Preliminary winter performance data

We have had temperature and humidity data recorded in the house over the last 4 months as part of a project conducted by Anthony Mach, a passive house designer and Building Science research student at Algonquin College. The preliminary data is now available, courtesy of Anthony. What we have here is essentially the raw temperature and humidity records in two locations: one in the middle of the open-plan downstairs space (1st Floor), and the other upstairs on the landing (2nd Floor). There is a lot of analysis to be done with this data combined with other data on external temperatures, energy use and so on.

A few things to note when looking at these charts:

  1. We were only half-moved in for most of November – we started using the kitchen sometime in the second week.
  2. When we moved in (around the 21st November), the HRV (which actually turned out to have an ERV core – for more on the differences, see here) had still not been properly balanced and we were still only using the system on its lowest setting.
  3. After the HRV had been balanced properly on the 4th December, we started using it on the middle setting, with boosts after baths and during cooking.
  4. We only had the 2kW Thermolec heating element, that works with the HRV, installed on December 14th. Up until that point we had only been using a single 1kW space heater. If it was cloudy in the morning after this point we used both, but if it was sunny we didn’t need the later.
  5. However, that installation coincided with a serious cold spell where external temperatures dropped to -25ºC or lower.
  6. We were away from the 20th to the 30th of December, and had the HRV just ticking over, which means that the house would have had almost no internal heating. You can see the drop, but what’s remarkable is that the place still never got below 13ºC.
  7. Once everything was back to normal and functioning properly, from early January, the temperatures in the house were generally between 17ºC (average night-time low) and 19ºC (average day time high) upstairs, with the extremes being 15.5ºC and 21ºC; and 18ºC (average night-time low) and 20.5ºC (average day time high) upstairs, with extremes of 16.5ºC and 22ºC. The difference is probably explained by a combination of the use of the extra heating downstairs, the passive solar effect from the larger windows, and generally that there is more activity downstairs for more of the time.
  8. The humidity has generally been where you’d want it, between 40 and 50%, gradually drying out as winter goes on. Our HRV having an ERV core helps in stopping the place getting too dry.


Marcel, the planning officer, came round this morning to do the final inspection that allows us to have our certificate of occupancy. And everything was fine. He really loves the house. And so do we.

So we are, in one sense at least, “finished”.

However, there is still a lot of work to do. Inside, we have to finish the Japanese room and build book shelves. Outside, we have to install solar panels, both solar thermal (which we already have, ready to put up) and solar PV (which we don’t have, yet), and there is landscaping and all kinds of garden work to do once the snow clears and the temperatures rise. And then we have to deal with the old house – we applied for a demolition permit this week (and there will be more about all that in future posts).

Getting inspection-ready

Chris and Anne from New Leaf Custom Homes came round today to do the final few thing we needed to have finished so that the house can be inspected by the local planning office. All that needed to be done was to have a cap put on the balustrade of the stairs to bring it up to code-compliant height and add a decorative finish; and to install the stainless steel handrail. We also wanted to have a cover put in the attic entrance, although that isn’t usually necessary to pass the final inspection.

The house is mostly made of spruce, but the shoji sliding screen doors and frames for the (still unfinished) Japanese room are fir, and as this room is the first thing one will come to at the top of the stairs, it seemed to be a nice idea to have the cap on the balustrade to be fir too. Eventually it will be stained the match the shoji. The stainless steel handrail and attachments came from Krystalyte in Quebec. It’s good to have a bit of industrial steel to offset all that rustic wood (much as we love the wood).

But the important thing for now is that we are ready to be inspected!