EcoGen’s Passive House Visit

By: Paul Cairns, President, Buildings for a Better Future

The house of the future! Chris Weissflog, President of EcoGen Energy and Build, can comfortably cool his home with the equivalent power consumption of 3 LED lightbulbs! Do I have your attention?

Buildings for a Better Future had the pleasure of seeing EcoGen’s passive house located just outside Merrickville on a lovely Saturday morning. Chris performed an engaging tour of his amazing home full of all sorts of exciting technologies that can help get a house’s carbon emissions to zero.

The open house event was pitched to demonstrate EcoGen’s various business offering’s for the most advanced, efficient and comfortable homes possible using environmentally friendly materials.

Well versed in the Passive House standard (homes that deliver 80%-90% less energy) they can boast the ability to provide an extremely well insulated home that is extremely air tight, and pays close attention to passive solar design features.

This Passive house, and EcoGen offers:

  • Grid-tied PV (net-metered)
  • Off- grid PV (batteries
  • Drainwater heat recovery
  • Ventilation pre-heating with ground loops
  • Summer cooling with ground loops
  • Phantom power kill-switch circuits
  • Efficient mechanical system design
  • Seasonal energy storage

Not sure what any of these are? Don’t worry; we will go inside in a moment and explain, but for now, remember that none of these systems are mandatory. EcoGen will work with you to provide a custom solution that starts with conservation and ends with generation. You get to decide what you want to do. Examples include:

  • Conservation – helping you make hassle-free choices to reduce consumption
  • Efficiency – helping with passive measures (insulation, air-tightness) and/or active measures (LED light-bulbs, ECM pumps and fans, ground loops, etc.)
  • Generation – Moving towards generating your own power with solar panels, hot water solar collectors and others.

 

Via this house EcoGen demonstrates direct hands-on experience, assuring you that it can be done, because they’ve done it themselves. Let’s go inside!

Exterior

Pulling up to this home was beautiful. Across from the Rideau river, with a south facing exposure and elegant solar panel awning made you instantly aware that this home offers something more. Notice how the design of the awnings and roof leave all windows and doors completely in the shade. This reduces need for cooling in summer.

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Main Floor

Walking through the energy-efficient glazed doors and stepping into the home and taking my shoes off I was welcomed to a beautiful and bright interior with a crowd of people standing around Chris as he discussed some of the great features in the kitchen and living room such as the “kill switch” to turn off the electrical outlet to the power bar for the TV in the living room, the low flow taps, the house orientation for passive solar heating and the triple-glazed, low-E, Argon windows with high performance frames for air-tightness.

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One of the most important things that I noticed was that the house felt extremely comfortable. It was around 35°C outside that day, but inside the house it felt PERFECT. With the ground loop source cooling that cools the ventilation air and runs through the floors Chris can cool his home with only 30 W of power. That’s the equivalent of three LED lightbulbs!. Chris achieves this extremely comfortable climate with the help of RESOL MX®, his energy home monitoring system that is currently monitoring temperatures throughout the home to give him valuable data on how to run it most efficiently.

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Home energy and performance monitoring system

The bathroom had a low flush (3L) toilet, and his shower drain had a drain water heat recovery system, which is essentially a copper coil that wraps around the shower drain to preheat the water coming to the shower head. A very simple and cheap way to save wasted energy that would otherwise literally go down the drain. The domestic hot water is on a recirculation pump with a short duration timer that keeps the water warm by circulating it rather the warm water and flushing the cold water sitting in the pipes. The timer is activated by a person entering the room so that the hot water will be available for them. Another way to save energy, and especially water by not having to let the tap run while you wait for your hot water to finally get to you! No more jumping into a cold shower when you first turn it on!

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Drain Water Heat Recovery Unit, Water loops to cool the house using the earth’s coldness in summer and heat in winter, Duct to circulate air through the home via the energy recovery ventilator

Root Cellar

Down in the basement we had an opportunity to see the root cellar (still under construction) which is a room separated from the rest of the house with its own off-grid climate control to allow you to store your fresh vegetables and produce and the battery system for the off-grid solar panels. Think of it like having a room that does the same thing as the produce aisle at the grocery store. Now that’s fresh food!

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Lead Acid Batteries for Solar System

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Mechanical Room

The mechanical room is where all the magic happens, where the “man behind the curtain” pulls all the strings and makes your house “livable”. Needless to say, THIS mechanical room is definitely a wiz. It boasts an energy recover ventilator (ERV) that exchanges heat from the air leaving your home with the air entering it (standard for most net-zero homes). This one had an interesting caveat of a ventilation pre-heat coil and post-cooling coil. The pre-heat coil takes heat from the earth below the garage in the winter and the post-cooling coil uses cool water that is cooled via ground loops to cool the air in the summer. This also condenses some of the moisture in the air to reduce humidity. The domestic hot water and house heating comes from a combination of a 60,000 litre thermal storage vessel located under the laundry room floor and another 6,000 litre store next to the mechanical room, which are heated year-round via a solar thermal system. The rainwater cistern will hold 35,000 L of rainwater and will supply toilets and for irrigation of vegetable gardens.

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Post-cooling coil: cools air in summer (hidden), Pre-heat coil: pre-heats air in winter using long-term thermal storage tank

 

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Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV), Valves to water loops in the floors (not shown), Ground loop piping for domestic hot water and heating/cooling the floors

To learn more about EcoGen’s Passive House Click Here.

Visit EcoGen’s Passive House during Green Energy Doors Open in Ottawa Sunday September 11, 10:00 am -3:00 pm. Register Online!