Main Eco Homes Bring Traditional Look to Net Zero Buildings
Solar Power | December 18, 2012 | Posted by Fred Greenhalgh
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“Net zero is the way we all need to go” says Justin McIver, summing up the building philosophy and value proposition of his Main Eco Homes (MEH).
30-year-old McIver is a Fryeburg-native and the son of an electrician, so trades are a way of life for him and his family. But after studying environmental issues as part of his business curriculum at Colby Sawyer College in New London, NH, McIver realized that energy efficiency would be critical to the future of the building trade – and the future of the planet.
“There’s just no room for the status quo anymore,” McIver says, “Conventional building saves a little bit of money in the short-term, but long-term is a terrible proposition for both the homeowner and the environment. Our homes save you money from day one. The average Maine home spends $300 a month on heat and electricity, ours costs $0. Rolled into a mortgage, going net zero is a cash flow positive investment.”
Traditional Look, Net Zero Performance
For McIver’s MEH, it was important that premium performance not affect building aesthetics. His first custom model home, built in Sweden, is a 2,000 sq. ft. traditional craftsman building with views of Mt. Washington. “We aimed to create a classic American look, not a space age modern look,” says McIver, “Apart from the solar panels on the roof there’s not much about it that draws attention to itself.”
And solar panels it has – the 39 solar panels on the roof of the MEH model resale home will produce roughly 12,000 kWh each year, enough to power all of the ‘plug’ loads in the home as well as a mini-split air source heat pump heating system. The home features a suite of Energy Star appliances including range, dryer, and refrigerator. An efficient electric water tank will provide hot water for dishes, laundry, showers, etc.
A Collaborative Proces
ReVision frequently works with builders like McIver, as well as architects, engineers, and other building professionals throughout the early stages of a project to ensure that goals for solar integration can be achieved.
For example, a home’s overall orientation is critical, and so is ensuring there is adequate south-facing roofspace to accommodate solar panels. ReVision engineers – such as Geoff Sparrow, who worked closely with McIver – can model the expected performance of a solar array and compare it to the home’s expected energy consumption using advanced software such as PolySun. By integrating discussions of solar early in the process, the solar project can be installed more economically and effectively.
For his part, McIver is more than satisfied. “Geoff was a great resource who went above and beyond to ensure we got the information we needed and that everything moved along smoothly. So far the solar has been performing trouble-free and meeting or exceeding our expectations. We look forward to doing more.”
Facing a Warmer Future
On a walkthrough of the home with a group of Fryeburg high school students, McIver brought global issues down to the local. Quoted in the Conway Daily Sun, he says:
Due to climate change, [more extreme storms] are happening now. If you think it doesn’t impact you, it does. And the changes that your generation makes will make a difference. It’s incumbent on all of us to do the little things, too. When you don’t turn off the lights when you leave a room, for instance, not only does it cost more money, it also puts more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere … [But] it’s becoming more practical to build [net zero] homes… By building these, I am reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuels that harm our environment and which contribute to greenhouse gases. My mission is to become energy independent of fossil fuels.
Driven by an environmental as well as an economic mission, McIver is ambitious. His next project is to build a complete energy efficient community in Raymond, and future plans include proposing a solar farm to the town of Bridgton.
“The time for doing this is now,” McIver says, “When you look at the numbers, long-term, it just makes sense. When you look at the environment… you realize that it’s the way we have to go. I’ve read that 70% of people buy for efficiency and 30% buy for the environment. Now, you can do both. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Learn more about the net-zero home at Maine Eco Homes. The home is currently listed with RE/MAX at the Lake Real Estate of Bridgton, and tours are offered on an ongoing basis. You can also see a tour that was recorded online at: http://youtu.be/DHG8K5mCgN4