Demonstrate Mastery in Construction and Efficiency
by Chris Gillespie
If you live in or near New Hampshire and are thinking about building a house, your most environmentally-friendly option is a zero-energy home.
Zero-energy homes, according to ZeroEnergyProject.org, are homes that produce as much renewable energy as they consume over the course of a year. Built using advanced design techniques, zero-energy homes save homeowners money on their energy bills while simultaneously eliminating the homes’ operational carbon footprints by utilizing effective insulation and other energy efficient technology. Although zero-energy homes can be connected to standard power grids, they do not need to be.
Zero-energy homes are more affordable now than ever before and there are a number of intelligent and innovative New Hampshire-based builders who are ready to build one that’s right for you. Below are examples of three such builders:
RH Irving Homebuilders (Salisbury, NH)
Starting in the early seventies as a barn and home remodeling business, RH Irving Homebuilders found success in the late seventies and through the eighties building super-insulated timber frame houses, and has continued to follow their commitment to creating energy efficient houses, growing into one of the premiere zero energy builders in New England along the way.
A residence that RH Irving built earlier this year in Cornish, NH is a recent example of the ingenuity and attention to detail that the company puts into each one of their zero energy homes. Lit by a hundred percent LED lights, the Cornish house is built to acquire its heat and energy from its high-quality wood stove, energy-saving air-source heat pump and heat recovery ventilator, as well as solar panels to be mounted on its standing seam roof. Once the house generates its heat and energy, it maintains them within its walls using its superinsulation and its Intus windows.
RH Irving’s work also proves that you don’t need to build a brand new house if you are interested in owning a zero energy home. Last year, RH Irving transformed a scenic house in Concord, NH that was originally built in 1962 into a greener, more energy efficient home using all-new triple-glazed casement windows, air-source heat pumps and modernized kitchen and bath equipment.
Kaplan Thompson Architects of Maine made custom designs for both of these RH Irving projects. Two of RH Irving’s zero energy homes in Meriden, NH and Hollis, NH were designed by BrightBuilt Home, a Maine-based business that designs zero-energy homes and facilitates the process of building them from start to finish. Kaplan Thompson Architects founded BrightBuilt Home with the goal of providing more beautiful, healthy and low-energy homes for the American homebuyer.
The Meriden residence from RH Irving and BrightBuilt boasts a generous open-plan living space, as well as its own conservatory room and insulated woodshop above the garage. Its solar array was installed by Vermont-based solar electric system installer Norwich Solar Technologies. The house also passed a blower door test and proved that it meets its performance specifications, thanks to the help of its Logic windows and doors, which exude elegance and reliability all while offering excellent thermal and sound insulation and exceeding today’s energy efficiency requirements.
Garland Mill Timberframes (Lancaster, NH)
Named after a water-powered sawmill in Lancaster, NH that has been in continuous operation since before the Civil War, Garland Mill Timberframes has been designing and building a variety of structures, from homes and barns to saunas and gazebos, for over twenty-five years. The Garland Mill itself has been a net energy producer since the early eighties and now the company that shares its name prides itself in building houses that are just as sustainable. Two of Garland Mill’s most recent zero energy houses offer owners excellent energy efficiency as well as priceless views of northern New Hampshire’s scenic landscapes, such as the mountains of Carroll, NH and a lake in Dalton, NH.
Both homes make use of air tight (.45 ACH50), super-insulated thermal envelopes (R-38 wall, R-56 roof), with R-7 triple-glazed windows that keep interior surface temperatures stable while allowing solar gain from the sun to heat the home. Both homes use Fujitsu ducted “minisplit” heat pumps for heat and super-efficient Stiebel Eltron heat pump water heaters for hot water production. The Carroll home makes use of a heat pump dryer which is twice as efficient as conventional driers, and both homes supply residents with fresh air through a Venmar ERV ventilation system with heat recovery. These and other efficiency strategies and appliances allow the homes to be powered by solar arrays small enough to fit on their rooftops.
Both houses include foam core wall insulation, SIGA tapes and membrane sealants as well as solar panel arrays, ranging from 8 kW PV to 10 kW PV that, like The Garland Mill itself, produce more energy than they use on an annual basis. Given Garland Mill’s history of sustainability and quality wood-harvesting, it should come as no surprise that their zero energy homes are made from locally sourced New Hampshire timber—in fact, both homes have site-harvested timber in their structures.
Homes for a Lifetime LLC (Weare, NH)
Originally starting out in hopes of filling a niche in the industry over a decade ago, Homes for a Lifetime LLC has found that the demand for zero-energy homes is increasing and have since been striving as a company to make the construction and maintenance of zero energy homes as affordable as possible for consumers. Given the growing availability of the materials required for the construction of zero energy homes, Homes for a Lifetime believes that zero energy homes themselves can and will continue to become more and more affordable.
Homes for a Lifetime recently completed a home in Weare, NH that achieves its zero-energy status by utilizing solar panels, an electric heating system and an air-tight, draft-resistant infrastructure. The home even includes a garage and a basement, both of which are properly insulated and sealed as to prevent heat from escaping outside. LED lights and Energy Star appliances also help eliminate the home’s carbon footprint.
RH Irving Homebuilders: www.rhirvinghomebulders.com
BrightBuilt Home: www.brightbuilthome.com
Garland Mill Timberframes: www.garlandmill.com
Homes for a Lifetime LLC: www.homesforalifetimenh.wixsite.com/home
For GET’s previous coverage of another notable NH-based zero energy builder, Building Alternatives Inc., visit our website at http://bit.ly/2tew6v9 _____________________________________________________________________________________
While this list features New Hampshire-based builders, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York are home to many other reputable zero-energy builder. Look for their information in the pages of Green Energy Times. – Ed.
Chris Gillespie is a contributing writer for the Green Energy Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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