By George Harvey
The home of Hannah Smeltz and Spartan Giordano of Greenfield won the North East Sustainable Energy Association’s (NESEA) 2015 Zero Net Energy Building Award. One thing interesting about the project is that it was the first house built by Giordano, a former math teacher. Though he had no hands-on experience with building, Giordano knew a fair amount about renewable energy, as he had been through the Greenfield Community College Renewable Energy Program. He also got a fair amount of help from friends and contractors.
The 1,500 square-foot saltbox home was built at a cost of $145,498, but there was a good deal of savings along the way. Giordano did much of the labor himself, bringing down the cost. Other things that reduced costs included use of reused or recycled materials. The foam board used to insulate the foundation was recycled. Most doors and windows were purchased used. The tiles for the first floor are scrap granite. The walls are 12.5 inches thick, and are insulated with recycled fiber from newspapers.
The heat is nearly all passive, and all living space in the house has south-facing windows for solar gain. There is one Mitsubishi MSZ-FE12NA heat pump, but it rarely goes on. The house has heat-recovery ventilation, which also allows clothes to be dried by hanging inside, reducing energy use without causing humidity problems. Hot water is supplied by two panels in a drain-back solar hot water system. The panels are Sunearth EC-40, and the tank is HTP Contender.
All power for the house comes from the sun. A 4.5-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof produced 5,144 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in the first year. The house actually produced 503 kWh more than it used, meaning it is net-positive.
This home is always cozy, warm in the winter and comfortably cool in the summer, and it achieves this without using any fossil fuels at all. The cost of running it is minimal, and the cost of building it was not high. It even offsets other people’s carbon emissions by putting energy on the grid. We might agree with NESEA about this home. It deserves an award.