Passive-solar homesite: We designed our home to function at a passive-solar level by positioning the majority of windows to face the sun. This meant our home would be placed on the site almost on the compass points with the least amount of glass facing north, and the maximum glass facing south. Our intention was to let the sun freely warm the house during the winter months when it is low in the sky. We typically see interior temperatures reaching 80ºF. This means less demand for wood during the winter heating months. Adding a good overhang to the roof helps keep the home cooler in the summer when the sun is directly overhead by creating shade on the windows.
Solar electric array: Solar Photo-Voltaic (PV) panels were added to offset the electric demands. The 18 panel system is designed to generate a maximum of 3 kilowatts of electricity. This system is grid-tied, meaning we still receive power from the public electric company through traditional power lines connected to the home, but our PV system sends back power to the electric company’s grid when it generates more energy than our home uses. On these days we can watch our electric meter spin backwards! This shows up as a credit on our electric bill.
Solar hot water: We use LP (liquid propane) to heat our water, as a backup fuel for the furnace, to dry clothes, and to cook with. Heating our water is by far the biggest demand on our propane. By adding the solar hot water panels to the home we have seen the propane usage drop from a high of close to 1000 gals a year to a low of just around 600 gals per year. Do the math on the cost per gallon of propane, which keeps going up, and this system will pay for itself in just a few years!
Wood stove: A Vermont Castings ‘Resolute’ wood stove is the primary heat source for the home. The stove is sized just under the BTU rating for the square footage of the house so we can run it hotter, which translates to a cleaner stove and chimney, and less risk of having a chimney fire. We typically burn 4-5 cords per season. The house has an open floor plan, and ceiling fans help to circulate the warm air to cooler areas.
Firewood: We burn firewood harvested from our land and locally sourced. Heating your home with wood requires some planning and work if you are going to cut, split, and stack for the demands of a Vermont winter! We have a truck load of logs delivered each year. Then we’ll ‘chunk up’ the logs with chainsaws, split with a gas-powered hydraulic splitter, and stack on pallets with a tarp cover to keep dry. The working plan for us is to have at least 2 years of wood stacked – one year’s worth to burn and one year’s worth set aside drying.
Livestock: Our small flock of chickens provides us with all of the fresh eggs we need. The eggs we don’t use are sold to neighbors, which helps offset the cost of chicken feed. We also keep a few beehives primarily for pollinating the garden, and the honey is a great bonus!
Organic garden: The garden is 100% organic. Since we keep bees, we do not use any chemicals on the garden or on the property to control pests. The garden supplies us with a year’s worth of vegetables. We also have strawberries and blueberries that are a treat! Each year we add a load of composted manure to the garden to help improve the rocky soil.
Composting: All vegetable matter is recycled back to the garden by utilizing composting bins. It’s amazing what rich, black composted soil can be created from your kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves.
We’re glad you were able to drop in for a tour of our Vermont home.