On March 20, 2013, Eversource and The United Illuminating Company, named three winners of the third annual Connecticut Zero Energy Challenge (ZEC), a statewide design/build competition. Supported by the Energize Connecticut initiative, the ZEC aims to educate homebuilders and homeowners about high-efficiency homes that consume almost no energy, or use no more energy from the electrical grid than the home can produce itself.
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Harwinton residents, Paul and Diane Honig, teamed up with builder Wolfworks, Inc., to design and construct a ‘Passive House’ that ensures remarkably low energy demand, something that is aligned with the goals of the Zero Energy Challenge.
The Passive House design means that a building takes the greatest advantage of available “gains” while minimizing energy “losses.” The resulting energy balance provides the home with exceptional comfort and health, simplified operation and dramatically lower operating costs.
The home also had the lowest Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index by implementing measures including: windows that captured solar energy, rigorous sealing of all potential sources of air leakage, reduced thermal bridging to help remediate any problems with insulation, the installation of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), and more. These measures earned the top spot for the Honigs and Wolfworks, Inc.
“Investing the extra money up front to build a more sustainable house was worth it,” said Paul Honig, “By taking advantage of incentives and rebates offered through the Residential New Construction program, administered by CL&P, we were able to offset those upfront costs considerably.”
Peter Fusaro of Preferred Builders Inc. saw the ZEC as a way to bring his idea of a high-performance house to life.
After tearing down the original structure at a home in Old Greenwich and recycling its old materials, Fusaro and his team rebuilt the home from the ground up, installing only top-of-the-line energy efficient products.
“I have been in the building industry for more than 25 years and have become more energy efficient in the way I design, build and live every day,” Fusaro said. “After construction was complete, our home in Old Greenwich received six energy and environmental certifications, which I am extremely proud of.”
To achieve these certifications, a number of energy-efficient features were added to the home including high-efficiency tank-less hot water heaters, air conditioning units and a natural gas boiler. The garage features an electric vehicle charging station, and the home is equipped with a sophisticated circuit breaker that connects to the Internet and can show a homeowner just how much energy is being used at any given time.
James Gainfort and Hayden McKay’s original, 60 year old home overlooking Candlewood Lake in New Fairfield was sustainably demolished in order to make energy-saving improvements. After working with BPC Green Builders, the home now boasts a number of energy-efficient certifications including the LEED-certified home designation, indicating that it is a high-performance green home.
“The vision for our future retirement home focused on comfort, low operating costs, low maintenance and a connection to nature,” said homeowner Hayden McKay. “The systems are solar-ready so we can add renewable energy in the future, and it will take very little additional effort to get to net zero. The process has been both challenging and enlightening, but the results have been deeply satisfying.”
In order to accomplish these energy-saving measures, the home was outfitted with maximized “continuous insulation,” which when combined with proper caulking and foaming, creates a tightly sealed home with little to no air or heat leaks. In addition, a high-efficiency propane boiler was installed for hot water, while radiant tube floor heating and a hydro-air system were installed to provide space heating on the first and second floors.