Solar-powered house investment for future

Mark Redl hopes his 'net zero' home in 108 Mile Ranch will inspire others to consider building in a more energy efficient way. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
One of the downstairs bedrooms. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
Theatre room. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
A second solar panel was added to the Redl's driveway. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)

Attention to detail has always been important throughout Mark Redl’s career in the building industry.

And when it came to building a ‘net zero’ home of his own in 108 Mile Ranch, Redl left no avenue unexplored, and compared all the costs with the potential long-term savings.

Redl and his wife, Julie, had long been interested in ways to reduce their carbon footprint prior to starting construction on their Kitwanga Drive home in late 2017.

With a goal of building the most energy-efficient home they possibly could, the Redls have invested thousands into specific products, construction techniques, supplies and solar panels.  

The couple used Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) for the home’s exterior walls, something Redl said was cost-efficient, simple and has many benefits beyond energy efficiency.

“It’s like building with large Lego blocks, it was really simple,” Redl explained. “And now because of the price of wood, they’re cheaper. And the benefits of ICF are its strength, it’s virtually storm-proof, vermin-proof, insect-proof. And it’s really sound deadening as well.”

Utilizing the BC Hydro Net Metering program, the Redl’s home is completely solar-powered. With a large collection of 40 solar panels on their south-facing roof – a 12-KW generating system – and a smaller, 5-KW panel recently added to their driveway, the Redls generate enough power to keep their electric baseboards and fireplace running, as well as their other appliances. They also have an electric car that is charged by solar power when it needs a charge.

No batteries are required to power the home, as their solar power is tied into the BC Hydro grid.

“We’ve always been extremely concerned about our environment, but not obsessed,” Redl explained. “The two largest producers of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide for anybody are their house and their vehicle. We’ve eliminated the greenhouse gases by building this house, and now one of our vehicles is greenhouse gas-free, too.”

READ MORE: Solar panels considered for South Cariboo Rec Centre

The cost of the rooftop panels was $31,000, but Redl said he factored in the cost of having to invest in a forced-air furnace and ducting, which he estimates would have cost upwards of $17,000.

“So the net difference was about $14,000, which will pay for itself in about three to five years,” he said, noting the only utility cost he now pays is a monthly BC Hydro connection fee.

Initially, the Redl’s were only living in their South Cariboo home part-time, but when they made the move to full-time occupants, they added the second panel to ensure they’d generate enough power for the entire year.

The house was designed not just for maximum heating efficiency in the colder months but also to stay cool during the summer. The bedrooms are all in the basement, which stays cool on hotter days, and the overhang of the roof on the main floor is oriented to block out much of the midday sun throughout the summer months.

All the interior walls are insulated with Rockwool, which Redl said is seven times more acoustically dampening than regular fibreglass, and also fire, water, vermin, water and mold proof.

Another aspect of the home that Redl took into consideration when building was accessibility – the house is American Disability Association compliant and – with a few tweaks – would be fully wheelchair accessible should the need arise.

This includes pull-up sinks in the downstairs bathrooms, low-threshold inclines, accessible showers and closets that are stacked and wired for the installation of an elevator.

Redl said the response to this type of energy-efficient building has been mostly positive, though he has been met with lots of questions from people who don’t know the ins and outs of dealing with a solar grid tie-in system.

He said he hopes that more people get on board with solar power and is happy to answer questions people may have.

“We have to be responsible for our environment and leave something behind for our children,” he said. “It’s cost effective, environmentally friendly and it benefits everybody.”

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