Mill Creek NetZero Home

Table Of Contents

The Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH) is a landmark cold-climate home. Situated in Canada's northernmost major city, Edmonton, Alberta,  it will produce as much or more energy than it consumes over the course of a year. Furthermore, it aims to be Western Canada's first LEED-Platinum certified residential building. Construction began on July 30th, 2008.

The co-owner of the home, Conrad Nobert, is blogging about the many green features of the home. This is a table of contents of his blog entries. You can navigate using the table, or scroll down to view the posts in reverse chronological order.

  1. Introduction
  2. Philosophy/Motivation
    1. Affordability
  3. The most important aspects of a cold-climate NetZero home:
    1. Insulate and Seal
    2. Insolate and Add Mass
  4. Walkable Location
  5. Solar Awning
    1. Part 1
    2. Part 2
  6. Solar Hot Water
    1. Part 1
    2. Part 2
  7. Flex House
    1. Part 1
    2. Part 2
  8. Computer Simulation:
    1. Whole-house Heat Loss (HOT2000)
    2. Solar Hot Water System (WATSUN 2008)
  9. Deconstruction
    1. Reclaiming Maple Hardwood Floors
    2. Reclaiming Fir Floors
    3. Giving Stuff Away
    4. Scrap Metal Part 1 and Part 2
    5. Saving Concrete
    6. Reclaiming Cedar Siding
    7. Saving Lumber
    8. Saving Bricks
    9. Demolition
  10. Heating System
  11. Wood Heat
    1. Wood Burning Stove (part 1)
    2. Wood Burning (part 2)
  12. Recycling Gluelam Beams
  13. Square Footage
  14. Insulated Basement Slab
  15. Foundation Walls
  16. Light Pipe
  17. Pipe Insulation
  18. Metal Roof
  19. Passive Solar Design
  20. Waste Reduction
  21. Heathy Home
  22. Media
    1. Part 1 (coverage from first open house)
    2. Part 2 (techlife article)
  23. FAQ
  24. Airtight
  25. Concrete Floor Finish
  26. Phantom Load
  27. Ventilation
  28. Water Usage
  29. Grey Water
  30. Window Coverings
  31. Reusing Doors
  32. Cold Room
  33. Financial Incentive
  34. Progress
    1. Part 1 - foundation, framing
    2. Part 2 - more framing, wood reuse
    3. Part 3 - windows, front porch posts
    4. Part 4 - roof, light pipe, plumbing
    5. Part 5 -  insulation, photovoltaics
    6. Part 6 - concrete floors, counter tops, drywall, wood burning stove
    7. Part 7 - stucco, hardwood, moving in
  35. Observations
    1. Part 1
    2. Part 2
    3. Part 3
  36. A Net Zero Energy Year
    1. Beginning
    2. Questions
    3. Assumptions
    4. Oct 18 - Dec 15, 2010
    5. Dec 15, 2010 - Jan 15, 2011
    6. Jan 16 - Jan 30, 2011
    7. Feb and Mar, 2011
    8. April, 2011

Looking for no carbon man

Courtesy of Kevin Ma and the St. Albert Gazette:

One family's quest for a net-zero life



Net Zero Year - Results

We tested our Net Zero home from October 18, 2010 to October 18, 2011. The initial post is here, and these are the questions that we wanted to answer.

The bottom line is that our house did not produce as much energy as it used throughout the course of the year. It was not a net zero energy house during the period indicated. Here are the numbers:

Net energy use: 2518 kWh

We used 2518 kWh more than we produced over the year for all of our energy needs (that's all electricity, as we are not connected to natural gas and we didn't use our wood stove at all). 

Total solar production: 7212 kWh

Our solar modules produced at a decent clip, although at slightly lower-than-average levels for Edmonton.

Total energy consumption:  9730 kWh

So what happened? Well, as I said at the outset, we didn't define Net Zero before we started out. Net Zero every year? On a ten year average? What we do know is that this  year, we didn't hit our goal.

Here's a bit of post mortem analysis.

  • This house is clearly not going to be net zero every year. We missed by a relative long shot. Why?
    • It was almost 14% colder than average in the fourth quarter of 2010 (source).
    • It was overcast for virtually the entire month of March (as evidenced by my whining in this post). In March of 2010, we didn't heat at all, whereas in March 2011 we heated the house every day.
    • Given the year that we had, the HOT 2000 simulation only predicted about half of our heating energy use.
  • Given the two points above, I'm confident that our house will be net zero some years. Whether that's 20% of the time or 50%, it's impossible to say right now.
  • The average house (built between 1990 - 2003) in Edmonton uses 41,665 kWh for space heating and hot water (or 150 GJ -  pdf source) , and another 7800 kWh in general electricity use (pdf source). That's 49,465 kWh in total.
  • So, our house used 19.8% of the energy that a newer Edmonton home uses, and it then turned around and produced 75% of that energy as solar electricity.

It was interesting to watch how the house performed this past year. We're still sworn off of the wood stove, so I'll check in again on December 14  and we'll see how close we'll have got to net zero when measuring Dec 14, 2010 - Dec 14, 2011 (after all, if you're not happy with the data, just change the parameters!).


Edit: below are the heating degree numbers for the last 12 months. As you can see, there was a lot more heating required in Edmonton during the last 12 months than during the period of Nov 2009 - Nov 2010. Especially in March!

 read more... »

A Net Zero Energy Year : Summer

Times were good this summer, as our 6 Kilowatt PV system churned out the juice like crazy.

During the months of May, June, July and August we only imported power, on a net basis, on eight different days. Not bad, not bad at all.

Here is what the data looked like:


May 2011: 600 kWh exported.


June 2011: 500 kWh exported.  read more... »