UBCO housing project reveals massive energy use reductions

Energy efficient experiment

Initial results of a housing experiment in Kelowna's Wilden neighbourhood show significant energy and greenhouse gas savings.

The two homes that are part of the Wilden Living Lab project may look similar from the outside, however they are very different.

Researchers have documented both of the home's energy consumption patterns for the last 18 months and results have shown that the 'Home of Tomorrow' uses 67 per cent less energy than the 'Home of Today,' which translates to 40.8 gigajoules less per year. This amounts to 99 per cent fewer carbon emissions - the carbon offset equal to removing 16 gas powered vehicles from Kelowna streets.

To compare, one GJ of electricity can produce 1,000 pots of coffee or keep a 60-watt light bulb lit for six months.

This data has been analyzed by a team from UBC Okanagan's School of Engineering joined by FortisBC, Wilden, Authentech Homes, Okanagan College and the Natural Sciences and the Engineering Research Council of Canada. 

The goal of the partnership is to show home buyers the real-life comparisons of materials and equipment when it comes to purchasing an energy efficient home, according to FortisBC's Carol Suhan. This experiment is part of FortisBC's way to advancing its goal of lowering emissions by 30 per cent from its customers by 2030. 

“We’re thrilled with these results – our shared vision is to help accelerate the transition to carbon neutral residential living, especially in new homes. We believe it can be done competitively and affordably, and the research so far shows that,” she says.

The Home of Today was built by Authentech Homes in 2017, featuring a 92 per cent efficient natural gas furnace, electric hot water tank, double glazed windows, R40 insulation in the ceiling, incandescent lighting and standard appliances. It is built to standard building code requirements.

The Home of Tomorrow, also built by Authentech in 2017, features a ground source heat pump with natural gas back-up, solar panels, heat pump water heater, water-saving toilets and faucets, triple-glazed windows, R50 insulation in the ceilings, LED lighting and high-efficiency appliances.

The Home of Tomorrow is 52 per cent more energy efficient than the Home of Today, achieving a great EnerGuide rating of 47 GJ per year. 

This rating showcases how much energy a home will use in a year, similar to a consumption rating of kilowatt hours per year for appliances, miles per gallon for cars or even calories per serving of food. The lower the number, the better performance.

The LED lighting in the one home costs less than $1 per month compared to the incandescent lighting which costs approximately $10 per month. 

“That just by itself is significant savings for the homeowner in energy costs,” says Suhan. 

The Home of Tomorrow's ground source heat pump generates nearly four times more heat energy than what is put into it, making it 400 per cent efficient. The Home of Today's standard natural gas furnace is only 92.1 per cent efficient in producing heat. 

More results will be published throughout next year as more data becomes available. 

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