Connecticut’s 2016 Zero Energy Challenge reinforces the growing interest in the zero-energy home building movement. In addition to increased participation among experienced homebuilders, the 2016 challenge had an influx of inexperienced zero-energy home builders trying their hand at zero-energy homebuilding for the first time, with two winning.
How did they do it?
Research, research, and more research
While zero-energy homebuilding is considered to be a niche industry, information about its benefits and guides on building zero-energy homes are available on the Internet. Providing homeowners, like the Mosers, with enough information to oversee the construction of their super-efficient home.
Planning for their future and retirement, Steve and Janis Moser’s dream to build a home with minimal energy expenses began almost six years ago. Before breaking ground, the couple attended home shows and conducted online research on every aspect of zero-energy homebuilding including insulation, windows, siding and roofing.
During that process, the couple learned about Energize Connecticut’s Zero Energy Challenge competition and Residential New Construction program, which is delivered by Eversource, UI, SCG and CNG, and provides incentives, expert guidance and industry resources.
Their research combined with the challenge’s resources helped make their dream a reality, resulting in winning the challenge’s Lowest Overall HERS Index category with a -14 HERS rating.
Their Broad Brook, Connecticut home features:
- A ranch-style home design with no ceiling penetration for duct work, which provides a tighter building envelope.
- Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) in the basement wall providing unmatched comfort, energy efficiency, strength and noise reduction.
- Two renewable energy sources – solar photovoltaics and geothermal. With 92 solar panels, the Moser’s use PV for all of their electricity, including appliances, heating and cooling system and well. The geothermal system has two wells, which take water from the ground to heat and cool the house.
- An Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) ventilation system with a carbon dioxide (CO2) sensor that detects CO2 levels in the house and turns on the system to bring them down.
Partner with Experienced Professionals
Like the Mosers, Greg Arifian, site manager for Silver Lake Conference Center in Sharon, Conn., found the challenge’s resources and experienced professionals instrumental in the renovation and remodel of the center’s 110-year old lodge.
After evaluating the structure, Greg found that three of the lodge’s four walls needed to be replaced, and saw an opportunity to incorporate Passive House design principles. To learn more about the process, he completed a Passive House training course. Through his studies, he received information about local resources and professionals including River Architects, who specialize in Passive House design, and Zero Energy Challenge HERS professional, Troy Hodas of Spruce Mountain, Inc.
With their help, Greg built a sustainable structure with low operating costs, and the lodge won the challenge’s Best Overall Envelope category, featuring:
- A wood stove with outside air supply including an insulated shut off valve to eliminate drafting during non-use of the stove.
- Hyper-insulated building envelope utilizing a 2x4 construction method with fiberglass insulation and exterior insulation in Larsen trusses on the roof (16”), walls (14”) and floor (12”).
- Original interior pine planking and a recycled metal roof.
- An evacuated tube solar hot water heater that converts solar energy into usable heat in a solar water heating system providing hot water and some building heat.
- Educational displays that teach guests about the technologies used in the building.
As the challenge welcomes its 2017 participants, we look forward to another year celebrating the zero-energy movement and encouraging our builders to be creative and push the boundaries of zero-energy homebuilding.