A net zero home solution from OakWood

Solar panel

Many homeowners and businesses want to lower their energy costs or go completely off the grid. On top of reducing your environmental impact, it’s also a great way to save money. 

But such an undertaking can be intimidating for even the handiest DIY’er. Where does one even begin? 

For starters you might look to OakWood, the Ottawa-based custom home builder and renovator that recently planned and implemented a solar-powered energy solution for its Design Centre, with the ultimate goal of taking the building completely off the grid. The multi-million dollar Orleans facility acts as both the company’s primary showroom and design centre as well as corporate headquarters.  

While this is a commercial application, the solution can scale for any residential project.  

“If the choice is between an old, standard home. An energy sucking house. Or, a new self-sustained home. I mean, there’s no choice. The homeowner will always choose the better home,” says John Liptak, OakWood’s president and CEO.  

The company recently announced the OakWood-Holmes High Performance Initiative, a planning framework that will connect homeowners with products across four areas: energy efficiency; eco-friendliness; healthy living; and technology. It is being delivered in partnership with building and renovation star Mike Holmes.  

According to Liptak, going off the grid was always an explicit goal for their new design centre headquarters building. In September, OakWood reached several major milestones that brought it closer to that goal: the installation of 100 solar panels connected to their net-metering system.

“Everyone thinks it’s going to be way too much money [to build a net zero neighbourhood],” says Mr. Holmes. “It’s not. We should be doing it now.” 

Panel installation 

For OakWood, the first step to moving off the grid was the installation of MaxPower solar panels from Canadian Solar. These are high-quality, high-energy pieces of technology with 72 solar cells per panel.  The 100 photovoltaic panels are expected to provide an estimated total power output of 33.75 kW and an estimated 40.5 mWh per year. 

These panels come with a 25-year, insurance-backed warranty. They also have an IP67 junction box for long-term weather endurance, which is an important consideration for Ottawa’s punishing winters.

Conversion from DC to AC  

Solar photovoltaic panels produce direct current (DC) electricity. To use or sell this energy back to the grid requires an inverter to convert the electricity into alternating current (AC). 

OakWood’s Design Centre is outfitted with the Fronius Symo, a compact three-phase inverter that’s suitable for commercial applications. It comes with integrated wireless monitoring and is one of the most efficient and streamlined inverters on the market, aligning it perfectly with the OakWood-Holmes initiative.  

Going off the grid 

In the near future, OakWood expects to cut its ties and achieve complete energy self-sufficiency, thanks in part to their relentless innovation and pursuit of the newest technologies. In phase two, OakWood expects to use the power-backup to meet some of its own building’s requirements, instead of selling energy back to the grid. 

OakWood specializes in high-performance renovations, custom homes and buildings that are beautifully designed, energy-efficient, healthy, technology-enabled and eco-friendly. Learn more at oakwood.ca. Or, call 613-236-8001 to book a consult at the OakWood Design Centre.