Observations (Part 01)

Mill Creek NetZero Home - living room

Mill Creek NetZero Home Living Room - finally some autumn sunshine!

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you move in to a solar house the sun stops shining? It’s been overcast since the beginning of October here in Edmonton – since just after we moved into the Mill Creek NetZero Home – and the fact that Edmonton has as many hours of sunshine as Miami has seemed hard to believe at times. Finally we have the return of sunny days, and the house is great to be in right now.

So what have we learned so far?

  • the transition to living on concrete floors has been painless for us. They are much warmer than I thought they would be, and since we were already in the habit of wearing Crocs around the house, I really haven’t noticed the different floor surface. We have been encouraging guests to put on a pair of Crocs from the box in the front entrance.
  • the house makes us much more in tune with the solar cycle. The above picture was taken at around 1 o’clock. I enjoyed sitting in the sun for a while before lunch, but now that I’m using the computer the sunny areas of the house aren’t appropriate anymore. Solar houses should have non-sunny areas, and the occupants must be willing to flex with what is going on outside.

Mill Creek NetZero Home - second floor library

the library area on the second floor is bathed in sunlight on a sunny day – luxurious at times, and to be avoided at others

  • we weren’t able to see if the house overheats during the month of October (the movable solar awnings that will help us deal with that aren’t installed yet) because it was overcast almost every day
  • we have burned about twenty fires using our wood burning stove. With hardly any sunshine, and December-like weather for a week or so during October, we had to get space heating from somewhere. We haven’t used any fossil fuels for space heating yet.
  • on a day with two or more hours of sun, the living space has a beautiful warm glow throughout the evening. The heat radiating off of the floor is very comfortable.
  • in a super-insulated house, the surfaces of the walls and ceiling are warmer than in a conventional house. Because of that, we are comfortable at cooler temperatures. In our old house, 19 degrees (Celsius) felt freezing. In this house, we don’t consider starting a fire or turning up the heat until it is colder than 18 degrees.

It is a special treat for me to see so much solar energy being harvested. When I hear the solar hot water system turn on I run down to the basement to see what temperature the tank is at (36 degrees and rising), and it’s also fun to cook lunch knowing that the electrons heating the stove element just arrived here on Earth.

We are delighted with the new house. I will keep writing observations and try to be objective about them (report the good with the bad), but so far it has surpassed our expectations.

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Congrats on getting settled in! Love the look of the concrete floors, hoping you can describe how they were finished.


Thanks Garth! This one's for you: http://greenedmonton.ca/mcnzh-finished-concrete-floors


Hi Conrad: Thanks for posting so much useful info online. I learned alot through this site. I was curious how the house performed through the mid december severe cold? I hope to build a close to net zero home someday. Curt.

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