After 10 months on a bus, B.C. family builds a super efficient home

I don't know why everyone isn't doing it. An energy-efficient home is more comfortable to live in; it's less expensive to live in; and conserving energy should be everyone's goal. 

With an extremely well-insulated envelope, Rob Mickelberry's Victoria home delivers an 88 EnerGuide rating, which should result in energy savings of approximately 59 per cent.

Victoria family bought property while on cross-continent adventure

About three years ago, Rob Mickelberry and his wife sold their house in Victoria and went travelling on a "rock star" bus from one end of North America to another with their three children.

It was a great adventure, but 10 months on the road was enough, and then it was time to re-establish some permanent roots back home.

They bought a property in the Fairfield neighbourhood while still on the trip, then lived in their old house while they subdivided the lot and built a new home that was completed in May 2013.

"This Christmas will be our fifth in a different place, so now we're in: we're not planning on moving for a while," says Mickelberry, who was also determined the home would not cost a fortune to run.

With the help of an energy auditor, home hits an 88 EnerGuide rating

As the owner of Prodigy Development Services Ltd., Mickelberry knows a lot about building homes and about energy efficiency. But he was glad he called in certified energy auditors, City Green Solutions, early in the design process.

After looking at the design for the 3,200 square foot, five-bedroom home, City Green suggested a number of refinements that would deliver projected energy savings that surprised even an experienced builder like Mickelberry.

"We achieved an EnerGuide 88 rating,"he says, "which is pretty phenomenal."

That rating easily qualified the home for BC Hydro Power Smart New Home Program incentives. By achieving an EnerGuide rating of at least 80, Mickelberry got a $2,000 incentive, plus another $150 ENERGY STAR® package incentive for installing energy-efficient products.

Rob Mickelberry says that while he'll save a bundle on energy bills long term, his family appreciates how comfortable the home is.

With such a high EnerGuide rating, home should be 59% more efficient than standard

Natural Resources Canada estimates that an EnerGuide rating of 80 means that a home will use up to 30 per cent less energy than an average home. Mickelberry's 88 rating should deliver almost twice those savings.

"At EnerGuide 88, we predict this home is approximately 59 per cent more energy efficient than if this home had been built to BC Building Code standards," says Mike Young, an energy efficiency advisor with City Green.

Most of those energy savings come from the home's extremely well-insulated outer shell, or envelope. That insulation enabled Mickelberry to install a much smaller air source heat pump — used for both radiant floor heating and for hot water — than a home this size would normally require.

Other energy-saving measures include high efficiency, triple glazed windows with low-e coating, and a heat recovery ventilation system (there are no exhaust fans anywhere in the house).

'Conserving energy should be everyone's goal'

Mickelberry sees no reason not to invest in an energy-efficient home that delivers more than just low operating costs.

"There's always a balancing point between a higher initial cost and long-term savings, but the systems are so simple and good now," he says. "I don't know why everyone isn't doing it. An energy-efficient home is more comfortable to live in; it's less expensive to live in; and conserving energy should be everyone's goal."

His kids are also happy to home from their extended bus tour of North America.

"They're loving it," he says. "The bus was a great adventure, but they're happy to be settled and are thoroughly enjoying their new home."

About the Power Smart New Home Program

To qualify as a Power Smart New Home, a house must be built to achieve an EnerGuide 80 rating, for up to 30 per cent savings on the owner's monthly energy bills.

Find out more about building a Power Smart New Home, and why it may be the cost-saving option you are looking for.