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As EPCOR continues to make progress on our journey to net zero, we want to support you on yours. Let’s take a look at what it might take to get your home to Net Zero.

Going net zero

Having a Net Zero home means the home has a net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rating. When you use energy like natural gas, your home is emitting GHGs. Similarly, when you purchase electricity to use in your home, there is an amount of GHG that is emitted during the generation of that electricity, unless you purchase electricity sourced from solar or wind farms.

Net Zero homes also produce energy through solar power. As this energy is used first in the home, this offsets the electricity associated with GHG emissions that customers need to purchase and use. Additionally, most Net Zero homes use electric heat pumps as their main source of heat, effectively avoiding the GHG that is created through the use of a natural gas furnace.

Benefits of net zero

Many people are looking to Net Zero as a way to reduce their environmental footprint, but it also helps reduce their energy bills. Because net zero homes produce nearly as much energy as they use, Net Zero homes benefit from essentially fixed energy costs. This provides greater sense of long-term certainty around your expenses throughout the life of your home. While this comes at additional expense during home construction or renovation, the reduced utility cost in the long term may offset a large portion, if not all, of the costs of the Net Zero upgrades.

Even if you do not go full Net Zero, undertaking partial Net Zero type improvements can have a substantial impact on your long term costs.​

Net zero and energy efficiency

When people think about energy efficiency they think often think of the small fixes that can be done around the home to reduce our utility bills. Things like fixing weather stripping around doors and windows, installing a smart thermostat, adjusting the thermostat down a couple degrees at night, or turning off lights when you’re not using them. Net zero goes beyond this and looks at your home as a system working together to be energy efficient.

According to the Canadian Home Builders Association “Net Zero homes produce as much clean, renewable energy as they consume. They are up to 80% more energy efficient than typical new homes and use renewable energy systems to produce the remaining energy they need. Every part of the house works together to provide consistent temperatures throughou​t, prevent drafts, and filter indoor air to reduce dust and allergens.”​

First steps in going net zero

The first thing we recommend doing is to get a home energy audit. The audit will identify the areas of your home that have the most value potential for home energy upgrades.

Any home, no matter when it was built, can become more energy-efficient. The result in lower energy consumption and bills, it can also make your home more comfortable to live in, and has the potential to add value to your home. An energy audit will look at things like:

  • the level of your home’s airtightness, using a blower door test;
  • the insulation levels of your walls, ceilings and basement;
  • the number, type and location of all windows and exterior doors; and more

You can find a listing of organizations who conduct EnerGuide home evaluations and what to expect from an EnerGuide Audit on the Natural Resources Canada website. Their publication, Keeping the Heat In, talks about upgrades in your home that can improve its energy efficiency.​

Generating your own energy

Part of becoming Net Zero is the ability to generate your own electricity. Adding solar panels to your home will offset your electricity consumption as the energy generated by the solar panels will be used to supply your home’s needs. Depending on the size of the system installed, any electricity in excess of what you need in the moment will be sent back to the power grid and shared with your neighbours. You will receive financial credits on your bill for the extra exported energy, which can be used to buy energy when you need more electricity than your panels are producing – like at night.

Learn more about solar panels​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Non-traditional heat sources – electric heat pumps

Net Zero means that you are offsetting your emissions. One way to do that is to switch from natural gas powered furnace to the new electric heat pump technology. With advancements in refrigerant technologies, heat pumps are becoming an effective way to heat your home. Typically, they would be paired with improved building envelope insulation and tightness to be effective in our cold Albertan winters.

These electric heat pump can provide the vast majority of your home’s heating and cooling needs except for the coldest of days in the winter (-30C without wind chill) when they are supplemented with a back-up heating source like an electric resistance heater or natural gas furnace. This may help reduce your energy costs and will reduce your carbon footprint. ​

Greener Homes Grant and Loan

The Canadian government’s Greener Homes initiative offers a grant program as well as an interest-free loan for eligible home upgrades. “The g​rant covers eligible retrofits like home insulation, windows and doors, heat pumps and solar panels as well as resiliency measures.”

Open to homeowners who have an active application (at the pre-retrofit stage) with the Canada Greener Homes Grant, the “Canada Greener Homes Loan is an interest-free loan of up to $40,000 with a repayment term of 10 years.”

Learn more about the Greener Homes initiative​​​​​​​​​​