Barry’s Bay couple living Earth Hour all year round

Environmentally friendly home a model for sustainability

Staff Reporter

– While some people participate in Earth Hour to show their support towards energy conservation, a Barry’s Bay couple are walking the talk with their new energy efficient, solar powered home on Paugh Lake Road.

Terry Newcombe and his wife Diane Brown are newcomers to the area. They were both born and raised in Ottawa, and worked at a software company that was eventually sold to IBM.

They wanted an early retirement, and wanted to get out of the city. As avid canoeists, the couple decided they would relocate to Barry’s Bay.

“We wanted a place to have an early retirement that would still be close to the canoeing side of the world and yet we wanted to be close to the hospital for the retirement plans,” Newcombe explained.

But the couple did not want to settle in just any house. They wanted one that was built in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

Their home in Ottawa was nothing like the one they are living in today. While it was the same size, Newcombe said it took a lot of heating and used a lot of electricity. It was something the he and his wife wanted to avoid.

“We definitely wanted something that was built responsibly; so using local parts and local people as much as possible – but also built to reduce our future dependence on unknown electricity rates and unknown heating supplies,” he said.

Newcombe admitted that he did a lot of research into environmentally friendly homes. He read books, checked out websites and discussed ideas on web forums. He even enlisted the help of Frank Tettermer, a resident of Killaloe who lives off-grid.

Originally, the couple wanted to have a house that was split into three domes. But they scrapped that idea after discovering none of the local contractors that they spoke to could create the structures.

So Newcombe went with plan B – a 1,450 square feet, single-level, south facing home that would be energy efficient and practical for retirement.

The home is hard to miss; it is topped with several solar panels, overlooks a sand pit, and is on three acres of land. Newcombe said many people thought he was crazy for facing the home directly towards a gravel pit instead of the lake, but he added that there is a method to his so-called madness.

“The lake is not facing south,” he said, adding that south facing homes get more sunlight.

So his only option was to face the gravel pit. However, once inside the home, it is difficult to notice the pit due to some clever landscaping. The view of the lake is breathtaking.

The front of the house is dotted with large windows. In a normal house, when the sun would come into the windows, it would heat the home up to uncomfortable levels.
Inside the environmentally-friendly home, however, the floor tiles sit directly on the concrete slab.

“It [the sunlight] soaks into the concrete like a sponge and releases that during the night,” Newcombe explained.

In the summer time, a large overhang is placed above the windows to reduce the amount of light that enters the house. The couple also uses ‘cellular blinds’ that resemble a honeycomb. They double-insulate to either prevent too much sunlight or keep in the heat.

There are other less visible factors that make the house energy efficient. For example, three of the walls are made out of a ‘Lego’ block material. This kind of material is typically made out of foam and stacked up. There is a hollow column in the middle of the foam that concrete is poured into, to give the foam some structure.

Story continues in the April 5 issue of The Valley Gazette.