Solar Barn

BRIGHT-MINDED HOME – September 2014

Q+A with Cameron Hyzer on the Solar Barn in Biddeford Pool

Cameron Hyzer and his wife Jennifer wanted a Maine getaway that utilized the sun to warm it, instead of fossil fuels, when they’re at home in Boston. Architect Caleb Johnson and Revision Energy responded with a super-insulated (R35 walls, R50 roof) barn that uses a solar-thermal radiant-heat system to keep the empty house at 50-60 degrees in winter and provide domestic hot water, plus a high-efficiency RAIS wood burner purchased from Maine Green Building Supply for additional heat as needed.

What have you enjoyed most about the energy-efficient features of the barn?

We built it more as a relaxing destination than an energy-efficient one, but the energy efficiency is a great side benefit and the self-sufficient system is key to our enjoyment. Jenn says her blood pressure always drops when we get up there. It fits our family without feeling too big, but also allows us to have family or other families come visit.

How much time do you spend there? 

We spend two-three weekends a month (more in the summer and less in the winter) and then probably two-four full weeks in the barn every year. It’s a great retreat for us. 

What are the average annual energy costs?

Our annual bill for 2,300 square feet of living space is around $2,000, which includes back-up heat and wood for the stove.

Anything you’d do differently, or updates you’d like to add?

We do have a couple pine trees that are beginning to cast shade on our solar array as they grow bigger. I don’t want to cut them down because they’re great trees, but I’m not sure what we could have done to avoid it. We’d like to put in WiFi thermostats so we can control the temperature from Boston.

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