With the house’s small footprint, tank size was a consideration from the beginning. Frazer paired the 50-gallon electric single-tank system with two 4- by 8-foot flat-plate collectors. The circulating pump is powered by 120 VAC. With an average of 4.9 daily peak sun-hours, Brad and Linda wanted to produce as much of their hot water as possible with this system. In the summer, the system easily provides 100% of their water heating. Annually, it will likely offset between 75% and 85% of their household hot water usage. At a net cost of $3,660, the system is anticipated to have a fairly quick payback.
Brad and Linda didn’t want to stop with just solar water heating—they wanted the sun to produce all of the energy for their all-electric house. With the City of Ashland buying back all the surplus solar energy the home could produce at 125% of the residential block rate for the first 1,000 kWh (and wholesale rates beyond that), they decided to install a 12 kW system. While they didn’t complete a comprehensive load analysis, their installer, Seaira Safady, felt that a system of this size would meet—and exceed—their needs. It was also about as much room as was available on the roof, minus the solar thermal collectors and fire access clearances.
Safady specified microinverters for the system, which offer module-level monitoring, with monthly energy reports and email notification if an error is detected. Among other things, he says, the microinverters offer increased safety by eliminating the high-voltage DC circuitry and redundancy, since an inverter failure doesn’t compromise the entire system compared to a string inverter-based system. The Enphase microinverters used in this project also carry a 25-year warranty, the same as the modules.
So far, Brad and Linda’s monthly electricity bills have been very minimal, and they are expecting to produce more electricity than they consume, especially during Ashland’s long sunny summer days.
Brad and Linda are both avid gardeners and they wanted to make sure they had plenty of water available—without using the municipal water supplied by the city. They installed two systems to help irrigate their gardens—a greywater system and a rainwater catchment system.
Greywater is collected from the showers, laundry, and bathroom sinks to the filtration unit and then to a subsurface drip irrigation system (see Access), which waters plantings in the front and side yards.
Brad and Linda’s rainwater catchment system is a unique underground solution consisting of a custom rubber liner filled with core-tube bundles. These large perforated plastic pipes give the storage unit its shape and allows uses above the system. In Brad and Linda’s case, their vegetable garden sits on top of the storage, which can hold 11,220 gallons of water. When water is needed for the garden, a small pump pressurizes the stored water for delivery. The chambers, made of recycled food-grade, high-density polyethylene, flex, bend, and roll with the movement of the earth.
In many municipalities, sewer bills are linked to the amount of water used—whether the water goes into the sewer or into your garden makes no difference. Offsetting the water and the sewer fees can make rainwater catchment systems pay off, depending on how heavy your landscape’s water use is.
While the couple has only been living in the house for a couple of months, they are pleased with the home’s comfort and their solar energy systems’ performance.
“Working with Dorris Construction and their foreman Lance was a joy,” says Linda.
“The collaboration with Patrick at Structures NW in a true team effort is what made the project so much fun,” says Brad.
Patrick Sughrue is a sustainable building advisor who started Structures NW in 2003 to assist clients with affordable, energy-efficient building enclosures for their construction projects. In addition to designing projects from one of their building templates, his company also supplies structural insulated panel (SIP) packages.
Alternative Energy Systems • aesinc.us • PV system
Dorris Construction • dorrisconstruction.com • Builder
RainTech • raintechh2o.com • Rainwater catchment
Structures NW • structuresnw.com • Design & SIPs enclosure
The Solar Collection • solarcollection.net • Solar hot water system
Water Wise Group • waterwisegroup.com • Greywater system