By George Harvey
We have two good examples of green off-campus student housing in Plymouth, New Hampshire, courtesy of the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative (PAREI). Both have taken advantage of PAREI’s services to decrease their costs and carbon footprints and to increase comfort levels, and rated them highly.
Don Stoppe runs Campus Edge Apartments Plymouth, formerly Stoppe Management. His reasons for working with renewable energy and efficiency are many. The first thing he said about this was, “I want to vote with my wallet. Even if it costs a little extra, I will go with renewables because that is where the world has to go.” But it is not just a matter of his work. He says it is also his hobby, and he is putting a lot of effort into understanding problems and solutions. In fact some of his solutions are his own designs.
He has some tips that could be useful for others. One is to provide a weather wrap for buildings, which he says has excellent payback. In one case, he got a 12% reduction in heating costs in a building by improving the insulation. Later, he put a weather wrap on, with an R-value of 1, at much lower expense, but because it provided a barrier to wind, it reduced his heating costs by 18%.
Another tip has to do with heating basements and protecting pipes from freezing. He says if there are crawl spaces through which pipes run, they should have their own heat zones, separate from the rest of the basement. That way, the basement can be kept at 40°, and vulnerable pipes will get their own heat when temperatures go low.
Micah McLane, who operates Off Campus Rentals, is passionate about renewable energy and efficiency. He is also conservative about business finance and careful of his tenants’ comfort, so he starts most projects with test cases.
When he wanted to find out about air-source heat pumps, for example, he did the research and then had them installed in two buildings – his own home and his parents’ home. This year, he is testing how students like heat pumps. Next year, he might just start installing them rapidly in the rest of the fifty-five units he manages.
He is already putting water system heat pumps into buildings. They can replace the heating elements in electric water heaters at moderate cost, and cost much less to run.
“They do take a little heat out of the basement,” he says, “but that is more than compensated for by the dehumidifying they do.” They save money every year because the heat pumps do both jobs at once for a fraction of the cost to heat water with resistance elements.
Off Campus rentals is also installing photovoltaic systems (PVs) at the rental units. One apartment building has 13 kW of PVs on the roof. Other systems are in or going in. Asked whether he would like to have a larger ground-mounted system on land outside of Plymouth, he said, “Oh, I would really like to do that!”
Much more has been done, of course. Insulation, sealing, and lighting are continuing high priorities.