Two new homes nestled back in Ocean Way Estates, built by custom builder E.S.B. Inc., are turning the heads of passers-by. The solar panels atop the roof may be one of the most noticeable features of the houses, though for these eco-friendly dwellings, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
Sigurd Berzins, who’s been building with E.S.B. for decades, said his venture into “greener” homes was practically inevitable.
“I decided that I wanted to do something a little more different,” he said. He had worked with solar-assisted envelope houses in the 1980’s, though the interest then was not what it is today. Now, he has combined the use of panels, as well as passive solar design, conditioned crawlspaces, and more, to ensure top-quality, environment-conscious aspects in these homes.
The hybrid systems involve multiple aspects that few builders incorporate altogether, but they can ultimately provide the most ideal and practical living conditions, he said.
Berzins’ homes advocate the use of solar energy through UniSolar panels, allowing for electricity to be produced on even lightly overcast days, in addition to sunny ones.
Energy is stored through batteries that can later be used as a backup source. In the event of a power outage, the batteries support lighting and appliances, such as refrigerators, microwaves and water pumps, for up to three days.
Buyers have the option of outfitting their home with Energy Star brand appliances, as well. The electrical systems themselves can support anywhere between 1,500 watts and 5,000 watts, depending on the mass of the panels.
“They don’t detract from the home,” said Berzins. “A lot of people like to show that they’re actually doing something for the environment.” Today, solar panels can be incorporated almost anywhere on the property, from the hidden parts of roofs to other locations in the yard.
Berzins’ houses are part of a grid-tied system, meaning that the energy produced by the solar panels cycles back to help local electric companies, which credit the owners’ electric bills for energy generated and subsequently reduce the amount of their bills. In most cases, buyers can expect rates to drop as much as 50 percent through state energy programs and co-ops.
In addition, passive solar design helps to draw heating for the home through its architecture. A 3-foot roof overhang and the utilization of windows on the south end draw sunlight and heat in the cooler winter months. Little glass is used on the north face of the house. Instead, closets in the bedrooms help insulate each room. As the summer approaches, the overhang coincides with the higher angle of the sun to help shield the house from the heat of the day.
Conditioned crawlspaces help to insulate the home with foam glued to interior foundation walls — a method that is quickly catching on in many new building projects. The crawlspace is also regulated by a geothermal heat pump and air exchanger utilize a stable 55 degree ground temperature to regulate the house’s temperature and minimize mildew and mold.
Walls are constructed with expanding icynene insulation to prevent any air leakage.
This hybrid design is what helps distinguish E.S.B. Inc. from traditional builders. A collaborative merging of multiple aspects can assure the best possible conditions financially and environmentally in the long run, he said.
“All of these things need to work together if you want to really get your way down to zero,” Berzins said. “That’s the ultimate goal here. We’re reducing the carbon footprint. We want to do what we can to make these homes environmental friendly and affordable.”