A Look Back: Top 10 2016 Green Home Features
Tesla Solar Shingles
From an innovative use of waste products from door manufacturing to new applications for radiant heating, green home inspiration was a major theme for 2016.
The top 10 stories for the year reflect a wide range of wide range of interests from our readers. Tiny homes always seem to draw a crowd, as does new product reviews and green building strategies. Of course, Elon Musk grabs headlines across a number of industries, and his announcement of solar roof shingles was no exception.
Here's the list of our Top 10 green home feature articles for 2016. Click on the headline to go to the full article.
On a rural 12-acre plot in northeast Ohio, Dave Miller is building his dream home with a truly unique approach to insulation and air sealing. The 2,900 square-foot modern take on a classic farmhouse is reflects hours of research and preparation and a unique use for waste products.
"There's a front porch along the north side, so from that side it looks traditional, but on the south and east side we have much larger windows than you would typically see, so it's a mix of modern and traditional styles," he said.
At the 2016 AHR Expo, 60,000 industry professionals and nearly 2,000 exhibitors reviewed the latest and best products in the heating, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration industry.
Here's an overview of a few of the top products on the show floor, and ProudGreenHome.com will have extensive additional coverage of the trends and influence shaping HVAC as it relates to high performance homes.
With 4 to 5 million new roofs installed in the U.S. each year, there's a big opportunity to tap into the power of the sun with solar shingles.
Tesla founder Elon Musk announced the company's plans to manufacture solar shingles that will pair with a new Powerwall 2, a solar system capable of powering a two-bedroom home's lights, electric sockets and refrigerator for an entire day.
The solar tiles, available in four distinct styles, can be used in place of standard shingles or other roofing materials to provide with clean, renewable energy. The solar cells are hidden in the glass roof tiles, and Musk said the cost will be lower than a traditional roof when combined with projected utility bill savings.
Sustainable design is the big trend for residential landscapes, according to the 2016 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
The top trend — rainwater/greywater harvesting — reflects a growing consumer demand for beautiful residential landscapes that also save water.
As building codes incorporate continuous insulation, homebuilders are looking for techniques that won't disrupt traditional building practices.
Depending on the climate zone, the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code calls for R-values in wood-framed walls to be 20 or 13 inside the walls and 5 for continuous insulation. In northern climate zones the exterior continuous insulation values can be R-10.
Foundation and attic insulation also play a role in the home's performance as well.
Here's an overview of some of the top building science approaches to build a high performance thermal envelope.
Imagine a cozy cottage surrounded by forest, built with your own hands. But it's a not a gingerbread dollhouse, but a modernist design with a Frank Lloyd Wright flair.
Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts-based Noble Home has been designing and shipping home shell kits since 2007, aimed at people who want more than a cookie cutter tract home.
After an education in product design, Noah Grunberg, founder and chief designer for Noble Homes, followed in his architect father's footsteps and studied at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. He and a partner started building and remodeling homes. They saw that customers often asked if they could help with construction, such as painting or hanging dry wall.
"We go the notion that owners want to invest their sweat equity, both to lower costs but also as a point of pride, so many people have this dream of building their own home, but construction is so complex these days it's almost unobtainable for the regular do-it-yourselfer," Grunberg said."
Tiny houses are making a big splash in the home market, and now you can pick up a home kit at a retail store.
84 Lumber introduced Tiny Living by 84 Lumber, its new line of portable tiny homes. The introduction of Tiny Living makes 84 Lumber the first-ever major retailer and only large building-materials retailer to tap into this new market and offer competitively priced custom-built houses no bigger than 200 square feet.
84 Lumber offers four tiny home models under three packages to accommodate dedicated do-it-yourselfers who want to build their own houses, those who want a move-in ready home, and everyone in between. Each model can be customized and all range in size from 150 square feet to 200 square feet (the typical U.S. home is about 2,600 square feet). 84 Lumber brings more accessibility and affordability to the tiny home market by delivering Tiny Living to homeowners around the country.
To prepare to meet tough building codes, PulteGroup Inc. is producing a zero net energy (ZNE) home prototype in Northern California.
Pulte says it is the largest builder to participate in a pilot aimed at building new homes to achieve maximum energy efficiency and utility grid load reduction.
“The Pulte ZNE prototype will help guide and create best practices for the Company in building more energy efficient new homes in California and, ultimately, across the nation,” said Ryan Marshall, president of PulteGroup. “Our goal for this prototype is to help define the most efficient path to building zero net energy homes that effectively balance constructability, cost and quality.”
The Pulte ZNE home prototype embraces California’s long-term zero net energy goals by leveraging advanced design, construction and on-site renewable energy solutions. The home’s design combines near airtight building methods, highly efficient insulation, HVAC, lighting technologies and more, with on-site solar energy production to offset the home’s energy consumption.
Controlling and maintaining the home’s water heater just got infinitely easier, more convenient - and smarter.
Aquanta launched the Water Heater Controller, a system that enables remote and convenient control of a water heater via a smart phone or web-enabled device. As the Nest thermostat does for HVAC systems, Aquanta gives users a much more efficient, versatile way to use (or turn off and NOT use) their water heater, the second largest consumer of home energy, while also saving money on household energy bills.
“Aquanta turns your dumb water heater into a smart, energy-efficient one – heating water only when you need it and saving you money when you don’t. All from the convenience of your smart phone or tablet,” said Matt Carlson, CEO of Aquanta Inc. “Until now, water heaters, despite their ubiquity and role as hub of the home’s plumbing network, have largely been stuck in the basement and excluded from the ‘smart home’ trend. Aquanta is about to change all of that.”
When you wake up on a frosty morning, wouldn't it be great if the RV floor was nice and toasty, making it easier to get out of the bunk and start the day?
The development of low-voltage electric radiant floor heating means that travel trailers, RVs and tiny houses can have the comfort and efficiency of radiant floor heating in small spaces.
STEP Warmfloor, a St. Louis-based manufacturer of low-voltage, DC powered electric radiant heat products, has worked with a number of RV owners to equip their vehicles with energy-efficient heating using the patented flat heating element. The system can be installed directly under many types of floors, such as ceramic tile, wood laminate, vinyl and carpet. One of the challenges of radiant floor heating in an RV is the floor space available to lay the heating elements, according to Dennis Schramel, product manager as well as the insulation in the vehicle, and the climate in which the RV will be used. In very cold climates, it may be necessary to use the RV's furnace to reach the desired temperature on a cold morning.
Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED, Connected Homes / Smart Homes, Energy Star, Lumber and Structured Panels, Photovoltaic / Solar Panels, Prefabricated Homes / Systems Built Homes / Modular Homes, Radiant Heat, Roofing, Sustainability Trends & Statistics, Water Heaters
Gary Wollenhaupt / Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.