Monday, September 12, 2016

Solar Domestic Hot Water Monitoring Project

© Richard Legner
We included a domestic solar hot water (DSHW) system when we built our SuperGreen Laneway house back in 2014.  There is no known real-world performance data on these systems in the Yukon.  In partnership with City of Whitehorse, Energy Solutions Centre and Yukon Housing Corp we have installed a monitoring project to establish actual energy savings of the system.  The data is near real-time (updates ever two minutes - refresh your browser).

The monitoring system was commissioned on September 1, 2016.  You can view the data at:

Good documentation of the various data fields is found at:

Two summary monitoring reports will be prepared as part of this project: one in March 2017 and a second at the end of 2017.

Background & Project Objectives

Solar domestic hot-water (SDHW) heating is a building-scale renewable energy opportunity that has had limited application in Yukon to date.  It is an established and reliable technology that has the potential to further reduce the environmental footprint of Yukon buildings; in particular, residential buildings.  However, there is no known actual real-world performance data for this technology in Yukon.  This monitoring system is the first to systematically monitor the actual performance of the existing new SDHW system at 704B Wood St. in downtown Whitehorse. 

Photovoltaic (solar electric) technology has as relatively good uptake in the marketplace and PV performance is relatively easy to monitor.  Conversely solar-thermal technology has had much lower installation rates in spite of its relatively higher efficiency of conversion of solar energy to heat.   This lower rate of uptake is thought to be due to four factors: 
  1. lack of demonstrated performance of the systems in the Yukon environment; 
  2. perception of higher capital costs relative to PV; 
  3. lack of skilled trades and contractors supplying and installing the systems; and 
  4. limitations created by ability to utilize the energy based on building hot-water demands. 
The project looks to address the first barrier to uptake:  demonstration of performance.  
It is believed that there is place for solar-thermal in the increasing energy efficiency of Yukon homes and buildings because of the technology’s relatively higher efficiency for generating thermal energy and the 5 kW installed capacity cap on PV created by the Yukon’s Micro-generation program (solar thermal can be installed in addition to PV).

Existing System

© Richard Legner
The SDHW system at 704B Wood St. is a single flat-plate collector system installed in late 2013.  The system is a Thermo Dynamics CSA-certified“Solar Boiler” hot water heater installed on a two-bedroom single detached home.  A unique feature of this home is the basement is heated by an in-floor hydronic system supplied from the home’s hot water system.  The purpose of this configuration is potentially increase the solar fraction provided by the SDHW by using the basement concrete slab as thermal storage of solar-derived heat.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

One year (almost) of energy use data from our new SuperGreen home

Below is a chart summarizing actual month energy use data for the last year from our new SuperGreen Laneway Home in downtown Whitehorse.  This home is rated as an EnerGuide for Homes rating of 89--just about the highest so far for the Yukon.

The graph shows in blue total actual energy use (electricity because the home is electrically heated too) and in red is the predicted energy use from the energy model created when the house was planned and built.

Since winter 2015-16 has been unusually warm I've "normalized" the actual energy use data to average winter conditions.  That way it takes out the effect of a warm winter.

Also I've adjusted the modeled energy use data for one occupant.  The "standard" conditions used in the EnerGuide rating assume a family of four.  So, I took that out of the model to better compare apples-to-apples.

What this shows is this house too is performing better than expected.  Overall, it has used 19% less energy than the model predicted.  This is a similar result to our SuperGreen duplex built in 2011 that uses about 30% less than predicted.

A few interesting things in the graph for 704B Wood St above.  You can see energy use "spike" in November and February.  In both of those months the garage was heated and "occupied".  In November my friend used the garage for about two weeks as a framing shop; and then in February Georgi and her friends setup a pop-up craft shop for a week.

I was worried this house was using more energy than predicted, but now that I see all the numbers in, I'm pretty happy with the results.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Who I'm voting for in 2015 Municipal Election and Why

Historically I always felt voting was a "private" matter.  But this year, I've become more engaged in the Whitehorse municipal election, primary through the Whitehorse Urban Cycling Coalition (  So I thought I'd share my thoughts on this election.

What I'm looking for primary is candidates that will work towards a sustainable future for Whitehorse.  Something we can afford and creates a high quality of life.  What we do know is that the automobile is a killing us financially, socially and of course, environmentally.  The car is a dead-end.  Yes, I own and operate not just one, but several automobiles.  And yes, we will never be "car-free." But what we need to do is work really hard to build a community where we can minimize the usage automobiles so we can afford the future we want.

We see that when we have people-oriented development, it is a much lovely town, as opposed to car-centric development.  I've traveled and explored communities that are moving away from the car, and they are so much richer places to be.  Unfortunately, in Whitehorse we've inherited a town that has been built for the car.  We need to deal with that sad reality.

The WUCC put together eight questions for the candidates and to date we've gotten an amazing 15 complete written responses from the 25 mayor and councilor candidates running  (you can see the questions and answers on the WUCC website).  If you look at the question, there is a lot more going on there than just "give us more bike lanes".  In fact, what I find is that the candidates responses are are pretty good proxy for how well they share my vision for a sustainable community.

So, based on this, my councilor picks will be (as of today):

  • Helen GEISLER - quite cycle supportive and what I thought were some smart measured answers to some questions.
  • Betty IRWIN  - She did not benefit from participating in cycling as part of her generation, but seems open minded and supportive of sustainable transportation and has practical experience with council. 
  • Roslyn WOODCOCK - downtowner and totally supportive of sustainable transportation.
  • Jocelyn CURTEANU - good positive commitment to cycling, but probably needs more information about the importance of good, contiguous cycle infrastructure to open doors for more of the community.  
 Yes, just 4 I guess.  The point was well made that you don't need to vote for all six positions.  If you don't know them (or are only voting based on name recognition), then don't vote for them!  Really, you are stealing votes from yourself for the candidates you DO want in.

Now, who NOT to vote for.  Well, based on the WUCC feedback, there are a few candidates who, in my mind, are clearly "yikes, not friends of bikes:

  • George ARCAND
  • Dan BOYD
And the zeros (candidates who did not respond to WUCC's queries in any form) are:
  • Mike TRAVILL
  • Garth BROWN
Remember, voting is sexy!



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sustainable Design Elements Signs from Open House - 704B Wood Street

Thanks to everyone who came out to our open house at 704B Wood Street last week.  And an even bigger thank you to the hard working team who made it possible.

A number of folks asked if they could have a copy of the sustainable design information signs around the building, so here there are for your perusal:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

This heat pump Goes Up to Eleven

EnergyGuide label on the mini-split heat pump installed to heat our new Super GreenHome.  It goes up to eleven!  Note that the efficiency scale bar on the bottom of the tag only goes up to 10.2.

This is a Fujitsu Extra Low-Temperature Heating mini-split air-to-air heat pump.  The manufacture claims it operates down to -26oC.  We've had it installed for only a month now, but we did have a -25oC morning.  I went out to check and it was purring away making heat.

More pictures to come...