Although Maine is still the most oil dependent state in the U.S., a Bar Harbor couple is proving that people can live comfortably year round at our latitude with virtually no fossil fuel energy. The new home of Susan Turner and Karl Karnaky will be net-zero, meaning it generates as much energy as it consumes during the course of a year.

It was constructed using the “rammed earth” method and features numerous recycled/repurposed materials. Rammed earth involves packing a mixture of sand, gravel, and cement into a form, which then that solidifies into walls.

This dense material is an excellent thermal mass for passive solar applications, and practically soundproof. The home also features numerous recycled/repurposed elements including a recycled aluminum and steel roof, a soapstone farm sink from a cabin found on the property, and plank flooring and beams recovered from an 1836 house in Dexter.

Going Solar

Turner and Karnaky’s sustainable mindset applied to their choice of mechanical systems, as well.

“Deciding to go with solar was the easy part,” Susan Turner writes. “We found that we could get a system that would cover the entire winter’s [radiant floor] heat. Knowing that the panels are creating our electricity leads me to consciously decide how I will use electricity and to be aware of not wasting it.”

Turner and Karnaky were so impressed with the installation that they opened their home up this past October to be on NESEA’s Green Building Open House Tour. Approximately 50 people visited to see the “striking” house which the MDI Village Soup said combines “the earthen feel of an ancient construction technique, the intriguing attractions of vintage elements reanimated by new use and the aesthetics of a contemporary sensibility.”

Enjoying the Sunshine

The new home should be “net zero,” meaning that it will generate as much energy as it consumes throughout the course of the year, required no fossil fuel inputs!

The 5kw grid tied photovoltaic (PV) system will produce roughly 6,000 kilowatt hours of clean, renewable electricity annually. Electricity will be used for normal household loads as well as a Thermolec electric boiler which supplies radiant heat, and a backup element to the solar hot water system.

From May through September, the evacuated tube solar hot water collectors will provide nearly 100% of the home’s domestic hot water supply. Combined, the two systems will offset roughly 11,600 lbs of C02 emissions each year.

“We hope our home will inspire more folks to decide that solar is the way to go,” Turner says, “We are excited about ‘free’ heat without using non-renewable energy, and we love the hot showers provided by the sun!”

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