Hermann Thoene at his net-zero+ energy-efficient home in North Cowichan. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Hermann Thoene at his net-zero+ energy-efficient home in North Cowichan. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Vancouver Island man’s net-zero+ home generates more energy than it needs

Super-energy sufficient home keeps energy bills way down

Hermann Thoene says his house in North Cowichan, which he designed himself, was probably one of the first homes to receive a rebate from the municipality for achieving Step 5 of the BC Energy Step Code.

The province’s Energy Step Code sets five performance levels or “steps” that exceed the base BC Building Code, with Step 5 being the most energy efficient, and it will be required of all new homes in the province by 2032.

Thoene’s hybrid timber-frame home, which he shares with his wife Sandra, is considered a net-zero+ structure, which means that the house generates more energy than what is required to live in it.

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“In our case, the ‘more’ was our desire to generate enough energy to also charge our electric car,” he said.

Thoene said the key steps to achieve net-zero+ in his home were to design and build it with energy efficiency foremost in mind.

That includes installing an efficient heating system for hot water and space heating, passive solar heating in which roof overhangs, windows and doors are designed to collect solar heat during the heating season, and solar panels that generate enough electricity for all energy used in the home.

Thoene’s home is so energy sufficient, he paid just $12.86 for Hydro in December, which is the basic rate BC Hydro charges for using its services.

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“The design process for our home took over one year, and was driven by many requirements; from setbacks and size limitations imposed by the municipality to property slope, solar exposure of the roof to our personal requirements for the living space,” he said.

“Building a super energy efficient house was mainly my personal goal. My wife was more focused on the look-and-feel aspects, comfort, and practical day-to-day living features of the home.”

Thoene, who is originally from Germany, is the owner of VanIsle Ecolog Homes which sells affordable log home, cabin and cottage kits that use second-growth wood from sustainably managed Vancouver Island forests.

He said that while VanIsle Ecolog Homes creates energy-efficient structures, his home in North Cowichan was his first attempt to build a super-energy efficient house.

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Thoene said he wanted to limit the cost to build the approximately 2,800 sq. ft. house to somewhere between $250 and 280 per sq. ft., and ended up at exactly $250.

“We have lived in our home for a year now and we love it,” Thoene said.

“We love the warm feeling and look of all the exposed wood. We love the sunlight flooding the living room all day and the evening sun at dinner time. Sandra is very happy with our kitchen design, and apart from the unique look, it’s also very practical.”

Thoene said he would like to see more people building low-energy homes like his.

“I don’t have any commercial interests in promoting this project, but would love to share my experience and learnings with other people in our community,” he said.

For more information, check out http://ecolog-homes.com/blog/netzerohome.

Home Improvement

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