Retrofit Turns Energy-Guzzling Home into Energy Producer – Green Building, Green Remodeling, Solar Power – EcoHome Magazine

The extensive renovation achieved an 80% reduction in energy usage.

By Jennifer Goodman

Retrofit Turns Energy-Guzzling Home into Energy Producer

  • The new structure sits on the fieldstone and brick foundation of the old one. Designer Andrew Webster speced generous glazing on the south and east sides of the house for optimum solar heating and light.

    The new structure sits on the fieldstone and brick foundation of the old one. Designer Andrew Webster speced generous glazing on the south and east sides of the house for optimum solar heating and light.

Enlarge

The new structure sits on the fieldstone and brick foundation of the old one. Designer Andrew Webster speced generous glazing on the south and east sides of the house for optimum solar heating and light.

Why build a new house when you can renovate an existing one, saving resources and materials while enhancing the old home’s performance with highly efficient insulation, HVAC equipment, air sealing, and windows?

That’s what Sara and Gareth Ross were thinking when they purchased an 1880s two-story house in Amherst, Mass., complete with green and white asbestos shake siding over lead-painted clapboard and a brick veneer addition. The roof was falling, the chimneys needed rebuilding, and the walls were uninsulated.

Despite its lack of curb appeal, the home’s location was attractive, within walking distance to the town center and to shops, schools, and the local farmers market. In addition, its southern orientation was ideal for passive solar heating during cold New England winters, and at 2,000 square feet (plus 900-square-foot unfinished attic) the house would provide ample space for the Ross’ family of four.

Although it was sorely in need of a facelift inside and out, the couple decided against demolishing the home and instead undertook a major renovation that would exponentially increase the home’s level of performance while opening up and modernizing the interior. They also chose to renovate the attic into a guest suite and office.

  • The first floor is open and light-filled, with understated finishes and simple materials such as Vermont slate and ash floors. The renovation cost about $150 a square foot, plus the $200,000 cost of the original house.

    The first floor is open and light-filled, with understated finishes and simple materials such as Vermont slate and ash floors. The renovation cost about $150 a square foot, plus the $200,000 cost of the original house.

Enlarge

The first floor is open and light-filled, with understated finishes and simple materials such as Vermont slate and ash floors. The renovation cost about $150 a square foot, plus the $200,000 cost of the original house.

The deep energy retrofit included a comprehensive insulation and air sealing package that provided an 80% reduction in energy usage compared with a traditionally built home of the same size. Project manager Andrew Webster of Amherst-based Coldham & Hartman Architects used a foam in/foam out approach that provided a high R-value with no loss of existing square footage and a robust air barrier. He filled interior cavities with Icynene open-cell foam and clad the exterior with Dow Tuff-R foil-faced foam.

Combined with an equally efficient roof assembly, Fibertec triple-glazed windows, and a low window/wall ratio, the airtight envelope provided whole-assembly R-values of 20 for the basement walls, 34 for exterior walls, and 57 for the roof. This reduced the estimated peak winter heat loss from more than 100,000 BTU/h to less than 30,000. The maximum cooling load was reduced from an estimated 6.8 tons to less than 1.5 tons, a more than 75% reduction in heating and cooling needs.

The old boiler, 40-plus-year-old furnace, and hot water tank were replaced with state-of-the-art high-efficiency equipment, including:
–a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heating and cooling system from Mitsubishi Electric, which allowed the home’s less frequently used guest suite and office to be zoned separately;

–a Steibel Eltron heat pump hot water system; and
–a Venmar EKO 1.5 HRV for mechanical ventilation.

Are You Up for the Challenge?

Not every high-performance remodel meets the requirements of the 1,000 Home Challenge, which calls for drastic reductions in the energy use of existing housing stock through a combination of efficiency upgrades, behavioral choices, renewables, and community solutions. In fact, many builders and homeowners are surprised when their projects come up short.

“These houses have to demonstrate performance that is beyond what most people have thought of as readily obtainable,” says director Linda Wigington, who encourages applicants to try again (and again) with solutions that lead to meeting the Challenge. There are currently more than 100 projects working toward meeting the program’s requirements.

The free, pilot initiative is based on measured—not modeled—performance, and was designed to help remodelers and homeowners think beyond traditional weatherization strategies. “Lots of projects can achieve significantly greater reductions,” Wigington says. “There’s a lot of opportunity for reductions all along the spectrum of energy use, and I think that’s really exciting.”

To learn more about the Thousand Home Challenge and to register for a June 14 introductory Webinar, click here.

— Jennifer Goodman

RENEWABLE ENERGY

After researching federal and state incentives, the owners decided to implement one more technology that would push their project from energy efficient to energy producing: a 12.4 kW solar PV system from SunPower. Averaged over its first year of operation, the $70,000 grid-tied system produced one-third more energy than the home used. In the first six months of occupancy, the house earned $416 from the electric company in excess electricity.

Thanks to the extreme upgrades, the house qualified for a $32,000 Deep Energy Retrofit rebate from Western Massachusetts Electric and won the 2012 Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s Net Zero Challenge. It is also the eighth home in North America to meet the requirements of the1,000 Home Challenge, an initiative of Pennsylvania-based home performance education organization ACI.

The 1,000 Home Challenge aims to demonstrate how remodelers, designers, contractors, and homeowners can drastically upgrade existing houses in order to alter their environmental impact, says Linda Wigington, ACI’s director of deep energy reduction initiatives. Homes in the Challenge must show energy usage for one year that meets a customized threshold of at least a 70% better than average. In projects such as the Ross home where previous energy use information is not available, the threshold is based on location, square footage, and occupancy.

“We’re showing that we can be doing things in a way that’s not a little bit better or better than average but significantly better,” she says.

With its state-of-the-art facelift, the Ross home now performs better than most new houses, Webster points out. “This was a chance to demonstrate the strategies that could be used in all kinds of existing housing stock, to show that older homes aren’t lost causes,” he says.

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor for EcoHome.http://soc.li/uhpx42

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Retrofit Turns Energy-Guzzling Home into Energy Producer – Green Building, Green Remodeling, Solar Power – EcoHome Magazine”

Leave a Reply-Scotty will respond asap

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s