Colin and Nadine Gray have built an energy-efficient house in Comox. Photo supplied

Comox family enjoys life in net-zero home

Colin Gray and his wife Nadine renovated their Comox house in an effort to create a net-zero home in 2019.

A year later, the family of four has saved nearly 100 per cent on energy costs.

“I really feel it’s almost becoming a moral responsibility for us to make a change, and make sure that we’re not impacting the world adversely, and there’s so much evidence right now that we are,” said Gray, who works for a software company. “My wife and I felt strongly that we wanted to show that it could be done, and give some guidance to people that might be hesitant – because it is a financial investment – to see that there is value.”

Gray, who grew up in Duncan, had lived for many years in Vancouver before he returned to the Island in 2018. He and Nadine have two children.

They bought a 10,000 square-foot property in Comox with a 1,900 square-foot, split-level house. The couple enlisted the services of Nanaimo-based Pheasant Hill Homes to design a new energy-efficient house, which contains 32 solar panels. It took about 10 months to complete the project.

“We took a pretty holistic look at all of the energy that we used,” said Gray, who figures they kept 30-40 per cent of the original house, including the foundation, walls and much of the southern half. They added a little more than 1,000 square feet.

A net zero home produces as much clean energy as it consumes.

Gray, who completed an energy audit, was surprised to discover than an average home in B.C. is less than 1,400 square feet. In terms of total energy consumption from all sources (converted to megawatts), he found the average house uses about 30 megawatts a year. His home, with an electric car, after renovations, uses closer to 18 megawatts.

Though not net zero, it’s nevertheless a satisfying number.

“I do feel like the house is net zero,” Gray said, noting the home consumption includes the fireplaces, used mostly for ambience rather than efficiency. “They’re only about 70 per cent efficient.”

After renovations, the air tightness went from nine air exchanges per hour to .54.

The annual solar production represents 87 per cent of his home’s consumption.

The couple paid $22,140 for the solar panel system, which saves $1,647 per year.

According to the math, it should take 13.4 years to see a full return on investment.

“I was really happy about that,” Gray said. “I though it was going to be over 15 years.

“The good thing about solar is the prices are really coming down,” he added. “The economics behind it do make sense.”