Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Q+A with Jeremy Burden, owner of the Harmony House, Opus II in Freeport

From the October 2011 Bright-Minded Home column in Maine Home + Design:

Designed by architect Christopher Briley of Green Design Studio, Opus II was the first home in New England to receive a LEED Gold Certification based on features including a geothermal heat pump, passive solar design, balloon framing, and super insulation, as well as the use of natural and local materials such as zero VOC paint and local cedar shingles.

What have been the benefits of your home’s efficient features?
The southern orientation, geothermal heat with the concrete radiant flooring, extremely tight envelope, and great insulation provide stellar efficiency. Our energy costs of just over $1,000 a year are approximately a third of the cost of my office in a 1900s building with a modern oil/baseboard. There are no extra rooms or wasted space in this house and the room proportions and window/natural light placement make it a very relaxing and natural space. It feels like the perfect size for our family of four though it is almost 1,500 square feet less than what many of our friends have for similar size families. In our case, less energy, less materials, and less waste means more efficient, more comfortable, and more economical.

Photo by Christopher Briley
Are there any systems or products that you’ve found less useful than others?
The positive pressure fireplace/stove is more than is needed. A simple sealed fireplace would be adequate for a house this tight.

What's Next
This house is ready to install PV panels. I'm waiting for a great cost/benefit scenario to come to fruition before investing in that technology.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Q+A with Mike and Rebecca Lambert, owners of the Redfern House

From the September 2011 Bright-Minded Home column in Maine Home + Design:

Known as one of the more affordable Platinum LEED homes in Maine, the house features a 90-tube solar thermal system for domestic hot water and radiant heat and a 2.1 KW photovoltaic array for electricity, as well as passive-solar features and high-efficiency framing, insulation, and windows.

Q: What do you like most about your home’s efficient features?
A: It feels like a living, breathing system and acknowledges that we are part of nature. Energy production and consumption changes with the seasons, the cycles of day and night, and cloud cover or rain. Our TED energy monitor graphs these fluctuations, and the resulting picture is similar to a graph of photosynthesis or tree growth. In the winter, the passive-solar design and the solar hot water provide a large portion of our heat. However, the best return is our wood stove. As the owner of Canopy Tree Care, I have access to free wood, so it just makes sense.

Q: What challenges have you faced?

A: LEED certification wants you to landscape with drought-tolerant plants, but the property is wet, so many plants died. Then we installed plantings that like wet feet, but it was before that dry spring in 2010, and everything died again. It’s a work in progress, but we’re planning to try edibles next.

Q: What’s next?
A: We’d like to adapt the heating system. We’re currently using an on-demand electric boiler to supplement the solar thermal to heat a 160-gallon tank. It seems that, ideally, the tank should be reserved for collecting heat from the solar hot water, and domestic hot water should be heated separately only if and when needed.

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