NET ZERO HOUSE

Unlike homes stuffed with green gadgetry, at staggering cost ($300-$500 per square foot and up), This home proves going carbon-neutral doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive. A bit selective technology, a bit intelligent design, a bit rural sleuthing, a bit elbow grease, and a bit heart brought the project to life, finished for approximately $230 per square foot including photovoltaics, solar thermal, rain waiter cistern, and equipment. The home is perhaps most notable for what it does not contain: a well or water hookup, a boiler or furnace, connection to the electrical grid, or a flush toilet.

Some stats that enabled the home to be free of the grid: a solar thermal array, designed to provide 80% of domestic hot water feeds excess heat to in-floor radiant heating loops. Twelve photovoltaic panels provide 2.9 kW of electricity. Rainwater collected from the roof fills a 5,400 gallon, underground concrete cistern (about 700 gallons are collected per inch of rain). A steel roof enables the rainwater collection as well as passive cooling. A central wood-fired masonry heater, contra-flow chimney re-burns smoke at 1,700F to achieve 90% efficiency.

Electricity demands are minimized through LED lighting, energy efficient appliances and electronics. The home’s windows have twice the R-value of conventional windows, with a very high solar heat gain coefficient (for passive heating in winter). R-value is maximized in walls and ceilings as well. A composting cherry-wood toilet, complete with 5-gallon bucket and a healthy supply of sawdust minimizes water usage.