Zero Emissions House

Invited by a solar installer I met last fall, I took two friends to an open house for a zero emissions house in Portsmouth, NH. Designed by the house’s owner, who also served as developer and general contractor, the house sits on a sweet little piece of land on the North Mill Pond, a tidal body of water. It rests on a foundation of crushed stone and a thick layer of foam; the floors are all tinted poured concrete. The walls are 2 x 6  framed two feet on center to reduce the number of uninsulated points. Once in place, the framed was covered in plywood, sealed up, and painted with an adhesive paint to which four inches of foam were added before the exterior cladding.  The rate of air exchange is extremely low–1.6 changes per hour, meaning that it is extremely tight. The day was cold and windy but the house was warm. The room on the house’s right is a greenhouse with cherry tomatoes, chard, and baby lettuce in full flourish. On the roof is a fairly large solar array (black) and to its left a smaller solar thermal unit that heats hot water. The whole house is kept warm by the occasional use of a little propane-run fireplace thing.

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