Friday, July 11, 2014

Introduction - Energy Neutral Home - Mini-Description

Breaking Even With the Utility Company
So often an "off-the-grid" home is equated with merely replacing utility power with wind or solar.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The keys to utility-free living are in the unique design of the house, attention to details during its construction and its complimentary furnishings.  Then, when a photo-voltaic array or a wind turbine is added, its role is relatively small compared to what would be the case for a conventionally-built house.  

For Example.........
The average home in the St Louis area consumes around 13,000 kilowatt hours/year. Our consumption now is 6,400 KWH/yr and will drop to about 1,600 KWH/yr in the new home. The investment in a PV array sized for us to break even with the utility will pay for itself in 4-5 years. However, if we were the average energy consumer at 13,000 kilowatt hours/year moving into our house, the return on investment would be only a couple of years.

Small Budget-Big Plans 
Our goal is to use a budget that doesn't exceed the proceeds from the sale of our 1,400 sq ft home to build a certified 2,100 sq ft green home that is architecturally more interesting and in harmony with nature and with our lifestyles while minimizing future costs for energy, upkeep and senior care.

Unique Design
Our project utilizes many non-standard features to save energy and preserve finite resources.
  • No conventional heating or air conditioning
  • Heat gain from the summer sun stored in large thermal mass for winter heating and summer cooling
  • Super-insulated walls and cathedral ceilings
  • Truss-walls with rice hull insulation
Lumber salvaged from tear-downs
  • Construction lumber salvaged from tear-downs
  • Blower-door testing for air infiltration
  • Airlock between outside environment and living quarters
  • Partially earth-sheltered
  • Frost protected shallow foundation
  • Metal roof and siding
  • Fiberglass windows and doors
  • Screened porch next to kitchen
  • Locally harvested walnut and oak for cabinets, built-ins and casework
  • Fly-ash concrete
  • Materials and finishes with no VOCs
  • PEX water lines
  • Radon mitigation
  • Landscaping with native plants
  • Eastern red cedar windbreak -- west and north of house
  • Rain gardens, vegetable garden, berry patch and fruit trees
  • Retaining walls and maybe driveway from recycled barn foundation stones
  • Compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act 
  • In-fill location close to community infrastructure
Locally-harvested red oak for interior casework
  • Energy recovery ventilator
  • Tank-less water heater
  • Low-flow faucets; dual-flush toilets
  • Energy Star, or better, appliances and ceiling fans
  • Mostly LED task lighting and dim-able, motion-activated switches for LED general lighting

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