Conserve your Energy

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Published on: April 23, 2011

This Good Friday (April 22) is also Earth Day, reminding us that we need to take actions to help save our planet and to perhaps save a bit of money along the way.

More than 6 million Canadians will join 1 billion people in over 170 countries to bring environmental awareness through local events and presentations. Earth Day was first launched in 1970 as an environmental awareness event in the United States.

Canada has been participating in Earth Day for over 20 years and has grown it into Earth Week and even Earth Month to accommodate all the events and projects taking place. Events range from small community initiatives to large public events, like Victoria’s Earth Walk (April 16, 2011), Edmonton’s Earth Day Festival at Hawrelak Park, and Oakville, Ontario’s Waterways Clean-up (April 16, 2011). Do you know what you’re community is doing for Earth Day or Week?

As a part of Earth Day, I’d like to remind you of some things that you can do to green your household.

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. This uses about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. 
  • Use low-flow shower heads or aerators on faucets. According to Statistics Canada, a family of three could save between 80-$100 a year on energy costs
  • Weatherstrip your windows and doors. Air leaks in your home can account for 30 to 40% of the home’s overall heat and cooling loss.
  • Wash full loads of clothes in cold water and hang to air dry. If you wash 80%, or four out of five loads, on cold/cold, you could cut two-thirds of a kilogram of greenhouse gas emissions per month.
  • Take short showers instead of baths. In the end how much water you save or whether you save water at all depends on the length of your showers. Baths usually require about 20 gallons (80 litres), the same as a ten-minute shower.
  • Close water taps while brushing your teeth. According to WaterSense, the average bathroom sink faucet flows at a rate of two gallons a minute.
  • Choose natural, non-toxic cleaning products. Make simple, natural cleaners with ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and water.
  • Donate, reuse and recycle items before throwing them into the trash. Harmful materials like chemicals, batteries, electronics, etc. should be taken to local hazardous waste depots or recyclers.

Historic Charm

There’s something about a home that tells stories of yesteryear through its creaks and carved mouldings, in its worn bricks and scuffed floors. It’s not just a building, but also a part of our social and architectural history.

Lyn and Dick Mullen know all about historic charm. They welcome visitors into their 19th century home on a regular basis to experience the history and stories behind the faded yellow brick exterior. The Mullens run a bed and breakfast out of part of their heritage home and are continuously searching deeper and deeper for every bit of the structure’s story to share with their guests.
They even had the tiles of the gothic revival mansion’s 17th-century fireplace in the main living room, depicting Queen Elizabeth I and the Duke of Essex, authenticated by the Royal Ontario Museum as dating back to the beginning of the 15th century.

Living amongst such rich history gives the Mullens a feeling of connectedness to the past that they wouldn’t feel otherwise. Each artifact, every room, the old wood and bricks hold its own story and finding out about the story is an exciting journey for homeowners like the Mullens who invest in a piece of history.

Historic houses are truly the embodiment of home, having supported growing families and weathered storms for decades and sometimes centuries. Though they do require more  care and awareness to preserve, becoming a steward of Canadian history is a reward many find worth the work.

According to the Heritage Canada Foundation, Canada has lost more than 20 per cent of its pre-1920 buildings in the last 30 years. However, with the  increased demand for these one-of-a-kind homes in the real estate market, the trend of letting these beauties fall into disrepair may be changing for the good.

Whether it’s a stately home, the birthplace of a famous person or a structure with historic architecture and design, if it’s a historic home you’re looking for, you’ll find it amongst the available homes across the country.

A great bonus to owning and respecting a piece of our past is eligibility of designated buildings for special grants for maintenance, preservation and restoration. Check with your local municipal or provincial department to find out about grants and rebates available to you. In Ontario, the  Heritage Property Tax Relief is one example of monetary assistance for owners of historic homes.

Before you take a leap into the past, make sure you’re ready for the investment and demands of owning a historic home before you buy. You’ll be happy you did extensive planning before buying.

To find out more about the home, visit your county and city courts, city archives and local registry offices for information on deeds, mortgages, land grants and more. Getting to know your home inside and out will strengthen your sense of place and help you to feel more at home.

The Mullens are proof of the pride and education resulting from owning and preserving a piece of history. Lyn and Dick wouldn’t feel at home without the romantic chandeliers hanging from their soaring ceilings and the grand, curved staircases cascading from the strong, steady structure of their high-Victorian heritage home. And now they’re adding their bit of history to its intriguing story.

Paul Baron is with Leading Edge Realty Inc. in Scarborough, ON

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