Solar House

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Conservation is a critical part of having a high performance house. This means designing in measures that reduce the amount of waste.

Our house uses 2X6 framing, with the studs spaced 24" on center to minimize lumber use. Using deeper studs like not only allows you to use more insulation but also allows corners and headers to be framed in ways that allows additional insulation to be stuffed in. With an additional 1" of rigid foam insulation, the walls have about R-28 insulation value. The ceilings are insulated to R-60. Both the walls and the ceilings use cellulose insulation (recycled newsprint).

The basement uses a standard poured concrete foundation with a 2X4 wall on the interior insulated with R-13 fiberglass. The basement slab is insulated underneath and around the edges with 1" of R-5 rigid foam. Also in the basement you can see that floor trusses are used instead of conventional dimensional lumber. These trusses reduce lumber use, and leave openings so it is easier to run plumbing, electrical and mechanical hardware.

Floor Trusses

Several skylights are used to provide daylighting and are placed on north facing roof sections. This reduces the unwanted heat gain from the summer sun, yet still admits ample light.

Decks are made with Choicedek decking which is made from recycled cedar sawdust and plastic. This material does not need to be painted or stained and does not warp, twist, or rot.

Windows are supplied by Accurate Dorwin. These fiberglass framed triple paned windows use low-e coatings and argon gas fill to achieve R-4.5 for the whole window unit. The low-e coatings are "tuned" with windows on the south side of the house using a low-e coating that admits solar energy, and the windows on the east, west, and north sides using a low-e coating that blocks solar gain. This gives good heat gain in the winter and minimizes heat gain in the summer.


Another way to conserve is to reduce the amount of energy you throw down the drain, like the hot water that goes down the drain when you take a shower. Using a GFX heat recovery device, we passively recover about 60% of the energy that would otherwise be wasted. This unit is a copper sleeve with integral copper coils that is placed in the main drain. As warm water is going down the drain, it preheats the cold incoming water.

GFX Drain Heat Recovery

Finally, almost all light fixtures use compact fluorescent lamps, and the house was sealed using a professional service that came in several times during construction and applied foam insulation to joints all around the framing and foundation. This greatly reduces the amount of uncontrolled air infiltration which is one of the big sources of heat loss. A blower door test showed that the house has less than 0.1 ACH (air changes per hour), whereas a typical good house will have 0.5 to 1 ACH and an older house may have 1 to 3 ACH.