We’ve tried to consider the environmental impact of every aspect of this house. It’s not just a passive house, it’s also going to be, eventually a zero net energy and zero net heat house, and one that is, or has the potential to be, off-grid both in terms of electricity and water.
Water is one of those sustainability issues that it’s fair to say that not many Canadians really think about. And on an island surrounded by the waters of one of the Great Lakes, it seems easy to think that water is just endless. But we’re also an island without mains water supply or mains sewage, and the condition of Lake Ontario is still critical, threatened by agricultural run-off, raw sewage from both storm overflow and still, in some places, inadequate municipal treatment, industrial and nuclear pollution and more – as our good friend and fellow islander, Mark Mattson, of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, will confirm – there are growing numbers of Waterkeeper groups for major water systems across the World, and we’d encourage you to find and support your local group.
This is all a rather weighty preamble to the news that of today, we have an (almost) fully functional toilet! After the rainwater cistern was installed yesterday, “award-winning plumber”, Alfredo Marques, was back and did a lot of the plumbing work in the Utility / Machine Room and installed one of the toilets – largely to test things out. Currently it’s receiving water from a pipe in the old house that comes ultimately from our (polluted) well. Alfredo’s work is meticulous, as you’ll see below. If you haven’t seen the state of the plumbing in our old place and the problems we’ve had with it, then you’ll never understand why this makes us so happy!
But our toilets are also pretty special in themselves. They are, so far as we know, the most efficient water-flushing toilets in North America, from a Canadian company called Water Matrix, who make a number of ‘Ultra High Efficiency’ low-flow toilets and zero water urinals. They are marketed by Niagara Corp as ‘Stealth’ in the USA. We did consider using composting toilets, but since the Building Code required us to install a new septic system anyway, we decided to go down the low-flow route. Ours are the rather sleek-looking once-piece N7721 model – design is also quite important to us, as well as the practical aspect of not being so difficult to clean. Cleverly harnessing the air pressure difference created when water is flushed, it uses a maximum of 3L per flush – that’s less than 0.8 Gallons Per Flush (GPF) in the standard US measurement – and in fact even less than that if you’re careful. And do they work? Simply, yes. We’ve tested them, and if you want a rather more comprehensive review of more than a year’s use, check out this blog.