Costs and Comments, Costs, Electrical, Geothermal, Water Heat, Insulation, Landscaping, Roof, Windows, Deck

    2012,   2011,   2010,   2009,   2008,   2007,   2006,   2005

Everyone always wants to know what this upgrade costs and what the payback is. It is really hard to measure payback as the rates for power and gas change a lot and the service fees that are added are also changing over time. In the next couple of graphs I have tried to show how the house is performing overall. The full set of graphs are at this link here. What follows is a summary of the graphs followed by the costs at the bottom of this page.

The first graph is overall utility costs for heat, power, and water. These are the utilities that we worked at reducing (not much we can do about the waste management fee going from $5/month to $33/month in 12 years).

The Utility Costs graph shows the costs at our house since 1995 including all service charges and taxes applicable. In 1998 there was deregulation and the costs started to go up. In 2001 the government of Alberta paid a large rebate for both power and gas but as you can see the prices shot back up the following year. 2004 and the price of gas came back down. In 2005 we switched to geothermal heat and swapped our gas bill for electricity. In 2008 we disconnected the gas for good. Since 2004 the cost of water has doubled but we have reduced our water use substantially over that time so our bill remains pretty steady.

Over this same time take a look at the unit costs of these utilities. In the next graph you can see the spike in unit costs, then the collapse after 2004. You can see how the water utility costs have been accelerating after the City privatized the water utility.

Another thing that is very interesting is the rise in electricity costs since 2005. In September of 2006 I purchased a contract for 7 cents a kWh. That rate hasn't changed. What is rising is the service fees! The power folks have added over 2 cents a kWh in service fees since I signed on - the electrical service fees have increased by more than 50% in 6 years.

The unit cost graph takes the total annual utility bill and divides it by total annual usage. In the case of the water bill it includes the water, drainage, and sewage costs that are all part of the water bill.

So the dramatic rise in electrical usage as we switched from gas to electrical heat makes sense. The next steps there are to add more solar modules and generate a bit more of our own power. It sure can't hurt at this point!

What is more troubling is the rise in our water bill even though we are more and more careful with our water use. Now that I've calculated this I'm a bit steamed.

That all for the graphs for now. There are more in a pdf file that you can download here.

The discussion of costs below only goes up to the end of 2010 and the installation of the solar modules. I am not adding anything else right now to this list as I am concentrating on other projects. I may add more costs later but right now I am not updating this.

In 2005 the house we live in needed to be upgraded. Most of the mechanical systems needed to be upgraded as they were reaching the end of their lives. The roof, the furnace and the hot water heater were all worn out and needed to go. I also wanted to move our elecrical underground so that we could expand our back deck. There were also a number of items that had just been built badly in the first place that I wanted to correct. It was time to upgrade. Here is the summary of what we spent to upgrade. In some places we got great bargains, in others we got ripped off. It's all part of the fun of rennovations!

Geothermal Costs         
Energuide Evaluation           150
Heat Loss Calculation           200
Geothermal unit with Drilling       16,700
Heat Recovery Ventilator           650
Duct Work and tie-ins         1,400
Total     $19,100

Ok let's start with the main item, the geothermal heat pump. In order to size the unit you need to do a heat loss calculation on your house. The trick for us was to estimate what the heat loss of the house would be after upgrading. We wanted the geothermal unit to be as small as possible so we figured in the heat losses after insulating, changing the roof, and draftstopping. That got us to a size of 48,000 BTU per hour as the size needed. We installed the geothermal unit based on that calculation and then had to complete the house upgrades to get to that heat loss level.

Grid Tied Solar         
Solar panels, inverters, and parts   7,350
Installation       4,300
Permits         337
Engineering         1,200
Special racking         400
Total     $13,587
The other major upgrade was the grid tied solar panels installed in the fall of 2010. In this case the major expense is for a contractor that supplies and installs the solar panels. I designed and installed the special racking that went on the dormers and had an engineer review the design for suitability. We received a major rebate on this system of $3 per installed watt. See the rebates below.

12V Solar         
Candian Tire 60 watt kit     325
Deep Cycle Battery           125
Aluminum frame       160
Conduit and wire           200
Solar controller and timer           150
LED Deck lights         300
Total     $1,260

The 12 volt solar system started with a sale on an RV battery charger at Canadian Tire. It evenutally ended up as a separate system with a timer to turn on the deck lights at night.

Electrical Upgrade         
Power Pole Post             75
Small Backhoe Rental           325
Breaker Panels         400
Check Meter         150
Cable for 100 amp Circuits         350
Contractor's Labour and Materials     3,000
My Materials     1,900
Total     $6,200
But the geothermal heat pump can't go in unless there is enough power to run it. The electrical upgrade took our house from 70 amp service to 200 amp service. I also put all the cables underground so that they would no longer be too close to the deck. Putting the cables underground makes for a tidier back yard and eliminates safety issues with overhead wires. While I was at it I added an underground conduit from the house to the garage that I hope to use for photovoltaic power in the future.

Roof Upgrade         
Engineer's Structural Review         100
Radiant Foil Barrier         100
Roofing Contractor       6,600
Siding Contractor       2,800
Eavestrough Contractor         600
Total     $10,200

I admit, we got a great deal on the roof for what we had done. Unfortunately the contractor that did this work for us has retired. He was absolutely the best contractor we had on our project and did excellent work. The foil radiant barrier I bought by special order through a local distributor once I searched out the manufacturer's product code on the internet. The engineer was also very inexpensive considering he visited the house and wrote a letter to the City saying that the structure would support the new roof.

Draftstopping and Insulation         
Cellulose Insulation Drill and Fill         850
Drywall Contractor     1,400
Paint Supplies       800
Peel and Stick Vapour Barrier       200
Insulated Steel Back Door       300
Misc Insulation and Supplies       500
14 new Double-Pane Windows   5,500
Total     $9,950
Our insulation contractor did a great job at a very reasonable price. The drywall contractor got about 90% done and then left. We finished up the drywall and then did all the painting. We got really good windows at a very good price. I did all the draftstopping.

Large Tree Removal         550
Contractor for Front Yard     4,200
Plants Trees and Shrubs    1,100
Other Purchases       650
Cedar Mulch       300
2007 Back Deck, Sidewalks, and Sod   10,000
Total     $16,800

As far as the landscaping goes it ran about $6,800 for the front yard and about $10,000 for the back yard and deck. The front yard was absolutely necessary as the geothermal drilling left a big mess that needed to be cleaned up. The back yard was an upgrade of the old deck. The front yard was done in 2005 with the geothermal upgrade while the back yard went two years later in 2007.

Water Heat         
Tankless Unit       2,100

Solar Hot Water Tank     1,200
Last Electric Water Heater     220

Total     $3,520

OK, here is where things didn't go particularly well. The tankless water heater didn't work out so it was replaced (see the water heat page). Then we has a solar hot water tank that we just used electrically. It rusted through in less than 3 years so now we have a regular old electric water heater. Should have done that in the first place.

Energuide Rebate       Credit 2,148
Edmonton CO2RE Rebate     Credit     500
Edmonton CO2RE Solar     Credit   4,620
Total   $7,268

But all is not negative. We had the Energuide for Homes evaluation done before and after our geothermal upgrade. The Energuide gives a small amount of credit to the geothermal upgrade but far more credit is given for insulation upgrades and draftstopping. It was the draftstopping that really got our Energuide numbers up. We went from a leaky drafty house to a house that is as draft free as a new house. Our original Energuide Evaluation gave our house a rating of 39 (which is really low). The final evaluation was a 79 (which is equivalent to a new home). Because our Energuide rating went up by 20 points the City of Edmonton CO2RE program kicked in $500 as well. Then the Solar Pilot Program paid $3 per watt to install solar panels. There were also some tax credits in 2009 for some other renos we did but I don't know the number specifically. So overall we spent about $81,000 with a rebate of about 9%. True, not everything we did was related to energy efficiency but one thing leads to another...