energy efficiency in Upper Midwest

bruuunoooJune 11, 2008

Hi--there is so much expertise here that I will post a question and hope it sparks a response. My apologies if this has been asked before. I can't find a region-specific recommendation.

We are planning to build a new home in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area. It will have two upper stories and a walk out basement totaling 3000 square feet. The back of the house faces directly east and includes the most windows (kitchen/dining room and living room). We are still in the planning stages and would welcome any ideas to maximize energy efficiency.

Many of the ideas I find on this site seem designed for warm climates with an emphasis on cooling the house. We need to cool for just three months of the year and heat for the others.

We are considering these options, thanks to the information gleaned on this site. Do you have other ideas for the Upper Midwest? Any comments about cost/benefit?

Only one window facing north

Overhangs for winter (solar gain) and summer sun (shading)

2 X 6 construction with lots of insulation and minimum gaps/leaks

Solar water heating

Fans/ cross ventilation and a way for hot air to rise and exit the house??--does this apply to Green Bay?

Solar roof tiles or some other form of solar heating--what works here?

HVAC zoning with programmable thermostats

Energy efficient appliances, water heater, furnace, air conditioning

Point-of-use heater for the more distant bathroom water supply

Many thanks for any help!

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Sounds like you're on the right track. living in cent fl my solutions wouldn't be as useful to you but two things to keep in mind..the point of use electric water heaters use very high current and may soon subject users to a surcharge from their power company. Number two you may want to consider reducing the overall size of your house. We still haven't seen the other shoe drop yet as far as how the price of oil will affect electricity, fuel oil and gas bills. I've got my power bill down to the $100 range and if power costs double a $200 bill would still be tolerable for me. I really don't know how people with $300+ bills will survive a doubling (or more) of their energy costs. Here in the US cheap energy has made large homes practical....that may be changing. We down-sized our plans from 2500 to 2000 on the house we recently finished and now as we hear the power companies preparing to ask for rate increases are glad we did. I'm afraid things can get pretty ugly by next winter....

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 8:53PM
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If I were building a new house, I'd install an "instant" hot water heater instead of a tank heater.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 10:27PM
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hi bruuunooo

we live just down the road in kaukauna.
you should frame it with with 2 x 6 then put 2 x 4 strapping across them to give you a 7; thick wall. this will elimenate the thermal bridging. then fill it with spray foam.. walls and ceiling. you will be glad you did even though it costs more. fiberglass insulation lets air filter through
think of it as a great stock investment but it will payback with lower heating/ cooling bills for lifetime. also get triple pane windows,
skylights are terrible heat wasters but solar tubes are great.
make sure you put in a 90% or better heat ecovery unit.

make sure your builder is enegy star listed

make sure you have some roof facing due south for solar panels

put solar water or hot air in, you will love it.

go to this site is great, lots of info on renewables and home construction.

also next weekend june 20-22 is the MREA energy fair in Custer (stevens point). go to it, there are lots of people will ro answers lots of your questions o energy and building.,,,,

good luck

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 11:33PM
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Hi--Many thanks for the replies! (People with the name "Gary" seem to have a wonderful amount of expertise on this topic). This is all new to us so I will print out these ideas and learn more. I wish we could make it to the "Point" area for the energy fair next weekend but we have a family reunion planned. Thanks again for pointing us in the right direction.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 12:22AM
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Re the east windows, if you don't want to hide the view instead of shade treed to block the sun in the summer yet let it through in the winter you might consider intalling exterior solar shades which still allow you to see through the windows but blot most of the sun's UV rays from reaching the windows, let alone enter the house. That way you can get the best of both worlds; cooler east facing rooms and ability to see out doors.

As well, once your house is built you might consider having a home energy audit. This can tell you the areas which were not sufficiently sealed re air leakages that you can fix yourself with a caulkking gun and weather stripping (don't forget to apply weather stripping around the door leading to the the cold cellar if you have one because a cold cellar is usually directly vented to the outside).


    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 5:01AM
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Dan's solar shades are a really great idea. All the one's I've seen are easily removable in the winter for extra heat gain...

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 6:50AM
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Some points touched on before, but if you can incorporate:
1) A "Patio Enclosure" on the south side with either passive Solar (Thermal mass, no moving parts) or active Solar (Thermal Mass with fan or pump).

2) Solar Thermal panels for home heating and domestic water heating. This will require infloor heating system. Solar Thermal is 4 times more efficient than Photo Electric systems so you get more bang for your buck.

Energy Concepts is a company based in Wisconsin and can design and install Solar Thermal systems if need. Craig Tarr is very knowledgeable on the subject.

Hope That helps,

Dan Martyn

Here is a link that might be useful: Energy Concepts.US

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 2:06PM
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Hi Again Bruunnoo,

Something I am starting to look into is solar radiant floor heating in place or to augement our traditional force air natural gas / home heating oil type.

From what I can tell it does cost more to install, but is supposed to be a more comfortable environment (less drying of the already dry winter air that forced air heating causes), more cost effective, and can be used on every floor in the house including the basement.

I have just started to see some sites with solar radiant heating that look pretty interesting. Here's one firm (not that I personally recommend them as I have just started to investigate) that might give you some ideas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Solar Radiant Heating

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 6:38PM
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