Although Herb and Angie live in an area with lots of sunshine, it's also very cold. They are in Climate Zone 6B of International Energy Conservation Code - IECC. (Zone 2 is Florida and Zone 8 is the cold parts of Alaska.)
As they were finishing out the trim of the home, Herb wrote about the performance. Even thought they were only visiting the house occasionally during those periods, the home still performed remarkably well on its own.
"I also wanted to share with you some performance information about the house. So far, the summer and winter performance has greatly exceeded my expectations. Angie and I spent a long Labor Day weekend at the house, as well as a three-week stay early in the summer beginning on Memorial Day.
During both of these stays, there was not one day where we were uncomfortable in the home. Early in the summer, the outdoor temp was typically swinging between a low in the morning of 50 F, to a high of 75 in the late afternoon. During this time the indoor temperature swung from a worst case low of 68 in the morning to about 72 in the afternoon. As we moved more into June, things crept up slightly, but the 4-degree indoor swing remained constant. This was also observed over Labor Day weekend and mid-July when friends stayed there. Even on the warmest days, which peak in the high 80s several times a year, the indoor temp rarely gets above 75.
"Wintertime performance was even more impressive. I have to admit I was really worried about my LP gas bill over the winter while we were not at the house. I did do some special programming in the automation system I installed where I automatically would start the ceiling fans about an hour before sunset (peak temp in the house), as well as start the furnace fan to move the warmer air throughout the house. This recirc mode shuts down about an hour after sunset. I also kept the thermostat set at 55 F while we were not there. We were there over Thanksgiving, as well as a week at the end of January. Worst case outdoor temperatures in January are -5 F in the morning and teens in the afternoon, but typically run about 10 F to mid to high 30s, and the sun shines a lot. The times we have been able to observe temps in the house mid-winter showed that on sunny days the house would routinely get to the low 70s by late afternoon, and if the outdoor temp got down to single digits, the furnace would kick on around 3 or 4 am. If we were there and burning a fire in the evening, the furnace would typically not run at all. Throughout the entire winter, our LP gas cost averaged $30/month, which is well below what I expected.
"As we told the builder this week, we love our home. We get many compliments, sometimes from people we don't even know who are just passing by and I happen to be near the road working on something. Looking back on the decisions we made throughout the design and build process, we have only one regret. You may recall that we poured the entire first floor with about 2.5" of standard concrete. While I believe this definitely helps the temperature stability of the house in summer and winter, the master bath floor does get, and stays, very cool in the winter. I wanted to put electric heating cables in the floor in this area (we actually market them, so I had the knowledge and access!), but during the flurry of construction that one slipped by me. Had I done this, along with a few solar panels, I could have used this area for thermal storage and kept the floor nice and toasty in the process. An option for the future is to do a similar thing with under tile heating cables, and then tile this area."
Debbie replied: "I like your idea of in floor heat under tile for the bathroom. If that is the only thing that you wish you had done differently, then you should be very pleased.
"About what do your electrical bills run annually or monthly? (no a/c right?) Correct, no A/C. Our minimum electrical bill is about $30/mo. When we are away, the electrical charges (kw-h usage) averages about $0.45 (4 kw-h) per day. The winter peaks at about 6 kw-h/day. When we are there, just me and Angie, the usage jumps up about 8 kw-h/day (11-12 total). We have an electric water heater, but it is a GE GeoSpring which is a heat pump model. We also have an electric dryer, but we love to dry stuff outside if we can (which is often). I do use the automation system to control some lights while we are not there - the house is all LED."
12 kw-h per day x 30 days = 360 kw-h per month is very good for a house this size with almost 2000 s.f. on the main floor and an equally sized unfinished (but semi-conditioned) daylight basement. At $0.11/ Kw-h that is an electric bill of $40/month.
Herb says: "After having been involved in or with the construction industry for 40 years, and never having built my own home, picking a contractor was challenging. But, I believe I picked the right one." He chose Oakley Construction Inc., who builds high-performance custom homes. Jeannie Champion with Oakley says" "I just really do love that house... such a uniquely designed home with such a comfortable ambience about it."
Herb enjoyed working with Oakley on the details. "The beam straps are the result of a collaborative effort between me and Sam, the PM for Oakley. His passion is blacksmithing, and he suggested doing something different than the normal T shaped strap. So, we sent pictures back and forth and ended up with what you see. These are not forged, however, they are plasma cut from 3/8 inch plate steel and painted a saddle brown. Sam has all his beam ties cut by a local metal shop, and the neat thing is that this (or any) shape is not an upcharge."
"Thanks very much for your design and helping make this an enjoyable process! You have been great to work with. I am happy that you are pleased with what you see so far. This started with your vision, and I am trying to stay true to that while staying true to the vision Angie and I have. We see ourselves enjoying many years in it." Herb and Angie