelight. "The kids enjoy that" says Jon.

For more ideas on how to go green, see our green tips for heating and cooling.