A publication of Appalachian Voices


A publication of Appalachian Voices


Solar homes tour leading by example

It’s been said that the best way to
lead is by example. The American Solar
Energy Society has embraced this mantra
with the sponsorship of a national
solar homes tour. Over the first weekends
in October, people all over the nation
traveled to homes and commercial
building that have incorporated solar
technology into their design.
In the Boone area of North Carolina,
Appalachian Regional Initiative for
Sustainable Energy (ARISE) sponsored
the state’s only guided tour. Nikki Rezvani,
one of this year’s tour organizers,
explained that there were a number of
factors that led to their decision to host
a guided tour: “Obviously, it’s more sustainable,
because we use less fuel,” additionally,
in her mind, tour participants
also learn a lot more in a guided format,
because there’s more opportunity for
conversation. Ultimately, she says, “it’s
also just more fun.”
To organize the tour, the team
contacts local home designers and
architects, as well as relying on
old-fashioned word of mouth. They
make a concerted effort to show off
a variety of renewable or energy
saving technologies and strategies.
“During the planning process it’s
like ‘OK, we’ve got solar, now we
need wind,’” said Rezvani. The tour
planners generate a “short list” each
year of approximately 15 homes, and
schedule visits to five of those.
Elder House
Cliff Elder’s home in Banner Elk,
NC is nearly brand new. He received
his certificate of occupancy only two
months ago. As he planned for and built
his home Elder incorporated a number
of elements to make his home more energy
efficient. For Elder, the motivation
for it was financial. “I was looking to
retire and I wanted to retire cheap,” he
said with a good-natured chuckle.
The house’s solar element was visible
before the group even entered the
house: a large window that looked in
on a passive solar sunroom. During the
winter especially, when the sun is lower,
it shines through the window for much
of the day, heating the interior.
Elder’s other method of heating,
radiant heating, which operates by running
heated water through pipes
directly below the floor, is currently
powered by propane, but according
to Brent Summerville, tour
director, is a system “perfect for an
active solar retrofit.” When Elder
mentioned to the group that he is
considering solar water heating for
2009. Summerville chimed in that,
“2009 is the year to do solar.” Summerville
explained that incentives
for solar are currently high due to
the recent removal of the cap on
tax credits for solar energy.
Beech Mountain Wind
Research Facility
At an elevation of 5,200 feet,
the Beech Mountain wind research
facility has some of the best wind
capacity in the area, and serves as
a testing ground for a variety of
small-scale turbine models suitable
for home use in areas with good wind
resources.
Appalachian State University (ASU)
offers free evaluations of wind resources
on individual’s property. They also offer
wind resource maps of all 24 mountain
counties in North Carolina on their
website, wind.appstate.edu.

Enertia House
Johnny Cooke knew he wanted to do
something energy efficient with the new
home he was planning on constructing.
In order to research the possible options
available to him, he did the same thing
many of us do when we have an unanswered
question: “I googled ‘energy,’” he said, “and this came up.”
What he found was the innovative Enertia house,
designed by Micheal Sykes.
The house’s design is based on the
use of southern yellow pine as a sort of
he said, “and this came up.” What he
found was the innovative Enertia house,
designed by Micheal Sykes.
The house’s design is based on the
use of southern yellow pine as a sort of “thermal battery;” because of its high
rosin content, the wood can absorb and
store thermal energy. Combining this
with the basic principle of convection,
the house can virtually heat itself, provided
a little bit of sunshine.
In the Enertia house, there is constant
circulation of the air that is heated
by solar energy. “It’s the benefit of passive
solar circulated through the whole
house,” explained Emily Will, Sykes’
partner in business and in life. According
to Will, there have been
almost 90 Enertia houses built in
the U.S. so far, spanning across
26 states.
The house itself is constructed
from interlocking blocks,
roughly analogous to a life-size,
energy-saving Lincoln Log™.
According to Sykes, who was on
site for the solar tour, the Enertia
home it could be the “cheapest house on
earth” if the Enertia blocks were massproduced.
Beyond the benefits of the house
itself, Cooke plans to mount photovoltaic
panels on the roof for an additional 1.3
KW of energy, as well as solar water heating,
which will provide both his domestic
hot water, and the water for radiant
floor heating. The radiant heating will
act as a “Plan B” for heating the house,
a back-up in case the weather is cloudy
for a few days. Cooke also has a Plan C,
a wood-fired stove in the basement.
Green House
The only commercial property on
the tour, the Green House, an office
building located in downtown Boone, is
hoping to become one of the first LEEDcertified
buildings in the county. A few
of their sustainable design elements
include solar tubing, which provides
natural light for the entire office, and
denim insulation.
Container House
David King from Constructive Solutions,
has a lot to brag about when it
comes to one of his current projects. It
will take little more than a month to finish,
it’s extremely affordable at around
$100 per square foot, and it’s definitely
green (and that isn’t referring to the
paint). Not to mention it’s the first of it’s
kind to be built in North Carolina.
The small garage apartment just
up the hill from ASU’s campus is constructed
from metal shipping containers
salvaged from a port on the South
Carolina coast. It “would be garbage if
we hadn’t used it,” said King.
Property owner Ethan Anderson
has been researching container houses
for two or three years, and had seen
examples of other, similar homes online.
It wasn’t until he went to the shipping
yard, and touched the containers that he
“thermal battery;” because of its high
rosin content, the wood can absorb and
store thermal energy. Combining this
with the basic principle of convection,
the house can virtually heat itself, provided
a little bit of sunshine.
In the Enertia house, there is constant
circulation of the air that is heated
by solar energy. “It’s the benefit of passive
solar circulated through the whole
house,” explained Emily Will, Sykes’
partner in business and in life. According
to Will, there have been
almost 90 Enertia houses built in
the U.S. so far, spanning across
26 states.
The house itself is constructed
from interlocking blocks,
roughly analogous to a life-size,
energy-saving Lincoln Log™.
According to Sykes, who was on
site for the solar tour, the Enertia
home it could be the “cheapest house on
earth” if the Enertia blocks were massproduced.
Beyond the benefits of the house
itself, Cooke plans to mount photovoltaic
panels on the roof for an additional 1.3
KW of energy, as well as solar water heating,
which will provide both his domestic
hot water, and the water for radiant
floor heating. The radiant heating will
act as a “Plan B” for heating the house,
a back-up in case the weather is cloudy
for a few days. Cooke also has a Plan C,
a wood-fired stove in the basement.

Green House
The only commercial property on
the tour, the Green House, an office
building located in downtown Boone, is
hoping to become one of the first LEEDcertified
buildings in the county. A few
of their sustainable design elements
include solar tubing, which provides
natural light for the entire office, and
denim insulation.

Container House

David King from Constructive Solutions,
has a lot to brag about when it
comes to one of his current projects. It
will take little more than a month to finish,
it’s extremely affordable at around
$100 per square foot, and it’s definitely
green (and that isn’t referring to the
paint). Not to mention it’s the first of it’s
kind to be built in North Carolina.
The small garage apartment just
up the hill from ASU’s campus is constructed
from metal shipping containers
salvaged from a port on the South
Carolina coast. It “would be garbage if
we hadn’t used it,” said King.
Property owner Ethan Anderson
has been researching container houses
for two or three years, and had seen
examples of other, similar homes online.
It wasn’t until he went to the shipping
yard, and touched the containers that he thought with conviction “We can do this!”
Soon after, he began plans to state’s first
residential, non-military container home
on some extra space on his lot. He also
formed a business, dwellbox, to promote
the construction of more of these homes.
“Affordable housing was really the
draw,” he explained. Anderson’s hopes
that the container apartment can become
a model for others looking for affordable
housing solutions; “half the thing is education”
Anderson concluded.