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Going Net Zero: When a Home Gives As Much As It Takes

December 18 2015, 09:16 AM

Going Net Zero

New Brunswick homeowners are starting to get excited by the idea of producing some, or all, of their home’s energy needs. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are being explored as options become increasingly accessible. Solar panels are popping up on rooftops, and small wind turbines on commercial and residential properties are turning up throughout New Brunswick, as more New Brunswickers are talking about renewables. And why not? It is exciting to lighten one’s energy footprint, by making your home more energy efficient and by generating enough energy onsite. When your home can produce as much energy on-site as it uses, on an annual basis, this is what’s called a net zero home.

So how does it work?

Net zero homes use a renewable energy system like solar panels or wind turbines to produce as much energy as they use on a yearly basis. Net zero homes, unlike ‘off-grid’ homes, are still connected to ‘the grid’ – the province’s electricity distribution system- and are net metered with NB Power for the times when the panels don’t produce enough energy to meet current demand.

Alternatively, with NB Power’s net metering program, credits will accumulate for the homeowners when a surplus of power is generated and put back on the grid. This means that your monthly bill will reflect the difference between the total amount of your electricity consumption and the electricity your system produces over the billing period. That is the “net amount” of electricity.  

One great benefit to being a net zero home is that the home’s renewable energy system can be sized to meet the average daily energy usage, rather than its peak demand. (Think of the difference in energy demand during a cold snap in the middle of winter, versus an early spring or late fall day!) Many net zero homeowners also take pride in and enjoy the fact that any surplus energy produced from their energy system goes back on the grid and supplies their neighbours’ homes with renewable energy.

The first step before even considering a renewable energy source is making sure your home or building is as energy efficient as possible. It is more cost effective to save energy through maximizing building efficiency than installing renewable energy sources; but both will help the environment and lower your power bill. If you’re interested in making upgrades to your home, make sure to look into NB Power’s Home Insulation Energy Savings program here.

NB Power’s Net Metering program partners with customers to facilitate small-scale, environmentally sustainable generation for homes that are still connected to ‘the grid’ and deals with a mix of homes and business, and small scale renewable generation technologies.

What do you envision for your home? Do you plan to invest in renewables or make your home more energy efficient in the future? Tell us below!

 

 

Your Feedback: What we heard at our Mactaquac Project Open Houses

November 26 2015, 13:02 PM

Your Feedback: Mactaquac Open Houses

First, thank you to everyone who came out to one of our seven open houses. It was hard to know how many of you would accept our offer to listen and share your feelings about the future of the Mactaquac Generating Station. We were amazed that nearly 950 of you took the time to visit and tell us what’s important to you at events in Nackawic, Fredericton, Woodstock and St. Thomas University.

During the open houses, our project team members provided the latest results of studies and potential site scenarios to people who live in communities around the station and headpond. 

We also asked visitors to share their thoughts and feelings about a variety of topics on big flipcharts and online. That’s when the stories really started flowing.

We learned how important this project is for many New Brunswickers. You shared memories from when the station was first built, and how your lives were changed forever by the construction of the station and creation of the headpond in the 1960’s.

We heard how many of you value the green energy that Mactaquac puts on the grid. We heard how the headpond is an important recreational and aesthetic asset for people who live within its reach.

We also heard how some of you want the Saint John River to flow freely. We heard about the importance of allowing migratory fish to follow their natural path, the beauty of the islands that could emerge and possible uses for the new lands and shorelines. 

Many of you wondered how a new Mactaquac fits into a changing energy landscape that includes small-scale renewables, solar and wind power.

We also heard your thoughts on how the new jobs and economic development potential from this project – no matter how it proceeds – would be a big help for the New Brunswick economy.

Many of you told us this is a complex decision that needs to be made logically and for the long-term good of the province. 

While not everyone agrees on what to do next, it’s clear that all New Brunswickers value the natural beauty and environment that surrounds us, no matter which side of the station they live on. It’s also clear that many New Brunswickers want to have their say about this project before any decision is made.

This is why we’ll continue to ask New Brunswickers to share their thoughts about the station during the next several months.

You can share what’s important to you online, in person or in writing until March 31, 2016. You can also check out our online survey, Mactaquaction, which takes about 15-20 minutes to complete.

Our goal in talking to you is to identify common themes and interests, so we can make sure our chosen path forward in 2016 reflects what matters most to you. 

Breaking up isn’t hard to do, when it’s with old, inefficient, incandescent lighting

November 9 2015, 11:02 AM

Break up with incandescent lighting

Are you in the market for new light bulbs? Perhaps you’re ready to “break up” with old lighting technology and replace your incandescent bulbs with their newer, much more energy efficient counterpart: the LED bulb. Right now is a great time to make the switch! NB Power is currently offering instant rebates on LEDs (along with programmable thermostats, showerheads, refrigerators, and clothes washers) until the end of November at participating stores.

 

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when shopping for LED bulbs:

LED bulbs are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, for any location. You can even find dimmable bulbs, but you may need to switch out your wall dimmer switch for one that is compatible with LEDs.

When selecting a bulb for brightness, look for lumens, not watts. ENERGY STAR bulbs will provide you with the same brightness (lumens) with less energy (watts). Use the chart below to figure out how many lumens you need to match the brightness of the old incandescent bulb.

 

 Incandescent Bulb (Watts) ENERGY STAR Bulb Brightness (minimum lumens)
40 450
60 800
75 1100
100 1600
150 2600



Another factor to take into consideration is the light color or appearance. LED bulbs are available in a wide range of colours and they will be matched to a temperature on the Kelvin scale. A bulb with a lower K rating will appear warmer or give off yellowish light, while a higher K will be a cooler, bluer light. Choose a 2700K LED bulb for a warm/soft light equivalent to a standard incandescent bulb.

Finally, always check the packaging for proper use.

Right now, you can find LED lights for as low as $3-$4 a bulb at some participating retailers! For a light that - depending on usage - may last you decades, that is pretty darn good value! Visit smarthabits.ca to find a store near you.

Have you made the switch already? What do you like best about LED lights? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

What is a heat pump and how do they work?

October 20 2015, 09:35 AM

What is a heat pump and how do they work?

Heat pumps are a hot topic in New Brunswick these days, and with good reason.  A heat pump that is ENERGY STAR certified, CEE Tier III rated cold climate (-20°C and lower) can save you, on average, 40% more on heating costs than a model that is simply ENERGY STAR rated. Those numbers are pretty enticing for any homeowner to hear!

But what exactly is a heat pump and how does it work?

Put simply: a heat pump is an extremely efficient method of heating and cooling for your home. In the winter, heat pumps draw in outside air and extract heat for the home. In the summer they do the same but remove heat from the inside and dump it outside instead, giving you air conditioning.

With electric baseboards you pay for 1 kWh of electricity and you get 1 kWh of heat.  That sounds pretty good – 100% efficient.  But what if you could heat your home with something that is 200% or 300% efficient?  That is the case with ductless heat pumps. 

When you buy 1kWh of heat you can actually get 2kWh or 3kWh of heat.  That’s because heat pumps do not generate heat from electricity.  They use the electricity to extract heat from the outside air and bring it into your home, using a series of pumps and compressors.

There are two kinds of air-source heat pumps: ducted and ductless.

Fully-ducted heat pumps heat and cool the whole home via air ducts, whereas ductless (also known as mini-split) heat pumps heat and cool single rooms only. Ducted heat pumps sit outside the home, while ductless units are found on the inside and outside wall of a home.  A heating contractor will help you determine which system is the best fit for your home and its layout.

In our climate, with its chilly ‘shoulder’ seasons (fall and spring) and cold winters, there aren’t many drawbacks to having a home with a heat pump. But you do need to keep your current heat source, just in case the temperature becomes extremely cold and the heat pump can no longer work efficiently.

Even before you install a heat pump, it is a good idea to consider your home’s energy efficiency. You’ll want to check insulation levels throughout your home and make sure it is well sealed for air-tightness. With well insulated walls, attic and basement and a high level of airtightness, your home will need less energy to heat or cool and it will stay that way for longer, no matter what type of heating system you have.

Check out our ductless mini-split heat pump rebate program or our home insulation savings program to learn how they can help you save energy and money on your bills this winter.

Would you install a heat pump in your home? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

Mactaquac Mythbusters

October 15 2015, 14:28 PM

Mactaquac Mythbusters

We’ve been excited to see the great questions and comments rolling in from New Brunswickers since we kicked off the public discussion about the future of the Mactaquac Generating Station on September 21.

We hope to hear even more about what’s important to New Brunswickers through our online survey, and and during the remainder of our open house events. We hope you’ll drop by to learn more and tell us what you think about the project.

The situation

The station has been generating hydroelectric power for New Brunswick since 1968. It’s now expected to reach the end of its life by 2030. That’s sooner than expected because of problems with the facility’s concrete.

There are already many experts thinking about how to tackle Mactaquac, and there are three options to consider:

1)      We could build a new generating station.

2)      We could stop making power but leave the dam in place.

3)      We could remove everything and allow the river to return to its natural flow.

There are lots of great questions coming our way, and some Mactaquac Myths have already surfaced. We want to bust those myths here.

The Myths


NB Power has already made up its mind about what’s happening with that station. My opinions don’t matter at all!”

Not true. We understand this is a big decision that will affect all New Brunswickers for generations to come. That’s why we’re asking you to share what’s most important to you about this decision online, in person and in writing before recommending a preferred option in 2016.

NB Power has a secret ‘fourth option’ they aren’t telling us about.”

Some media outlets have referred to our work to try to delay the 2030 end-of-service-life deadline as a ‘fourth option for Mactaquac.’ We are working with independent experts to see if we can extend the station’s ability to generate power beyond 2030 through a potential new game plan to deal with the concrete issues. This work isn’t complete yet, so we don’t know if these are ideas that can work from either a financial or engineering perspective. Meanwhile, even with this work underway, it’s important that we continue investigating implications of the three broad options so we can get everything done in time for the current 2030 deadline.


"The problems with the concrete means the dam isn’t safe."

The station and the dam are safe. The issues affecting the station’s lifespan are limiting its future ability to operate economically. This problem is about economical function rather than safety. Also, the issues only affect the concrete portions of the station, which don’t include the dam, which is made of rock and earth.

Tell us what you think!

We welcome all questions and comments about the project. You can learn more about the project and give us your feedback by visiting our project website. We hope you’ll also complete the online survey and share it with your friends and neighbours! You can also comment below.

From time to time we’ll use this blog space to answer persistent questions or themes about the project as they come up.

 

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