Netzero+ Home - Learnings
Every construction project is a learning curve for me and this one was no different. This chapter highlights a few things we would do differently or improve next time, but also some things which turned out even better than we expected.
Initially, we thought we wouldn't need any blinds as the house is fairly private. But after moving in, we found that we needed blinds for
- some of the west windows - the evening sun would shine right into the TV screen during certain times of the year.
- east facing office window - without blinds, it was impossible to work on the computer in the morning if the sun was shining right into your face.
- west facing guest bedroom window - a blind added more privacy and darkened the room.
Heating/Cooling on Main Floor
We thought it wouldn't be necessary to have an active cooling system in a well insulated house. But the super heat wave in summer of 2021 made us think differently. We decided to install 2 FCU units (fan-coil-units) that can provide quick heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. These FCUs use the same hot or cold water as the infloor heating.
The infloor heating on the main floor may have been overkill. It works well, but so far we haven't used it much. During the day the house warms up fairly quickly in the winter, especially when the sun is out. To take off the chill in the morning (where the coldest temperature in the living room may be 19 Celsius, if you even want to call that chilly) we can turn on the FCU for a few minutes.
We are also surprised at how much heat the occupants of a house generate - and how well it is maintained in our home. In our bedroom, we typically have 2 adults and 3 pets sleeping (2 medium/big sized dogs and a cat). Even with open window and outside temperature of 0 Celsius, the temperature in the bedrooom rarely drops below 19 Celsius.
Designing a Green Kitchen
Many years ago, I saw a green kitchen in an Ecolog cottage in Ontario and I really liked it. Therefore, I had the idea that we could have a green kitchen. Sandra was very hesitant as it might be overpowering or the green could turn out to be a shade we wouldn't like.
We wanted our colour to be stain, not solid paint, because we wanted to see the grain of the solid maple. There are no standard colour charts available for stain, so it was very difficult to find our "ideal" stain for the kitchen.
Thankfully, our contractor suggested contacting a colour specialist at EMCO in Victoria. We drove there and brought him a few maple samples of the wood to be used for our cabinets. After some detailed discussion, he preceptibly created some colour samples for us, which were ready just a few days later. Among these samples, we found exactly the colour we envisioned. Once the final kitchen cabinets were delivered and we saw the colour on a bigger area, we liked it even more.
All the contractors and visitors who have seen it so far, love it and had very positive comments on the colour choice.
After living in the house for 8 months, we find that the sound insulation from outside noise is not as good as we thought it would be. The basement, with ICF walls, has very good sound insulation; but on the main floor we can hear quite a bit of outside noise through the SIP panel walls.
When we lived in our first Ecolog home on a very busy street, the sound insulation was excellent, and we couldn't hear any trucks accelerating up a hill right in front of the house.
Overall, we are pretty happy with all our appliance choices. Below are a few comments on what works really well, and what doesn't. You can find a detailed list of the makes and models of all our appliances in the Trades & Suppliers section.
- Fridge: It is very quiet, and the size, being a "counter depth", works really well for our space. We love that there is no "lost food" in hard-to-reach places at the back of the fridge. We are suprised, though, at how much energy even an "energy efficient" fridge uses.
- Induction cooktop: This is well worth the money. It's easy to clean and fantastic for cooking. We love the quick response time to increase/decrease the temperature and the fast, powerful heating.
- Wall oven: It works well, but the touch controls are overly sensitive and annoying. We constantly activate them when only our clothes brush against it. This is very irritating, especially when working in front of the stove. Sometimes, even our dog can turn on controls as she strolls by.
- Microwave: We used a countertop microwave instead of a "built-in" model as we didn't want a very big microwave. Also, countertop models cost only about a quarter of the built-in ones. This works very well for us and we love how our kitchen company built a custom trim to fit it nicely into the cabinet.
- Dishwasher: Cleans very well, is quiet and energy efficient.
- Heatpump dryer: It is as energy efficient as promised. It doesn't need ventilation to outside, therefore, we have reduced potential air leakage. The only disadvantage is that it can only do fairly small loads and it takes longer than regular dryers. However, for our small 2 person household, this is no issue.
- Downdraft fan in kitchen: We didn't want to have a hood fan over the kitchen island. Our research showed that downdraft fans could be an alternative, but many people warned that they wouldn't be very effective. We were careful to choose a powerful unit (600 CFM) which would also rise up high enough to catch fumes and splatters (13" for our unit). We are very happy how this unit works - it removes all cooking smells very effectively.
Ventilation / HRV
The master bedroom could use more ventilation provided through the HRV. With 2 adults and 3 animals, CO2 levels rise pretty high at night, unless the window is open. The HRV doesn't bring in enough fresh air into this room.
In the basement, we should have invested in one more window, on the east side (suite kitchen), as well as having 2 or 3 windows that open, instead of fixed.
We had long discussions with our HVAC company if we needed make-up air or not. A make-up air system automatically turns on a fan and blows pre-heated air from outside into the home as soon as the kitchen fan starts. This is required by the BC Building Code in certain situations when a wood or gas burning appliance is in the house. Installing such a system can be quite expensive and, in our case, it would have added $4,000 to $5,000. Happily, we found out that we didn't have to install this as our woodstove is airtight enough.
One problem now arises when the downdraft fan is turned on and the woodstove burns: The fan is indeed so strong that it pulls smoke through the door seal of the woodstove. An easy solution is to crack open a window to avoide the negative pressure in the house. It took us a few smoke detector warnings before we learned this lesson.
The engineered oak floor on main level works very well. It doesn't scratch from dog activity, no matter how hard our dogs try (and they try really hard). The floor also doesn't show much dirt - only the floating dog hair bundles.
We are still very pleased with all tile choices, even after looking at them for 10 months.
The stained concrete in the basement looks great and was a very good, low cost choice. It isn't quite as durable as we thought and can still scratch and stain if we are not careful. But if the potential suite ever gets finished, it's very easy to lay a different flooring on top.
Our MDF baseboards in the guest bathroom had to be replaced after we had a leaking toilet tank, undetected for a few weeks. So we used the floor tiles for the new baseboards. We should have done that from the beginning, having tile baseboards instead of MDF in all bathrooms.