A Net Zero Energy Year - Beginning

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(our bidirectional electricity meter – the first reading is how much power we had purchased from Epcor as of October 18, 2010)

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(how many kWh we had sold to Epcor as of October 18)

The concept of a net zero energy building is a brilliant one. For one thing, you can explain it to anyone in one sentence. For another, it sets a non-arbitrary goal. I think that most people have a gut feeling that if every part of the economy gave as much as it took, we would be approaching true sustainability.

From the beginning we have confidently declared that the Mill Creek Net Zero Home would annually generate as much energy as it uses, on a net basis. However, our assertions have been based on computer modeling and rules of thumb. That, and a good dose of optimism.

In fact, I’m not sure that we have a “proven” net zero energy building in Canada yet.

We aim to change that. Our PV modules are all installed now (more on that later), so it’s time to start a year of monitoring. We will only do one year of highly accurate measurement, because to make it a true test we have to abstain from burning waste wood in our wood stove. Since we are loathe to heat with coal-fired electricity  (even if we are offsetting it with solar power), and since the wood stove is such a nice way to heat a house, we only want to go through one winter without wood heat.

So on October 18, 2010, we began our year of monitoring. On that day, our meter readings were as follows:

  • bi-directional power meter (total import and export of electricity for the house):
    • import: 4160 kWh
    • export: 2936 kWh
  • inverters (cumulative production from each of two PV arrays):
    • fixed modules: 3683 kWh
    • movable modules: 616 kWh

I’m not sure how convincingly this experiment will “prove” that the house has achieved the net zero standard. Even if we do net out, I can’t absolutely prove that we didn’t burn any fires. We will be dismantling the stove so that we can seal the chimney off from letting cold air in. I'll post pictures, but besides that ya'll will have to just trust me!

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Let the monitoring begin! I will be very curious about your findings. And I will share mine as well. As we have discussed with our Hot2000 models, I am rather disappointed in the "bluntness" of the energy modeling tools. And so much of the actual performance comes from how the building is built. Have you explored any "on-line" monitoring tools like Building Dashboard?


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