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Maine Solar House in Cold Climate (USA)

Credits: Solar Design Associates/Maine Solar House

In the harsh Maine winter, this energy-conscious house produces its own heat, hot water and electricity from the sun that shines on its roof. In 1995, Solar Design Associates designed this energy-efficient solution for a cold climate. The home (2,900 sq. ft.) is designed so that primary living areas (great room, dining area, kitchen, media room, master bedroom and bath, plus associated storage areas) are located on the main floor. The second story has two additional bedrooms, bath and storage space plus a grand work area. This is a stick built structure, standard 2x6 framing. When all the layers are added up, from interior plaster to the outer siding, the exterior walls are 10 1/4 inches thick. A vapor barrier seals the interior, with blue board and plaster completing the interior finish. All window and door jams were filled with expanding foam insulation. Windows and sliding glass doors are R-8 Hurd Solar Glass--one of the highest R-values in the industry.


Maine Solar House in Fall

©2009 Solar Design Associates

Owners Bill and Deborah Lord had a plan to retire to the coast of Maine, and knew they wanted a solar house. Their most pressing priorities were family and a sustainable future; the house had to comfortably accommodate regular visits from their children and grandchildren, as well as having a minimal environmental impact. Solar Design worked with them to create an enduring homestead that's easy to maintain as well as easy on the environment.

Special Features:
•passive solar heating and cooling
•radiant heat distribution
•super insulation
•advanced R-8 windows
•monolithic air and vapor barriers
•air-lock vestibules
•aheat-recovery ventilation system

The Design: PV, solar thermal, air-to-air heat exchanger, radiant floor, low consumption plumbing, fresh-air intake, central vacuum, R-8 windows, vented walls (to extend life of siding and stain), propane backup for heat, cooking and drying clothes.
Floor Area: 2900 sq ft
Rooms: 3 bedrooms, 2-1/2 baths, living room, kitchen, entertainment room, and computer loft
Insulation: Walls: 2x6, plus 2 in polyisocyanurate rigid board, equaling R-38
Roof: Truss construction, R-60
Glass: R-8 Hurd Solar Glass (windows and sliding doors)
PV System: 4.2 kW (16 RWE/Schott modules), 384 sq ft
Inverters: Two Xantrex Sun Tie XRs
Thermal System: collector area, 480 sq ft; two 500-gallon storage tanks; active circulation, stage pumps, radiant floor

This project represents an innovative integration of architectural aesthetic and efficient green technology. This 2,750 sq. ft solar-powered residence combines energy-conscious design with passive and active solar utilization. Despite Maine's harsh winter climate and modest solar resources, the home produces its own hear, hot water, and electricity from the sun.

The south roof incorporates an integrated array of solar thermal collectors and large-area PV modules to form a single, uniform glass plane. The integral solar array serves as the weathering skin of the roof and is passively cooled from below by thermosyphon air flow.

Through a net-metering arrangement with the local utility, the home exports its surplus solar electricity to the utility grid. The owners get this power back via an even exchange when it's needed, typically at night or during periods of low sunlight. The power system also features on-site storage to carry the house in the event of a utility outage. Each year the home produces more electricity than it needs. Both the owners and the power company benefit from this arrangement.

The project website contains much information on up-front costs, design, operating expenses, data, etc.


Maine Solar House Website (USA)