Recently, I posted a few thoughts here about the resilient home in response to extreme weather events across the eastern provinces. Some former clients (and now friends) responded by sharing a bit of their experience living in the home that we designed together in Smithers, BC.
Among other things, it features a cob floor with hydronic heat; a solar hot water pump (with surplus solar thermal power stored in the gravel in the slab); a 40,000 L cistern to collect roof water; and a biogas digester in place of a conventional septic tank. Theresa and Brian provided a cost break-down as follows:
- South orientation – free.
- Moving most of the north windows to the south side – free.
- Passivhaus rated windows from Europe – 10% for the windows + $5000 for shipping (purchased 3 years ago, but could cost less now if purchased locally or with combined shipping.)
- Annualized heat storage – 16 loads of gravel and surface hydronic pipe that were needed anyway; plus an extra 1000 ft of pex for a second hydronic layer, about $500.
- Earthtube – $600 for a pallet of PVC pipe to bring air into the HRV. This maintains a stable 10° intake air for most of the year.
- Cistern – about $10,000 (still a better option than spending $8000 on a well with 40% chance of hitting water which is often sulfurous. The rainwater is better quality and serves every purpose including drinking water.)
- Biogas septic tank – about $3000 direct costs.
- Solar PV – $10,000 for 2kW, all installation done by owner.
- Solar thermal – about $10,000, with $150 saved each month that the hydroelectric heat is shut off.
Their message concludes: “…the payback time is usually the day that you are having a hot shower after a hot meal & reading a book in front of a cozy fire while the rest of the neighbours are crawling around in the basement in the dark trying to keep their pipes from freezing… So thanks for your effort in the design of this house & we are totally happy with it…Many features have been an experiment but all are working out at the high end of our expectations.”
This is a great example of how a resilient home can bring long-term savings as well as the benefits of comfort and quality of life. My thanks to Theresa and Brian for having allowed me the privilege of working with them on this wonderful home (see photos), and for taking the time to provide this update on the time they’ve spent there so far. We’re glad that it turned out to be such a good fit.