A good time to own a net-zero energy home . . .

It looks like a good time to own a net-zero energy home.  Not only are the days getting longer but electricity rates have just increased by 66% . . .


. . . and the forcast is for high power rates continuing into the future:


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)
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... »

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... »

Most Efficient Electric Range Ever


image from sears.ca

Induction stovetops are the most efficient in existence. With induction cooking, an electromagnetic field turns the pot or pan itself into the heating element, so there’s no coil to heat up, and no therefore no heat to lose from the coil. Induction stoves have long been available through commercial or specialty outlets only, and usually only as cook tops (without ovens attached). However, Sears has recently changed the efficient cooking appliance scene.

With Kenmore Elite Induction Ranges, Sears has brought the induction cook top to the residential home. Although more expensive than regular ranges (all of Sears’ stuff can be had for significantly less than their listed online prices, by the way) these super-efficient ranges are at the very bottom end of the Energuide scale.

A new electric range will consume from 330 kWh to 647 kWh per year according to Natural Resources Canada. The Kenmore Elite Induction Ranges consumes about 350 kWh.

When we purchased our appliances for the Mill Creek NetZero Home, we were a bit too early for this brand new range. The problem is, it requires a special 50 amp breaker and special wiring. We missed out, but maybe you won’t. If you choose an induction range when purchasing your next super-efficient appliance let the rest of us know how it went!

P.S. I was worried about health issues due to radiation from the electro magnetism that's involved in induction cooking, so I asked local great Godo Stoyke, author of The Carbon Buster's Home Energy Handbook, for his take. He tested his brother's induction stove and said:

"I measured about 80 milliGauss near the pot, about 10 milliGauss from 40 cm away, dropping to an undetectable/background level from about 1 m away. So, comparable to a cell phone."

Given that stove is so much further away from your body (and your brain) than a cell phone, this put the health issue to rest for me.