BrightMindedHomeBRIGHT MINDED HOME-August 2011

by Melissa Coleman

Q+A with Stew MacLehose, owner of “Double Thick Walls on the Dime” in Falmouth

Designed by Kaplan Thompson Architects, this prototype for a Modular Zero Home does not have a furnace. Instead, its radiant floors are heated by the rooftop solar thermal system and supplemented with an electric on-demand water heater. Triple-glazed casement windows minimize heat loss, and the exterior walls are double-studded and filled with R-40 dense cellulose insulation. The name is a pun on the album title Double Nickels on the Dime by The Minutemen.

Q: What have been the biggest benefits of your home’s efficient features?
A: Not having an oil bill. My electric bills (normally $30–$50 per month) can reach $200 in mid-winter when solar gain is at its weakest and the electric on-demand water heater kicks in, but even then, that’s a lot less expensive than an oil bill. Our only other bill is propane for the range and the gas fireplace ($325 total in 2010). The solar hot water has produced the best return on investment, due in large part to the tight construction of the house.

Q: Are there any systems or products that you found less useful than others?
A: No, there are only two mechanical systems in the house, the solar hot-water system and the ERV (energy recovery ventilator), which is necessary to bring fresh air into the tightly sealed house. Both of these systems are essential and very useful.

Q: Are there any new efficient technologies out there that you’d like to try but you haven’t yet?
A: I’d like to move to photovoltaic panels next. At this point they wouldn’t be cost effective, but I’m hoping the price comes down in the future.

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