By Sarah Lozanova
Greater energy independence, freedom from fluctuating energy prices, and environmentally friendly living are alluring concepts that motivated my family to examine our housing and our lifestyle. We recently purchased a high-performance home and installed a solar system, making our home net-zero. We now produce as much power as we use over the course of a year.
Realizing the Dream of a Net-Zero HomeTo realize the dream of a net-zero home, we bought a superefficient home atBelfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, a 36-unit multigenerational community in Midcoast Maine with triple-pane windows and doors, virtually airtight construction, a solar orientation and lots of insulation. The sun, appliances and occupants provide a majority of the heat needed to keep our home cozy.
On sunny winter days, our heaters remain off, as the sun gradually warms the house. Electric baseboard heaters kick on as needed, primarily at night or on cold, cloudy days. The home is all electric—with an electric range, hot water heaters and space heaters. Because we don’t use propane, natural gas or heating oil, a solar system can produce all the energy that our home consumes.
By Sarah Lozanova
As the US economy improves, the size of most new homes continues to expand. The average new home is now more than 2,600 square feet, compared to less than 1,000 square feet in 1950. Keep in mind that the average family size has shrunk considerably in recent decades.
This highlights a cultural shift, as many Americans are giving each child their own bedroom, and bathrooms are becoming more plentiful, sophisticated and spacious. Many families buy the largest house they can afford, which is encouraged by low interest rates. It is common for families to pay 1/3 to 1/2 of their income on housing. As homes become larger, the environmental impact typically expands as well, as more resources are needed to construct, maintain, heat, cool, and furnish them. Is there a green living alternative?
There has been a green living, tiny house and small house movement underway since the 1970s driven by environmental, financial, and time concerns related to the ever expanding American dream house. Tiny homes are typically less than 400 square feet, while small homes are usually under 1,000.
Some of my friends and family raised an eyebrow when I announced that my family of four (with a son and daughter) were to live in a new two-bedroom, 900-square-foot home in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage (BC&E)—a multi-generational community and ecovillage in Midcoast Maine, located 2½ miles from the town center and the Penobscot Bay.
Freelance renewable energy writer