Creating an Efficient Water System
Tom: The home is located in drought-prone Central Texas Hill Country region, where a 30,000-gallon rainwater system is its only source of water. It has proven to be a rock-solid solution, never dropping below 70% of its capacity over the 3 years it has been in place.
He says that a rainwater harvesting system should be near the top of your checklist when you are contemplating the build or purchase of a high-performance, sustainable, and environmentally-responsible home. Ideally, the collection system, rainwater storage tank, and filtration setup should be designed and sized to supply 100% of your water needs both inside and outside of the home.
A Home Run on Solar Electricity
Tom: This dwelling, that we also use as the Zero Net Energy Living Lab house, was designed from the ground up to be nearly all-electric, with the intention to offset the bulk of that electrical usage with rooftop-mounted solar photovoltaics. The only exception to that was in the kitchen, where the cooktop was fueled by propane, as the gourmet-chef-in-residence was not willing to live with one of the new induction cooktops or a more conventional electric cooktop.
Everything else was designed to be 100% electrically-powered, including the remainder of the major appliances and all mechanical systems: aerobic waste treatment, rainwater harvesting, potable water treatment, water heating and recirculation systems. And, of course, the HVAC and fresh-air intake system.
Using Geothermal Cooling and Heating
Tom: We installed a single ClimateMaster Tranquility ground-source geothermal heat pump system to meet all cooling and heating needs, which is enabled through the drilling of four 300-foot deep geothermal wells on the property. This HVAC installation is controlled by three second-generation Nest smart thermostats—which are programmable, self-learning, sensor-driven, and Wi-Fi-enabled.
How well does this setup work with the Nests? Splendidly. When living in a near-zero net energy (ZNE) house, one must be ever-vigilant about energy consumption. The Nests go a long way toward minimizing kilowatts consumed for cooling, heating, and circulating fresh air. For example, the Auto-Away feature, where the Nests automatically set themselves back when they sense the house is unoccupied, is a notable energy saver. And the now-standard ability to remotely adjust the Nests anytime through a smartphone app, is much appreciated - particularly on those days when life throws you a curve.
And on those 100℉+ Texas summer days where cooling is king, the super-efficient geothermal system and the Nests do their part to deliver admirably on energy-saving goals.
Digitized House Magazine is an online source for homeowners who are interested in smart, sustainable, and zero-energy efficient homes.