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Zero Energy, at Last

The sun lends a big hand to this efficient home in the North Carolina mountains

Architect Chris Larson is the winner of Fine Homebuilding's 2012 energy-smart-home award for designing a 2720-sq.-ft. house in Chandler, N.C. With the lot's excellent southern exposure, Larson realized that it was ideal for passive- and active-solar design. By incorporating common passive-solar elements into his design--south-facing windows, thermal mass on the interior to store the solar energy, and appropriate roof overhangs--he was able to reduce the home's need for energy by half. A sidebar shows the physics of passive-solar design, including the differences that must be taken into account between the summer sun and the winter sun. It also shows how the house's dramatic pop-up roofs enhance the passive heating. In the relatively mild but humid climate, Larson opted for 2x4 wall framing instead of 2x6 framing, with walls and ceilings insulated and air-sealed with spray foam. To supplement the passive-solar features, a ground-source geothermal heat pump provides warmth through a radiant-floor system. Domestic hot water is supplied by three solar panels on the garage roof, which also contains a 6.45kw photovoltaic system that produces more electricity than the homeowners consume.

Online Extra:  2012 HOUSES Best Energy-Smart Home 

Zero Energy, at Last

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