Green, Greener, Greenest: Page 3 of 3

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Active and passive solar
Active and passive solar pair up to offset this home’s energy needs.
House’s narrow footprint
The house’s narrow footprint makes the best use of the small lot.
South-facing windows
Well-placed windows on a south wall let in sunlight for warmth. Honeycombed shades slow heat loss through the windows at night.
Energy Star appliances
Energy Star appliances are part of the whole-house approach to efficiency.
Custom-cut structural insulated panels
Custom-cut structural insulated panels go up fast, and insulate well with little air leakage or thermal bridging.
SIP wall provides room for additional insulation
A nonloadbearing 2-by-4 wall inside the SIP wall provides room for additional insulation.
SIP roof is placed by crane
The 12-inch-thick SIP roof is placed by crane.
Efficient washer and dryer
An efficient washer and dryer help save water and energy.
Drying rack
Linda and Brad routinely use the drying rack for even greater energy savings.
Space-saving fold-down desks
Space-saving is part of energy savings. Linda and Brad have matching fold-down desks in one bedroom, which also functions as an office.
T8 fixtures
LEDs are used throughout the house, including in these T8 fixtures in the utility spaces.
Thermal blinds
Even the most efficient windows lose heat. Thermal blinds help keep it in.
A minisplit heat pump
A minisplit heat pump that helps heat and cool the home with minimal energy input. (Outdoor part shown).
A minisplit heat pump
A minisplit heat pump that helps heat and cool the home with minimal energy input. (Indoor part shown)
Wall-mounted minisplit air handler
The wall-mounted minisplit air handler in the guest bedroom is unobtrusive.
Aurora solar thermal collectors
Two 4- by 8-foot Aurora solar thermal collectors provide as much as 85% of the homeowners’ hot water needs.
Solar hot water components
Peeking up into the thermal closet at the expansion tank, drainback tank, and Grundfos circulator pump.
A single-tank drainback system
A single-tank drainback system is ideal for small spaces. This utility closet was sized specifically for the system.
PV array
Part of the 12 kW PV array.
PV AC disconnect
At ground level, the PV AC disconnect is the only evidence of the system.
utility kWh meter
The well-labeled utility kWh meter.
Low-flow fixture
Water conservation is a key design element: Low-flow fixtures reduce usage. A greywater system distributes the used water in the landscape.
Underground 11,000-gallon rainwater cistern
Perforated black poly pipe is the inner supporting structure for an underground 11,000-gallon rainwater cistern.
Gutters feed directly into the cistern
Gutters feed directly into the cistern.
The garden sits above the rainwater storage tank
The garden is planted in topsoil that sits above the rainwater storage tank.
Linda and Brad
Linda and Brad cozy up in their high-performance home.
Active and passive solar
House’s narrow footprint
South-facing windows
Energy Star appliances
Custom-cut structural insulated panels
SIP wall provides room for additional insulation
SIP roof is placed by crane
Efficient washer and dryer
Drying rack
Space-saving fold-down desks
T8 fixtures
Thermal blinds
A minisplit heat pump
A minisplit heat pump
Wall-mounted minisplit air handler
Aurora solar thermal collectors
Solar hot water components
A single-tank drainback system
PV array
PV AC disconnect
utility kWh meter
Low-flow fixture
Underground 11,000-gallon rainwater cistern
Gutters feed directly into the cistern
The garden sits above the rainwater storage tank
Linda and Brad

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.

Photovoltaics

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.

Wiser Water Use

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.

Form & Function

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.

Access

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.

House Systems:

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

Comments (3)

solars-info.com's picture

You should check for Solar Keymark certificate and parameters (like efficiency or power output) while trying to find any solar thermal collector (flat-plate or evacuated tube). There is also available search engine for collectors based on selected parameters taken from Solar Keymark certficates: http://solars-info.com/

DawnLarisa's picture

We have magnesium anode in our solar heater. Corrosion inhibitor decreases the corrosion rate and protects the metal tank.

Marc Fontana's picture

The article mentions that the Solar Water Heating system uses water with a corrosion inhibitor as the heat transfer fluid. What is this corrosion inhibitor? How frequently does the fluid need to be changed?

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