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Building NetZero homes in the Yukon

NET Zero Energy Efficient homes Whitehorse, Yukon

The Belgravia Green project involved building one net zero and two near net zero homes, using three different heating systems: geothermal (left), air-source heat pump (middle) and electric baseboard heaters (right). Photo David Dodge

In the following video, all three homes are gas-line free. The three heating systems have replaced the typical gas-fired furnace.

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Net zero home are homes that produce as much energy as they consume. While each home has a different heating system, all three homes are very airtight, super insulated and have triple pane windows. This gives Effect Homes the opportunity to see how different heating systems work for future net-zero projects.

House #1: Geothermal heating

In the first home, the heating comes from a geothermal heating system that uses a ground source heat pump. Think of a ground source heat pump as a reverse refrigerator.

A refrigerator uses a heat pump to move heat from inside the fridge to outside the fridge to maintain a pleasant fridge-like temperature. A geothermal system uses a heat pump to move heat from the ground into your house to keep it at a pleasant temperature for humans.

Upfront costs are high for geothermal: the system for this 1,540 sq. foot home costs about $40,000. However, without a gas line and monthly gas bills the operating costs tend to be lower – on par with natural gas when gas prices are really low and much better at other times. There is also a second potential major benefit – you can run it in reverse and use it to cool the home in the summer.

This home reached an EnerGuide rating of 91 which means the home requires little or no external energy.

House #2: Air source heat pump

An air source heat pump is the same as our geothermal system with a major difference. Instead of pumping heat from the ground into the house it pumps the heat from the outside air into the house.

Think of it as a reverse air conditioner. Instead of pumping the warm air out of the house for cooling you’re pumping warm air into the house for warmth. It does this all the way down to minus 15 degrees. After that it uses electric heating to help out on cold winter days.

This system costs about $12,000-$13,000, about the same as a gas furnace with an air conditioner. The operating costs are about 30 per cent less than a conventional system.

Fifty-eight solar PV modules power the house and export electricity to the grid when it produces more than the house needs. These cost about $58,000.

This net-zero show home gets 30 per cent of its heat from passive solar design. Large south-facing windows let the sun shine on a very comfortable concrete floor to store the heat.

The mechanical room in this otherwise whiz-bang home is remarkably empty. The air source heat pump and electric heaters look like a conventional furnace. There is also an on-demand hot water heater and a heat recovery ventilator to provide lots of fresh, preheated air to the home.

This home has a pending EnerGuide rating of 100.

House #3: Baseboard heaters

These are simply electric heaters that are scattered throughout the house. While not the most cost effective form of heat, this house has double stud, R56 walls and an R100 roof. While the other houses are super insulated, this house is super-duper insulated

This system costs very little up front, about $4,000. The costs to operate are around double that of low-priced natural gas, but this home is also solar ready so the electric heaters will eventually get their electricity from solar panels.

This home has an EnerGuide rating of 90.

It costs about 7 to 8 percent more to make a home net-zero ready. The secrets of net-zero, according to Les Wold, are creating an energy efficient envelope, use of passive solar heating and adding an energy supply such as solar.

While the two near net-zero homes don’t have solar modules at the moment, they are solar-ready. Effect Homes is demonstrating that there are many ways to reduce your energy consumption in your home, and you only need to do what makes sense for you.

Ideas for building net zero homes in Whitehorse/Yukon

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NetZero Homes in Whitehorse Yukon | Whitehorse Real Estate | AJ Malcolm