Richer Retirement Ranch Innovations: Multiple Innovations - Homes Across America Search Return Richer Retirement Ranch Innovations: Multiple Innovations - Homes Across America Search Return

Richer Retirement Ranch




Goals of Innovation:
a. To make best use of the excess water from springs.
b. To reduce stress on plantings during drought conditions.
c. To provide continuing flow of water to marsh.
d. To use roof runoff.

Description: During excavation of the home's foundation, the builder struck two springs while removing two feet of bedrock. This water fills ponds from piping attached to the Form-a-Drain foundation system before reaching the marsh. Two small (5 feet in diameter) ponds were hand dug and soon were visited by the local frog population.

Obstacles: The discovery of springs created a challenge that was solved as described with little difficulty.

Cost Information: These ponds also will provide water for the local gardens during summer drought conditions. The project costs were less than $20 for piping. Rocks dug from the property line the frog ponds. The ponds are not lined providing winter habitat for hibernating frogs.

Additional Benefits/Drawbacks: Biophilia, a theory proposed by Edward O. Wilson, states that humans have a propensity to affiliate with other life forms. The homeowners appreciate natural settings that sustain themselves. The marsh and ponds will be places for them to study and enjoy nature.


Goals of Innovation:
a. To become somewhat self-sufficient by utilizing readily available renewable energy.
b. To build an energy efficient home.

Description: Two interactive energy systems provide radiant heat and domestic hot water: geothermal and solar. Since a typical ground loop geothermal system could not be used, a solar support was added for domestic hot water and radiant heating. The solar hot water system employs 60 Viessmann 200 evacuated tubes to provide heat energy to a heat sink consisting of two-1000 gallon tanks of water that store the heat energy. The two tanks of water are attached to three heat exchangers; one is to exchange heat with the in-coming well water before going to the geothermal unit. Once the water in the tanks reach 130 degrees, the solar system bypasses the geothermal unit and exchanges heat directly with the closed-loop four-zone radiant heating system (set at 110 degrees) and the domestic hot water system (set at 130 degrees).

Obstacles: A typical ground loop system consisting of copper or other tubing installed below the frost line could not be used to provide a constant source of heat to the geothermal system. Five feet is considered below the frost and the bedrock on this property is located four feet or less below ground. Well water is about 48 degrees and would soon become useless for the geothermal unit due to the volume of heat needed for heat-hungry New England winters.

The major obstacle to the system is that it takes time to charge. The system was hooked-up in early October 2006 and kept up with the geothermal unit during single digit weather. The system needed the gas on-demands backup after an ice storm covered the tubes for a few days in late January 2007. Once the tubes were cleared of ice, the sun resumed its work in heating water.

Cost Information: The geothermal unit cost $6000 but was completely absorbed by a Department of Energy incentive grant through the local energy provider. The ancillary equipment for the radiant heat system was an additional $7,000 but would have been the same with any other heating source (i.e. oil, gas, wood boiler, etc.). The solar hot water system at $30,000 (including labor) will pay for itself in 12-14 years. Also the Energy Act of 2005 provides a $2000 tax incentive for the solar application and in our case, an additional $550 tax incentive for reaching Energy Star standards.

Additional Benefits/Drawbacks: Although these systems are initially expensive, they will operate well beyond the pay-back period providing heat and hot water for decades.

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