Originally published on the ECOreport.
Nancy Bepple isn’t a typical net-zero homeowner. She lives in an older home that wasn’t designed to be energy efficient. But Nancy happens to be one of those rare individuals who are very careful about their electricity usage. Consequently, 8 solar panels sufficed to meet her needs and Nancy Bepple became the owner of what is now expected to be British Columbia’s newest “net-zero home.”
Net-Zero Annualized Performance
“The thing to remember about solar is that we never talk about how it is going to do on a day-to-day basis. We always look at the annualized performance because that is easier to predict. It doesn’t really matter that her system doesn’t produce enough electricity during winter days. It matters that during the spring, summer, and fall she will produce much more than she actually needs and that just goes back into the grid. Over the course of 365 days, it’s very likely Nancy will produce more kilowatt-hours than she uses,” said Ben Giudici, of Riverside Energy Systems in Kamloops.
“I suspect there are quite a lot of homes in BC that generate more power, over the course of a year, than they consume,” said Alevtina Akbulatova, net metering specialist with BC Hydro.
She added, “But we don’t collect that data.”
“I do not think there would be more than a handful of residential buildings in BC that would even come close to being designed for net-zero,” said Giudici.
He knows of three projects designed to meet this standard. They have high levels of insulation, are airtight, good window performance, high-performance appliances, LED lighting, etc. Despite this, as far as he knows, none of them have achieved this goal.
The Net-Zero Lifestyle
“Not enough attention is being paid to making homeowners understand how to make the most of the net-zero lifestyle,” said Guidici. “It’s more common for someone to be completely oblivious to how much energy they are using. They might complain about their Hydro bill, but that rarely leads to strategic steps to reduce consumption.”
8 Panels Sufficient
Nancy Bepple is different. She’s a former city councilor, who lives alone and is very conscious of energy issues.
“Before we did Nancy’s project, we had a look at what her historical consumption has been. She’s an example of someone who has been ultra careful with her electricity use,” said Giudici.
Though she has an older home, those 8 panels should be able to produce 2,300 kWh a year, and that is more electricity than Nancy uses.
“Her site is as good as a solar site can get, with no shading at all. So I’m quite confident that, if that data she showed me is accurate, she will hit that net-zero point.”
“I also have natural gas for heat & hot water. The furnace doesn’t run in the summer and I have on-demand hot water, so my gas bill is almost zero in the summer time,” she said.
During the first 23 days her system was online, it supplied all of her needs and she sold BC Hydro 114 kWh.
The Decision To Go Solar
She contacted Giudici last April. Nancy had been thinking of installing solar panels ever since she visited her sister in the Netherlands, last December. She decided to make it a 2-kilowatt system after learning that could get her to net zero.
“One benefit I hadn’t thought about is that solar power creates carbon credits. I feel like I am more in control of my carbon footprint. Sometimes it feels difficult to change other things, like driving less. The solar helps to offset some of my other energy choices,” said Nancy.
“My neighbours like it too. I thought they might not like the look of the panels but they’re very positive. I’m constantly asked about the panels by people who walk by the house.”
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