Net Zero Energy House: A New Approach to Energy-Efficient Healthy Housing™

Posted on 2013-11-13 13:55:34 PST

Calgary Home Achieves Net Zero Energy with Radiant Heating System

The call came in late Friday afternoon. The owner explained that he was building a Net Zero Energy home. As the main engineer on the project, he was considering radiant heat but was getting conflicting stories when researching the technology.

The “advice” offered to him was confusing: “It was too costly”, “it was too complicated”, “there was maintenance involved” and no one could agree as to what was the best approach to use radiant heat. Sound familiar?

Frustration set in so he decided to do his own research. Which lead him to SmartRooms.

The engineer wanted a cost effective approach, providing the best comfort and most importantly meet the needs of a Net Zero energy home. He didn't think that the cost to do this should be any more expensive than building a standard home. The only exceptions of course of added insulation, use of solar panels and the home being well constructed. Constructing any “green” or Net Zero energy building or using a radiant heating system isn't complicated.

All that is required is a room-by-room heat loss calculation of the house. That means we don't install more heat than necessary thus minimizing costs. Then we recommend which of our SmartRooms products is best for his application. In this case it was our radiant ceiling system. In particular, our SmartRooms systems don't interfere with his design nor would he have to make modifications to accommodate a heating system. There's no maintenance thus allowing him to work in his home, not on it.

His next question was, of course, cost. Our over-the-phone quick price estimate was significantly less than what he was quoted for other systems and our approach made a lot more sense to him. Then we proceeded to discuss the “green” advantages of an electric radiant heating system. Gas systems, due to its CO2 emmisions, were not an option in this green community.

Once we had his house plans we could precisely determine the amount of heat he needed and where it needed to be. The resulting price of $3.50 per square foot was significantly better than his other quotes. This also included a high end heating control center for the whole house. Due to its low energy needs, despite being in a very cold climate, the house only required 6 watts/sq. ft.

This is the estimated energy profile for a Net Zero Energy Home:

For more information on this program, please visit Canada Mortgage and Housing's site. For more information on this project, please visit Echo Haven.

The project received plenty of media converge and was available for tours. In fact, people passing through the home, were so impressed with the heating system, it led to many more projects.

As to the comfort — “The house has been well received especially when it was -35oC (-31oF) outside and toasty warm in the house”.

This 2,700 square foot home, surrounded by forests and natural ponds is now finished and occupied. The last step to finish the story is to obtain real living condition operating costs. A third party is monitoring the energy usage and once the data on a complete heating season, with occupants, has been compiled we'll report on those findings.

The key here is that we'll have additional proof of an installed heating system — not just an electric radiant heating system.

Many manufacturers make energy efficiency claims that are based only on lab tests or none at all and not under real world conditions, as the owner of this project discovered. These claims go uncontested, causing confusion at best and at worst substantially higher costs to the owner. This study will go a long way in clearing up the confusion.