Saturday, November 10, 2012

First World Problems

Brushing a bunch of snow (almost 10 cm!!!) on our steeply angles solar modules is definitely a First World problem.  Over the last few days, we did get a good dump of snow!  So, as it looked hopeful today for some sun, I spend 20 mins brushing off the snow so we could generate a few Watts...

 Hopefully, the sun will melt the rest of the snow/ice.

So glad I made the solar modules accessible
from our roof deck!

Come on, Sun!  Burn off the morning fog!

This was the temperature at 8:30am on Nov. 10th, 2012.

And this was the indoor temperature: a balmy 16 degrees C.
On days like this, we're hoping for the sun to come out and warm house!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pavers! But not quite done...

Man, this summer sure didn't work out to get our landscaping in. Between the rain, work and, well, the honest desire to do other things, we have not been quite as productive as we'd have liked.

So, a small celebrations occurs with every little bit of work done.

This week, we finally have installed permanent pavers to the basement suite door!  Yay!
So our tenant will not have to "walk the plank" with the danger of falling in mud every time it rains...

Now, only if we weren't 2 pavers short of getting it all done.  Sigh.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Scott McKeen comes to visit. Then writes about it.

Shortly after the July Doors Open weekend, we had a visit by Scott McKeen. He came on a mission to learn and then write about what our house is all about.  Serena was kinda' disappointed that the photographer didn't make an effort to make small things in the photos look right.  And the fact he opened up the pantry to reveal what we eat. Apparently, that should be secret.

Here's his story:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Concrete sidewalks! Finally!

Yay! A mud free way to get to the front door!

After months of hoping, planning and calling people, and almost doing it ourselves, we finally have concrete a sidewalk and pads at our doors.  Our friends a Pinnacle Soils ended up doing this work- and looks good.

They even found a piece of petrified wood as they were moving around dirt on site.

Now, hopefully we'll get some black dirt and start on our perimeter "raised bed" fence!

And a pad at the basement door. I'm hoping to find a creative
way to connect this to the main sidewalk. Pavers? Logs? Perhaps
even ancarbonized wood boardwalk?

We will connect the back door with pavers. Or something.

While moving dirt around the house, our site work crew found a beautiful
piece of petrified wood.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Doors Open! & Rainbows, too.

Ok, here's you last chance to just wander into our house without a personal invite!

We're on the Doors Open Edmonton tour this Sunday, July 8th~ so you can visit us from 1pm to 4pm.

Here are the details:

I'm part of 2 events:  Search for "Speakers Studio" where I will be talking about our house construction process and our open house is listed as "Beverly Heights Net-zero-ready House"

And after that, I think we'll take a breather from the public realm.  And perhaps finish our landscape and fencing work. And sidewalks.

And here are some rainbows and dramatic skies we saw last week:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Summer Solstice

Happy Summer Solstice!

I never tire of the view of the sun shining of the refinery as it sets. One day, fossil
fuel will see it's last sunrise.

The sun is extremely important to a passive-solar house. In fact, it makes my day when it shines, as we also contribute to the microgeneration of green power!  So, with the greatest amount of daylight today, we were keen to celebrate every Watt of power we make.

And here's the update from our Eco-Solar home tour!

We had 148 official visitors from 11:30am to 4:00 pm.  And we welcomed Monica & Paul from the Enmax PV House over. So, it was great to meet new friends and share the chasing netzero story.

The other neat part was when the gang from Fire Station #7 came by in their trucks! They were very keen to see how the PV connected, what would stay "live" and how to disconnect the system.  They asked lots of questions that Clifton from Great Canadian Solar and I answered. 

The Guys from Fire Station #7 visited us on the EcoSolar open house day!

Finally, we had a visit by Ruby and Hans- our neighbours from the plateau below our house. Ruby totally impressed Serena with her awesome yellow hair.  Ruby's a hair stylist, so it was on purpose, if you're wondering. Anyhow, Ruby is turning 90 this month- and it was amazing to see her go up and down the stairs and chat with us about our place. Happy Birthday Ruby!

So, now we will prepare for one more summer event: Door Open Edmonton!  So, if you want to drop by, here's your chance:

I'll be giving a talk on our house on Saturday, July 7th, and our house will be "open" for viewing on Sunday, July 8th.

Summer is off to a great start!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

EcoSolar Tour 2012

In June, as part of Environment Week, ChasingNetZero will be on the 2012 edition of the Eco Solar Home Tour!

We're site #2- and glad to help showcase a passive solar house with an active PV system!

You can find more info on the Eco Solar Home Tour by clicking here.

Hopefully it's a sunny day.

and Serena & I seem to be Pinterest addicts.  You can find some our house photos and other inspiration by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Colour testing! with a more portable machine!

Another big thanks to Philip Mees who loaned me an old PC laptop running Windows 98 that will work with our colorTron software and light spectrometer!

Robert, Felicity and I made some measurements of the dry bits of wood.  The last couple days have been rainy and hopefully I'll complete colour readings tomorrow, or by the weekend.

The wood decking is showing signs of wood splintering and checking- much more than the wood used vertically or on the underside of the wood soffit.  Robert was wondering if its because we planed the wood, but didn't sand it.

I'm wondering if it's just because it is getting much more standing water on it.  We'll see.

Felicity checkin' out the BBQ.  Rob workin' the ColorTron 2000.

Spring Clean Out / Organizing / Unpacking

I took some time over the long weekend to some closets cleaned out, shelves built/installed and basically re-organized the garage with my Dad's help. I am hoping the next step is to finally get everything put in it's proper place. 

What was once my tool crib is now a proper closet with shelves!

Another closet adapted for really unpacking. [Note: all
the stuff in the closet is temporary.  Serena's gonna' load it up properly.

And the mountain o' stuff that is left to unpack, find places for,
or re-distribute.  Hope we get this done by the Eco-Solar home tour!

Spring Blossoms!

It seemed like Spring lasted only a couple of days.  Bare trees blossomed and now they are leafed out!
I'm still learning the names of the trees and shrubs what we retained from the Fergusons'.

Crab apple blossoms. Brilliant reddish-purple. 
Nanking Cherry blossoms.

Lilac blossoms, mixed with Carragana 

Lilac in the sky

and even some tulips survived.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dust bunnies. Or why not to have black floors.

We are slaves to our black floors.  I'll let my wife expound on how she "told me so" and again, how I was too stubborn to listen. (Is anyone seeing a theme developing here? Don't answer that.)

So, we are finding every little crumb, drop, and what have you shows up on our black floors. 

And then there are the scratches.  Black isn't forgiving. So, I've accepted it as "markers of our life" and hopefully I can remember the story and reason behind most of the scratches.  If not, I'll make them up. * Sigh. *  But they look great for the 30 seconds after we clean them!

Oh- by the way- there was a practical reason to have them black: solar gain. With the matte finish, they warm up nicely as the winter sun beams through the windows.

On the wish list for Xmas: one of those robotic vacuums that will zip around and suck all the dirt.

Gah! Why we should always have roof overhangs...

Well, another lesson learned.

This picture shows water dripping on the siding and how
the eavestrough wasn't al that effective. 
In my architectural stubbornness, I didn't create an overhang on the north face of the house, thinking it would be flashed and peel & sticked and sealed sufficiently.

So, it was with much disappointment that we found the window at the top of our stairwell leaking.  Somehow, water was finding it's way into the window or getting behind the exterior wall sheathing. After getting the roofer to double check his work, it appears the weakness is the flashing of the roof over the exterior wall.

It seems there was not enough space for the eavestrough to be slipped under the metal drip flashing of the roof. So, the "caulked" gap between the flashing and the eavestrough failed. And water got in behind the siding, peel and stick and tyvek. Then found its way around the nail fin of the window and subsequently into the house.  Brilliant.

And that is when I really, really regretted not building an overhand on the north side of the house.

Lesson learned.

And in the spirit of learning more, I am trying out a product called "Encasement" to seal the gap between the flashing and eavestrough.

My friends over at King Edward Sustainable House are giving it a go too.

We'll see how it works!

Water was dripping at the drywall/window joint.

There was a huge gap between the metal drip flashing and the eavetrough. Not good.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What? We're still insulating?

Can you believe it? Today, I was insulating. We discovered that the basement suite wasn't as soundproof as we'd like and especially over / near the stair wells. When I started poking around for the cause [this was quite a while ago now], it turns out that the stair landings that separate our space from the basement suite were not insulated at all.  So, luckily we have somewhat removable carbonized wood floor boards to remove and I stuffed the cavities with insulation. Hopefully, that helps it a bit more. Otherwise, I'm sure to hear it from the boss.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Colour testing continues!

I am stunned and worried about our ridiculous weather.  I have not had to do any colour testing of the carbonized wood in any snow or cold conditions, as I feared last fall. December, January, February and now March have been at worst, sweater weather. With no snow on the deck. I am wondering if the seasons actually shifted by 3 months...

Anyhow, today I did all the colour measurements solo, hauling the monster desktop tower PC with keyboard and colour analyzer. Wish I had an old laptop that runs Windows 98 and has a serial port!

The wood used as roof decking is already fading into brown-grey...  The soffit isn't fading nearly as fast.

Finishes from left to right: opaque red exterior paint, Behr stain, natural, polyurethane, varathane.

Some noticeable lifting strands of wood. 

Privacy finally! All our blinds are installed.

With the help of my Dad, we finally have all the window blinds installed.  It only tool seven months! We are using the "cellular" type that creates a little pocket of air in all the blind "slats." But as seen by the thermal camera, lots of cold comes in around the window frames...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tiling complete on 2nd Floor!

Hats off to Greg Basaraba who finished our 2nd floor shower! It has a nice dark brown, wavy accent tile that we thought mimics the trees outside the skinny window. So, now I have to finish installing all the bathroom accessories and build a carbonized wood bench!

Love the "tree" shower curtain!

Interesting vehicles visit our 'hood.

Interesting vehicles visit our neighbourhood! This was quite the vehicle that parked outside- apparently to scope out something in or near the river. What would one call this thing?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We're on the Suzuki Diaries on CBC!

We're all excited around here that the Nature of Things/ Suzuki Diaries is airing this week on CBC!  We're pretty pumped and somewhat anxious to see what they edited in and out!  You can catch a trailer clip here: !

So, it seems like yesterday Dr. Suzuki and Sarika were here, touring the house. I'm glad we now have railings installed- andso  much more progress!

Monday, January 23, 2012

InfraRed Camera Reveals ALL!

I had an opportunity to borrow a FLIR E50Bx infrared camera from work. So, guess what I did? Nerdy me went around the house looking for where there are "hotspots" and areas of interest in our house.  I looked from both outside and inside.  I didn't pressurize the house, like they did during the blower door test, but nonetheless, there was still interesting things to point out.

If you can help it, don't build anything with a corner or windows. Or doors for that matter.  ; )

We still have some weak areas at the exterior wall/ceiling
intersection and corners. This is the top of our stairwell.

Weakness around the windows. And corner, again.
This picture is with the blinds drawn down.

Thermal mass works! This is the morning
after we had a fire going. Notice the brick is still
relatively warm behind the fireplace!
But unfortunately, the stove pipe top is really cold.

Mystery: why is one stair tread edge relatively warm?
It is not getting direct sunlight. Any ideas?

Found a window with a bad seal. Need to have this looked at.

Exterior shot. West elevation. Chimney at top, right.

Composite shot: back of house.
Notice the HRV intake and exhaust vents glowing
brightly. Sigh.