The Simrose & Keinonen Family

Snapshot of Energy Saving Actions

Solar Hot Water Installation
Solar Photovoltaic (Electric) Installation
Electric Vehicle Charging Station
$50 off a first Home Energy Assessment
PV4EV: Photovoltaic for Electric Vehicle Incentives
Solar Hot Water Incentives


What do these energy champions say about the program?

1. What would you say are your main reasons for choosing to complete this set of home upgrades now?
I’m from Finland, where the energy bills are way higher because it’s cold. We had passive houses there even 20 years ago. We should be in Canada much more energy efficient and conscientious than we are. We wanted to be above standard even when we built our home 13 years ago because it makes sense in the long term. I didn’t know how popular it would become just ten years on!

We designed this home in 2000, and it was built beyond minimum code with low flush toilets, high efficiency showerheads, and more insulation than minimum.

Today our home is stepwise converted to be also efficient with other things – water consumption, recycling, waste, etc.

2. Do you have a sense of how much energy or money you are saving?
From May to September our solar water heating system was the sole source for our domestic hot water for all but 5 days. We saved in the 4 months about $150 worth of gas in water heating for our 2 persons in the home in comparison to previous year when we had no solar water. Our solar hot water system would have easily been sufficient for 4 – 5 people.

I checked the hydro bill before we got the electric car [with solar PV], and then the same month the next year. Even with the car fuel on there, the bill still shrank by 20%. We get much more PV power than the car uses. The biggest savings are clearly on the car fuel bill! We don’t have to visit the gas stations much anymore – it really feels strange to go to one!

We pay about 1.5 cents for electricity per kilometre or less, for our EV. That`s one-tenth of what I paid for gas for my previous car for the same distance.

We have 6 panels [producing] 1.5 KW. On an annual basis it already looks like the solar panels would end up producing an estimated 30% more annually than what our car uses – based on our driving of about 7000 km per year.

Yesterday (Oct. 17), we had 4.5 KW produced. In the summertime, we produced typically 10 - 11KWh per day. Even on cloudy or rainy days, never has there been a day with zero energy produced.

The electric car is really quiet in comparison to other cars, and it’s very nice because it doesn’t smell. When you stop, it uses practically nothing. It’s irritating to have to smell the exhaust of other cars, especially as it is now believed that it can be as bad (may be worse?) as second hand smoke. It drives as nicely as other cars. The service/maintenance costs are nearly nothing. There’s no oil change. The brakes could last as long as the life of the car because it uses electricity, in most braking, rather than mechanical brakes. It’s a much simpler car, the internal combustion engine (with gearbox) requires high maintenance – electric motor (without gearbox) nearly none. The service costs were about $100 for the first year – all they did is check the batteries and rotate the tires – there’s no real work.

3. Is keeping the batteries charged a difficult routine to add to your life?
Nothing to it – just plug in the car in the garage. Check the charge level and decide whether you wish to top it up, then just plug it in, and in the morning it will be recharged. It’s got enough range for driving all through Victoria – it’s good for city driving. 90-95% of our driving is in the range of the charge of the battery, thus we can charge at home. We can easily get to the ferry terminal or airport, and back, or we could drive to Nanaimo for a day trip. It takes about half hour to charge in Nanaimo for a return trip. Victoria is an ideal place for electric vehicle users.

People say that the batteries are difficult because they are difficult to dispose of. However when you are done using them for your car after what is expected to be at least 8 years, you can use them as home backup batteries. When you upgrade batteries, the new ones will probably be twice as powerful as the old ones, so you’ll have bigger ranges.

You can convert an electric car to feed emergency needs of your home for a week if there is a power outage. They are a tremendous backup energy source. This was reported to be done in Japan after the nuclear disaster a couple of years ago.

4. How did you first get involved with Solar Colwood?
We were involved at an event at RRU with several experts giving presentations about eco-friendly, sustainable homes, including OUR ecovillage, Elkington Forest, etc. That was a year before Solar Colwood. Then JC Scott told us that the city was providing these incentives. It clearly provided the right kind of incentive to start to change the world towards oil free, so we were delighted.

JC Scott arranged 3 university students from UVic to assess the energy efficiency improvement opportunities at our home. They estimated the ROI of different technologies. Solar water heating was a no-brainer – it pays for itself very quickly.

The electric cars did not exist and PV had a very long payback time at that time. The payback changed radically with the Solar Colwood incentives. Even then, we spent way more money than the basic solar requirements – tying in our water based floor heat cost 50% extra – we won`t expect to recover that. We wanted to make a pioneering system because it has never been done anyplace else. We do want to provide, as pioneers into this, a system to test its function and efficiency. To help improve such systems, to maximize the energy efficiency of the world, for the future. To me, it would be a waste of effort if we did not distribute the information. Better systems can be done. In my own working career, I’ve been a pioneer – mostly doing things that have not been done before: it’s in my blood.

Also, we have eliminated all grass from our yard, leaving perennial beds, shrubs and trees. This turned out to save more than 40 % of total water consumption. It was a two way shock to a) find out how much water had been used just to try to grow grass, and b) the cost of that being hundreds of dollars per summer.

5. What helped you most to make your upgrade decisions throughout this process?
The incentives themselves helped us do more than would have been possible without them, as it wasn’t as expensive to upgrade systems. The energy assessment up front, was a nice way to put the efficiency of the house to the global scale, about how efficient this home was before the changes compared to other homes. Our home rating being built at a time when generally no attention was put to high efficiencies was 81.

6. Which contractors did you choose to work with during your upgrade process?
Solar Hot Water System: Island Energy Solar Photovoltaic System: Home Energy Solutions-PV

7. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot about energy efficiency products during this process. What advice would you have for other people interested in upgrading their home?
Overall, in our opinion all energy and conservation oriented improvements are sensible investments into the future, if one can afford them. We choose to invest into a better sustainability and future rather than for luxury these days.

For the solar water heating, in today’s world, Victoria seems to be a good place to do it. It is highly efficient, no real technology improvements are expected, no need to wait for the future. It pays for itself, the more people in a home the bigger the savings.

For the PV, one cannot justify it based on any decent payback period on today’s energy prices, it’s still too expensive for that. For people who want to choose a less oil dependent future, consider an electric car and access the incentives, then it makes perfect sense. The PV panels for the electric car – they produce all the electricity that it needs. Our electric car doesn’t require any extra power plants by BC Hydro, it is actually a powerful way of becoming an energy producer of the non polluting kind and truly decreasing our carbon footprint. The other thing is that it provides fixed price fuel for the car for the next 30 years. For the invested money, if we get 30 years of “electric fuel” – from the user’s perspectives, we don’t have to worry about energy prices because it’s already paid. If they double the gas prices or the electricity prices, it doesn’t touch us because it’s already paid.

8. Have your friends or neighbors had anything to say about your upgrades?
Everybody’s very curious to find out and ask and get comments about our experiences, and we gladly tell them. Then, when the time is right people will be willing to make their own change. Most people do not even seem to know, nor think about these matters, so it is great to be able to spread the word through our own example.

9. Anything else you’d like to add about your experience with Solar Colwood or home energy efficiency?
The electric cars are selling at an increasing rate. Sooner or later, there will be a balance reached where used gas burning cars are going to be very difficult to sell. Especially with the Colwood incentives in place, it makes sense already, today, to prioritize an electric car, especially if daily driving distances are within its range. In Norway, the best-selling, most popular single car is the Tesla. They got it by eliminating the car tax for electric cars. (Taxes are nearly 100% of added price of cars in Norway). There, electric cars get to use bus lanes and have some other privileges, which gas cars do not. It shows national leadership for change, putting the right incentives in for the people. People are well known to vote/choose with their wallet.

Energy is a key thing. Colwood, in my mind, has already shown leadership in creating and inventing. As soon as the community would start to build into budgets the price of carbon, we can start to replace current energy sources with renewable, low carbon energy. It is craziness to protest against oil and its transportation – unless we as consumers start to choose to use other energies! The fact is, we consume way too much energy, we can reduce that; we are in the drivers seat with our decisions of which energy we are going to choose to consume.