Kane Family Residence
The inspiration for this house came from three sources: Marc Rosenbaum (especially the Hanover NH house), Carter Scott (Transformations Inc. and the Coppersmith Way development in Townsend MA) and Sarah Susanka’s book – The Not So Big House. I was introduced to all three by the NESEA Building Energy conferences.
The motivation for this house was the desire to live comfortably in a way that minimized our contribution to global warming. I also wanted to show that not all new homes had to be big, ugly, and inefficient. Lastly, I wanted to employ the Evergreen Solar panels that I had spent the last 14 years helping to manufacture right here in Massachusetts.
I was very fortunate to work with Carter Scott and Jeff Richards of Transformations Inc. and Rick Gilles of Barnraisers Inc. during the design phase of the project. They did a great job of taking my rough sketches of a one and a half story Maine farmhouse and turning them into a set of construction drawings that incorporated many of the features Carter employed in the Coppersmith Way homes.
I decided to manage the construction phase myself and put in a lot of sweat equity to save money. I was fortunate again to hire Robert Austin of RT Construction to handle the framing and siding. He did a first class job.
Nothing about this house is really new or radical. It uses standard materials and construction practices that are becoming common. It cost about the same to build as a typical home. It’s success lies in the attention to the details – both architectural and energy wise.
Unlike most zero energy homes being built today, this house uses a solar thermal system to satisfy most of its heat and hot water needs. Although it cost more than a pure PV design, the benefits of this system are that it enables the use of radiant floor heating (which is very efficient, comfortable, quiet and draft free), it’s capable of collecting an amazing amount of energy on a sunny day and it enables the use of a simple instantaneous electric water heater for inline backup.The drainback design eliminates the need for antifreeze, eliminates stagnation problems in the summer and is basically maintenance free. Judging by the last years real world results, it worked out very well.
What I think is great about this house is as follows:
- Net positive performance – no electric bills or fuel bills
- It’s architecturally pleasing
- It ‘s the right size – not too big, not too small
- It’s very pleasant to live in – warm floors, bright sunlit spaces,cool in the summer, warm in the winter, quiet, uniform temperature throughout, comfortable humidity levels in winter
- Everyone likes the cozy bench seating at the dining table
- The kitchen layout is great and the pantry keeps it uncluttered
- The interior windows above the sliding door bring amazing natural light to the second floor bathroom and master bedroom and allow for natural air circulation
- The vestibule entry with the stained glass window is as practical as it is beautiful.
- The floor grate by the front door is great for preventing dirt from getting tracked inside
- The wide windowsills are great for plants