net zero energy house

Personal Finance - Part 3, Investments

This is the final installment in a three-part series about personal finance for the conscious green Edmontonian. It covers:

  1. day to day finances
  2. retirement
  3. investments

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The above picture is the world oil consumption curve. It is often displayed as just data, allowing what will happen on the down slope to our imaginations.

Peak oil is just one of many ways in which we are reaching the limits of our growth as a species. I find it highly absurd, then, that adults (you know, the ones who are all grow’ds up)  cannot rationally discuss the end of growth in polite company. And it’s virtually never discussed by anyone with any power. The fact of the matter is, infinite growth is impossible in a finite world. Let me repeat that:

Infinite growth is impossible in a finite world

Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s inconvenient. But it’s true.

Maybe it’s a facet of denial, but it is easy to “understand” on one level about growth ending, and then turn around and invest our money in mutual funds and stock markets.

In my humble opinion, investing your money in stocks/mutual funds means one of two things:

  1. image The Unicorn Option - You believe that infinite growth is possible in our finite ecosystem. If this describes you, stop reading – the unicorns will deliver your fortune when the time is right.

    OR

  2. image The Playa Option - You recognize that growth will end, but you think that you’re smart and ruthless enough to get out of the stock market before all the suckers do (you know, your children and all those those other weaklings).

Option one speaks for itself, and I personally wouldn’t be counting on option two if my retirement was more than a couple of years away.  read more... »

Links

So many times the so-called experts that the media trots out don’t have a clue about the little situation that humanity finds itself in. Shafraaz Kaba is not one of those. He is an architect at Manasc Isaac Architects who is acting as the general contractor for his net zero home right here in Edmonton. And he totally gets it.

  • He is building an amazing house, and his blog is highly detailed. Check it out: Chasing Net Zero.

 

Net Zero Homes in Cold Climates: The Videos

The link video above is the first in a series of six that document an April 2010 talk by Peter Amerongen about how to build a Net Zero residential house, at the lowest possible cost, in a cold climate like Edmonton’s.

Peter is Edmonton’s foremost authority on energy efficient residential building, and his talk gives details about his experience as the project manager on Edmonton’s first three net zero houses. This stuff is pure gold.

All of the videos can be accessed right here on youtube.

Observations (Part 03)

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(photo courtesy of Edmonton Real Estate Weekly)

I have the first set of electricity consumption numbers for the house (see the data at the bottom of the post). Some comments about the numbers:

  • It was sunless winter. I found that sunshine had a greater effect on the performance of the house than temperature. People have commented that January was mild, but we burned a lot of wood because we only got 5-10 hours of total sunshine (92 hours is normal).
  • Our heating needs dropped off a cliff once the sun started shining on a consistent basis. In the last six weeks all of the thermostats have been turned off, and we have only burned two fires.
  • Of note: we installed water-efficient showerheads on January 12 (Bricor, 1.11 GPM versus about 2.25 GPM previously). Also, until January 12 there was another adult in the house (so  three adults, two children).

So far…

  • That said, we went through a LOT of wood this winter. We would burn for four hours straight in the evening and then another hour in the morning when it was –25 and there was no sun.
  • once the sun started shining, it warmed up, and we were using efficient shower heads, our electricity usage dropped to 8.6 kWh/day. We are very conscientious about power use, but on the other hand we cook a lot in the house.  These LAME numbers (lights, appliances and misc. electricity) are below our yearly estimate of 5150 kWh (8.6 kWh/day would be 3139 kWh annually).
  • our movable PV awnings are not yet up. The production numbers are for 12 modules out of an eventual 32 (the last 20 are bifacial).
  • the basement was not heated - it will be when someone moves in, plus they will be taking showers, etc.
  • Based on what I seen, I think that this house will be net zero house at least in the above average years. It remains to be seen if it will make the grade for an average year.

The numbers:

Total: 2009 Nov 9 - 2010 Mar 22 (133 days)
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Total Household Use:   2451 kWh
Average Daily Household Use For Period: 18.4 kWh per day
Solar Energy Exported:   405 kWh
Solar Energy Used In-House:  223 kWh  read more... »