A Rustic Zero Energy Home | Bedford NY Real Estate

On the edge of Eagle Mountain Lake, just northwest of Fort Worth, Texas, sits  green builder Don Ferrier’s latest masterpiece — a zero energy home.  Sandwiched between trees and shrubs, the house is a rustic, two bedroom home  with a deep front porch. The exterior siding and interior beams are made of  reclaimed barn wood, giving the home a classic, aged look. This house, which  Ferrier calls the “zero energy casita,” looks like it has been here for years.  In fact, it’s a brand new, eco-friendly home thanks to the insulation, wind  turbine and many other influential features that leaves him with no energy  bills.

Ferrier is no stranger to green home building. His first green building was  an earth-sheltered home that he built in 1982. By 1985, he was designing green  homes and using structural insulated panels (SIPs), which are energy-efficient  building panels that are made by sandwiching pieces of polystyrene between two  pieces of oriented strand board (OSB).  He still uses these today to make  all of his buildings energy efficient.

“I stumbled into it and I can’t take credit for being a visionary,” he  says.

“Once into building green we were totally on board and passionate. I love it  that we have made such a positive difference in so many folks’ lives.”

In 2004, he founded Ferrier Custom Homes with his daughters and long-time  construction supervisor, Tom Grywatch. Ferrier went on to build the first LEED  platinum home in Texas, won the 2007 Green Building Advocate of the Year award  from the National Association of Home Builders and was named one of the “Godfathers of Green” by the Dallas Builder Association. Ferrier Custom Homes  only builds custom homes and the company is involved in the entire process. “Proper planning and design are essential to high performance building,” Ferrier  says.

When designing the zero energy casita, Ferrier’s No. 1 challenge was the hot  Texas climate. Ferrier designed the casita to be air tight and well-insulated by  using SIPS and low emissivity (low-e) windows. Ferrier also chose a galvanized  metal roof (because its silver color will reflect up to 73 percent of heat from  the sun), and installed a radiant barrier, Tyvek Home Wrap, to keep heat and  water out.

Because the house is tightly sealed and well-insulated, it holds in heat  extremely well. That’s an advantage in the winter, but during the summer it’s a  potential problem. However, the large front porch is designed to delay the sun  from hitting the windows until late in the day. A 50-foot oak tree and 40-foot  shrubs around the house also help block the sun in summer and keep the house  cool. Because of the hot climate, Ferrier also decided to install a high  performance air conditioner. He chose an air conditioner with a 16 seasonal  energy efficiency ratio (SEER), which measures the equipment energy efficiency  during the cooling season. This is higher than both the national requirement of  13, and Energy Star standard 14.

According to Energy Star, the average, non-Energy Star home in North Texas  experiences 13 air changes an hour, and the average Energy Star home has six air  changes an hour. Every time the air conditioner turns on in an hour indicates an  air change. In contrast, the tightly insulated zero energy casita, experiences  only one air change an hour. That improves the efficiency of heating and  cooling, but to be sure the home gets enough fresh air, it also has a fresh air  intake.

Ferrier knows the importance of good air quality, so a HEPA air filtration  system and central dehumidification system were also installed. He was careful  to use products without volatile organic compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde, so  the interior was painted with low- or no-VOC paint.

But to be a zero energy home, it must contain a source of power. Wind energy  was a natural choice for Texas, which has the most wind power potential of any  state, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. To utilize this  energy, a Skysteam wind generator was installed in the backyard of the  casita.

In addition to using recycled construction materials, 80 percent of the  construction waste from the casita was recycled. Tree trimmings were reused as  mulch for flower beds and newly planted trees.

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