Solar Retrofit Part 10 – Monitoring (continued)

My house uses natural gas for space heat and domestic hot water. When analyzing the benefit of my solar collectors, the obvious thing to do is to examine the actual change in my gas consumption. To answer this, I've plotted the amount of gas I burned per heating degree day (HDD) per month. Using HDDs adjusts for the variability of the weather and allows an apples-to-apples comparison between different years.

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Super energy-efficient homes: heat distribution

There have been a few questions about heating systems and heat distribution recently. I asked Canada’s green building grandfather if I could publish a paper that he wrote about how heat gets distributed in an advanced home. For your reading pleasure, written by Rob Dumont of Saskatchewan Conservation House fame:

Space Heat Distribution - Energy Answers by Rob Dumont

Last Public Tour (probably) of Mill Creek NetZero Home

We will be opening up our home for a public open house during the eco-solar home tour in June 4. 

Many more details are here:

What has changed since the last tour? The two main things are that the movable solar awning is now installed, and our edible, permaculture landscape is mostly planted and showing its stuff.

Here's more from the tour website:

####-84 Avenue, Edmonton

Site hosts: Conrad Nobert (homeowner) plus members of the project team

EnerGuide Rating 100.4 The Mill Creek Net Zero House is a home that produces more energy than it consumes in a year. This house was completed last year and features a passive solar design with solar electric and solar thermal panels to gather energy. The solar electric panels are on movable awnings that shade the windows in summer to cool the house and then retract in the winter to let in the suns heat.

Growing from seed - great success!



Tomato plants, started from seed on March 25 and planted May 21, 2011.

Gardening is one of the greenest things you can do. It also saves you money, increases the quality of the food that you eat, increases your food security, and gives you a fun and healthy summer activity.

If you’re already gardening, the best way to “green” your gardening and save a ton of money is to start plants from seed instead of buying them as seedlings at the garden centre.

This year I started 60 tomato plants and 100 yellow onions from seed. I follow the Vriend’s planting calendar, which specifies the dates of February 25 and March 25 to plant onion and tomato seeds, respectively.

I am happy with my results. My tomato plants would cost about $3/each if I were to buy them, so I “made” $180 by putting seeds in pots and watering a few times. It’s really about the fun though. Gardening at the end of February is a great way to kick yourself out of winter mode a bit early.


Yellow onion seedlings


Onions planted in the ground from seedlings at the end of April.


Tomato, leek and eggplant (background) seedlings – all obtained for a few dollars in seeds and a couple of cans of water.

The critics will tell you that local organic food is elitist and out of reach and that it can’t feed the world. They’re leaning on a tired old paradigm though. If all or most of us become involved in our food, if we all become farmers to some degree, we can put an enormous dent into so many problems at once that it dizzies the mind.

It amazes me that solutions to such big problems can be so enjoyable, simple, and, in the end, delicious. It’s all pretty damn satisfying if you ask me.