We have been in our Net Zero home for a year now, and have learned a lot, both through the experience of designing the house and the time living in the house.
Our data tracking started on the 30th of September, 2016, so we have a month to go before we have a full year of data. I'll be posting another blog when the final numbers are in.
We also have the approval of much of the local wildlife;) We have had various visitors, and I have to say, I think the rabbits are the happiest and most well fed!
One of the really interesting things in our neighborhood is the number of black and albino squirrels. And they both love exploring all the nooks and crannies in our stack of boulders.
We have seen deer and turkey as well.
We also have completed a number of certifications, including GreenStar Gold and LEED Platinum!
Our Living Building Challenge is still in process. The last piece of that particular certification is a year's worth of data tracking. That will be complete in a month. So far, we are well ahead of our goal so I am very confident we will reach that.
More about what the LEED certification is can be found here.
Additional information about the GreenStar certification can be found here. Our home along with details and the GreenStar and LEED checklists can be found on their site here.
While we strived to reach LEED Platinum, we originally expected to reach LEED Gold. A lot of work was done by our team, and we were thrilled to get the news this summer that we had indeed reached Platinum :)
Our solar array continues to work flawlessly since the final fix last spring. We also have done some preparation work to get ready for three Tesla Powerwalls! If you ready some of our early posts, you may remember we wanted to have one or more in place last winter.
It looks as if we are getting those within a couple of months (we have a signed agreement with an installer).
This was long awaited, but will be worth it once we have them in place.
ProudGreenHome did a piece on our house and posted a video produced by Geocomfort (makers of our geothermal heat pumps). Click here to see it.
Greenhome institute also made a live video earlier this summer.
Each video includes many members of the team, including our architect, builder, HVAC wizard, interior designers, landscape designer and a representative from our solar installers.
Part 1 can be seen at https://youtu.be/NjSwoB8f8Ok
Part 2 is at https://youtu.be/94YlOp_SXZE
I figured since it is Leap Day, I would take time today to review some of our goals, and where we are at now.
But first, a quick note on the work being done...
With the warm weather last week, our new friend is now a single, rather than double snowman. It is a little tough to tell, however he is still smiling!
At the end of last week the tubing for the radiant heat was laid down. This will be our heat source when the passive solar design needs some help.
Have you ever actually tried to put a group of ducks in a row?
That is how the last week has felt, although things are coming together nicely and the next few weeks should move quickly.
Our final window has arrived and will be put in place this week. It is one of the windows on the side of the garage, so it hasn't slowed us down. The temporary doors should be here very soon as well.
The poly has been placed in the basement on top of the gravel and inspected. On top of that will be 4 inches of foam insulation, and then 4 inches of cement over that.
This was planned for last week. Unfortunately that duck didn't want to line up in a row and we ended up with the incorrect insulation.
Fortunately, our guys were right on top of it and the correct insulation was delivered Friday. We are working on getting back on the schedule to have it installed, hopefully, next Monday. Once installed the radiant tubing will be placed/stapled to the foam and we will be running an in-floor conduit for an outlet under our gaming table.
I'd like to share something I learned about this insulation as I never had thought about this before.
There are two general ways to produce this stiff foam insulation.
We are using Expanded Polystyrene (class 9) which is white in color.
The other type is Extruded Polystyrene, typically blue or pink in color.
The R-Value (the higher the R value the better an insulator it is) is very close (4.4/inch vs 5/inch) and the compression value (25 PSI) is the same as the typical Extruded foam insulation.
The Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is made by taking small plastic beads and filling them with air. This is done using steam.
98% of the volume of EPS is air. After the useful life (many decades, if not centuries) the EPS can be recycled and used again as insulation, packaging, etc.
The Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) uses polystyrene crystals. A blowing agent is then added and fed into an extruder where the mixture is melted into a plastic ooze. The blowing agent used are an interesting mix of chemicals. As these off-gas some are damaging to the ozone, some are greenhouse gases and other VOCs.
Another interesting aspect of the XPS is that it looses some of its R-value as it off gases. EPS does not (and any off-gassing is simply air). So while the XPS has a small advantage in R-value when new, the EPS will have a consistent R-value over time.
So, it came down to the fact that the EPS will take less energy to make, use less damaging (locally and globally) chemicals both in the process of making it and as the product off-gasses, and have just as good, if not better insulation value over time.
This week we are finishing up a few inspections, installing the final garage window, and starting to work with our cabinet maker (Jesse) to make sure the kitchen is just right (best laid plans, right:)).
Much of the landscaping, now that the retaining wall is in place, will be waiting for spring. Plans will be polished off over the winter so we will be on the schedule for first thing in the spring.
Oh, and last but not least, I am starting to clean up our current house to get it ready for sale, and cut down on the amount of "stuff" we will be moving (selling, donating or recycling where ever possible). If anyone wants any pictures of wolves, I may have something for you:-)
There is a saying in real estate that the three keys to a house is "location, location and location".
While this may originally been focused on the issue of home value it is also very important when it comes to energy use.
In our case we expect to drive many thousands of miles less each year simply because we are moving closer to where we work, events that we frequent, family and other trips that we make.
Since we want to provide as much energy as we use each year for both the house and our transportation, this makes it much easier.
Kate will be driving approximately 5,500 miles less each year just considering work. She is cutting 14.5 miles of her route to work, each way. Or about 29 miles a day, 116 miles per week, which comes out to about 5,580 miles per year.
Trips to visit family, friends, meetings and other events should save us, as a couple, another 2,500 miles annually (this is considering a few of our trips will now be longer). \
So as a couple, we will be driving about 8,000 fewer miles by moving 15 miles closer to the bulk of our daily travel destinations. If we were driving gasoline cars that would be about 375 gallons of gas or a bit over $1000/year in gasoline savings alone (plus wear and tear on the vehicles).
Since we are driving electric, it translates to about 2700 fewer kWh of power used, which means we don't need as many solar panels to become Net-Zero. In our case we are being conservative and planning on 2000 fewer kWh to make sure we reach Net-Zero.
Here is the really fun part...
How much would you like more time in your day?
As a very wise friend of mine recently noted, this saves time as well!
If you drive an average speed of 40mph over that 8,000 miles, that means you are saving yourself 200 hours of time.
That is 4 weeks of full time 40 hours/week work!
Split up, that gives you almost 4 more hours each week to spend with your friends or family, read a book, pursue a hobby or just relax.
In conclusion, we have found many benefits to moving closer to to metropolitan center. When we started this project, this was not one of my bigger considerations. Little did I know how much easier it would be to reach Net-Zero transportation as we move closer to work and play. The benefit of time was also much more than I had originally figured on, which was a very happy surprise!
Mark really doesn't like to talk about himself, the house is much more interesting.