Hot at the home show: solar, local wood, novel skylights

Image of BC Hydro home show LED display
With LED choices and pricing continuing to improve, BC Hydro showcased LEDs at the BC Home & Garden Show.

In addition to ENERGY STAR® products, BC Home & Garden Show featured bold new ideas

Blaine Kyllo

The annual BC Home & Garden Show is a great place to learn different ways you can be more energy efficient in your home.

There are always lots of ENERGY STAR® appliances on display, you can find window suppliers and installers to help you better insulate your home, and good landscapers can help you keep your home cool in the summer with well-placed shade trees.

And BC Hydro was there, talking about the savings that are possible by switching to LED lights.

But there are many other ways to be ecologically and economically minded when it comes to our homes and gardens, from alternative energy and light sources to using local suppliers. At this year's show, we talked to three different exhibitors about their displays, what made them interesting, and how they were different.

Solar power remains a hot topic in B.C., and Novo Solar was on hand at the show to discuss the improved affordability of solar photovoltaic panels.

The potential of solar power

One of the vendors at BC Place was Novo Solar, which installs and integrates solar panels, also referred to as photovoltaic (PV) panels.

I asked the representative what was the most popular question people asked him. "Cost," he said, without hesitation.

More and more, people are curious about solar as an alternative energy source. The cost is coming down, the representative explained, and will continue to decline as there's more demand.

It's easier than ever to install the panels, too. It can usually be done in a day. And the Korean supplier of the PV panels, I was told, has a solid warranty, so if there's ever a problem, a flawed panel can be easily swapped out.

And while rainy days aren't really a problem for those using solar energy to power their homes – there's still sunlight getting through the clouds – one thing you should keep in mind is your surrounding environment. While clouds aren't a problem, trees are. If you live in a forested area, like we do, surrounded by big, beautiful cedar trees, they will block much of the sunlight.

Image of hardwood samples
B.C.'s own West Wind Hardwood displayed a variety of wood products, including some produced from logs that had been submerged in a B.C. lake for more than 50 years.

Source building supplies locally

When we talked to local designer Jamie Banfield prior to last year's show, he talked about the importance of sourcing building and renovation products locally.

This year, West Wind Hardwood was on hand, showing off the wood products that they create in their operation in Sidney on Vancouver Island.

Providing hardwood flooring and a host of other wood products you can use to decorate or renovate your home, West Wind also reclaims wood. The company recently took logs that had been submerged in lake water for over 50 years and turned them into flooring. At the show, I saw a piece of flooring that had a tiny piece of aluminum, an artifact from the pin that was used in the joist from an industrial building that had been recycled.

Reclaiming wood in this way is also how West Wind is able to create extremely long boards, some up to 60 feet long, to give interiors a unique look.

A retrofit that can get you using natural light

Skylights may seem like they are so 1970s, and in rainy climates they can be more leak trouble than they are worth, but they're great for bringing natural light into our structures.

Which is what makes the Solatube so awesome. It's a metal tube that brings light from outside your roof into your home to provide uniform lighting without any heat at all. The Solatube is a perfect replacement for pot lights in living rooms and other areas of the house where you want general, indirect light that can be supplemented with direct task lighting.

There's also a Solatube model with photo sensors that automatically turn on LEDs when things get dark.

What's even better is that these are an easy retrofit. They don't require any structural change to the roof they're installed with layers of leak proofing, and the job can be done in as little as a couple of hours.

Blaine Kyllo writes regularly for