A 1950s home retrofitted to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions opened its doors last weekend, part of an ongoing series of events hosted by Woolwich Township for people who want to reduce their carbon footprints.
The net zero home tour day was another of the township’s “talk to an owner” events, where people can come and meet others who own a climate-friendly product or have made climate-conscious changes in their lives.
The retrofitted home in Bloomingdale was built in the 1950s, and over their 42 years living in the home, owners Inga Rinne and Matthew Cowan retrofitted the building with solar production, geothermal heating and cooling, increased insulation, double pane windows and thermal blinds. Now, through the solar panels, the home produces all the energy it needs over the course of the year, including to operate the geothermal system, making it net zero.
“I would encourage people to think about the opportunities that are out there,” said Rinne. “We didn’t do it all at once, we did it over many years. The geothermal was a mess, but the payback was very decent.”
Rinne and Cowan’s home is connected to the electrical grid, and they use it as a battery: they sell extra energy produced by their solar panels in the summer, and buy electricity when the solar panels produce less in the winter.
Three tours visited the home and people had the chance to speak with Rinne and Cowan directly, and ask all their questions.
The first “talk to an owner” event put on by the township was a chance for people to meet owners of electric vehicles, e-bikes and cargo bikes. It took place in the Elmira Canadian Tire parking lot in September.
Ann Roberts, the township’s environmental coordinator, says about 40 people attended the September event, and the people who attended had a chance to have their questions answered—questions they wouldn’t necessarily want to ask a dealer, said Roberts.
Sandra Bray showed her EV at the event in Elmira in September.
“Talking with owners is the best first step for many folks considering any unfamiliar technology,” said Bray to The Observer in an email.
“Four years ago, when I first took my car to these events, tall people wanted to see if they fit in the Bolt comfortably, parents wanted to know whether the family would fit, elderly people wanted to test the embark/disembark access. Others (me included!) wanted to sit in a Tesla and imagine driving a rocket ship. EV shows are always fun, sharing stories and meeting new people. Plus, it made me spruce up my car,” she said.
Roberts says the rest of the events are still being planned out, but there will be film showings in partnership with the Elmira Public Library for adults and kids: a film called “Curb your Carbon,” by The Nature of Things, and “The Lorax” for kids. There will be more “talk to an owner” events, and a workshop to help people learn how to calculate their carbon footprint, among others.
Roberts notes many people, herself included, may be daunted by the issue of climate change, but she says it’s all about starting small and building from there – everyone’s individual actions add up.
“Woolwich Township lives in a fading bubble of protection due to our latitude and protection by the Great Lakes; we know that extreme heat, tornadoes/hurricanes, and extreme flooding are our vulnerabilities,” said Bray. “Conversations amongst ourselves are a beginning. Governments cannot take care of a people who won’t take care of themselves.”