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Net Zero Energy Calculation

Here are our current statistics for our Net-Zero Energy House.  During the time period, we had 7 occupants in the house, and during two of these months, we had between 10 and 12 people occupying the house as we hosted two families.  In addition, a home office with two computer servers running 24/7 added to the electricity usage not normally associated with a residence, as we estimate a 2500kWh annual consumption on these two computer servers.

Electricity – From March 17 2011 to March 19 2012 – 27536kWh of usage, from PowerStream’s utility bill.

Gas – From construction to March 29 2012 – 282m³ of natural gas, converting to 3062kWh, with about 1/3 of which was used for “burning in” of the fireplace.

Total Energy Consumption – less than 30,600kWh consumed in the first year of occupancy.

Electricity Generated – Our 34kW system should generate the 30,600kWh that we consumed in the first year of occupancy.  Generation started on May 5th, 2012, and as of March 11th, 2013, we have generated just under 26,000kWh, with the next 50+ days as being typically the highest production days of the year.

Water Efficiency

In addition to creating an energy efficient home, water efficiency is also very important as part of a greater ecological house.

Here are some of the choices we have made:

Irrigration – a 6000L rainwater collection system, to be interconnected to the sprinkler system.

Toilets – Pfister Treviso toilets, using a 3L/6L dual flush system, and earning the highest available MAP score, a rating to determine it’s ability to flush solid waste.

FaucetsPfister Bernini connection, EPA WaterSense rated, using 5.7L/minute of water or less.

ShowerDelta Dryden trims and Moen showerheads, EPA WaterSense rated, using 7.5L/minute of water or less.

Kitchen- Delta Touch2O touch operated kitchen faucet.

LG Washer/DryerLG WM3987HW, qualifying under the LEED program for water efficient clothes washer, and Energy Star compliant.

Dishwasher- Samsung DMR78 dishwasher, Energy Star compliant.

Spray Foam and Air Sealing

One of the biggest challenges to creating an energy efficient house is to reduce the air leakage as much as possible.  While we have chosen to use ICF and SIP framing to greatly reduce the air leakage in the walls, and Nudura Ceiling for ceiling insulation, the gaps and interfaces need to be sealed as well in order to be air tight as possible, and the choice of the casement fiberglass windows.

We chose to spray foam insulate the weak points of the house; the ledger board area where the SIP interfaces to the ICF, the penetrations around the house to the outside, the pot light wire penetrations into the attic, and where the walls on the 2nd floor meet the ceiling.

Slab Insulation and Radiant Heating

Before the basement concrete slab was poured, a 2″ thick EPS (R7) was put in place to reduce the heat transfer to the soil beneath.  In addition, PEX tubing was run in 90% of the basement floor space to allow for in-floor radiant heating.  In-floor radiant heating allows for a more comfortable basement floor as it is no longer cold to walk on, and is efficient as heat rises throughout the house in the winter, as well as a reduction in the heating area that the fan coil has to service.  The garage was insulated and roughed-in with the same system for the ability in the future of a heated garage.

The tubes are connected to the Daikin Altherma system, which provides radiant heating to the basement floor as well as the fan coil to heat the ground and second floors, as well as heating the hot water for the house.

Drain Stack Heat Recovery

Drain Stack Heat Recovery

All of our drains in the house is tied into a single drain stack in the basement of the house, and a drain stack heat recovery coil was installed in the drain stack.  A 6 foot section of 4″ copper pipe sits in the center to handle the waste water, and as the copper picks up the residual heat in the water, the heat transfers to the copper tubing that the incoming water flowing to the hot water tank, thereby preheating the cold municipal water as it enters the tank.

When hot water is being used in the house and drawn out of the hot water tank, replacement cold water effectively flows around the drain stack and picks up the heat from the returning waste hot water.

HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator)

Lifebreath Clean Air Furnace

In order to design an energy efficient house, one of the criteria is to build it as airtight as possible.  However, the lack of fresh air can create health problems.  Our Lifebreath Clean Air Furnace is a fan coil and a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) in one unit, and exhausts stale air out while drawing fresh air in as the furnace runs, while the heat exchanger portion recaptures a significant portion of the heat from the exit air and transfers it to the incoming air in the winter.

In addition, we have ducted all of the bathroom exhaust to an inline fan located near the furnace, which connects directly to the HRV, and having its mechanical operation is intertied to it, in order to recapture the heat from the exhausted bathroom air as well.  The secondary benefit is that the fan location is away from the bathroom, and keeps the fan noise to a minimum in the bathroom.  As well, because there are return air intakes in the bathroom to the air handler and HRV unit, there is consistent air flow in the bathroom, thereby keeping the moisture level to a minimum, greatly reducing the chance of mold growth in the bathrooms.


Dryvit Terraneo Stucco

The original architectural design called for a combination of stone and stucco for the exterior of the house.  But considering the majority of the house was wrapped in ICF and EPS, the most logical choice of material was stucco, as it required an EPS substrate.  After we had priced the stone installation, made more difficult with the ICF and EPS as the surface material was not structural, we decided to change the design to an all stucco exterior cladding.

Our choice was to use the Dryvit TAFS (textured acrylic finish system) on the ICF, primarily because of their TerraNeo finish, which gave it a granite look without the cost of stone.  Dryvit is one of the leading stucco systems manufacturer in the world, and their TerraNeo finish has chipped granite flakes in the mix to give it a more interesting and pleasing aesthetics for accent areas, a combination that gave it a very unique look, and a glimmer and sheen that can be seen at varying sun angles or on an overcast day.

Dryvit Terraneo Stucco

Clothes Washer and Dryer

A concept that never made sense to me was the concept of a dryer that used energy to heat the air, and exhausted that hot air out of the house.  Thing about it…  On a cold February Canadian day, you’re first paying to heat the air inside the dryer, and when it gets exhausted, replacement air has to enter the house to balance the air pressure, and you’re paying a second time to heat the frigid outside air that ultimately winds its way into the house.

In many parts of the world, a combination washer and condensing dryer  was very common, but yet the selection in the US and Canada can be counted with two hands.  Since our choice was limited, and based on prior good experience with an earlier LG model, we chose to purchase two LG WM3987HW for the house, one to put in the laundry room, and a second to put in the upstairs semi-ensuite.

The LG combination washer/dryer unit has several benefits.  For one, you don’t need an exhaust, simplifying the installation and most importantly, much more energy efficient.  All it requires is a water supply, a drain, and a standard 15A 110V receptacle, instead of the 30A 220V that a typical dryer requires.  That’s 1/4 the maximum potential draw of electricity.  Sure, the machine takes longer to dry the clothes, and as such the energy savings might not be 75%, but it is much more efficient nonetheless.

The lack of exhaust allowed us to install one in the upstairs bathroom by tying into existing plumbing, and allowed us to have a second floor laundry within the common washroom, a major convenience as we did not need to carry the laundry up and down the stairs.

The general common complaint on these all-in-one washer/dryer is that it takes a very long time to complete a cycle (3 hours 30 minutes average from start of wash to completion of dry), but we have adapted our laundry washing to be done overnight by setting the delay function on the unit to start around 4am, and in the morning we have clean clothes ready to go or ready to be folded.  The other common complaint is that the clothes coming out has a very slight smidgen of dampness as a result of the condensing drying method, but usually it evaporates by the time we are done folding the clothes.

A pet peeve:  LG is proverbially raping the Canadian public on this unit.  When we bought this unit in 2011, the Canadian MSRP was CAD$2600, and the US MSRP was USD$1679, and we ended up purchasing two units in Buffalo for USD$1300 each, so even after the NY state tax and the trailer rental, we were WAY WAY ahead than buying in Toronto.  I understand the Canadian market is a smaller market, but the price difference was just outrageous with the exchange rate factored in.  I contacted LG Canada in 2011 regarding their price discrepancy in the two markets, and their reply was:

“Thanks for contacting LG customer service. The reason why prices are lower in the U.S is because of the bigger market. That is the same for almost every product sold their. Have a great day.”

LG, this is SHAMEFUL.  You have a great product, but the way you treat your Canadian customers is atrocious.


Drought Tolerant Sod

Drought Tolerant Grass

Typical sod from a sod farm in Ontario consists of a 90% Kentucky blue grass and a 10% fescue mix.  As part of our goal for LEED Platinum certification, we sought out drought-tolerant turf, and was able to find a 60% Kentucky blue grass and 40% fine fescue mix from Green Horizons, one of a few local farms that grows specialty sod.

The benefit of such a mix is that during the summer season, there are lower watering demands.  In exchange, however, the shade of grass isn’t as green, and the blades not as fine.  However, this was an acceptable trade-off for us, and will also help us be more reliant on the rainwater collected by the rain barrels (see our 6000L rain storage).  As a side benefit, the thicker blades of grass gave us a more lush lawn, one that the kids loved to roll in.

CaGBC LEED for Homes – Points can be acheived in Sustainable Sites, in Basic Landscape Design (SS 2.2).