Energy is Everything

We've recently received our EnerGuide report in an effort to better understand how energy efficient this home will be. As it stands, it is at an EnerGuide rating of 88, which according to their website is pretty darn good. In fact, we've allllmost reached the point where we can "heat it with a hair dryer!" Now, that's great, but... it's not good enough. For one, although the home is warm enough to be  livable, we also have to factor in comfort. In Canadian climates, a bit more heating may be necessary during the coolest months. As I write this now, we're currently sitting at a frosty -30 degrees Celsius.

 A frosty morning in Central Alberta - did you notice those solar panels?!

A frosty morning in Central Alberta - did you notice those solar panels?!

As you can see below, and as well if you also check out this website, you will be able to see that this home will be a "High Performance, Energy Efficient New House". But is it Net Zero? Not yet. Although Net Zero is the goal, there are many factors to consider while attempting to reach it, including implementing renewable energy. 


House Characteristics / Typical ERS Rating

Existing house not upgraded / 0 to 50

Upgraded existing house / 51 to 65

Energy-efficient upgraded existing house / 66 to 74

New house built to building code standards without energy requirements / 70 to 76

New house built to building code standards containing energy requirements / 77 to 80

Energy efficient new house /  81 to 85

High-performance, energy efficient new house / 86 to 99

Net zero house (energy purchased and energy generated, through renewable sources, is equal)


In my last post, I outlined some of the design challenges whereby the home's design was "backward". This has created an issue where there may be too many windows on the north side, and not only that, but there are too many doors! How can doors affect energy loss? Well, glass patio doors are not good performers as they only are mostly available with dual-pane glass. In simple terms, means that there's only 2 layers of glass, rather than 3 and therefore, less protection from heat loss. Our option is to keep the look, access to natural light, and the accessibility of the patio doors (one on the north, 2 on the south) or make changes in order to increase the performance of the home. Well, after thinking about it, we decided to change the north-side patio door into a regular door with a side window (triple pane) and to remove one of the south side patio doors and replace it with triple pane windows as well. Once we have re-modelled the home, we will be able to find out if this makes a huge difference or not. I suspect it will push us up a few notches on the EnerGuide. 

During this process of modelling, we are able to determine what our energy requirements will be for the home with regard to appliances and mechanical equipment for heat. There's a ton of heating options for homes who are not using natural gas and relying solely on electricity. One of the most energy efficient options is an air source heat pump. These can be up to 300% efficient. These devices pull heat from the outside during the winter, and push heat out of the building during the summer season to cool the home. You can pull energy from the air at very low temperatures as it acts as almost a reverse refrigerator. It can also be used to heat your water. I found another great article comparing homes using an air source heat pump which really explains this technology well. 

Alternatively, we're also modelling the home with the use of electric radiant heating system. These are neat little heaters that are designed into your floors, walls or ceilings. Although this option is less energy efficient as the air source heat pump, it's quite a bit cheaper. You can install separate systems in each room as necessary. They can be wired so that you have temperature control on the wall and certain rooms don't necessarily have to be heated continuously, if you're not using them. 

Now, although this blog post is title'd "Energy is Everything", I do want to note that an added factor to this project is the aesthetic and health quality of the home. On the aesthetic side, I have seen many passive homes that look like converted barns almost, where they lack that visual appeal. I've also seen some net-zero homes that appear to be conventional new-builds where they look like every other home on the street. We want to showcase Passive House and Net Zero (if we can get there) and really sell this design and lifestyle as not only being feasible economically and logistically, but as a beautiful and healthy living option. 

That being said, the cabinet design is coming along very well. We're going to install kuhlmann cabinetry out of Germany. It's a euro-style cabinet that is just absolutely beautiful with innovative features such as lighting that changes from warm to cool at the touch of a button, to drawers within drawers and handless doors to maintain a very clean look. We're even installing a mini-seating area in built into the of our island. However, it wasn't the beauty or the functionality that sold this particular manufacturer, it was their commitment to being a sustainable business. They have their PEFC certification and are certified according to ISO 9001, sourcing their wood from certified sustainable forests. 

 An example of kuhlman's euro-style cabinets 

An example of kuhlman's euro-style cabinets 

 

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