Bright Minded Home-September 2011




By Melissa Coleman

Q+A with Mike and Rebecca Lambert, owners of the Redfern House in Portland

Known as one of the more affordable Platinum LEED homes in Maine, the house features a 90-tube solar thermal system for domestic hot water and radiant heat and a 2.1 KW photovoltaic array for electricity, as well as passive-solar features and high-efficiency framing, insulation, and windows.  

Q: What do you like most about your home’s efficient features?
A: It feels like a living, breathing system and acknowledges that we are part of nature. Energy production and consumption changes with the seasons, the cycles of day and night, and cloud cover or rain. Our TED energy monitor graphs these fluctuations, and the resulting picture is similar to a graph of photosynthesis or tree growth. In the winter, the passive-solar design and the solar hot water provide a large portion of our heat. However, the best return is our wood stove. As the owner of Canopy Tree Care, I have access to free wood, so it just makes sense.

Q: What challenges have you faced?
A: LEED certification wants you to landscape with drought-tolerant plants, but the property is wet, so many plants died. Then we installed plantings that like wet feet, but it was before that dry spring in 2010, and everything died. It’s a work in progress, but we’re planning to try edibles next.

Q: What’s next?
A: We’d like to adapt the heating system. We’re currently using an on-demand electric boiler to supplement the solar thermal to heat a 160-gallon tank. It seems that, ideally, the tank should be reserved for collecting heat from the solar hot water, and domestic hot water should be heated separately only if and when needed.

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