Something New (Solar) and Something Old (Wood Stoves) get Jim’s Home to Pearl Gold

Jim Pearl Gold home is so snug and energy efficient that in the winter he heats the home with wood and powers it entirely with solar panels.

Jim designed his new home in central Virginia with energy efficiency in mind. It’s very high performing with spray-in foam insulation, high-end windows and doors, excellent heating and cooling systems, an intentionally designed southwest orientation, and large overhangs on the roof. “I’m very sympathetic to energy efficiency,” Jim said.

Another thing that brings Jim satisfaction is his wood stove. “I’m a very experienced wood burner,” Jim said. His wood stove is the primary source of heat in his new home (though he admits he could just as easily heat it with his mini-split heat pump, which is very efficient). Jim says that he has five different thermostats in his house.

“It’s similar in size to our Indiana home, but we’re heating with one-third to one-half of the wood we used there,” Jim said. “I’ve had to change my method of burning! Basically, [I now have] one to three fires per day and then let them burn out because otherwise it would overheat. Our previous home was also tight but we had a continuous fire.”

While his house was already very efficient, Jim was inspired to do more. “I always had it in mind to put solar on a secondary building,” Jim said. “I love the idea of solar and wood: The old and the new.” He met Sigora Solar at a local co-op meeting and they offered an energy assessment of Jim’s house. “So, shortly after we moved in, I said, we’d love to have an audit!”

“Sigora Solar was very good … they knew their stuff,” Jim said. They advised him to put the solar panels on his house, not the secondary building. “Solar was a bit of a retrofit because the house had been designed already. We had three skylights in the roof, so we had to fit the solar around them.”

With the panels, Jim said his system produces 105% of his electricity needs in winter months from solar power. “We are energy free. Not just cost-wise but we are not using coal,” Jim said.

Jim received Pearl Silver certification for his home. However, as an energy efficiency enthusiast, Jim reached out to Pearl to inquire about additional specifications. “Casey Murphy, Pearl’s Vice President of Quality Systems, came out, got information from us about our models of appliances, window and door specifications, and more,” Jim said. “And we were solidly gold!”

“Pearl has a passion for energy efficiency,” Jim said. His Pearl Gold certification is, “a point of pride. I’ll make sure it goes with the house.” While Jim has no plans to sell anytime soon, he said, “When it does go for sale, people will know it’s not a normal house.” He’ll retire in three months, and aims to enjoy the comfort and liveability of his efficient home.

As for his experience with Sigora Solar, Jim recommends the company. It was a “smooth process,” he said. “They were very good, a lot of professional people who were very busy. With Pearl and Sigora, we dealt with a number of people who were specialists, who knew their stuff and were passionate about it.”

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Comment by Jan Green on July 26, 2018 at 3:10pm

I'm excited to see that others are using the Pearl certification. I've applied and can't wait to see where I land with my HERS score of 65 for my 1979 retrofitted home.  

Comment by Dennis Heidner on July 26, 2018 at 3:00pm

Not included in the discussion of this house - was the number of air changes per hour that they are making with an ERV or HRV.  And how they provide the combustion air for the wood burning.

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