A love for learning and a desire to show people what is possible led Joel Bosch, owner of Bosch Built Homes to build the first net-zero home in Medicine Hat. “I’ve always been pretty energy conscious and environmentally aware, so I knew I could improve on what I have been doing and find a better way to build a home,” explains Joel.
Net Zero homes produce as much clean energy as they consume, they use renewable energy systems and are typically 80% more energy-efficient than typical home builds. While most people may first notice the solar panels on this home, Joel says you save more energy per dollar on insulation and different heating systems. This starts from the ground up, with four inches of Styrofoam under a six-inch concrete slab giving them a rating of R20. Exterior walls are twelve inches deep and filled with a blown insulation product from WallBar which is made from 100% recycled materials, attic insulation is rated at R60, whereas a traditional house is usually R40. This means the house is airtight for maximum efficiency. Joel points out that “A traditional home will leak the entire volume of its air out the walls 2.5 times per hour, a net-zero home has a target of 0.6 air changes per hour.”
Another thing that makes this house unique is that there is no gas line. An electric heat pump replaces a traditional gas furnace to heat and cool the house, this heat exchange allows you to have full control over the air that leaves the house and the fresh air that you bring in. The hot water heater and back up furnace, which kicks in at around -17 degrees, are also run on electricity. All appliances are EnerGuide rated and low flow toilets were installed. There is even an electric car charger installed in the garage.
At the top of the house, solar panels were installed to power the house but it is still tied into the grid for times of lower production. When a surplus of energy is created, it goes back onto the grid and they will receive a credit on their utility bill. All of this, as well as how much energy the house is using is monitored in real-time by an energy monitoring system called Sense. “Once you see the numbers right in front of you, you are more inclined to cut back on your energy usage, you see the difference it makes when you shut off the lights in a room,” says Joel. He is excited to see how all these innovative electric products work in our climate as not a lot of research has been done.
Joel has a few more tests to pass before Bosch Built Homes can call themselves a qualified net-zero home builder but for now, he is hoping to inspire other people to get interested in energy-efficient homes, “If you don’t want to do all of this, you can pick and choose what you want to upgrade and go from there but ultimately this is what’s possible.” Joel and his family plan to live in this home and will be keeping track of what they save over the next year so he can provide some hard numbers. He estimates that it will take between fifteen to twenty years to pay back the extra costs of this home but only time will tell.
This is an example of an innovative business in Southeastern Alberta taking advantage of future trends in energy efficiency. To learn more about what is on the horizon for entrepreneurship visit www.apexalberta.ca. APEX Alberta is a collaborative initiative between three core service providers: Community Futures Entre-Corp, Medicine Hat College and Alberta Innovates.