Saturday, May 1, 2010

ZEH design blueprint

Where did the design of this ZEH house come from? Good question. A lot of tiresome searchs on the internet uncovered a few rare nuggets. The first and in many ways the most fruitful was the Zero Energy Home section of Toolbase Services: the Home Building Industry's Technical Information Resource. This site has a wonderful article titled Seven Steps to a ZEH that is the closest thing to a ZEH "blueprint" out there. Links to scientifically monitored zero energy homes, like the Tuscon's Zero Energy Home were invaluable not just for the data they included, but the encouragement they provided that this is indeed a practical, achievable goal. Given we became interested in the combination of solar PV and geothermal HVAC after tossing around ideas with our builder, Mark Waring, finding the series of articles titled Energy efficiency, SIPS, geothermal, and solar PV used in near zero-energy house was like striking gold, as it documented and evaluated a series of homes using this exact combination. In looking for books on the topic, the pickings were slim. Ed Begley's Guide to Sustainable Living served as good primer for general energy-efficiency ideas, while Got Sun? Go Solar by Ewing and Pratt was a practical, content-rich guide to utilizing solar PV as part of a ZEH effort. The Renewable Energy Handbook, Revised Edition by Kemp offered a broader exploration of alternative energy alternatives. Toward a Zero Energy Home by Johnston & Gibson is a very recent release whose greatest value may be its descriptive "Case Studies" of 13 near ZEHs. Two magazines that offered some help were Solar Today Magazine and HomePower Magazine, the former focused on solar power, but from a wide ranging perspective, while the latter is more focused on real world applications of renewable energy, including solar, and yielded needed product information. In the end, working with our builder who was already experienced in building energy efficient homes, pulling ideas from a variety of sources, and considering and ruling out some promising but impractical combinations, we embarked on an informed leap of faith. Time will tell how much of a leap, and we work with our builder on a weekly basis to continue to hone and fine tune the design, in search of that elusive "zero."

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