Phantom Load (or, How Not To Live In Caves)

The new microwave in the Mill Creek NetZero Home tries to burn 35 Kg of coal every year to display the time.

When discussing the environment with non-converts, the debate often degenerates to someone commenting “you want us to go back to living in caves”. The sentiment reveals a shocking but widespread ignorance about the vast quantities of energy and materials that we squander. Energy is cheap and ubiquitous, and it seems that humans are doomed to waste whatever is abundant.

The answer to the living in caves comment is that we could reduce our materials and energy consumption by 50% in a heartbeat without touching our standard of living. In fact, we could reduce consumption by over 90% and still live better than kings and emperors did 300 years ago. (Yes, monster truck rallies would have to go. If by “living in caves” you mean “stop driving my Hummer around while Tweeting on my cell phone”, then I stand corrected.)

The microwave at the top of page is state-of-the-art; we purchased it this year from IKEA, a company that makes claims of environmental responsibility. The problem is, it draws four Watts of electricity, all the time, day or night. The useful work that it manages to produce out of the 100 grams of dirty coal that it needs every day is to display a digital clock.  Quick! Raise your hand if you need another clock in your house!  read more... »

Solar Electric System - Actual Performance

The Riverdale NetZero Project, one of twelve projects to emerge from CMHC's EQuilibrium Housing Initiative, is now complete. It is a groundbreaking project that is the result of many people putting in many volunteer hours. It looks like the duplexes will each actually be NetCredit homes, because their performance is exceeding expectations so far.  read more... »

Heating System

I've thought about the heating system for the Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH) for months now. The home will need a very tiny amount of heat because it's so superinsulated, super sealed, and passize solarized. The computer model that simulates the energy performance of the house (using HOT2000) has the MCNZH using 2500 kWh. That's roughly 6% of the heat that my renovated (with new insulation and windows) 1950s bungalow uses.  read more... »

Saving Concrete

Peter Amerongen is fond of saying "concrete is one of the most energy intensive things we do".  Or something to that effect.  By "we", he means humanity, and he's right:  read more... »