The concept of Net Zero housing is a hot topic. Calling it a concept is a bit misleading, as it’s now be proven many times over, that a home built in the right manner can produce all the energy it could ever use. The key is in creating a home that uses very little energy to start, and the goal of Net Zero becomes much easier to obtain. For some, the goal and challenge of Net Zero seems too far fetched, too expensive, too out of reach, or too Passive House. Tom Fullam and wife Stephanie of Vassalboro have built a home, Near Zero Maine, and taken that challenge straight on with well documented results.
You may know what Net Zero is, but what about Near Zero? As the name likens, it’s the goal of getting as close to Net Zero as possible within a certain budget. From a cost perspective, reducing monthly home energy expenses is attractive to anyone. From an environmental perspective, lessening the amount of fossil fuels used to heat and power a home is a plus as well. So how does this play out in the real world?
Built as a personal residence and case study to see what is actually possible for inexpensive, high performance homes in a northern climate like Maine, Tom’s Near Zero project is real world. Winning The U.S. Department of Energy, the National Association of Home Builders Research Center, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2011 Energy Value Housing Award the home has accolades to prove concept but what, exactly, is the concept?
Tom designed and built the home from his own knowledge and research, as Near Zero provides Consumer Education courses related to new and existing home efficiency. Designed to have low initial and ongoing cost, toxic free materials, ease of use and resilience, the concept was to prove net or near zero could be done for the same or less cost as “traditional” building methods. The difference being the ongoing costs of operating a home. In 2012 the total energy cost at the Near Zero house for the entire year was $380! That is an 87% savings over the average traditionally built home.
“Over the three years following construction, renewable energy features were added to the high performance double walled home, evaluating the impact on energy consumption with each addition. Results! The lowest twelve month energy cost was $ 307. Although not LEED certified, it’s design and sustainable practices were not far from our minds during the design and construction process. This resulted in a HERS index of 38 prior to the addition of PV and reduced the impact on the site and surrounding area. The locally sourced cedar shingles are left to gray naturally needing no paint or stain. The white standing seam roof, with an SRI of 81.6, sheds snow without raking, improves the performance of the PV by reducing the temperature around the panels and reduces the heat island effect that creates smog. The woven bamboo floor throughout is the hardest of the bamboo flooring products, transferring the six zones of radiant heat efficiently. Zero VOC paints, low VOC building products, and seven make-up air ports contribute to the indoor air quality. The 120 gallon solar radiant heat tank with an electric element for back-up requires no annual maintenance. An 80 gallon solar tank with electric element back-up provides abundant domestic hot water. Conveniently located controls in the pantry permit seasonal and demand adjustments for greater efficiency and savings. A 5 foot easy access shower with fold- down seat in the master bath provides a comfortable roomy showering experience while a 6 foot tub in the second bath is ideal when you want to lay back and soak. The 1.25 gpf Kohler pressure assisted comfort height toilets have the highest performance rating.”
The home is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,300 sq.Ft. single story built on full foundation. The basement is outside of the thermal envelope.
- Double wall construction, R-40 walls, R-60 ceiling.
- .18 U- factor Krypton filled Simonton casement windows.
- 2.4 KW Kyocera PV Solar Electric
- 120 Evacuated Tube Apricus Solar Thermal Collector for domestic hot water and radiant heat with electric element back-up.
- Three bedroom, two bath.
- No combustion appliances.
- Presby Environmental septic system.
- On-site phosphate retention system.
- Wilo variable speed radiant pump with zone actuators
- 1000 watt Xantrex sine inverter with 12 volt gell cell battery and smart charger to keep solar thermal and heat running automatically if power is lost.
- Clothes Line- the only” Energy Value Housing Award Winner ” to show a clothes line.
- Panasonic Whisper Green Exhaust Fans.
- From October 2008 through June 2009 all energy was grid supplied.
- By October 2009 a large solar thermal array, (Apricus evacuated tubes from Maine Green Building Supply), was completed to provide radiant heat and domestic hot water.
- By October 2011 a 2.4 KW solar electric system from Maine Green Building Supply was added.
The Near Zero concept home is for sale!
As Near Zero Maine’s new 2 bedroom, 2 bath home nears completion on an adjacent property, the original National Award Winning 3 bedroom, 2 bath home is for sale for $213,000. An open house for the public is Sunday, August 11 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. For information contact Tom Fullam at 207-266-4436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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