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Project

North Carolina Is Home to Solar Community

Credits: ©2010 Silverwood

Bingham Ridge is a new residential development (February 2010) that integrates photovoltaic and solar products into construction of all its homes with varying designs. Located 15 minutes from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the community has a walking trail and offers lots of two to three acres. Homes are equipped with solar water heaters, photovoltaic panels, energy star construction and a range of styles/designs. Residents benefit from current state and federal energy tax credits. Square footage ranges from 2,500 to just over 3,000, with natural materials such as hardwood floors, ceramic baths and stone counters. The neighborhood includes 39 home sites on 123 acres, with Craftsman style featured. The homes are Energy Star certified with active solar systems for hot water and electrical generation. Electricity generated is sold into Progress Energy’s grid and reimbursed by the NC Green Power program.

 

Bingham Ridge NC Aerial

Bingham Ridge solar community in North Carolina. ©2010 Microsoft Virtual Earth

SOLAR FEATURES • Passive Solar Design

• Solar Hot Water System

• 2kWh Photovoltaic Array with Battery Back Up

The photovoltaic electric system on the roof, has an automated, integrated battery backup power system. During normal operation, this grid-tied PV system will produce pollution-free electricity that is fed into the grid, as this house is a pioneering example of "distributed generation." Excess electricity produced during the day will be bought by the local utility. Since this home will be a producer of clean, renewable energy, it is eligible for compensation from the NC Green Power Program as well. When the grid fails, the computer-controlled PV system automatically switches over to backup power mode and the electricity generated by the rooftop panels is converted to AC current for consumption within the house. The crossover occurs in less than half a second. This system is capable of providing backup power for 5 – 7 days for the well, refrigerator, air handler for the gas furnace, bath lighting and venting, kids' bedroom lights, master bedroom lighting and receptacles, kitchen lighting, living room lighting and receptacles, and stairway and balcony lighting. Solar hot water panels are more integrated than ever before, and are capable of providing up to 100% of domestic hot water requirements. The heat exchanging medium is a glycol (anti-freeze) solution, so you never need to drain the system during cold weather.

DESIGN
Bingham Ridge homes are either solar-tempered or fully passive solar. A solar-tempered home has more than 7 percent of its south facing wall in glass, but less than 10 percent. A fully passive solar home has at least 10 percent of its south facing wall in glass and will have a solar mass characteristic as well. There is more to it than that, though. The amount of glass that doesn’t face south needs to be controlled, so Low-E glass is used in some locations.

According to the builders at Silverwood, how to design the home becomes the tricky part. You can’t control where south is, and you can rarely control where you want your front door. Every site-integrated home presents a design puzzle. Some of the puzzle parts are traffic flow, furniture placement, location of quiet areas, dining areas, the entertainment and video center, fireplace location and private outdoor space. The driving factor in Silverwood's design philosophy is to create homes that combine energy efficiency with optimum room placement and flow for its clients. Public spaces with an open flow are concentrated on the south; more private and utilitarian areas to the north. An open floor plan allows the occupants to take advantage of natural daylighting and realize energy savings from less electricity use. But first, a house has to serve as a home for its occupants. The homes in Bingham Ridge start with attention to floor plans and finishes that work for homeowners, then efficiency techniques are applied. Sculpted ceilings to define areas, gourmet kitchens open to dining and living areas, access to outdoor living and private study places are some of the things with which they start. They finish up with solar electrical systems and solar hot water.

Bingham Ridge designs use a "passive tempered" approach where they maximize window units on the south side, and calculate the height of those windows so that the roof overhang will shade them as fully as possible during the warmer months. There are no south-facing windows that are not shaded. Since the South facing glass does not go the floor, the interior wall space on those walls is available for lifestyle choices, such as furniture placement. As is requisite of passive design, Silverwood adheres to maximizing living spaces on the south, and concentrating storage areas, garages, and sleeping quarters on the north side of the home. In the winter, the home warms up quickly as the Sun's heat radiates through the south-facing windows, and the central heating system operates for a shorter period of time. Integral to "new solar" design are the advances in efficiency envelope construction they are currently using. By using very high quality window and door units, sealed crawl spaces, cool attics, and super sealed blown foam insulation, lowered solar heat gain will have its maximum effect, and the homes' cooling systems will perform much better. One of the greatest benefits of the passive tempered home is daylighting. During sunlight hours, the interior spaces of the home are flooded with natural sunlight, and the need to operate electric lighting is greatly reduced. If a homeowner wants to have a mass characteristic in their residence, Silverwood customizes the house plan to accommodate designs

HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEMS
The heating and cooling systems are engineered for each home. This means the proper size units are installed to service the living areas and that the ducts are baffled to deliver the proper volume of air to each space (not that much air flow is needed to a powder room for instance). Either a high efficiency gas furnace or dual fuel heat pump is used for heating. Air conditioning is electric. The dual fuel heat pump is electric with gas back up. If the grid goes down in winter, the homeowner will still have heat with the gas back-up. The blower to distribute the heat will operate off the battery back up.

All duct work is installed in conditioned or semi-conditioned space. This enables the system to operate more efficiently because heated or cooled air is not being forced through ducts in unconditioned space. Should a small hole develop in the duct work, the escaping air is being utilized in living space, not in the great outdoors!

Every home is equipped with a programmable thermostat for each heating zone of the home. These devices allow the homeowner to program shifts in heating or cooling during times the house is unoccupied and bring the house back to a comfortable level before the occupant gets up in the morning or returns from work in the evening. The homeowner can program the thermostat and then forget it. Energy is saved by keeping the home a little cooler or warmer during sleep time or when the house is unoccupied.

High-tech pleated air filters are used to substantially reduce dust and allergens in the home resulting in healthier indoor air for the occupants.

Because the homes are so tightly constructed there is very little air infiltration in the structure. A fresh air intake is engineered into the heating and cooling system to make sure there is adequate fresh air in the home.

Water is heated for domestic usage using solar panels on the roof, and a storage tank for a pre-heat cycle in the potable system. The water produced by this system is quite hot. Radiant floor heat systems require a moderate hot water supply (around 106 degrees) and a slow flow directed through zoned loops. In many systems, these loops are cased in a concrete floor. Radiant loops can be attached to the underside of a joist floor system as well. This installation will generally require a modification to the sealed crawl space design and insulation envelope, so that the crawl space is not heated as a primary zone. Using potable hot water as a source for radiant heat presents some problems. If the radiant circulation system is not run continuously, water in the loops can become stagnant. These issues can be overcome, but it may be best to supply a discrete heat source for a radiant heating system. An issue to remember is that radiant heating will supply heat only - many homes require a forced air system for cooling in warm North Carolina. Radiant heat in the winter produces a warm floor with no fans blowing, so it's quiet.

MATERIAL CHOICES
Quality materials that have a usable life exceeding the amount of time it takes nature to replace them go a long way towards making a building sustainable. Earth-based materials, requiring minimal industrial processing are both attractive and easy on the atmosphere. Whenever a new building is made, a certain degree of processing and resource destruction takes place. To make a home as sustainable as possible, it is important to consider material choices seriously and try to create a finished product that will be lasting. Disposable and short life products are avoided at Bingham Ridge. Part of being sustainable is giving the earth time to heal after something is taken from it. The building finishes in these solar homes focus on high-quality lumber, stone, concrete, and ceramics. Appliances won’t last forever, but good ones will last a very long time. Serviceable appliances and components are used wherever possible.

Standard Material List for Bingham Ridge Homes:

• Highly rot and termite resistant cement board exteriors (Hardi Plank)

• Highly rot and termite resistant Mira tech composition trim materials made from waste wood & formaldehyde-free resins

• Low VOC paints

• Formaldehyde-free custom cabinetry with water base lacquer finish

• Formaldehyde-free Advantech sub floors

• All wood floors *

• High r-value warp free fiberglass door systems

• Low flow plumbing fixtures

• Composite deck materials made from recycled materials

• Extensive use of stone, tile, and natural materials

• Local distance tracking of building materials used as a choice criteria

SPECIAL SYSTEMS
• Bingham Ridge homes have a low-maintenance solar hot water system capable of providing 80-100% of the occupants' hot water needs. In a typical American home, water heating accounts for 15-20% of the household's energy use. A solar hot water system saves hundreds of dollars a year in energy costs. Those savings combined with available tax credits, allow the system to pay for itself in a few short years.

• Integrated photovoltaic electrical systems w battery back up. Current Bingham Ridge residents report the PV array offsets their electricity use 26 - 32%. (Data gathered March 2009)

• Centralized bath exhaust systems with timers

• Compact fluorescent lamping as a standard

• High efficiency appliances

• Central vacuum rough-ins

• Rain water collection and irrigation systems *

• "Watt Stopper" switching systems *

• LED lighting fixtures in traffic locations *

• Borate termiticide *


Documents

  Bingham Ridge Solar Plan4 (74 kb)

  Bingham Ridge Solar Plan3 (130 kb)

  Bingham Ridge Solar Plan2 (125 kb)

  Bingham Ridge Solar Plan (111 kb)


Resources

Silverwood Solar Homes (North Carolina, USA)

North Carolina Green Power