February 17, 2021: A net-zero home in Edmonton, Alberta stayed toasty warm when the polar vortex brought bitterly cold temperatures to town, enabling Darryl Zubot and his family to stay comfortable and safe—without having to turn on the furnace.
In pure dollar terms, net-zero homes can be a costly venture, with homeowners looking at up to 20 years before they recoup the up-front investment, writes CBC News. But the trend toward climate-friendly, self-sufficient houses is gaining momentum—even in a region where winters are wild, and oil and gas is still perceived as the economic bread and butter.
Zubot and his family recently built a net-zero home south of Edmonton, CBC says. The structure features south-facing, triple-paned windows, added insulation, extra-efficient appliances, and a heat pump—all working together to sharply reduce the home’s energy consumption. In Alberta, that means they can sell electricity to the grid when they have a surplus, then buy some back when they need it.
The windows measure six by 10 feet and provide “about 30 to 35% of the home’s heat” during bright, sunny days, CBC says, helping to keep things cozy and warm during the worst of winter. Add the heat pump, and the house remained a toasty 23°C indoors this week, even as the mercury outside plunged below -30°C during the recent stint of bitter cold.
“This house is a testament to how you can be completely self-sufficient in this day and age, with no reliance on oil and gas,” Zubot told CBC.
Zubot plans to add solar panels this spring, after which the house will generate as much energy as it uses. “We need to do our part to reduce our oil consumption,” he said. “I know it’s not going to change overnight and we still need oil, but it’s definitely slowly transitioning.”
This particular net-zero project was expensive—Zubot paid “roughly C$40,000” more than what an equivalent non-net-zero house would have cost. But “we plan to be here for a long time, and it’ll pay back in the long run,” he said. “It’s definitely not a short-term investment game, but long-term it definitely pays off.”
Then again, the strict financial calculation was not the Zubot’s primary concern—nor is it for many net-zero homeowners, said Dale Rott, co-owner of Effect Home Builders in Edmonton.
“They are aware of climate change and they have an ideological reason,” he told CBC. “It’s not because of cost savings on utilities and all that. We’re not hearing that yet.”