The Drive to Net Zero in Concord, NH
"Under the Sun" Solar Blog | December 3, 2020 | Posted by Jill McLaughlin
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When they were looking to downsize, Carol Voloshin wanted their new home to be near water, and her partner Dan DiPiro wanted a net-zero house. So they found a little plot of land right on the Contoocook river in Concord, New Hampshire, and decided to build the net-zero home of their dreams. And in 2020 their home won 3rd place in the NHSaves Drive to Net Zero Competition!
Carol currently works for Stonyfield Farm Yogurt, and Dan worked there for 8 years before moving on in 2014. Dan credits Stonyfield Farm with a lot of his ideas surrounding energy efficiency. Like ReVision Energy, Stonyfield is a Certified B-Corp.
“Stonyfield’s Gary Hirschberg was really a green-business pioneer,” says Dan, who worked in the marketing department. “Stonyfield already had a huge solar array on the roof of the plant and at the time we were publicizing that a lot, showing how we were trying to treat the planet well. When I started for them in 2006, it was the biggest solar array in the state of New Hampshire.” Dan learned a lot about solar energy that way, as well as what it means to be a socially-responsible business; although Stonyfield wouldn’t become a Certified B Corp until 2016, they have always been focused on doing good for the planet and their local community.
“Stonyfield built a new addition to their plant, and it was LEED certified and built for energy efficiency and resource conservation. That was the first I had ever heard of a heat recovery ventilator,” he said. “That office also had furniture, carpet, tables and counter tops made from recycled materials. There were green features everywhere, and I spent a lot of time writing about them.”
Dan and Carol’s Concord home consists primarily of an open-concept living room, first-floor master bedroom, and a second bedroom on the lofted second floor. It’s extremely air-tight and well insulated, with a double-stud wall, very little thermal bridging, and triple glazed windows. Because it’s so air-tight, they also have a heat-recovery ventilation system to make sure they’re getting fresh air. They heat with a pellet stove, and sometimes a 3-head air source heat pump system that they use mostly for cooling in the summer. Dan admits that they weren’t actually net-zero in that first year. “We didn’t yet know how to time things, or how to use appliances in the most efficient ways. We were super-efficient, that’s for sure, but not quite net-zero that first year.” They made sure to keep the design and construction as locally sourced in New Hampshire, working with RH Irving Home Builders (Salisbury), Energy Code Advisors (Manchester), Fireside Living (Bedford), Dirt Frog Furniture (Dunbarton), and Timberdoodle Farm (Strafford).
In June of 2019, ReVision Energy installed the DiPiro-Voloshin’s 30-panel, 9.15 kilowatt rooftop solar array. It produces around 10,000 kilowatt-hours of clean electricity every year, and the solar system brought their Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score down from 44 to -3. (A score of 0 means it’s net zero; in the US, the average score of a newly built home is 100, and the average score of a resale home is 130). They chose ReVision Energy based on reputation and word of mouth, and appreciated the friendly solar designer who came out to the site even before the house was built.
“ReVision Energy did a fabulous job with all the paperwork and permitting and so forth. Basically I just got a packet that said sign here, here, and here and it was done. It was all very nicely done. We’re glad we went with ReVision.” In addition to the federal tax credit for solar, there are also cash incentives for building an energy-efficient house in New Hampshire; Dan and Carol got $4,000 back (the maximum amount available) from NHSaves after the inspector rated it “net positive.” They also sell renewable energy credits on the REC market, which generates a bit of additional income.
Dan and Carol are considering battery storage in the future, and maybe a ground-mounted solar array in the yard when they make the switch to electric vehicles. But for now they are happy with their cozy set-up.
“Working at home through the pandemic has made us all the more appreciative of what we’ve got here, and it’s been a great home to be in.”