CAMBRIDGE - Imagine opening your monthly electricity and heating bills with a smile on your face because your house produces more energy than it takes to keep it running.
Better still, this "net-zero" house didn't cost more than other houses all around you.
That may be a dream today, but Reid's Heritage Homes of Cambridge hopes to make it a reality. It is one of the five builders across Canada chosen for a project that will involve building 25 net-zero houses. Reid's Heritage will build five of those homes.
The net-zero houses, homes that consume equal or less energy than they produce on an annual basis, will be built between now and 2016 as part of the $4-million ecoEnergy Innovation Initiativeproject funded by Natural Resources Canada and Owens Corning Canada, along with in-kind contributions of participating builders.
Blake Seeberger, vice-president of residential construction at Reid's Heritage, said it's not yet known where the company will build its five net-zero homes. But it will be in southwestern Ontario, most likely in the Guelph or Waterloo Region area.
In terms of technology, materials and efficiency standards, the homes will be a good 15 years ahead of where the building industry is today. They will include features such as advanced heating, cooling, ventilation, high-efficiency windows, superior levels of insulation and air tightness, solar panels that feed the electrical grid and water conservation devices.
The ultimate goal of the project is to find ways to build net-zero homes that are affordable and attractive to average consumers.
Achieving that is complex because there are so many "moving parts" involved in creating such a home, Seeberger said.
There are variable aspects of the net-zero equation, such as the price the homeowner will get for the energy produced by solar panels, for example, or how the homeowners use the houses.
"It is a lot more complicated than just sticking in an upgraded furnace and doubling your insulation and putting a couple solar panels on the top of the house," Seeberger said.
Reid has a long history of building energy-efficient homes. It built Canada's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) "platinum-level" home in Canada - it is located in Guelph - and a second one in Waterloo Region. It was the first home builder in Canada to get the Energy Star participant of the year award.
Throughout the project, Reid's will work with government agencies, energy-efficiency organizations and others to figure out the best way of building a net-zero home.
"It is something that will have a lot of scrutiny from engineers, third-party inspectors, municipal people, so that by the time the first home is built we will have done everything possible to create the highest value, most energy-efficient, quality home that Reid's Heritage can provide and be the shining star in the program," Seeberger said.
Builders will contribute their knowledge and expertise to advance the science behind sustainable building practices and to develop optimal systems that will work in ultra-efficient homes.
"They want to get us to the point so that by 2030, there is enough innovation and there are enough people building and using these homes that there really is no additional cost to the end user," Seeberger said.
Article reposted from The Record.