Window Coverings


The temptation has always been there for eco-house builders. It’s those damn windows; they are just so useless once the sun goes down. There must be some way to insulate them once they no longer need to be seen through, right?


The answer is yes, but not cheaply. The biggest problem is moisture. If you insulate a window from the inside without a perfect air seal between the heated space and the cavity between the window covering and the window, moisture-laden air will flow into said cavity. When that happens, the moisture will condense on the window. Take it from green building pioneer Rob Dumont:

Back in the 70s I had a small house with lots of south windows. I experimented with interior rigid insulation on the windows. Some observations:

You need a very tight air and vapour barrier on the warm side of the insulation. I did not have either, and condensation would readily form on the window. I used a 2 inch thick piece of beadboard as the insulation. The windows were double glazed sealed units with an R value of about R2. Even more condensation would form on the window when the insulation was removed, as the warm, moist air could then, unimpeded, hit the window.  The condensation would run onto the sill. I actually got quite sick from the mould that grew on the lower corners of the windows. Never again.

R Value

We felt compelled to buy window coverings as soon as we moved into the Mill Creek NetZero Home  read more... »

Observations (Part 02)


Mill Creek NetZero Home, December 15, 2009, 14:00.

As we approach the winter solstice and the three-month anniversary of our moving in, we continue to learn about our new house. These observations are mostly qualitative, because we don’t have the rest of our solar modules up, and we haven’t set up monitoring equipment yet. We are tentatively planning to remove the door of our wood stove on July 1st, 2010  and then monitor the house’s energy use for a year.  read more... »


Mill Creek NetZero Home Heat Recovery Ventilator

I heard a story once about a man who built a house using insulated concrete forms (ICFs). While I don't advocate their use in general, ICFs have some distinct advantages (certainly over conventional construction). The primary of these advantages is supreme air tightness. ICF homes (those that are built with ICFs from top to bottom) can achieve hourly air change rates of 0.2. In contrast, the Mill Creek NetZero Home has an airtightness measurement of 0.36 ACH, which is really amazing for a wood-framed house.

So back to this guy who built the ICF house. He apparently wasn't aware of how air tight his house was, or at least the consequence of that air tightness. Six months after he moved in, he had to rip all of the drywall out because it had rotted. He had built a house as tight as a plastic bag, and forgotten a critical aspect: ventilation.  read more... »

Using What You've Got: Recycling Renovation Waste

In October of last year we bought our first house in Edmonton--and we've been renovating ever since.  Sound familiar?

Our initial attraction to the property was it's three-fold potential:

•  Potential to make this old house (1942) into a energy-efficient family home (hopefully for many years to come);

•  Potential to make this huge double lot (8000+ square feet) into a more environmentally sensitive/edible landscape (we love growing our own food); and finally,

•  The potential (and challenge) of being good neighbors/citizens in an older and struggling North Edmonton community (Build better communities, stop urban-sprawl, "improve, don't move", etc.).


Idealistic? Yes, whatever...

One of the biggest challenges to renovations and landscaping we are constantly up against is cost. Not making a lot of money, the cost of creating a space we can enjoy without guilt has called for some genuine creative thinking... and I hope some of the ideas we've come up with will be of interest to readers who can relate.  read more... »