CUB staff were recently in Rochester giving a presentation to Mayo Clinic staff on energy efficiency. In the crowd was Ivan Idso, who, after the presentation was over, asked if CUB would like to join him for a tour of his uber efficient home a few minutes away in Rochester. Of course, CUB staff agreed.
Upon entering his home, Ivan’s wife, Mary, was working on the computer. Mary was unfazed by the two strangers entering her home with Ivan after many a tour of the eco-friendly home, most notably during Rochester’s annual Earthfest celebration in April.
Ivan and Mary were settled in their Rochester neighborhood, but were looking for a home they could retire in. While considering homes, they had two requirements: they wanted 1) to stay in their current neighborhood and 2) a more sustainable home. So, when the house next door, built in 1890, went up for sale, they decided to purchase it and renovate to be as energy efficient as possible.
The renovations they made to their new home were extensive, essentially gutting the home entirely and turning it into their dream home. The results were an all-electric, solar powered home with a lot of awesome, innovative technologies and design characteristics that make their home efficient to the point where it is almost net zero.
The Idsos’ house has a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score of 27. The lower a score, the better a house rates in efficiency. With a score of 27, it means the Idsos’ home is over 70% more efficient than a standard new home built to national codes. A few of the technologies and design elements in the property that contribute to this score include:
- A 4.7 kW rooftop solar array on the roof. The Idsos also have battery backup that can power key systems in the home for up to 48 hours.
- Hybrid ventless clothes dryer. The ventless condensing clothes dryer collects moisture in a tray which is pumped out the drain. Besides being very efficient, it also limits yet another portal to the outdoors in which energy could escape.
- Hybrid heat pump water heater. This electric water heater has performed at the same cost as an equivalent gas water heater.
- Electric boiler warms water for hydronic in-floor heating.
- An air source heat pump provides cooling in summer and heating in spring and fall.
- Double 2×4 walls with almost a foot of space between them and plenty of insulation keep the home sealed tight and temperature within well regulated.
- Passive solar design takes the height of the sun in different seasons into account. The overhang was calculated to block the windows from direct sunlight in the summer and allow sunlight through in the winter. This utilization of passive heat allows the Idsos to reduce energy production needed to heat and cool their home.
Remodeling a house like this is a difficult endeavor. Not everyone will have the time or knowledge to complete a comprehensive project like this. But don’t fret! There are plenty of energy savings options people can do in their homes.
Beyond just a behavioral change of using less energy, Ivan recommends, first and foremost, LED light bulbs as an easy way to cut down your energy usage in your home.
Going above and beyond LED light bulbs, Ivan recommends hybrid water heaters. Hybrid water heaters will save money over the lifetime when compared to standard electric water heaters and can even be cost-competitive to natural gas water heaters (which are relatively inexpensive right now based on the price of gas). Instead of generating heat like a standard electric water heater, hybrid water heaters work by moving warm air surrounding the unit to heat the water, which saves up to 60% of the energy used to heat water in your home. Hybrid water heaters also remove moisture from the surrounding air, providing the added benefit of dehumidifying the space they are in.
Becoming more energy efficient doesn’t require a full remodel. When considering updates to your home, keep in mind just a few of the technologies used in the Idsos’ home. And be sure to keep an eye out for utility rebates and financing options to help you pay for them, and reach out to CUB at 651-300-4701 with any questions that you may have on how to make your home more energy efficient.