Daniel Proulx has lived in his home for 45 years, and has spent the past 30 doing retrofits. His home is now completely off-grid.
The house is heated by passive solar on the roof, and geothermal in the ground. The sun heats up a glycol fluid and the heat gets transferred through heat exchangers in the home. Excess heat goes into the ground where the latent heat gets picked up by the geothermal system. The geothermal system also picks up ground heat to bring into the home. During the summer, the geothermal is also a cooling system. Photovoltaic solar panels hooked up to a battery system power the home.
But simple addition of insulation has been the most important retrofit. Daniel Proulx explains. “I’ve recently improved the insulation in the attic. This simple retrofit greatly reduced the amount of heating needed in the first place. This last retrofit made me understand that the most cost-effective and efficient improvement you can make to a home is insulation and air tightness. If I had known about passive house standards when I started, I would have gone that route. The best thing you can do to reduce your needs and costs is to work towards the passive house standards.”
For Daniel Proulx, the retrofits and maintenance are a rewarding hobby, and the results have worked out well. “The solar system is easy and reliable. I’ve learned that keeping the panels vertical in the wintertime keeps the snow and ice off and the reflectivity of the snow compensates for the reduction of direct sun to the panel. The passive system on the roof needs to be cleared of snow in the winter. Also the glycol in the passive system needs to be regularly replaced.”
He and his family have the security of knowing their power will still be on, even during power outages. They are also happy not to be contributing carbon emissions when they heat and power their home.