Monthly Archives: May 2011

An Introduction to Net-Zero Energy Homes

Net-Zero Energy Home

(Image Source)

Do you know what a net-zero energy home (NZEH) is or what the benefits of building/owning a NZEH are?

NZEH … with emphasis on the “EH”

Eh? So you’ve heard people talk about net-zero energy homes, NZEH for short, but you’re still left scratching your head wondering what the heck these homes are. Sure, you can make some sort of assumption based on its name, but if you’re still wondering what exactly the term means, here’s an explanation from

“Zero Energy Housing (ZEH) is a term applied to a house or residential development that produces as much energy from renewable sources at it consumes on an annualized basis. The Zero Energy Housing project focuses on grid-tied developments that both draw energy as required and feed excess energy back into the grid for others to use.”

In other words, net-zero energy homes are built to utilize green technologies which make it possible to harvest energy on location which can then be distributed to others to use.

What are these green technologies?

The technologies that a net-zero energy home incorporates include:

  • Passive solar
  • Solar domestic hot water
  • Solar electricity, also called photovoltaic (PV)
  • GeoExchange technology

For a detailed look at these technologies, check out the Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition website.

The benefits

Although net-zero energy homes have a higher initial cost of building, there are numerous advantages to building/owning a NZEH. According to Wikipedia, these benefits include:

  • isolation for building owners from future energy price increases
  • increased comfort due to more-uniform interior temperatures (this can be demonstrated with comparative isotherm maps)
  • reduced requirement for energy austerity
  • reduced total cost of ownership due to improved energy efficiency
  • reduced total net monthly cost of living
  • improved reliability – photovoltaic systems have 25-year warranties – seldom fail during weather problems – the 1982 photovoltaic systems on the Walt Disney World EPCOT Energy Pavilion are still working fine today, after going through 3 recent hurricanes
  • extra cost is minimized for new construction compared to an afterthought retrofit
  • higher resale value as potential owners demand more ZEBs than available supply
  • the value of a ZEB building relative to similar conventional building should increase every time energy costs increase
  • future legislative restrictions, and carbon emission taxes/penalties may force expensive retrofits to inefficient buildings

Would you pay to save?

What do you think about net-zero energy homes? The Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition’s vision statement says “All new home construction meeting a Net-Zero Energy Home Standard by 2030.” Do you think this will happen or do you think that’s being a little overly optimistic? Leave a comment to share your thoughts!

Weekend Giggles: Funny Animal YouTube Videos

Funny Animals

There’s an endless amount of animal videos published on the internet; some are funny, some are cute, and some just plain dumb. Here are a few that make the cut as some of the funniest animal videos on YouTube.

(Make sure you have your speakers on to watch these – they aren’t as funny without the sound!)

Ultimate Dog Tease

Talking Beaver on the Highway

Very funny dog! Really determined too…

Funny British Animal Voiceovers

Share Your Favourites

Do you have a favourite animal video that makes you laugh every time you watch it? Feel free to share it in the comments section below.

Tips on Hiring a Contractor

Hiring a Contractor

Hiring a contractor can be a little – or a lot! – scary, especially now, thanks to reality TV and shows like Holmes on Homes, we are shown the devil himself in the world of home renos: the deceitful, rogue contractor!

The task of hiring a contractor can also make you feel overwhelmed if you have little or no experience of doing so in the past. Here is some great information to help you out, along with some general contractor questions you should definitely ask before signing on the dotted line and handing over your hard-earned cash (actually, you should never hand over cash, but more on this later).

First Things First

Before you even set out to find a contractor, you first need to figure out exactly what work it is that you want done and check to see if you will need a building permit. For Moncton residents, the City of Moncton website will provide you with all the information you need to get going, including a detailed FAQ and permit application forms that you can download. If you don’t live in Moncton, you can find out more by contacting your municipal office.

Finding Potential Contractors

Get the word out that you’re looking for a contractor to see what recommendations pop up in conversation. By letting your friends, family and neighbours know that you’re hiring a contractor, if they have any positive or negative experiences with a contractor, you can be sure they’ll let you know. “Hey! You should totally hire so-and-so, they did my kitchen last year and I’m so happy with it!” or “Oh, don’t even think about hiring so-and-so, I got them to do my deck and I’m having nothing but problems.”

Don’t just try to find recommendations the conventional way either; use social media to help you find the perfect contractor. Post on your Facebook Wall that you’re looking for a contractor, or use Twitter to see what sort of response you get: tweeting “Know of any great remodelling contractors in #Moncton?” could provide you with some great recommendations.

Once you’ve shortlisted some potential contractors, make sure you check out their reputation with your local Home Builders’ Association:

Canadian Home Builders’ Association

General Contractor Questions

Okay, so now you think you’ve finally found the perfect contractor for the job. Here are several questions you should ask before you hire:

  • Can you provide me with five to ten references from past clients?
  • Can you show me your business licence?
  • Do you have insurance and, if so, what does it cover?
  • What hours will you be working?
  • Will you clean up after yourself each day?
  • What costs could occur that are not including in your quote?
  • What sort of warranty do you offer? How long is it good for and what does it cover?
  • What sort of payment schedule do you expect?
  • What methods of payment do you accept? Note: You should never hire a contractor that will only accept cash. In fact, you should never pay in cash as there will be no solid proof of payment.
  • Can you provide me with a detailed written contract?

Helpful Resources

How to Hire a Contractor by Mike Holmes: In this HGTV article, Mike Holmes covers a lot of important details, such as: what questions you should ask the references of potential contractors; what kinds of terms you should make sure are included in your contract; information on payment schedules; your rights to hold back a percentage of your final payment for a certain amount of time to ensure the job was done correctly; and more. (Another great read by Mike Holmes is an article called Contractor Red Flags: How to Spot Trouble.)

Hiring a Contractor by CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation): This article has an abundance of helpful information on finding and choosing a contractor, information on getting estimates and proposals, consumer protection laws, information on insurance, and more. This article also includes a great checklist to assist you in hiring a contractor. You should also check out CMHC’s sample renovation contract.

Success Stories / Horror Stories

What sort of experiences have you had hiring a contractor? Share your stories by leaving a comment below!

Pierre Martell Receives the BDC 2011 Young Entrepreneur Award

Pierre Martell Receives the BDC 2011 YEA

We’re so excited to announce that our very own Pierre Martell has received the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) 2011 Young Entrepreneur Award (YEA) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan today!

Sponsored by Deloitte, Cisco, BLG, Sage and The Globe and Mail, here are some details about this prestigious award:

Created by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) in 1988, the YEA pay tribute to remarkable young Canadian entrepreneurs who are outstanding not only because of their success in business, but also because of their creativity, innovative spirit and community involvement.

Nominees will be evaluated based on: the originality of the business concept; the company’s success and growth potential ; and the entrepreneur’s and the company’s community involvement. The panel also considers the entrepreneur’s age when the business was started and any special challenges that were overcome.

Pierre’s success was also published in the New Brunswick Business Journal earlier today:

Martell said he was honoured and humbled to be recognized for his entrepreneurship. It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but he says he’s always abided by the principles he put in place: to give the client as stress-free an experience as possible.
“We’ve never missed a closing date, we’ve never gone over budget, and so far … 100 per cent of our customers have had a great experience,” Martell said.

Martell said he was honoured and humbled to be recognized for his entrepreneurship. It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but he says he’s always abided by the principles he put in place: to give the client as stress-free an experience as possible.

“We’ve never missed a closing date, we’ve never gone over budget, and so far … 100 per cent of our customers have had a great experience,” Martell said.

You can read the full story here.

So, on behalf of all of us at Martell Home Builders, congratulations Pierre! You rock!

Please feel free to join us in congratulating Pierre by leaving a comment below.

BDC 2011 Young Entrepreneur Awards

Source: Young Entrepreneur Awards 2011 Fact Sheet (PDF)