Thursday 8 October 2015

Vereco Homes: Affordable and Energy-Efficient

A luxurious home that will save you money and be good for the environment – is that really possible? Ronn Lepage was convinced it was – and he set out to prove it.

Vereco Homes are designed to provide customers with a super comfortable home without spending more than they’ll save on utility bills. “Your mortgage will be a little higher, but your utility bills will be lower,” Ronn says, “and you get a super comfortable home.”

Regina’s Conservation House, designed by Dr. Rob Dumont and built in 1977, is believed to be one of the first conservation demonstration houses constructed in North America. Dumont established that in an average Saskatchewan home 60% of the energy is used for space heating, 20% to supply hot water, and 20% goes to lights and appliances.

Following the energy-efficient principles established by Dumont, Vereco Homes applies a three-tiered strategy to designing energy-efficient homes:
1. Reduce how much energy you use;
2. Reuse energy where you can; and
3. Finally, replace energy with greener energy.
Here’s how it works.

Take Advantage of Passive Solar Heat
Place your house carefully and install windows in the right places and as much as 35-40% of your home’s space heating requirements can come from the sun.

Braden and Ali Turnquist have a brand-new Vereco home on Victoria Avenue. The house was built on the north side of the lot with large windows on the south side. Sunshine fills the house on cold winter days while built-in awnings provide shade during the summer. 32% of the Turnquist home’s space heating requirements are solar and free.

Trees and fewer windows on the other sides of the house help guarantee that the house will be warmed by the sun in winter but remain cool in the summer.

Make the House a Little Smaller
An efficient design with multi-functional rooms and minimal hallway space keeps the house smaller and cheaper to heat.

A smaller house with fewer interior walls employing standard length cuts also saves on construction costs.

Nine-foot ceilings on the main floor of the Turnquist’s home make the space feel bigger than it really is, especially with all the large windows.

Braden and Ali used to live in a 1,200 square foot townhouse that is very close in size to their new home (almost 1,500 square feet). But that’s not how it worked out in real life. “There was 700 square feet upstairs,” Braden explains. “But we lived downstairs where there was only 500 square feet because of the garage.”

Insulate Well
“We used R40 insulation in the walls, R80 in the attic, and R20 insulation under the basement slab,” says Ronn, describing the Turnquist home. “It’s like living in a giant sleeping bag.”

The insulation is on the outside so the heat spreads evenly around the house. There are no drafts or chilly corners.

The insulation also soundproofs the home. “We don’t hear anything that goes on outside,” Braden says.

Vereco recommends Zone D (Arctic) windows with different coatings depending on where they are located. The walls are thick, but the windows on the south side of the house are flared to let in more light.

Install an Energy-Efficient Heating System
Ronn recommends purchasing the most energy-efficient heating system possible. Electric resistance heat is cheapest, or you can go with a hydronic (in-floor heating) system.

None of Vereco’s homes have air conditioning – it’s just not necessary.

Minimize the Cost of Heating Water
There are several steps you can take to minimize the amount of energy (and money) invested in supplying your home with hot water:

1. Low-flow showerheads and low-flow taps reduce hot water usage by 40%. A slightly smaller bath tub saves an additional 25%.

2. Insulating the hot water heater and the connecting pipes helps prevent heat loss.

3. Using cold water when washing clothes is another energy-saver.

Choose Energy-Efficient Lights and Appliances
LED lights are energy efficient and supply a nice light.

Lots of windows (the Turnquist home has a small window in the walk-in closet as well as in the shower) provide natural light, minimizing the need for artificial light.

It’s important to purchase Energy Star appliances, but you also want to make sure that they have a good rating. “Your fridge is working all the time so focus on that,” Ronn says.

If you do a lot of cooking and baking, keep in mind that a Vereco home is very well insulated and will warm up. An induction cooktop generates less heat. Braden and Ali chose to install a double oven. They use the small top oven most of the time, which generates very little heat.

Reuse Energy
Vereco homes are airtight so you need to ensure a good flow of air at all times. The air entering the house in winter is cold, but a heat recovery ventilation system will pre-heat the air coming into the house using the heat from the air exiting the house.

You can also install a drain water heat recovery system so that energy from waste shower water going out of the house is used to heat the water that is going into use.

Use Renewable Energy
Using alternative energy sources can be an expensive way to save energy so this is one of the last options in Vereco’s energy-saving toolkit. All Vereco homes have conduit built in so that the home can easily be outfitted with solar electric and solar thermal systems in the future. Ronn advises Vereco clients to monitor their energy use for a year before they install alternative energy systems. “They’ll probably be surprised how little energy their Vereco home uses,” Ronn says, “and then they can properly size their investment in alternative energy.”

The price of solar panels has been going down, and Ian Loughran, an advisor to Vereco, believes that next summer will be a good time to put in solar. With net metering, solar electric panels equate to financial savings.

The Turnquists plan to install solar panels next summer and all the conduits are in place to make that an easy process.

The Vereco Option
Vereco’s energy-saving principles balance energy savings and cost. “We implement many energy-saving techniques,” Ronn says, “but always keep an eye on balancing the costs with the savings.” 

Vereco Homes provides a wide variety of design options, from large to small to very tiny and will work with you to develop a design that meets your family’s needs.

Photos of the Turnquist home were taken by Braden Turnquist

See Also:
Passive House: Comfortable, Energy-Efficient Homes
Solar Energy for your Home
Energy-Efficient LED Lighting