Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MIKE HOLMES: Net-zero house a big plus in the long term

  • Print
A net-zero home produces as much energy as it consumes. It’s not cheap to build, but it’s an investment
that pays you back every month for as long as you live in it.

POSTMEDIA Enlarge Image

A net-zero home produces as much energy as it consumes. It’s not cheap to build, but it’s an investment that pays you back every month for as long as you live in it.

Homeowners, builders and architects are working together and pushing standards to build net-zero homes.

These homes produce as much energy as they consume on an annual basis, taking the EnerGuide rating up to 100. EnerGuide rates the energy efficiency of a house; a higher rating means a more energy-efficient home.

One of my partner builders recently built a net-zero home in Edmonton. It features some of the latest green technology, such as prefab wall systems and triple-pane glass, to achieve an EnerGuide rating of 100. And it looks good.

When you incorporate the right technologies with the right systems -- always using the right pros -- you can build a home that produces as much energy as it uses, sometimes more. Whatever you don't use you can sell back to the grid. Who wouldn't like that?

There are two things you need to keep in mind when it comes to a net-zero home. To support its own energy needs, it usually means incorporating a solar-electric system and sometimes wind power too.

Next, the building envelope must be highly efficient -- it has to have a high R-value (a material's ability to resist heat flow) and needs to be tightly sealed. This ensures the home uses every unit of energy to its maximum potential.

When building a net-zero home, there are some key considerations, starting with the walls.

Prefab wall systems are insulated and structurally sound. The ones we use are made with Pinkwood, which is mould-, moisture- and fire-resistant, and have polystyrene infill panels. This yields a highly energy-efficient building envelope with an insulation value of R-42. If you go with a 16-inch (41-centimetre), double-stud, wood frame with blown-in cellulose, you can bump that insulation value up to R-56. This is great for your walls and attic, another heat-loss hot spot.

The foundation is another potential area for major energy loss, so it must be well insulated. On the house in Edmonton, the builders insulated the foundation below and outside the slab with expanded polystyrene (EPS). They also built the foundation using insulated concrete forms. The concrete is also insulated with EPS, which is non-toxic, mould-free and CFC-free and doesn't lose insulating value over time. Also, by adding an additional interior wall to the foundation -- like they did in Edmonton -- you get a foundation with an insulation value of R-40.

What about the windows? Double pane used to be the best when it came to energy efficiency. But now there's triple pane, which has two coats of low-e film, plus argon-gas-filled glazing with insulating spacers between panes.

Then there's passive solar, which includes adding south-facing windows to allow light and heat in all day long. If your home has concrete floors, these windows will absorb the heat and radiate it back into the living space.

For heating and cooling a net-zero home, I like a geothermal system: The temperature in the ground is used to regulate the temperature in the house. Another option is installing an electric baseboard heating system. This isn't as expensive as geothermal, so it's a better option if you're on a budget, but it's not as energy-efficient either.

And we can't forget about ventilation. When a home is airtight, you need to bring in fresh air and get rid of stale indoor air, or condensation problems can arise. Heat-recovery ventilators (HRVs) are great for exchanging indoor air for outdoor air. The air that comes in is preheated by the exhausting air -- a process that can recover up to 88 per cent of the heat. And the HRV's electronically commutated motor reduces the amount of electricity needed to run it.

Building a net-zero home isn't cheap, it's an investment that will pay you back every month for as long as you live in it. It's not a trend -- it's the future of housing.

-- Postmedia News

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2013 F8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Paul Maurice addresses media at end of 13/14 season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.
  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google