Renewable Energy Renovation Innovations: Integrated Renewable Energy Mechanical Systems - Homes Across America Search Return

Renewable Energy Renovation




Goals of Innovation: To make a local impact on global energy policies by utilizing available renewable energy options to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels during operation of this home.

Description: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, building construction and operation is accountable for one-third of all energy use in the United States. Read more about it. This home has developed an alternative to the consumption and pollution by producing renewable energy and in essence it is no longer a "taker" but "gives back" to its community.

An open-loop geothermal system in conjunction with a heat pump provides heating and cooling to this home. This type of system is a non-combustion-based mechanism for forced-air comfort in a home. Non-combustion has two major advantages. There is no reliance on fossil fuels such as heating oil or natural gas at the home site, and there is no potential for the release of combustion gas (carbon monoxide) into the home.

This system takes advantage of site-specific opportunities. An existing 180-foot well provides incoming water. This water maintains a constant temperature of approximately 50 degrees year-round due to natural conditions within the earth. In winter, the water coming from the ground goes through a heat exchange with a refrigerant, which pulls heat from the water. The refrigerant vaporizes, and is compressed within the heat pump to approximately 150 degrees, then forced through a coil. Forced air is blown across the coil and into the home through ductwork. The refrigerant is then cooled and returned to the heat pump. The process repeats the cycle of pulling heat from the water. (In the summer this process is reversed, heat captured from the home is condensed and transferred back into the ground). This process is said to be three to four times more efficient that fossil fuel systems since heat is exchanged rather than created. To learn more visit ECONAR Energy Systems. Also take look for various Federal and State Incentives that are now available for geothermal exchange systems.

The 40 degree effluent, or used water, is split with half returning directly into the well and half percolating back into the aquifer by way of a shallow dry well, completing the open-loop system. The shallow well also existed at this home prior to installation of the geothermal system for a washing machine drainage; it continues to serve this function, as well providing the drainfield for half the geothermal water discharge.

The home site also offered opportunities for solar electricity generation. The heat pump does use electricity, which could be supplied by the existing grid from renewable or non-renewable resources. This homeowner chose to install a 2.88 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic system to generate electricity for the entire home. The system, distributed and installed by Prime Energy Solutions, consists of 24 panels and a Sunny Boy SWR2500 inverter. A power inverter changes the voltage of power from a solar array to a useable form for your home. The Sunny Boy is designed to work in parallel with an existing utility grid. The grid tie system allows the homeowner to send excess electricity back to the main grid or use electricity from the grid if necessary. This solar system is currently generating enough electricity to support all of the energy requirements for this home. Power "sold" to the utility company is credited to the address.

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Cost Information: The cost of the solar system was most significant in this renovation process although state incentives made this option more than feasible. The total cost of the system was $21,000. Approximately half of the initial cost was funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority through their Energy $mart Program. An additional rebate of $1000 was provided once the home energy performance test was completed and recommendations applied. An additional state tax credit up to 25% of the homeowner cost will be received at the end of the fiscal year.

Additional Benefits/Drawbacks: This integrated home system achieved all of the goals of the homeowner. The home is comfortable, the system was affordable, and the home is no longer reliant on fossil fuel consumption.

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