Passive Energy, Active Savings

WILTON-Luxury home buyers can cut costs as well as help the environment at a subdivision featuring homes with alternative energy sources.

Frank Laskey’s Louden Ridge is a 22-lot development on Louden Road. Work is under way now on a demonstration house that Laskey plans to open in time for September’s annual Showcase of Homes.

All houses will have passive solar energy systems, and some also will have geothermal energy supplies.

“We have to see what the market asks for,” Laskey said.

Passive solar energy is different from photovoltaic solar, which converts direct current from sunlight to alternating current that runs household electricity. Passive solar is maximized by installing extremely high-efficiency “smart” boilers. Conventional boilers fire up to 90,000 BTU’s regardless of the amount of heat that’s really needed.

“All the heat you don’t need goes up the chimney,” he said.

A “smart” boiler, made by a German firm called Vissemann, has seven settings. Using outdoor sensors, it tells how much heat is actually needed and doesn’t exceed that amount.

“That’s a huge savings right there,” Laskey said.

Such boilers cost about $5,000 compared to $2,500 or $3,000 for a conventional boiler, but energy savings offset the initial cost within five years, he said. Annual utility bills for lights, heating and cooling can be cut in half.

Houses will be designed with open floor plans and high windows to create a “thermal chimney.” A computerized, automated system opens and shuts windows and controls heating, cooling and lighting.

The house is designed to encourage air circulation and flow. When windows open, hot air escapes up the “thermal chimney,” reducing the need for air conditioning.

“It’s low-tech, but it’s common sense,” Laskey said. “It’s a conventional system with a 21st-century twist. We’re assembling parts that work well together, and they’re engineered that way.”

Automated windows can even detect high moisture levels and close on their own when it starts to rain.

Laskey is a registered Healthy House Home Builder, as recognized by the American Lung Association. In October, the National Association of Homebuilders Research Center is planning a conference on “green” construction at the Prime Hotel in Saratoga Springs. Its purpose is to demonstrate how to build “green” in upstate New York.

Laskey’s new model home will be a focal point of the gathering, and tours will be offered. Also, firms that supplied parts such as energy-efficient windows, will exhibit products and explain how they work.

“I’ll be talking about building green and how it’s different,” he said.

All homes at Louden Ridge will be designed by Saratoga Springs architect Michael Phinney. He designed the new state Department of Environmental Conservation headquarters in downtown Albany, the first green office building in New York State.

Phinney is a recognized LEED’s architect for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Laskey said homes at Louden Ridge will be priced starting at about $500,000. He said it will probably take four or five years before the subdivision is fully built out.

Original Article
The Saratogian, Monday, May 24, 2004
By Paul Post

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