The First Now House

Small House — Big Results

The summary of our design and technical specifications provides a BEFORE and AFTER perspective on the results we achieved when modeling the proposed changes to the first Now House. The retrofit is now completed and the home will be monitored for 12 months to measure our success in meeting the following predicted results.

The Now House will:

  • Reduce GHG emissions by 5.4 tonnes annually
  • Achieve an annual energy cost of zero
  • Reduce electricity use by 59.8%
  • Reduce heat loss to achieve EGH rating of 84
  • Produce energy on site increasing EGH to 94
  • Use minimal new resources and produce minimal waste
  • Improve indoor air quality
  • Be affordable
  • Be repeatable.

*EGH rating = EnerGuide for Houses is the home‘s energy efficiency performance rating.


Reduce emissions by 5.4 tonnes annually

Before: 9.7 tonnes GHG emissions
After: 3.72 tonnes
Saving: 5.4 tonnes

Achieve an annual energy cost of zero

Before: $1,266.58 (2541 m3) of natural gas annually.
After: $276.71 (555.3 m3) of natural gas annually. With the addition of solar PV and solar thermal systems, this home will achieve a net zero energy cost—it will make as much income from solar energy as the homeowner pays for gas and electricity. (Standard offer pricing in Ontario offsets energy costs).
Saving: $1,266.58 (2541 m3) of natural gas

Reduce electricity use by 59.8%

Before: plug load 5,110 kWh; lighting 1,095 kWh.
After: plug load 2,500 kWh; lighting 365 kWh.
Saving: plug load 2,600 kWh; lighting 730 kWh.

Reduce heat loss to achieve EGH rating of 84

Before: ACH of 4.61 (air is exchanged 4.61 times p/hr). EGH rating of 68
After: ACH of 1.5. EGH of 94

Produce energy on site increasing EGH to 94

Before: Energy user only.
After: Energy producer. A solar thermal system with an output of 7669 mega joules (MJ) per year. A solar PV system with an output of 8676 MJ per year.
Total: 16,347 MJ per year.

Use minimal new resources and produce minimal waste

Before: We started with an existing house which meant we didn't cut down trees or use farmland to build on.
After: Our focus was on conservation and utilization of the existing property. The design is simple: maximize the envelope, keep what isn‘t broken and isn‘t problematic, replace only those things that provide maximum gain.

Improve indoor air quality

Before: With a 60-year-old home most of the offgasing has already happened. There is no new carpeting or new furniture made from composites containing formaldehyde or new upholstery with a potpourri of fire retardants and stain resisting offgasing chemicals. There is a humidity problem and mold caused by the malfunctioning dehumidifier.
After: Because the envelope improvements will increase the air tightness of the home, we installed a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to draw fresh air from outside and distribute it throughout the home. This will also rid the home of cooking odours, moisture from showers and mitigate offgasing from new appliances.

Be affordable

Before: Wartime housing was originally designed to provide affordable housing for veterans returning from WWII. Sixty years later, rising energy costs are making these homes less affordable to operate.
After: The Now House demonstration project proves the concept of a near zero energy retrofit. At a cost of $85,000, we don't expect mass replication. However, as the efficiency of new technologies goes up the cost goes down, the cost of achieving net zero energy will go down.

Be repeatable

Before: We need a way to improve energy efficiency of existing buildings. The National Round Table on the Environment and Economy estimates that 66% of buildings that will be standing in 2050 are already built.
After: One zero energy wartime house with potential replication to one million wartime homes across Canada.

The Retrofit Process

To achieve our goal of a near zero energy retrofit we made the following changes to this home. As all existing houses have a unique set of conditions and characteristics, the application of the Now House process to another house would produce different design specifications. What follows is not a prescription for the near zero retrofit of all homes.