Thursday, January 28, 2010

Show Me the Money!

Why build green? Let me count the ways:
  1. You are helping to preserve ecosystems

  2. You are taking an active role in improving your health

  3. You can GET MONEY BACK (on the local, state and federal level)!!
Clearly, I’m excited about the last point on the list. Why?

On the State Level:
Today, we received an e-mail that read, in part:

I'm pleased to advise you that the $6,000 PUC rebate for your PV facility has been approved.

That’s right! We’ll be getting $6,000 back from the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission for the roughly $15,000 photovoltaic system we will install. After finding out that there was an opening in the New Hampshire PUC’s limited rebate program, we jumped on the opportunity to apply. We mailed in our application along with Solar Wind Electric’s shading analysis of our roof (which showed placement of the PV panels), and photos of our home and our views to the east, south and west.

On the Local Level:
We’ve submitted our application to the New Hampshire Electric Co-op for their $1,500 rebate offered to homeowners who install solar hot water heaters.

On the Federal Level:
We’ll be able to apply for a tax credit (which reduces the tax you pay, dollar-for-dollar) for both our solar hot water heater and PV system. The tax credit is for 30% of the cost with no upper limit. This means we can get $4,500 back for our PV system and $2,250 for our solar hot water heater.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Progress Report: Raise the (Metal) Roof!

Half of our metal roofing is up. And so is one solar hot water panel. One step closer to looking like a ‘real’ home!

Our metal roof comes from Ideal Roofing, a company based out of Ottawa, Ontario. We chose the Americana roofing series in the color tan, which is Energy Star certified. The roof profile--not the color--looks like this: (Photo courtesy Ideal Roofing)

Metal roofs are known to be long lasting--sealing out water, resisting high winds and easily shedding snow. They are also resistant to fire, insects, rot and mildew. Our roof comes with a 40-year limited warranty.

Unlike roofs made of asphalt/fiberglass, wood, tile, and other materials, metal roofs have a high radiant heat reflectivity. In the summer, the roof will reflect radiant heat from the sun to reduce how much heat is transferred inside the house. In the winter, heat from under the roof is reflected back into the house, making it warmer. This reflected heat also helps the roof shed snow and ice buildup evenly and quickly.

The spray foam insulation underneath our roof has an R-49 value. Click here for more information on R-values. Also, this page on the U.S. Department of Energy site helps you find out how much insulation your house should have, based on your location in the U.S.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Salvaged Bathroom Vanities

Yep. I know I told you one of our vanities was coming from Craigslist in the form of a dry sink. Well, much to our disappointment, the transaction didn’t work out. We visited the piece of furniture one snowy day and were surprised to find a shelf that was nearly invisible in the picture posted online. It would have impeded our plans to install a vessel sink and faucet.

Weeks went by and we searched for the perfect salvaged cabinet or table that could serve as our vanities. Initially, we thought it would be pretty easy to find something that would work. We were wrong. Either that, or we are picky! I'm happy to report that we finally found them. And we are in love with them. Especially this one.

What is it? Good question. The local salvage store labeled it: “Corn stalk chopper?” Seems they weren’t too sure either. But after some research, I’m pretty sure they tagged it right. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the coolest-looking bathroom vanity I’ve seen. We’re going to keep this on the first floor and install this vessel sink from Lowes...

...and this Delta faucet on top. (Both sink and faucet will be mounted towards the wider-ended side.)

For our second floor bathroom, we found this gem hiding in our basement. We’d apparently taken the castoff from someone who was moving to a new house and forgot all about it. I think it has 'rustic bathroom vanity' written all over it. Don’t you?

We’re going to place this Kraus vessel sink and this Delta faucet on top.

I’m not a “visual” person, so it’s been difficult for me to picture what everything will look like when all is said and done. But, for some reason, I can “see” these vanities! And I hope their old-fashioned charm will help to balance some of the more modern flooring and bath/shower choices we’ve made.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Progress Report: Energy Efficient Windows

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll state it again for any newcomers (or those of you who may have forgotten): Our home is being built based on a passive solar design. Because of this, windows are an important element to reduce our heating, cooling and lighting needs. In order to maximize solar heat gain in the winter, our major glazing area faces south to take advantage of the sun in the winter when it’s low in the sky. The roof overhang was designed specifically to avoid excessive heat gain in the summer when the sun is high. You’ll notice both of these features in the photo below. (Note the windows just below the roof line that are barely visible.)

Window size and frequency is just as important on the east-, west- and north-facing walls. The photo below shows our north-facing wall. The windows on this wall are smaller and fewer than those on the south wall, on purpose. As our house sits, much of the winter winds come from this direction. Also, north-facing windows take in little solar heat. Therefore, they will mainly be used to provide ample daylight in back rooms of the house.

Our windows have a low-emissivity coating on them, which means they are a bit more expensive than regular windows, but according to the U.S. Department of Energy, they reduce energy loss by as much as 30-50%. They also meet or exceed Energy Star guidelines.

Originally, we were going to install Marvin windows in our house. But when we compared the Marvin/Pella windows side-by-side, we realized we could get the same quality windows for a heck of a lot cheaper.

I was also pleased to see a whole section on Pella’s Web site dedicated to their “green commitment.” Here’s what they say they are doing to help the environment:
  • Recycling — Pella’s process minimizes our use of nonrenewable resources.

  • Responsible Procurement — Pella uses sustainable sources and works with vendors who practice responsible harvest and replenishment.

  • Pollution Minimization — In 2006, the EPA recognized Pella with its Pollution Prevention for Environmental Excellence Program honorable mention award for our responsible manufacturing processes.

  • Reducing Energy Consumption — Pella offers the windows and doors rated #1 for energy efficiency among top national brands.
The company also claims to be FSC certified, offering the option of windows and doors made from wood certified to have been harvested from well-managed forests.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Energy Efficient—and Affordable—Appliances

We needed to get all of our appliance specs into Presby this past week so they could plan/build accordingly. Sure, this task seems pretty undemanding at face value. But in reality, we spent weeks contemplating cook tops and dwelling on dryers. And at times the process wasn’t fun—like when we (well, not me) stood in line on Black Friday at 4:00 a.m. for a washer/dryer…

Yep, choosing appliances took weeks of researching the most efficient models, head scratching over where certain appliances would fit and unearthing the best deals to make sure we stayed within our budget.

One common theme you will notice is that all our appliances are electric. We hope to offset a majority, if not all, of our electric use from our own sustainable energy sources (currently solar & hopefully wind in the future).

Without further ado, here is what we purchased:

Cook Top & Wall Oven- Remember the drama that ensued when we realized we’d need a fan to vent our stove? Because we didn’t want to obstruct the view, and due to the lack of downdraft options in slide in ranges, we opted for a separate cook top and wall oven. Our research revealed that convection ovens are more energy efficient than conventional ovens because they house a fan that blows air around inside the unit—meaning shorter cooking times at lower temperatures. We chose a Kenmore Elite 30 in. Convection Wall Oven and GE Profile 30" Downdraft Electric Cooktop. Both were purchased from the Sears outlet. (Photos courtesy Sears & GE)

Washer/Dryer- Because our laundry room is also serving as our pantry, we need as much space as possible to function in the small space. So, we opted for a stackable washer and dryer. My other half stood in line at an insane hour of the morning on Black Friday to buy this washer/dryer combo for MUCH less than it’s worth. (Thank you!) The washer is Energy Star-compliant; however, dryers are not rated under the Energy Star program. The dryer will only see action in the colder months anyway :) (Photos courtesy Sears)

Refrigerator- Because refrigerators are charged with being the biggest energy consumers, we spent a lot of time researching this appliance, and chose the Frigidaire 18.2 Cu. Ft. Top Mount Refrigerator for various reasons:
  • It uses 34% LESS energy than what is needed to meet the minimum federal government standard (NAECA);

  • It’s estimated yearly operating cost is just $41;

  • It has a top-mounted freezer, which uses 10–25% less energy than bottom-mount or side-by-side models;

  • It lacks an icemaker and water dispenser on purpose. According to the Department of Energy, while these features are convenient, they will increase energy use;

  • It comes in around $500-600. (Photo courtesy Lowes)

Dishwasher- We chose the Frigidaire Gallery Stainless Steel 24 in. Built-In Dishwasher because it was Energy Star compliant, good looking and on sale! (Photo courtesy Sears)

In every appliance we researched and purchased energy consumption was our primary concern. The less kWh we have to use the easier it will be to make our home a zero energy home!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Progress Report: Roofed In and Framed!

The white stuff was falling in the White Mountains last week when we checked in on the progress of the house and rang in the New Year in New Hampshire.

The last time we visited our home, the house was nothing more than a hole in the ground. It was surreal (and super exciting) to see walls, a roof, framed interior rooms and partial decking this time around.

As promised, here are a few pictures we took during our walk through.

Below is a view of the house from the road:

And here is our master bedroom:

Our second floor loft hallway:

Looking up at our south-facing deck:

Pex tubing in the basement floor will deliver radiant heat:

We also talked lighting during our visit. We walked through the house with the electrician to determine the location of the lights and switches. And after doing some research, we’re thinking of incorporating LED recessed lighting in the kitchen and living area, specifically the Cree LR6 bulb.

This LED light is more efficient than conventional lighting, Energy Star-certified and a greener solution to compact fluorescent bulbs as it contains no mercury. It is, of course, much, much, much more expensive than traditional bulbs, though...

Hmmm, decisions, decisions.