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October 20, 2013 by  
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Bracebridge Examiner

BRACEBRIDGE – There is good news for anybody who doesn’t like making the bed. It is healthier not to make it.

That is according to Stephen Collette with Your Healthy House, a company which provides indoor air quality tests and green building consulting. He gave a brief lecture after the third annual green walking tour, which took place in Bracebridge on Oct. 5 and shared a number of tips to have a greener, more efficient and healthier home.

“Don’t make your bed,” he said to a room full of laughing people. “The reason is we sweat in the night, and so that moisture gets into your bed.” He said if people want to make their bed, they should wait a while after waking up.

He explained that the bedroom needs to be the healthiest space in a house,”because it’s the space you spend the most amount of your time in.” 

One problem in a lot of bedrooms is carpet. He said carpets hold a lot of dirt.

“If you’ve ever pulled old carpeting up, you know what we’re talking about,” he explained and said a solid surface is healthier. “If one of you has been thinking of getting hardwood in the bedroom, you can go home and say that Stephen said hardwood is awesome.”

He also talked about the amount of chemicals people bring into their home, including air fresheners, plug-in fragrances and cleaning products.

“If you are not willing to eat them, then you shouldn’t use them,” he said. “There is no mountain spring air in the can, it’s actually chemicals. If it has a scent it’s poisonous.”

He recommended using lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda.

Those were just a few of the tips he shared with an audience which included Green Party members and local residents, including Craig Walker.

Walker, his wife Jen and his children live in a straw bale house, a naturally constructed home that even the big bad wolf can’t blow down.

Their Bracebridge home was one of 30 that were part of the annual natural homes tour held by the Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition the following day, Sunday, Oct. 6.

Ben Polley is the founder of Evolve Builders Group Inc. in Guelph. They built the Walker’s house and organized the tours in southern Ontario and Muskoka. He said the tour creates awareness about straw bale homes, and gives interested people a chance to meet individuals who have done the same before them, and ask all the questions.

According to Polley, there are many reasons people get straw bale homes; he said home efficiency and health are commonly cited.

“Straw walls, as an example, are rated at an insulating level of R40, to put that in context that’s a little under twice what a current conventional home would be constructed at,” he explained and said the straw and plaster have the ability to absorb humidity and release it again. “Functionally speaking what this means for you is a very comfortable indoor space.” He also said that improves the air quality in the home.

Straw bale homes do not look that different from traditional homes. The straw is packed between two thick layers of plaster. Polley said while it is a niche market, they have trouble keeping up with the demand.

He explained there are a number of other benefits of a straw bale home, including the use of sustainable materials, the durability and fire safety.

He said straw bale houses tested as the equivalent of a concrete wall, which he said was one of the drawing factors of straw bale for him.

“As a child my family home burned down while my family was in it,” he said. His family got out safely, but he never forgot.

Both Polley and Walker said the straw is packed so tightly it cannot combust.

Along with living in a straw bale home, the Walker’s house is also off grid.

“We produce all our own electricity; we are not connected to the energy grid,” he explained and said most of the year they use only solar, but they have a backup propane generator that he used for about 25 hours last winter.

“In the winter the solar isn’t sufficient … even though we use probably about 15 per cent of the electricity of a typical North American house.”

He said his family is energy conscious, but they have a fridge, television, radios, computers, and other appliances that run on electricity. Their stove and dryer run on the propane.

“We don’t give up much,” he said, but added with the cost of the solar panels, “I’ve paid for 25 years of electric bills all at once.”

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