Archive for the ‘Residential Projects’ Category

Solar a “No Brainer” for Builders at Benjamin and Company

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Brunswick, Maine - Solar
A super efficient home built by Benjamin & Company for a homeowner in Brunswick, Maine.

We spoke with builder Ben Hemberger of Benjamin & Company about his high quality, energy efficient custom timber-frame home building business. We’ve collaborated with them on numerous projects where solar was integrated with the home design, and wanted to get a sense of what is drawing people in to build their homes better and when and how solar enters into the discussion.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get interested in solar?

My father was an architect so I’ve been around the industry my entire life. I learned from my father that the carpentry trade is as much about building personal relationships and trust as it is about building houses. After exploring general carpentry, boat building and even architecture, I became interested in timber framing and went out and started my own business. We do a variety of high-end custom homes and timber framing, sometimes near net zero or passive homes but usually just looking for a ‘pretty good house.’

I’ve always been interested in energy efficient homes, starting out with solar in the mid 2000s though the technology wasn’t quite there yet. Flash forward to 2011, and I worked with ReVision for a home in Brunswick where we installed solar PV, solar hot water, and an integrated solar thermal heating system. Every home since has had solar PV. Today, it’s a no-brainer.

Can you tell us about a typical discussion with a prospective homeowner? Do you have to convince them solar is a good idea?

Our clients tend to come self-educated to a large degree: they already understand the value of solar and I don’t have to ‘sell’ it to them. Instead, we talk about the latest technology improvements, which is generally how affordable it is to generate your own electricity supply on-site with renewable solar energy, and then use that electricity to meet your heating and cooling needs with heat pumps. Once they look at the numbers, it’s a clear no-brainer.

Do people feel they need to make a trade-off between comfort and energy efficiency?

People know that solar and efficiency saves them money and is the right thing to do for the environment. What they often don’t realize, at first, is that it also results in a much more comfortable home to live in. An energy efficient house is more comfortable year-round and has higher indoor air quality. You don’t get surprise energy bills that are financially burdensome. You pay a little bit more upfront but enjoy a lifetime of peace of mind.

What one piece of advice would you give to people considering building a new home and trying to wade through all the options available to them?

Build as small and simply as you feel you can to save on energy and maintenance. It’s very popular to build bigger homes, but the reality is that the simpler you get, the easier it is to do all of this.


200 Year Old Barn Receives Sustainable Upgrades by a Custom Shoemaker

Monday, September 15th, 2014

2014-04-22 02.34.26

For the past 40 years, Robert and Barbara have shared a love affair restoring this wonderful barn. To prepare it for solar, they pooled their resources together with the talents of their son, Eben, who grew up heavily influenced by working alongside his parents during their restoration efforts. Now a highly skilled craftsman and professional restorer himself, specializing in antique barns, he’s able to add his own preservation expertise. “He was very helpful in analyzing the structural condition of our barn and preparing it for the photovoltaic panel installation. By using vintage timbers, repairs were made to the frame without them being noticeable,” says Barbara, reflecting on the project, “It has been wonderful for us to work with Eben on this project, which has been a goal for many years, and we couldn’t have done it without him!”

Many old barns were built to take advantage of passive solar opportunities, since many might otherwise lack an alternative source of heat and light. A large roof expanse and south facing orientation are common ideals for a solar system. The Mathews barn in particular, is oriented opposing the quaint little road it lives on, so one might have to look closely to see the solar array as they pass by.

Their collective efforts entailed re-roofing nearly 2,000 square feet with metal before a 7.8 kilowatt solar electric array was mounted at the south facing center. This system is designed to offset their entire electric load for both the house and business, producing over 9,500 kilowatt hours annually, thus removing almost 7,000 pounds of CO2 emissions every year.

Their passion for sustainability began during Jimmy Carter’s Energy Program in the 80’s, where they installed a solar hot water system. They continue to garden organically and heat primarily with wood cut from their land. “We have three grandchildren, with a fourth due at Thanksgiving, so we are thinking about the world we will be passing on to them. With all the concern about the environment and climate change it’s hard not to want to help in some way,” says Barbara.

A little about your hosts, Robert and Barbara Mathews:
Robert began his career at an early age, deeply influenced by the traditions of his shoemaking family. Today he works closely with his wife Barbara, who contributes her talents for color and design. Together they have created a unique business, all while raising a family and restoring this antique farmstead.

“Custom Shoemaking is all about our clients”, says Barbara, whose process includes a deep understanding of the needs of people and their feet, since many clients are looking for shoes to accommodate a wide range of foot issues. “We work with each individual client to fulfill their personal fitting requirements and design ideas and find it especially gratifying to help people with foot problems be comfortable and happy in their shoes, often for the first time in their lives.” Other clients simply seek a high quality, handmade shoe with special leathers or colors. And then there are those who have all of these goals for their shoes. ”Being able to create something with our hands that contributes to the well-being and satisfaction of others is the inspiration for our business.”

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ReVision Energy is honored to collaborate with The NH Preservation Alliance*  for an open house scheduled for Thursday, September 18th from 5-7pm. Light food and drink will be served, followed by a session on solar energy and tour of the barn.

Please RSVP for address to Kimry at 603 679 1777 or kimry@revisionenergy.com.

*The Preservation Alliance is New Hampshire’s non-profit, membership-based organization committed to the preservation of historic landmarks, communities and landscapes through leadership, education and advocacy.


Coastal Cohousing Community Wins North American Copper in Architecture Award

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Salt Marsh Cohousing
The decision to use copper extensively on the Coastal Cohousing Community project was a carefully considered one, as low maintenance and long durability were high on the owners’ list of priorities.  ReVision Energy had the unique challenge of integrating a high-performance solar energy array on top of the beautiful copper roof, using special fasteners that ‘dimple’ but do not puncture the copper, so as to maximize the lifetime of the roof system.

The ease of adapting copper to a variety of conditions and configurations allowed the architects to design all eaves, rakes, dormers and chimneys entirely in copper. This was both performance-enhancing and an aesthetic benefit. The result is a contemporary interpretation of the classic New England building form.

Full story is available here: http://www.copper.org/applications/architecture/awards/winners.html


Another New Solar Electric Installation in Andover

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Outdoors-Solar-Installation-0129
Revision Energy of Exeter installed another photovoltaic array in Andover last month.

The 18 panels should provide about 5.4 kilowatts of electricity over the course of a year, enough to power the entire household. Any excess power goes into the New Hampshire Electric Co-op’s grid for other NHEC customers to use. Revision recently announced a new program that lets qualified homeowners add solar with no money down.

Full story is available here: http://andoverbeacon.com/index.php/12934/another-new-solar-electric-installation-in-andover/


Solar Q&A: Dr. Ron Davis, Professor Emeritus at UMaine Climate Change Institute

Monday, August 4th, 2014
Ron Davis Ground Mount Solar, Orono, ME

Dr. Ron Davis with ReVision Energy Master Electrician Ryan Herz in front of Davis’s ground-mounted solar electric array in Orono, Maine

Professor Ron Davis served at UMaine’s climate school for over 30 years before retiring, and in the decade since has improved his home and lifestyle to the point where he and his wife consume almost no fossil fuel.  He is also an avid bird photographer and took time from a recent trip to Nome, Alaska, to talk to us about his solar efforts.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get interested in solar?

I’ve been in Maine since the 1950s.  I taught at Colby for 10 years before moving up to UMaine at Orono to join the (then) just-starting Climate Change Institute. I worked there for over 30 years before retiring in 2003. My focus was on paleoecology, reconstructing past ecosystems by analyzing pollen and other remains in lake sediment and peat. These deposits offer us clues about the ecosystems and environments of the distant past and the living conditions of the ancient peoples. Of course, all this helps us to understand climate change and what is normal and what is outside the norm.

The understandings I acquired in my teaching and research have had an impact on how I act as an individual living on this planet. As a scientist, I believe in the scientific process and what scientists are saying about climate change, especially as I have evaluated the findings of climate scientists from my own critical point of view.  My wife, Lee, is also a scientist and shares this point of view.  Through that lens, we feel a powerful sense of responsibility in regards to our personal consumption of fossil fuels on this planet, and we set out to do something about it.

So what pushed you to go from solar enthusiast to solar customer?

When I retired in 2003 we invested some of our savings into a series of renewable energy projects. We started with a solar hot water system, which provides nearly all of our home’s domestic hot water use, continued with a geothermal heat pump for all our home’s heating and cooling, and finally added a large (11kw) ground-mount solar photovoltaic system for all of our household need for electricity. When we planned the size of the solar electric array, we included enough capacity to power an electric car for all of our local transportation.  We were finally able to buy that car last November, a Nissan LEAF, which we have named ‘SUNCAR.’

With the LEAF, we find we hardly ever need to use our regular car (a Toyota Prius) except for when we go on long trips. Overall, we have gone from quite a substantial carbon footprint for our household and local transportation to almost none.

How’s the solar life? Anything else on the horizon?

We are excited that our work has inspired others in our community and we are now working with a local (Orono-area) group to discuss progressive issues ranging from environmental justice to peace-making. We’ve opened up our home for others who wish to see how they can combine all of these technologies together to save money and greatly reduce their burden on this planet.