Mt. Washington Valley Habitat for Humanity exceeds standard energy efficiency codes
By Marianne Jackson and Dick Ficke
After a year of planning and building, the Evan and Deni Shangraw family was given the keys on Saturday, November 12, 2016 to their newly finished Habitat for Humanity home in Tamworth, NH that far exceeds standard energy efficiency codes. Though the home began as a standard three-bedroom, 1200 square foot ranch built by the local Mount Washington Valley affiliate, building managers Anthony Ruddy and Roger Aubrey went the extra miles. All lighting is LED, all appliances are Energy Star rated, heating and domestic hot water uses an on-demand propane –fired system, insulation exceeds code with R26 on the walls and R49 in the ceiling, and the house is topped with a 5kW photovoltaic solar installation.
Building simple, affordable and decent housing for all is Habitat’s mantra. But in the past decade, this concept has been expanded to include “sustainability.” For Habitat, sustainability is synonymous with “green” designing and constructing houses that are efficient and durable, that use fewer resources, are healthy to live in and are affordable. The rationale is simple, building sustainability means taking better care of the environment and the homeowners.
All over the country, Habitat affiliates are building “green” homes. With nearly 12% of Americans living below the poverty line, the immediate need to provide low-cost houses is obvious. But what is also becoming increasingly obvious is the ability to ensure that these houses are affordable to their owners over the long term. That means building homes that incorporate energy-efficiency measures and technologies in their design and construction.
To that end, Habitat has formed Green Teams, responsible for providing education and training in the promotion of energy-efficient, environmentally friendly construction practices at the local habitat affiliate level. In addition to these practices, Green Teams also urge affiliates to incorporate plans for reclaiming and recycling leftover materials, minimizing the use of natural resources and reducing the impact on the land.
So where does the MWV Habitat for Humanity Affiliate fit into the ‘green’ equation? Every house that the local affiliate builds is in full compliance with the NH Residential Energy Code and certified as such. Planning for each house to be built recognizes that New Hampshire has some of the highest utility costs in the nation. One means of reducing long term utility costs for homeowners is by investing in solar photovoltaic energy generation to offset the homeowner’s electricity demand while trying to keep the cost of the home and the no-interest 30 year mortgage at a reasonable, affordable amount.
Habitat worked with its site planner to locate the home slab to maximize roof-top sun exposure. Agreements were obtained from a local tree removal service to voluntarily help clear the additional trees necessary to meet exposure requirements for the array. Sited on the north side of the lot with the ridge oriented in an east-west direction, the pitch and location of the south facing roof were positioned to obtain the maximum and necessary sun exposure for a roof top, 20 panel, 20 micro-invertor PV array to provide 5kW electricity generation. The financial case was made that given the available incentives from net-metering, the Federal Tax Credit, RECs and the New Hampshire PUC rebate, the additional cost to the family per month in their mortgage would be less than 2/3 of the estimated monthly electricity bill when looked at annually. Labor costs were donated by DW Electric for the installation and Habitat was able to obtain additional funding, generously provided by the McIninch Foundation to defray equipment costs.
It is expected that this system will be able to supply approximately 85% of the family’s electricity needs. How do Deni and Evan Shangraw, the selected family feel about going solar? Here is what they had to say:
“First, I guess it would be that to be energy independent should be a goal of almost every household in America! The fewer resources we use as a society, the better for us and the planet.
“Second is the cost. The initial investment is definitely worth the long term pay out. It will give our family relief in the future from heavy electric bills, especially when we have older children in the house thus our power demands go up.
“We just want to do our part for future generations by being responsible. Habitat is greatly helping us be able to do that—with the assistance of going solar. We are very thankful and excited.”
Marianne Jackson is a retired physician volunteering time with several organizations including Habitat for Humanity and the Mount Washington Valley Citizens for Energy Efficient Communities, a local energy solutions hub. Dick Ficke joined the Mount Washington Valley Habitat Board of Directors in March of 2014 and now serves as the Mount Washington Valley Habitat Affiliate president. He is chair of SCORE and is also on the board of Arts in Motion theater group with an impressive education and background.