Issaquah’s zHome partners share project insights

June 7, 2011

By Staff

This month’s zHome interview is with two key partners on the project — Dennis Rominger, of Puget Sound Energy, and Luke Howard, of the Washington State University Energy Program.

Q: What do you do for your organizations?

Dennis Rominger

Luke Howard

Dennis: My primary role is to manage Puget Sound Energy’s space and water heater rebate programs. I am also the PSE representative for zHome, roles I’ve held since March 2009.

Luke: I work on several residential energy efficiency projects for WSU’s Extension Energy Program, providing technical assistance and training for industry professionals. Additionally, I participate in residential case studies and research projects focused on cutting-edge technologies, design and construction techniques.

Q: What do you think the most interesting energy component is about zHome?

Dennis: The solar panels and ground-source heat pumps used on zHome are the coolest components when looking at the energy model. Even though these components are necessary for zHome to achieve zero-net energy, their flash and appeal should not distract the average homeowner from other more cost-effective ways to lower their energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Luke: I agree with Dennis, and I also think the panelized construction technology used in zHome is really exciting — there are not many large-scale, panelized residential projects in the United States. Stick framing has always been predominant in residential construction, especially here in the Northwest, but for many sectors of the residential market, I feel panelized construction is an excellent way to achieve tight, well-insulated building envelopes in a cost-effective manner.

Q: What sorts of things do you recommend people do to save energy in their own homes?

Dennis: Focus on the biggest energy-saving items for your hard-earned buck. These are items that help prevent heat loss within your home, such as duct sealing and insulation. These items may not be as fun as solar panels or ground-source heat pumps, but their impact on your energy usage is huge. Only after you have done everything else you can do to save energy, should you then seriously consider installing solar panels or ground-source heat pumps. Their return on investment is less compared to all of the other energy-saving investments you can make within your home.

Luke: I like to think of energy conservation activities in existing housing as multitiered.

First, start with behavioral adjustments. Evaluate the energy you consume in your home in day-to-day tasks and see what you, as the occupant, are willing to do to reduce your load.

Next, I suggest that folks investigate the air leakage in their homes. A drafty house and leaky heat ducts can account for the majority of our home’s heat losses. Find qualified professionals that can evaluate your home and air duct leakage. Once leakage is identified, caulk or foam and duct mastic can do wonders in reducing air leakage.

Once you have addressed your miscellaneous electrical loads and reduced your air leakage you can move on to more glamorous measures, such as insulation, efficient windows and high efficiency heating/cooling and domestic hot-water equipment.

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