The NetZero Home

netzerohouseInformed Energy Solutions had the vision to build a high quality, modern home that would generate the same amount or more energy that it would normally consume.
The Niagara NetZero Home represents the highest example of an eco-friendly home. It is the first home of its kind commercially designed and built in Southern Ontario. This NetZero home demonstrates to the people of Southern Ontario that sustainable living is possible with construction improvements, intelligent design, informed technologies and renewable energy generation. This home demonstrates environmental stewardship.

First and foremost, this home was designed for comfortable, gracious living within the rural environment of Jordan, Ontario.  It is an upscale home with top of the line technology. The technology is simple, reliable and easy to operate.

The NetZero Home is not “off grid.”  This home is connected to all city services including electricity, natural gas, water, cable, telephone and sewer.  Its NetZero label comes from the home’s ability to generate the same amount or more energy than it would normally consume through proven technology, conservation and utilizing the sun to assist with water heating, space heating and generating electricity.  The home owner still purchases their electricity from Niagara Peninsula Energy (NPE) at the current rates; however all of the electricity generated by the back roof solar array is sold to NPE for .802 per kilowatt hour under the MicroFIT program.

“This home has an Energy Star rating of 98.  We are proud to say that when this house was tested, our design team was informed that this home was “the most energy efficient home he (the inspector) had ever tested.”

With today’s technology and advanced building techniques, it is possible to build consumer friendly, comfortable, modern homes with a reduced carbon foot print. Net Zero homes endeavor to be sustainable; meaning they not only conserve energy and resources, but generate as much energy or more energy than they consume, off-setting grid power with absolutely, green, clean energy. This NetZero home utilizes the incentives under Ontario’s Green Energy Act, MicroFIT program to sell its generated photovoltaic power back to the grid to create cash flow for this home.

Building Green, Clean, And Informed

Location & Site Characteristics

Water Use

This modern home is connected to and uses city water, however the NetZero design team also incorporated the smart idea of utilizing some rain water to flush the toilets, water the grass and wash the car. This results in lower water/sewer costs to the home owner as well as using nature’s rain to help meet one’s annual water consumption needs.

The home owner still enjoys city water for all kitchen, laundry, bathing, sinks, appliances, ice making and general use.  The water in Jordan is excellent.

Rain and sump water is captured in a 6,140 liter cistern with pressure tank and pump. If the cistern gets low on water due to the lack of rain, the home owner simply has to turn a valve to allow city water to flush the designated toilets, water the grass or wash the car.  No bulk water purchases are required.

Location

  • Located in the heart of Jordan Station, Leyenhorst Crt. offers peaceful scenery and a beautiful view of Jordan Harbour.
  • Our site has a north south orientation which makes the rear roof line perfect for solar PV. A very appropriate sized lot allows for a manageable garden, attractive entrance way, and a private back yard. The surrounding area offers a wide range of wildlife including a newly nested bald eagle!

Healthy Living

  • Products were chosen that limit off-gassing of harmful toxins into the air. VOC’s are common in paints, carpets, under padding, types of baseboards, adhesives and finishes. It is important that the interior environment of the house be friendly for all occupants, especially those with sensitive respiratory conditions.
  • A high efficiency air circulation and filter unit (see HRV) was installed that will constantly introduce fresh, outside air into the home.

Solar Photovoltaics (PV)

A Sentinel 10kw solar system made up of 57, 175 watt panels is installed. These panels are mounted on the south facing roof line of the house,

This home, under the MicroFIT program and related contract, will produce an estimated $9673.00 per year in solar revenue.  The system was installed in 2010 and will continue to generate revenue for the owners until 2030. Total revenue generated over the 20 years is estimated at $193,461.53

Once the Microfit contract has expired, the house will switch over to a net-metering agreement. The system will continue to sell back to the grid but the local distribution company (LDC) no longer sends you payments. Instead the LDC reduces your electricity bill by the amount that the solar system produces. In this case the NETZERO home will have an electricity bill of $0.00 annually. As the name suggests, it is a net zero home.

Geo Thermal Temperature Control

The most efficient in heating & air conditioning, this particular system is dug into the surrounding property at a depth of roughly 6 to 8 feet deep. A glycol solution circulates through submerged piping in the property, capturing the heat of the earth. This glycol solution will then be passed over a heating coil which will heat the house. This same process can be done in reverse to provide air conditioning the house in the summer. The benefit of this system is:

  • A high level of energy efficiency which results in low annual energy bills
  • Dollar for dollar increase in the property valuation
  • Low maintenance system with a long life expectancy
  • Domestic hot water production as a by product during operation

Passive Solar (Free Heating)

By allowing sun into the south facing windows, the house will capture this heat, putting less demand on the mechanical systems. This will help to heat the home on cold days. The back of the house (south-facing) is almost all windows and will provide a significant reduction in the home’s winter heating bills. To minimize this heating effect in the summer, larger overhangs from the roof and sun shades will reduce the need to run the air conditioning.

Domestic Hot Water

Plenty of hot water awaits you. This home will produce all the hot water you could ever use by utilizing the following redundant technologies:

  • Geothermal domestic hot water
  • Solar Hot Water
  • Electric Back-up

The ground source geothermal system will also be used to help heat the radiant in-floor system in the basement.

Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)

To ensure there is plenty of fresh air in the home, a very efficient HRV system will be used. To reduce the energy consumption of the HRV, the design team selected an HRV with an extremely efficient, quiet EMC motor. These motors operate much more efficiently than a standard HRV motor, as much as 70%. This means our house receives plenty of ventilation without the high cost of air circulation.

Radiant In-Floor Heating And Thermal Mass

The radiant in floor heating system will maintain a comfortable temperature in the lower living areas of the home. Due to the high insulation values, the floor will maintain a comfortable temperature. The poured concrete in the basement floor absorbs this heat and releases it slowly into the house. The same process is used during the summer to maintain a cool, comfortable temperature. The more thermal mass in the house will maintain the temperature and decreases the need for constant mechanical cycling.

Building Envelope

This is the most important part of the Net Zero equation for this home. By having high levels of insulation, an air tight frame and high performance windows, the house reduces the need for excessive heating and cooling. During hot days, the house keeps the warm air out and vice versa on cold days.

To achieve this level of performance our design team decided to implement insulated concrete forms (ICF). There are many types of forms on the market and they all offer similar benefits.

ICF systems are sort of like blocks of Lego. A hollow cored foam block is either placed side by side or on top of each other to create the outer walls. Once in place and secured, they are filled with reinforced concrete. This makes for an extremely strong wall which blocks out sound, air and temperature differences.

We all know that hot air rises. It is important that once the hot air is in the home that it not be allowed to escape through a poorly insulated ceiling. Therefore, the house has an R-value of 80 in the ceiling. This eliminates any needless heat loss in the winter and heat build up from the attic in the summer.

Under slab insulation plays a large part in keeping the temperature of the ground from penetrating the basement. Installing foam sheets before pouring the basement floor result in a much more comfortable living area as well as significantly reducing heating loads. This insulation also helps to reflect heat from the radiant in floor heating system.

Energy Efficiency

To enable the owner to reduce wasted electricity, this home will employ “green plugs” that can be switched by zone to turn off those appliances that consume “phantom-stand by energy”. If you want to keep an appliance on, no problem, just use one of the regular plugs.

The design team chose efficient florescent lighting for most fixtures, offering the home pleasant lighting.

A “power pipe heat recovery” unit is installed in the primary drain to capture all that energy that goes down the drain. Consider for a moment all the energy that goes down the drain when you take a hot shower.  This energy is now recaptured by a very simple, non-mechanical piece of technology. This recycled energy is then transferred into your domestic hot water tank.

Let Nature Do The Work

Clothes Line: Don’t worry, this house was planned to accommodate a clothes dryer…but feel free to use the cloths line; you’ll save hundreds of kilowatts of electricity. Let nature do the work…this is what this house is all about.

Summary Of Technology & Design

This home achieved an Energy Star rating of 98.  The inspector stated that “this is the most energy efficient home I have ever evaluated.”  This is a testament to proper design, efficient technology and careful construction.  The following is a summary of the design, technology and other energy saving, environmentally positive attributes of the home.

Superior Energy Conservation

One of the major contributors of energy loss (heat in winter and cooling in summer) in buildings is leaky walls/ceilings and thermal bridging.  Leaky walls allow air to enter or exit, thus increasing energy consumption.  Thermal bridging (the transfer of energy through a material to create hot or cold spots) can be minimized by incorporating space or insulation between walls/supports  and/or utilizing ICF.  These techniques create a tight building envelope.  The principle behind this home is to supply the occupants with plenty of fresh air equally distributed throughout the space via a filtered HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator), as opposed to relying on holes in the walls.  Plenty of fresh, clean air.  The occupants are also able to open the windows.

  • High R value windows – North windows are Krypton filled, south facing windows are Argon filled.  High R value windows contribute to energy efficiency.
  • Insulated basement floor – Prior to pouring the basement, Styrofoam to R 14 was placed on the ground, thus creating a very comfortable floor.
  • Passive solar heating – South facing rooms have large windows to allow in light.  In the winter, this light helps heat the interior space.  Thermal mass (stone fireplace) helps retain this heat.  In summer, roof over hang helps prevent passive heating.  Shading is recommended.
  • Green Plugs – This is a fancy name for a designated outlet which is switched at the wall.  If one wants to turn off TVs or other appliances that continue to use energy even then they are “off,” just flick the switch for more energy savings.
  • Use of ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms), high density Styrofoam walls (basement and first floor) filled with reinforced concrete to create high R values and a tight envelope.
  • Spray in form insulation on second floor and ceilings to create high R values and tight envelope.

Technology

  • Geothermal Heat Pump (3 ton), ground source loop with triple function provides 1. Forced air space heating, 2. Air conditioning, 3. Basement in floor heating .  In addition, the geo thermal unit will also provide domestic hot water heating.  The geo thermal unit utilizing a special ECM motor which operates very efficiently.
  • Heat Recovery Unit- HRVs are generally standard in most new homes, allowing the customer the luxury of distributed fresh air.  While filtering the incoming and circulating air, the HRV also helps conserves the existing energy in the circulating air greatly contributing  to energy savings.  This unit also utilizes an ECM motor to allow for continuous use with low energy consumption.
  • Power Pipe:  An inline heat recovery unit attached to the main sewer line to recapture energy doing down the drain. No moving parts.

Energy Generation

  •  Photovoltaic Solar Array on south facing roof- 75, 175 watt solar panels to product an estimated 11,957 kW-h of electricity per year.  Estimated revenue under MicroFIT is $9,295.00. 20 year contract started April 2010. Estimated 20 year revenue is $180,000.
  • Solar Hot water unit-Use the sun to furnish 60% of your domestic hot water.  Combined with the hot water production of the geo-thermal and an electric back up unit, this home will have plenty of hot water…at less cost.
  • Natural Gas fireplace- Although not configured into the original energy equation of this home, the owners will enjoy this natural gas fireplace and reap the benefits of all the heat it supplies.  Simple, elegant and effective.

Cost-Saving Measures

  •  Optional rain water use for selected toilets, garden and car washing.  If the home owner wants to save money on water and sewer bills, a 6,140 litre cistern is installed.  A simple flick of a value will make this pressurized supply available.
  • Low VOC materials used (paint.)
  • EPA Water sense toilets
  • Florescent lighting (most fixtures)
  • Energy star appliances (optional)