Some fascinating stuff comes out of this experiment — things you really wouldn’t expect. They’re doing this house on the cheap, and so clearly the goal is to be as cost-effective as possible. I’ve always read that solar water heaters are one of the cheapest ways to go solar. No solar heater in this house — just an on-demand electric water heater. The rationale? No point in maintaining a tankful of water 24 hours a day; it’s wasteful.
I’ve actually thought a lot about the idea of installing a solar water heater, and my thoughts trend towards the negative. Half the year, we hardly use any hot water, since in North Carolina tapwater is warm enough for showers in the summer. In the winter, the things aren’t reliable, so you have to have a backup system anyway. Maybe I’ll consider getting a tankless system.
Heat in the model home is provided through an underground heat pump, relying on the thermal stability of the ground.
And there appears to be little use of “passive solar” technology such as overhanging roofs that shade windows in the summer and allow the low winter light in. It looks like a normal, downright humble house. It’s still not cheap — I suspect the home itself might only run about $100,000, which means half the budget was blown on high-tech stuff, but nonetheless this is an impressive achievement.
Some other fascinating aspects of the house: it’s brick! Most people view brick as a waste of money, but clearly in a home this thoughtfully constructed, its insulating value made it worth the cost.
The home is part of a “green community” that has an integrated drainage system where runoff water is recycled for use in irrigation. It’s really a nifty concept, and impressive to me that all of this is happening in one of the reddest of red states, Oklahoma.
They’re not building these homes for sale to the general public yet, but give them a couple more years, and I bet they will be.