Unity Homes: “Solar the Logical Choice for Our New Homes”
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We’ve partnered with builders and architects since the very inception of our company, working from early stages of home design to integrate solar for any number of considerations – household ‘plug’ loads, space heating, cooling, water heating, and electric cars!
We’ve lately had the opportunity to partner with Unity Homes in Walpole, New Hampshire, and had a chance to speak with Director of Operations, Andrew Dey, about their work.
Can you talk about sustainability in your homes? What it means to you and what you focus on?
Sure. We look at sustainability as a combination of a number of factors.
Great design is one aspect of sustainability, because homes that are beautiful, functional and adaptable will be used and cared for over time. Homes that are cared for are homes that last, and homes that last are homes that are sustainable.
Great energy efficiency is another aspect of sustainability. This typically hinges on air sealing and insulation, both of which we can execute to a very high level in the controlled conditions of our shop.
Our homes typically achieve HERS ratings in the 30s and 40s, without any added renewable energy. And our homes typically test out at or below the Passive House airtightness standard of 0.6 ACH50. Because the heating and cooling loads on our homes are very low, they can be heated and cooled using air source heat pumps. Low annual operating costs are sustainable.
A sustainable home requires sustainable materials. Our homes are framed of engineered wood that is created using rapidly-growing wood species. Wood has the added advantage — particularly over steel or concrete — of sequestering carbon. All of the materials that we use in our homes have been rigorously vetted for sustainability, and we do our best to source them locally.
Finally, a process that is fragmented and unpredictable — the way many homes are built — does not seem particularly sustainable to us. Our designers, engineers, project managers and craftspeople work closely together in a process that blends sophisticated software and powerful computer-controlled equipment with diligence, care and attention to detail that are cornerstones of our company culture.
Which solar technologies can be included in the homes—solar PV, ASHP and HPWH?
We bring a systems perspective to the design and engineering of our homes, because our goal is to optimize the way in which the structure, the enclosure system and the mechanical systems work together. One of our primary objectives is to lower the heating and cooling loads as much as reasonably possible. We do this primarily through careful air-sealing and robust insulation.
With the loads reduced, the space can be heated and cooled with a relatively small, simple system. Our technology of choice for heating and cooling is the air-source heat pump. We often specify heat pump water heaters as well. We are excited about the recent emergence of technologies that combine space heating and domestic water heating in one heat pump appliance.
Our homes are typically all-electric, so that they can be made net zero energy with the addition of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. PV systems are the logical choice for low-load, all-electric houses — not only from the perspective of minimizing the carbon footprint, but also in terms of resiliency. The technology for battery storage systems is evolving rapidly, and we anticipate that in a few years, such systems will become standard for homes with PV arrays.
We’ve enjoyed working with you to install Solar PV on some projects. How has the experience seemed on your end?
Reports from the field are good! Our Site Supervisor has said, “ReVision Energy has been involved in two projects now and both have had very involved clients that tend to be on site frequently. In both cases the clients have had nothing but great things to say about working with Revision. Thank you for the great attention to detail.”
It doesn’t get much better than that. Sustainability also means offering your customers an excellent experience, and it’s clear that ReVision Energy cares just as much about customer service as we do.