Woven between the whooshing vacuums, shiny cookware and luxurious hot tubs of the Edmonton Fall Home Show, the theme was pervasive: energy costs.
Soaring gas prices, energy deregulation and the terrorist acts in the U.S. are all putting pressure on the hunt for better energy solutions.
And the shortening days and plummeting fall temperatures of northern Alberta are intensifying the search.
At the 20th anniversary of the home show, the close vicinity of the blue EPCOR booth and the red booth of challenger ENMAX front-lined Edmonton’s focus on energy efficiency with an almost-political vigour.
As the big boys duke it out for power customers, the war for innovation and refinement of heating and insulation/ventilation systems roars onward.
Wood stoves are making a comeback, says Steve Hallett of the Fireplace Gallery. The romance of crackling wood combined with new air-tight, clean-burning designs make it a tempting heating choice. With certification by the Environmental Protection Agency on well-engineered Regency wood stoves, there is no longer the worry about pollution and heat waste.
But electric heat is not dead. “We believe electric heat can be sexy,” says Daniel Roberge of Convectair. Surrounded by European-styled electric wall heaters, including those with built-in towel racks, his words packed punch.
The theory? A small heater in a bathroom or bedroom, functioning on either a timer or thermostat, can warm a specific space efficiently without requiring the entire home temperature to be raised.
And don’t try to compare Convectair units to traditional baseboard heaters. These units have superior convection qualities and unique stylistic designs that throw heat away from the wall, not into it.
But fear not — standard natural gas heat, the undeniable method of choice in this province, is not being left out in the cold.
Blowing air toward the Northlands Agricom rafters was Thompson Mechanical Services’ Tempstar furnace.
The fan is so quiet it couldn’t be heard over the buzz of voices in the adjoining booths. After years of trying to please customers with a truly quiet furnace, owner Ken Thompson says it has finally arrived in the new Tempstar SmartComfort VS 90 gas unit.
The furnace features two heat exchangers, a variable-speed fan and a stainless steel front that would look comfortable beside a modern kitchen range.
Meanwhile, in the insulation world, pink fluffy stuff still rules. But it is constantly challenged, with the likes of Thermal-Tech Insulation’s Blow-In Blanket System.
Proprietor Danny Shaben says the advantage of blowing recycled fibreglass into walls behind a nylon netting is the superior gap-filling around wiring and fixtures.
Arxx Building Products’ Ron Funk believes in filling gaps, too, but with concrete.
The world leader in insulated concrete wall systems has been around for about a decade, but has largely remained a rural construction alternative. With energy efficiency claims of over R-50, Funk would like to see the system commonplace in new development sites.
If lumber prices continue to rise, he may get his wish.
Shell Busey, Western Canada’s authoritative voice on all things residential, says we have the technology to have amazingly energy-efficient homes. The trouble is, the average homeowner doesn’t have a clue how to maximize the heating and ventilation capabilities to achieve low energy costs and a truly healthy environment.
He recommends hiring Atco for $150 to give your home an energy rating and then follow the Energuide instructions on how to fix energy problems specific to your home.
“First and foremost, tune up what you’ve got,” says Busey.
“And make doggone sure that there’s no cracks on your heat exchanger . . .”
And for the love of your life, buy a carbon-monoxide detector to ensure your furnace isn’t slowly contaminating your blood.
On the lighter side, there are some lovely new interior decorating choices that will add to the integrity of any home.
Prefinished hardwood has arrived. Expanding from a few choices only four years ago, Leona Cook of Touchwood Flooring says there are now more than 1,500 different stylistic and wood species combinations.
Touchwood adds dramatic flair to hardwood flooring by offering custom art pieces. The artwork is done in Edmonton and can personalize a feature room through the various wood colours and grains.
Grotto Designs builds concrete sinks, counters, tiles and more with specially created moulds. Through a special reinforcing agent, the concrete is lighter than it appears and counters can be poured as thin as 3/4 of an inch.
Owner Wanda Ellerbeck designs the pieces herself. They can grace modernistic or rustic homes with equal success due to the wide variety of sealant colours.
Moving from poured concrete to cut stone, granite is no longer exclusive to the rich and famous. Jade Stone is bringing the quality countertops from quarries around the world, and they are beginning to appear in Edmonton mid to high-end kitchens and bathrooms, says Darryl Schimpf.
It’s easy to suspect interior designer Cheryll Gillespie creates more trends than she follows. Her tips to the crowd at the home show are enlightening and often cost effective. Apparently, currant (purple mixed with brown) is the next big colour.
To choose colours for your home, look into your closet – home fashion follows clothes.
Paint is cheap and choosing it last when decorating a room allows inspiration to come from the key furnishings.
Hang pictures at eye level.
Symmetry is good; predictability — bad.