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Celebrating Net Zero

By Gunn Meyerhoff Shay on April 10th, 2017

Janice and I love our new home.  It is quiet, comfortable and relaxing.  With two full bedrooms upstairs, and a small bedroom for our grandchildren downstairs there is plenty of space for privacy.  Also, both Janice and I have wonderful offices with all the 21st Century trimmings.  A beautiful living room connects everything, and we have a formal dining room, kitchen and a great back porch overlooking a shady private garden anchored by a magnificent magnolia tree.  In back we also have a two story guest apartment for our frequent visitors, with a separate entrance.  Daylight in every room—even the bathrooms—keeps the house lit well all day, so that we need artificial light only for tasks and at night.  All told we have about 4,000 square feet of air conditioned space, so this is a lot more house than we ever had before. We live well.

Recently we got our monthly electric bill and were pleased to see the amount was $0.00!  I have read for years about “net zero” houses and always wondered if they are uncomfortable or somehow sacrificial.  Now I know that the answer is “NO”.

How did we achieve this goal?  An excellent building envelope with spray foam insulation, rain screen cavity behind our siding, and that daylight in every room help a lot.  We also have no central air conditioning or ductwork, instead using little Mitsubishi splits so that they provide direct warm or cool air only where and when it is needed.  Unused rooms don’t require any AC at all.  Up on the roof we have a 4.5 kilowatt solar array (15 panels) that provide most of the electricity we need during the day.  Last month we generated about 700 kilowatt hours, and consumed a little less from Georgia Power, resulting in our first net zero month.  In the future we hope to be able to afford a battery, so we can bank energy for night time use.

To go along with our net zero month for electricity, we are starting our organic gardens, with strawberries, blueberries, pears, apples, kumquats, olives, walnuts, lemons and pineapple guava.  For vegetables and herbs we are planting asparagus, carrots, oregano, cilantro, squash and cucumbers.  My next goal is to save enough rain water so that we can irrigate this all without potable water, so I am now researching submersible pumps driven by solar energy…

My son Kerry and his partner Reid Archer have a company called Victory Gardens, and they have helped to plan and install our garden in the city, and our favorite landscape architect Tanya Mandel helped with the planning.  Right in the middle of the orchard we have a bella bocce’ court, so come visit us and roll some!  We can celebrate net zero living together.

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