net zero energy house

Solar Hot Water (Part 2)



The lessons that I learned from the computer model of our solar hot water system are as follows:

  • insulate the pipes leading from the basement to the collectors to at least R6, preferably R10
  • insulate the storage tank to R50
  • install a 1000 litre storage tank
  • install 3 collectors
  • there is extra heat - install a system to harvest it

We bought the collectors, drainback tank, pipe insulation and other knickknacks from Trimline Design Centre just down the road from the Mill Creek NetZero Home. My builder Peter was very impressed with the clever, simple design of the flat plat collectors that Trimline manufactures. Yes, that’s right, they manufacture solar hot water collectors right here in Edmonton!



(schematic of the MCNZH solar hot water system)  read more... »

Passive Solar Design


(MCNZH concrete floor being bathed by sun through a 9’x6’ window)

The most important design considerations for cold climate building are insulation, building envelope, and passive solar design. Given our lofty goals for the Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH), we pushed hard to maximize our return on every one of these fronts.

The MCNZH collects 54% of its annual space heat through passive solar design – that’s 8747 kWh or 31.5 Gigajoules. It does so by:

  1. having huge south windows that are specially manufactured to maximize solar heat gain
  2. containing a large amount of thermal mass to absorb the solar heat when the sun shines
  3. having movable solar awnings that allow 100% of the sunlight to hit the windows during the heating season (the awnings are strictly speaking not a passive part of the solution).

I’ll discuss the first two bullets on this list, given that I’ve already described the movable awnings at length.  read more... »

Open House!


We’re having an open house next Saturday. Please stop by if you like. We’ll have the main and second floor concrete floors poured by then, and we hope to have the wood stove installed too. I’d love to meet you if you’ve commented on the website before. Actually, I’d love to meet you regardless!

The idea is that you can see the two houses in different stages of construction. The Riverdale house is completely done. If you haven’t been down there yet I highly recommend it. My house uses many of the same techniques as the Riverdale house, and many of the construction details are still visible.

See the flyer attached to this post for more details. See you on the 14th!

Pipe Insulation


I spent the afternoon putting pipe insulation on the hot water pipes in the Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH). I can’t believe how cheap the insulation was – around $100 for the whole house. Its price and the ease with which it is installed make it a must, in my opinion, for those interested in energy efficiency. Anyone can install this stuff, and the insulation is so useful because it just sits and works, saving you energy every single day and never breaking.  read more... »