The Northern Wasatch Parade of Homes, which runs July 5–20, will feature a unique entry this year, a home that’s friendly to the environment and the pocket book.
“This project shows that you can build net-zero homes on par with traditional construction costs,” said Chris Blackham, a student at Weber State who participated in the project, in a Weber State press release. “It’s significant to try to change the thoughts people have about solar and net-zero.”
Net-zero homes and buildings are built with processes which reduce their energy needs, which are supplied through renewable energy.
“The net-zero house will be the first of its kind featured in the Northern Wasatch Parade of Homes, which has wanted to showcase affordable housing and net-zero housing,” said a Weber State press release. “This house will check both boxes.”
The home is 2,000 square feet with a main floor and basement. It features an open concept living and kitchen area upstairs, a family room downstairs and five bedrooms between the two floors.
While the home has not been appraised, its value is likely between $180,000 to $190,000, said Jeremy Farner, building design and construction associate professor at Weber State.
It was built through a partnership among Weber State University, Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis Counties, Dominion Energy, Rocky Mountain Power, Nexant, Davis Technical College and Ogden-Weber Technical College, according Farner.
The home will also go toward a family in need. The family has been separated since losing their Riverdale home in a tornado in September 2016.
Through Habitat for Humanity, the family will be provided with an interest-free, 30-year loan, Farner said, which will mean that their monthly house payment will be about $528, depending on the final appraisal of the home.
Students in the building design and construction program at Weber State designed and helped build the home as part of their classwork, Farner said.
Students in Ogden-Weber Technical College’s YouthBuild program also worked on the home, and the plumbing was done by students in Davis Technical College’s plumbing apprenticeship program, Farner said.
The Weber State program has been collaborating with Habitat for Humanity for four years, and the net-zero home is the fourth Habitat home they’ve designed and helped build, in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity volunteers.
Farner said the program has already completed the design work for a fifth home that Habitat for Humanity will start construction on as soon as this net-zero home is complete.
This home is the first net-zero home the program has designed, Farner said, but all future homes they build in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity will be net-zero.
“It’s reliant on Habitat’s ability to raise money from donors, so we haven’t been able to build as many as we would like,” Farner said.
One of the factors that allow the home to be net zero are the home’s “super tight envelope,” Farner said.
It has exterior and interior insulation and has been air sealed with an AeroBarrier, an atomized material that fills any hairline cracks in the home where air can seep out.
“If you add up all of those little hairline cracks, that equates to about the size of a full window being left open all the time,” Farner said.
As a result, an average home goes through seven to nine “air changes” per hour, which means the entire volume of air in the house is completely changed over and replaced by outside air.
The net-zero house Farner’s students designed has 1.3 air changes per hour.
“We’re not having to heat that air up seven to eight times an hour. We’re only heating it up one time an hour,” Farner said.
The home also has a heat pump which uses the outside air temperature to heat or cool the home, Farner said.
The pump can pull heat from outside in the winter to heat the home, even in very cold temperatures. In the summertime, the pump takes the heat in the home and pushes it outside, Farner said.
The heat pump will be used 80% of the time. Only in the coldest parts of winter will the home rely on the gas furnace.
“Heat pump technology is not new,” Farner said. “It’s just new to the United States. They’ve been doing it Europe for years.”
But the way that the home will offset the energy it consumes is through Rocky Mountain’s subscriber solar program — a program anyone can sign up for, but there is a waiting list.
Subscribers purchase a portion or all of their power from a Utah solar plant at a fixed rate, according to Rocky Mountain Power’s website. Any power they use beyond the solar power they have paid for is billed at the traditional power rate.
This allows people the option to use solar power without having to pay for and maintain expensive solar panels on their homes.