June/July 2015: New Technologies
July 2015 is New Technology month at Springboard Design. To celebrate, we’re highlighting an exciting new project that is about to break ground in southwestern PA, a house we have designed that is completely off the grid!
Springboard Design’s new ‘Off-Grid House’ house, just starting construction in a few weeks, will be a weekend escape for our clients, quite literally off the beaten path and off the energy grid. No power, gas, or public utilities will run to the site – all energy will be acquired or generated on-site making it a truly off-grid house. A single system with two energy sources will provide power: a solar photovoltaic panel array will be the year round energy source coupled with a propane tank for supplemental heating. The solar panel array, located in the clearing – not rooftop mounted – will gather energy to be stored in a large battery bank in the house. Electrical devices like lighting, television, cell phone chargers, and stereo equipment will draw power from this bank of solar collectors. Propane will fuel the forced-air heating system for the whole house, with additional built-in capacity for a planned air conditioning system in the future.
Construction-wise, the structure itself was designed as energy-efficiently as possible. The wall and roof assemblies include dense continuous insulation, which prevents heat-loss to the exterior during the winter. During the summer, the high sloped Great Room ceilings will draw hot summer air up, up and away from the occupants at floor level!
Flanked by sleeping quarters on either side, the house’s Great Room, with Russian fireplace, anchors the design. Our open-concept central space unites kitchen, dining, and living room functions that overlook the site’s clearing and the riverbed below. The property’s natural beauty will probably best be appreciated from the porches, both covered and uncovered. Lower level storage will accommodate an ATV for cruising around the rugged property.
Springboard’s Off-Grid House is riding the wave of increasing numbers of rebates and tax credits offered to new home builders incorporating solar power into their designs. As a general trend, the United States is striving toward incentivizing residential and commercial investment in solar power through a variety of fiscal programs. More states are attempting to reduce the obstacles of adding solar panels to new and existing projects – particularly the upfront costs of buying and installing panels.
Weighing the monetary benefits and supplemental programs available, solar power has become far more cost effective than it has been in the past. Homeowners and businesses might want to keep in mind that the up-front cost of buying and installing solar panels can be partially offset by monthly savings on their electric bills. Depending upon the programs available where you live, on days when you generate more power than you need, the electric company may buy back your extra energy and send it to the collective grid. Ongoing research in PV efficiency is accelerating so fast, that it takes fewer and fewer solar panels to gather the same amount of energy every day. Furthermore, the hard costs of panels, racks, and inverters continues to decline steadily. The timeframe for return on investment is rapidly declining.
If you are considering adding solar panels to your home or business, please contact us. We would love to help you reduce your carbon footprint, and hopefully, save you money along the way.