Family enjoying living inside Red Deer’s first net-zero home

People in 20 years will wonder why all homes weren’t built to the net-zero energy standards now under development today, says an official with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Krista and Jonas Neidert

People in 20 years will wonder why all homes weren’t built to the net-zero energy standards now under development today, says an official with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Brian Hallahan and two co-workers from CMHC’s regional office in Calgary presented Avalon Master Builder president Jonas Neidert with a gift basket and time capsule to recognize the role he and his family have played in setting new trends for environmentally sustainable homes.

Neidert, his wife, Krista and their 18-month-old son are the first family in Red Deer to move into a home built under the corporation’s EQuilibrium program.

“Red Deer is really the EQuilibrium capital of Canada,” said Anand Mishra, regional advisor from CMHC’s Calgary office.

Of the 10 EQuilibrium homes that have now been built across Canada, four are in Alberta and two are in Red Deer, with the other built by Laebon Homes.

CMHC’s EQuilibrium program was set up to encourage development of new standards that reduce energy consumption and encourage use of locally-produced, environmentally-friendly building products.

CMHC provides builders with $50,000 to $60,000 to help cover research and promotion costs, said Mishra. That grant comes with an expectation that the builders who receive it will share the insight they have gained and includes a promise that the homes will be available for tours during a set period of time.

Neidert said the design and construction of his family’s 2,624-quare-foot home cost about $200,000 more than if it had been built to conventional standards. The CMHC grant was not applied to actual construction of the home.

He hopes a portion of the additional cost for his new home can be recovered through its capacity to generate its own electricity from roof-mounted solar panels and heat its own water for domestic use and heating systems.

The actual level of payoff to the homeowner will swing on energy costs, said Mishra. There is no gas line to the house at all, so the Neiderts will not have a gas bill.

Costs of new homes like the Avalon Discovery 3 will go down as more people build them, he said. CMHC estimates that the house will generate more electricity than is uses, with the balance to show up as a credit on the family’s power bill.

Neidert said his first utility bill had a negative balance for electrical use. That credit will be applied to the account in winter, when electrical use increases and some of the power will have to come from the City of Red Deer’s power grid, he said.

Other features include insulation and ventilation systems that hold heat inside the house when it’s cool outside and prevent it from getting too hot in the summer months. There’s no lawn to mow and the landscaping is designed to use plants that do not have a high water requirement.

There’s no basement, either, said Neidert. That’s because it’s much easier to insulate against cold air than it is to insulate against cold from the ground, he said.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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