A Beacon for the Future

A Beacon for the Future
"We hope the reinvention of our 100-year-old waterfront home as a model of green building will educate and inspire both the building industry and the general public.” - Homeowners Dave and Anna Porter (rendering by Craig Thorpe).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What An Adventure!

Blog entry from Dave Porter April 2008

Design Elements: I have looked for design and space issues and frankly can’t find any. Every room is used and often. I don’t believe there is a room we feel is unneeded. We’ve had groups of 50 plus in the home and obviously there are “traffic” issues when you have that many visitors. but each room feels right.

Function of Components:

Chaffey did an amazing job of building this home. It's hard enough to build a custom home but building a custom green home--one of the greenest homes in the NW--and now you have a really big challenge! Then you add the fact that this house was built by committee and in a "fish bowl" making this demonstration home a feat to pull off! But we did it and it was exceptional. The last days before the public open started were crazy; we were working on getting the Certificate of Occupancy, staging the home, doing landscaping, setting up sponsor displays all at the same time. I counted 23 vehicles in front of the one at one point in the last days.

After occupying the home, we had several weeks of frustration when the geothermal system was not performing for us. Everyone kept after the problem and at one point I felt that perhaps the system was simply inadequate for the needs of the home. What EarthHeat discovered (to their credit) was the Hydron had too much refrigerant in the system which was not circulating as it needed to and therefore was locking out the system. Simply removing some of the refrigerant was the key and the system is now working perfectly.

Reporting Performance:

Perhaps our biggest disappointment is in regards to our overall electricity use. During the winter we have averaged $300 per month, although compared with other homes nearby–not built to these standards–our costs were lower. We had hoped with the advanced features that we’d save a ton but it seems not to be the case. Below is a breakdown of electricity charges. Keep in mind that we officially began living in the home on November 11. Also, part of our reality is that we have a hot tub (albeit with a high-energy efficiency cover). On the plus side, this is probably our only big electricity hog.

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We had believed we were putting in high efficiency 200 kWh solar panels but later were told they were only 165 kWh panels. Solar production will become more relevant as we enter the summer. The Outback inverter seems to be working fine. Here's how we're doing with generating power on our production meter:

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We're moving now! Hopefully as there are more daylight hours we'll continue to see these numbers rise.

Just because, we're also including our propane usage. Remember that we use propane for our: range, fireplaces, and tankless hot water heaters:

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Having said all this, it's pretty tough to gauge anything after only a couple of months. Also, we have little to compare to but we'll try to find some other homes to compare to.

Awareness Update:

The project received the Green Hammer Award on March 13th 2008. Cheri Westphal of Northwest Property Imaging advised us that over 12,000 unique visitors have been to the webpage. The home continues to be open to various groups. We have also conducted some Realtor Ongoing Education classes with more scheduled. And we've been written up in various magazines, online newsletters and newspapers.

General Comments:

We are finding new ways to live green and in future blogs we will share with you ways we are changing our behaviors and buying habits. Example: we no longer have his and her cars but rather we use the car that's best for the travel needs of that day. We are also incorporating more organic products into our home and diet. At work, I helped Countrywide Home Loans to launch an incentive of a lower interest rate (.125%) for buyers purchasing green homes. It’s a pilot program in 13 NW states but has big promise.

Now, we welcome your comments and questions!