Solar House

How it all Began

As a staff we had been discussing the potential of integrating solar technologies into the renovations of a building we had purchased. The building was a 1945 war-time home located along the main entry road to the community of Grayson.

In October 2009 we took a week long educational road trip, first to Edmonton, Alberta for a CMHC conference on building a Net-Zero home. It provided us with great background information on building a tight envelop, and integrating solar technologies. From Edmonton, we toured a number of off the grid solar home throughout northern Saskatchewan, which provided the final part of information we needed. We needed to know that the average person could accomplish this goal.

Using google sketch up we started designing our new building, unlike other structures we’d seen. The main building was designed like a house, but would be used as an office and training area for MEC. It was 2700 square feet of living space on two floors, comprised of a large kitchen, living room, dining room, three bedrooms, a library sitting area, a bonus room and two bathrooms. Adding to that building will be a bale structure with approximately 2500 square feet of space. The bale structure would be comprised of a boot room, storage area, large class room, a garage and workshop area.

Our design required that a 9 foot by 26 foot front porch area be added on the north wall and twenty feet two stories high be added on the south wall. It also required us to raise the roof on the north side and then custom build rafters to span the whole distance. This served two purposes, first it ensured that all rooms had a least 8 foot walls and that any dead space was minimized or eliminated and secondly that we had the right pitch to mount 20 photo voltaic solar panels.

Charting System

From the beginning of the project, MEC needed to measure the performance and effectiveness of the solar energy systems. Beginning as a simple heat-measurement system with digital sensors run through the house on recycled telephone wire, both the solar-thermal and solar-photovoltaic systems have become part of it. Monitoring every system together has allowed us to detect and correct faults in any of the systems very quickly.

The charts below are copies of the dynamic charts generated by MEC's local server. New charts should be uploaded daily at midnight Saskatchewan-time.

This chart shows how much power, in watts, each group of solar panels collected over the course of the day. The total is the line up top. We are pleased to see that the total often closely matches what the system was designed to collect -- ten kilowatts.

This details temperatures of the solar heating system. When the orange line is above the dashed red line, the water in the tank is hot enough to be used to heat the house. The pink line shows the temperature of the in-floor heating, the grey line the temperature of the solar collectors, and the green line shows the actual outside temperature.

Temperature sensors are built into the walls in a variety of locations all over the house, as well as one humidity sensor in the computing center. In the future these readings will allow MEC to tune the heating system to avoid hot-spots and cold-spots.