One way to operate your home with zero emissions in British Columbia is to fully electrify it, with a key component being a heat pump for space heating and cooling. Both geothermal as well as air source heat pumps are highly efficient and sustainable solutions.
However, when planning your electrified home, it’s essential to consider limitations in power supply. Using high-consuming devices like a hot tub, dryer, induction oven/cooktop, and car charger simultaneously may exceed your amperage capacity to handle the peak load. In such cases, a solution for load management or your own power storage system will be necessary.
Important: Plan your mechanical system and overall power demand with your energy advisor, builder and electrical contractor at the design stage of your home.
Solar Panels & Energy Storage
Another option for load management is an Energy Management System (EMS). If you have an electric car, you can make use of a new system that allows for the addition of an EV-carger (30 – 60 amps) without counting it towards the overall load calculation. Ask your electrical contractor for more information.
Important: If you are planning a solar energy system, make sure to have your home designer optimize your roof layout to achieve maximum efficiency per panel. Working with your builder and solar supplier, the home designer will maximize roof slopes and other aspects that enhance sun exposure. In Wilden, there are no design restrictions for solar installation, except that the panels must lay flat on your roof.
Dual Energy Systems
Wilden has been a pioneer in designing dual-energy HVAC systems. These systems work with two energy sources: electricity and (renewable) natural gas. Either a geothermal or air source heat pump is installed and backed up by a high-efficiency gas furnace or gas hot water heater.
At temperatures below minus 10 degrees Celsius, your heat pump will need to be backed up so its energy demand doesn’t run out of proportion. You can choose a system that automatically switches to gas when temperatures drop, or have a manual switch installed.
A great example of a highly efficient dual-energy system can be found in the Next Generation Home, the newest research home built by the Wilden Living Lab initiative. Thanks to its efficient envelope and multi-source clean-energy system this net zero home functions with a total of 200 amps including the legal suite.
Important: Whether fully electric, dual-energy, or gas-only, your mechanical system needs to be carefully planned during the design stage of your home. Your energy advisor will collaborate with your builder and mechanical contractor to tailor the system to your home’s size, envelope efficiency, and zoning requirements.
RNG – Carbon Neutral Gas
Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) by FortisBC opens up the opportunity to have a dual-energy system with gas appliances while keeping emissions near zero. RNG is biogas derived from organic waste and has a lower emissions factor than electricity in BC.
You can sign up for RNG any time on your FortisBC Gas account. To achieve 100% carbon neutrality, opt for 100% RNG. During the sign-up process you will be informed about the costs and potential reductions in carbon taxes. If you wish to reduce the upcharge from regular natural gas, you have the option to choose a lower percentage of RNG in the gas mix.
Pre-Construction Decision Guide
At the design stage of your home, take the following considerations:
Set energy and low-emission goals / apply for grants
Your energy advisor can guide you through the BC Energy Step Code, government grants and FortisBC rebates, including funding for an Integrated Design Process, which is highly recommended.
Ask for energy modeling
With digital modeling of your home, your energy advisor can explore different ways to hit your energy targets, stay within your budget and work with the available power amperage even at peak demand times.
Think envelope first
Since the building envelope is the key factor for the energy demand of your home, it needs to be the first element to be planned out with your builder. When running into budget constraints, make air tightness a priority. According to our research, investments in air tightness are even more efficient than adding insulation to your walls.
Plan out and right-size your HVAC and hot water system
Factors to take into consideration when designing your system: low-emission goals, budget, envelope efficiency, power demand and of course: comfort.
Plan your roof for solar
If your energy plan includes a solar panel system, ask your builder/designer to lay out your roof for maximum efficiency. Your energy advisor and solar contractor can give guidance.
Consider drain water heat recovery
Systems to recover and reuse the heat from your drain water are becoming more affordable and efficient. However, your home’s drainage system needs to be planned for a compatible heat recovery system from the outset.
Explore smart home, energy management and storage solutions
These systems help with managing power use and saving energy. Talk to your builder and electrical contractor about available products.
Follow the Wilden Living Lab to stay up to date
In collaboration with FortisBC and UBC Okanagan, the Wilden Group consistently invests in research for sustainable home building. Our research homes are specifically designed to test innovative products and practices. By sharing the results with families building in Wilden, we give guidance for planning an energy efficient home.
Sign up for our newsletter at www.wildenlivinglab.com.
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