Zero energy homes are available

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PITTSFIELD -- Most people are aware of how solar, alternatives and refined energy conservation techniques can lower bills and shrink carbon footprints.

But few realize that companies are building and planning zero-energy and net-positive homes and communities at competitive market prices today.

Ned Wilson, an employee of Transformations, Inc., Zero Energy Communities, based in Townsend, thrilled some at a meeting of environmentally inclined area residents during a recent presentation at MadJack’s BBQ.

"It’s not a pipe dream," Wilson said. "We’re building these homes. We’ve gone beyond net-zero and are treading into net-positive territory. So you can power your home and the neighbors’ too."

One of the homes Wilson showed, located in central Massachusetts, created an extra 11,432 kilowatt hours in its first year -- more energy than the average two-person family uses in a whole year in America.

The basic model consists of 12-inch thick walls filled with spray-foam, an 18-inch cellulose ceiling and foam-insulated floors set upon a concrete slab. The model also includes a full basement and triple-paned windows, but there are generally fewer windows.

An active, heat recovery ventilation system is another key component, along with upstairs and downstairs installations of one particularly nifty device: a ductless hyper heat pump system.

The appliance pulls heat from the outside air through a condenser, essentially functioning like a refrigerator in reverse. These systems function even in temperatures as low as minus 5 degrees, and best electric baseboards in efficiency by a factor of seven.

Mitsubishi sells a model for $1,610.

In order to push these homes over the hump to zero-or net-positive energy status, a rooftop or backyard photovoltaic solar installation is another must.

Transformations, Inc., recently sold 31 homes in a net-positive community in Easthampton that were constructed during 2011-12. The prices for two-and three-bedroom affordable homes in this community ranged between $125,000 and $145,000, and the market rate homes priced at an average of $284,000.

Another 85-home community is scheduled for construction in Northampton in 2015. Single-family homes, cottages and duplexes will comprise the development.

"I don’t think we’re far off," from these communities becoming the norm, Wilson said. "It’s only a matter of time."

Even if one lives in an old home, energy efficiency devices like a ductless hyper heat pump system and solar photovoltaic installation are becoming increasingly affordable for the average person to get more bang for their energy dollar, Wilson pointed out.

Transformation, Inc., and owner R. Carter Scott received the 2013 Northeast Sustainable Energy Association Zero Net Energy Homes Public Impact Award.


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