Black River Area Green School, where students focus on sustainability, renewable energy, forestry, and organic agriculture. Sharing what the couple learns comes naturally, since both are educators—Tom a high school principal and Verona a middle-school German teacher. So when the couple found a site with amazing views of the Black River, they decided to build a dream home sure to inspire others: a Bauhaus-influenced, net-zero energy house that lets them live sustainably in style. Their bright, modern interiors may even generate a little additional energy! GreenMax Home program from WPPI Energy, Tom and Verona were able to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy systems into the home's design. Grants from Focus on Energy and federal tax credits helped offset construction costs. A buy-back solar tariff from WPPI continues to pay off, as the utility company purchases back the electricity generated by the solar photovoltaic panels. Amazingly, while the couple was aiming to have a net-zero home, after the first year of occupancy they actually proved it was a "plus-energy" home, producing 13% more energy than it used. Since Verona and Tom plan to stay in the home through retirement, making the long-term investment in their house's infrastructure was worthwhile. Other green features include a geothermal heat pump, heat-recovery ventilation system, high-efficiency windows and insulation ranging from R5 to R50. Their fresh style—with clean lines and bright pops of color—shows the influence of Verona's German upbringing and the couple's minimalist tastes. River views are visible from every room, bringing the organic in and keeping the design from getting sterile. Modern fixtures and furnishings (many from IKEA and CB2), fit the couple's style and budget. And being teachers, Tom and Verona can't help but teach. They often host tours where students can learn more about the home's many green features. Says Verona, "We want them to understand that Earth-friendly lifestyle choices—no matter the size—can make a big difference toward a cleaner, greener environment."
- Solar photovoltaic system The PV panels are connected to the electric distribution system of Black River Falls Municipal Utilities. This lets us send electricity to the grid when the system produces power and to purchase electricity from the utility when we need it. All electricity produced by our system is purchased at a special buy-back rate of 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is considerably higher than the retail cost we pay.
- Ground source heat pump Uses thermal energy from the ground to heat the home and provide hot water. In the summer, the system runs in reverse to provide air conditioning.
- Structural plumbing Uses advanced designs and controls, eliminating the need to let taps run before hot water arrives at the faucet. This reduces water waste and energy while providing us with a better performing hot water system.
- Highly efficient Energy Star rated windows
- Air sealing Blower door tests ensured the home meets an aggressive air sealing standard.
- Heat-recovery ventilator
- Added wall thickness For better insulation, 2-by-8 studs were used.
- Framing Twenty-four-inch on-center framing allowed for the additional insulation and reduced lumber costs.
- R5 above-grade and R10 below-grade exterior insulation We used continuous extruded polystyrene exterior insulation on the outside walls and under the basement slab. In addition to insulating the home, this makes the basement considerably more comfortable than is typical in a cold climate.
- R50 attic insulation
- All water fixtures are low-flow.
- All appliances are Energy Star rated.
- All light bulbs are CFL or LED.
- Certified as a Wisconsin Energy Star home by Focus on Energy
(Thanks, Verona and Tom!)Green Tour Submission Form. (Images: Therese Maring)