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Articles About Building High Performance Custom Homes

Top Questions To Ask A High-Performance Home Builder

By Tim Biebel / July 30, 2019
Top Questions To Ask A High-Performance Home Builder 1

Top questions to ask when interviewing Builders who claim to be knowledgeable about High Performance construction techniques. How do air barriers differ from vapor barriers? What is a Breathable Vapor Barrier? When and where is a breathable vapor barrier used in a house envelope? When is a breathable vapor barrier…

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A Tale of Two Houses (Less to Build vs. Less to Own)

By Tim Biebel / July 20, 2019
A Tale of Two Houses (Less to Build vs. Less to Own) 2

A couple stopped by my office recently and inquired about building a new house. Since we have been building houses for about 40 years, this was no surprise and it also didn’t surprise me that they didn’t have drawings yet. Their thoughts were pretty vague about what they wanted except…

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Solar Harvesting is Agriculture

By Paul Biebel / July 13, 2019
Solar Harvesting is Agriculture 3

The Harvesting of Solar Energy is agriculture.  Geothermal and Wind power is too.  In fact, I contend that all forms of energy harvesting is agriculture.  Property Taxes are determined in various ways but one way is by how we use a specific piece of property.  Some activities are taxed at…

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How Do Micro Inverters Work In a Custom Zero Energy Home?

By Tim Biebel / June 29, 2019
How Do Micro Inverters Work In a Custom Zero Energy Home? 4

Every year when I dig out the Christmas lights I wonder how many of them are going to work and how long it will take me to find the one light that doesn’t, so I can replace that one light in order to get the entire strand to light up.…

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How Does a Grid-Tied Solar Photovoltaic System Work In Your High Performance Home?

By Tim Biebel / June 25, 2019
How Does a Grid-Tied Solar Photovoltaic System Work In Your High Performance Home? 5

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems provide clean electricity that has many benefits. Renewable energy is better for the environment, better for your bottom line, and is long lasting. So while it is easy to understand the benefits of clean energy, it is not alwayseasy to understand how it is produced. Certain components required by code have been left out…

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Home Downsizing Strategies for Seniors – A Case Study

By Tim Biebel / June 15, 2019
Home Downsizing Strategies for Seniors – A Case Study 6

My grandparents have downsized…twice! The first time was when they moved to Florida from New Hampshire about 20 years ago. Then they downsized again a couple years ago when they moved back to New Hampshire to share a home they built with my aunt and uncle. Since they are so…

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4 Reasons Why You Should Let Us Build A Custom Zero Energy Home, pt4

By Tim Biebel / May 28, 2019
4 Reasons Why You Should Let Us Build A Custom Zero Energy Home, pt4 7

Reason 4: Your Home Will Pay You Back Over Time Over the span of a thirty-year mortgage, your operational savings could be as high as $200,000.00, compared to an identical house built to minimum energy codes at the same time. Sustainable strategies really do make a difference! Yes, there might…

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4 Reasons To Let Us Build Your Net Zero Energy Home, Part 3

By Tim Biebel / May 16, 2019
4 Reasons To Let Us Build Your Net Zero Energy Home, Part 3 8

Reason 3: Every Room Your House Can Be as Warm or Cold as you want it to be in a zero energy home.  Sometimes when I think back about the old way of heating a home and what we can do now, I marvel at the changes, progress, and the options…

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4 Reasons To Let Us Build Your Net Zero Energy Home, Part 2

By Tim Biebel / May 11, 2019
4 Reasons To Let Us Build Your Net Zero Energy Home, Part 2 9

Reason 2: Your rafters won’t snap at you when it’s really cold and your windows won’t ice up Perhaps your ideal retirement home is an old farmhouse you saw in a brochure about Vermont living. In summer there are wildflowers and wildlife all over the place. How charming and attractive!…

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Four Reasons Why You Should Let Us Build Your Net Zero Energy Home, Part 1

By Tim Biebel / April 24, 2019
Four Reasons Why You Should Let Us Build Your Net Zero Energy Home, Part 1 10

Reason 1: Your floors won’t squeak.  It is possible to like squeaky floors for a variety of reasons. If you do, we can build your zero energy home with that feature. Check all the reasons that apply to you:  __ When you’re sleeping, squeaks can alert the family dog that there…

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The 4 Key Steps for Designing for Net Zero Construction in Vermont

By Tim Biebel / April 1, 2019
The 4 Key Steps for Designing for Net Zero Construction in Vermont 11

If you’ve discovered net zero construction in Vermont, you realize you’ve discovered the most efficient living space on the planet. With the unpredictability of utility costs coupled with foreign energy dependence, net zero is the smart choice for both today and the future. What Does it Take to Build a…

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Why Build a High-Performance Home?

By Tim Biebel / March 21, 2019
Why Build a High-Performance Home? 12

If you’re thinking of building a high-performance home, and you want the best “bang for your bucket of bucks,” prudence suggests that you consider the advantages of going high-tech, even perhaps aiming for a net-zero home. “Net-zero” describes a home in which the renewable energy sources that are incorporated into the…

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Affordable Zero Energy Homes: Underslab Solutions

By Tim Biebel / March 12, 2019
Affordable Zero Energy Homes: Underslab Solutions 13

The question isn’t so much, “How can we save money and still get an affordable zero energy home, but “where” can we save money?” Since we start building with a foundation, then it’s logical that the cost of a foundation is a good first place to start looking for places to…

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Affordable Zero Energy Homes: Exterior Wall Assembly

By Tim Biebel / February 23, 2019
Affordable Zero Energy Homes: Exterior Wall Assembly 14

To keep any house affordable, efficiency during the construction process is key. A high-performance wall assembly is no exception. There are multiple ways to construct a high-performance wall, but which one makes the most sense from a cost standpoint when building an affordable zero energy home? Spray foam insulation has a higher…

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Down the Up Staircase – How an Eyesore Became a Centerpiece

By Tim Biebel / February 8, 2019
Down the Up Staircase - How an Eyesore Became a Centerpiece 15

When Tom and Sarah purchased an 1870 farm house and barn in West Windsor, Vermont, in 2003, their farm was already famous. For example, they were told by several locals that “Good Morning, America” had once used the barn as a backdrop for one of their programs. And a 500-piece…

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Downsizing Your Home for Seniors: Managing The Stress

By Tim Biebel / January 15, 2019
Downsizing Your Home for Seniors: Managing The Stress 16

For some seniors, downsizing your home is an optional choice.  For others, it is done by necessity.  If both spouses are still living and maintaining the house (and property) where they raised their children, associated upkeep can be tiresome – even overwhelming.  Home maintenance that these seniors handled themselves may…

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Downsizing Your Home or Right-sizing? Sustainable Living

By Tim Biebel / January 3, 2019
Downsizing Your Home or Right-sizing? Sustainable Living 17

One of our friends, a well-known author who recently passed 65, decided to “downsize” his home. His reasons were numerous, though none were financial (except that with less to pay to live, he would have more to share with those in need.) His wife was not in total agreement at…

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The Key Benefits of High Performance Net Zero Construction in Vermont

By Tim Biebel / December 28, 2018
The Key Benefits of High Performance Net Zero Construction in Vermont 18

Building a high-performance net zero construction in Vermont is the best way to plan for your future. A high-performance home might cost a bit more upfront but offers the best long-term choice in terms of saving energy costs and saving the planet. So what are the key benefits? Energy Efficiency…

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What Is The Value of a Human Life?

By Tim Biebel / December 10, 2018
What Is The Value of a Human Life? 19

Reflections on Forty Years of Building Codes by Paul Biebel, Founder and President, Prudent Living, Inc. Forty-three years ago, when I was just starting to learn different facets of the building trade, I worked as an unofficial apprentice to a licensed electrician in his eighties who had been around since…

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Net Zero Home in Vermont: Do I Need a Back Up Heating System?

By Tim Biebel / November 20, 2018
Net Zero Home in Vermont: Do I Need a Back Up Heating System? 21

Net zero homes are powered by energy generated from solar panels and the local power company. Vermont (and New Hampshire) winters can be cold and dark. What happens if the power goes out in your net zero home in Vermont? 1) What are the Likely Scenarios? Before you build or…

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Little Things Add Up in a Net Zero Energy Home

By Tim Biebel / November 5, 2018
Little Things Add Up in a Net Zero Energy Home 24

We build high-performance custom homes in New Hampshire and Vermont. In order for the owner to benefit from the State of New Hampshire’s Energy Star program, we have to comply with their strict performance criteria of the shell of the house. The State of NH sends their own inspector to…

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