Renewable Energy Systems & Technologies, LLC

OFFICE (802) 672-2299 :: Po Box 277 :: Bridgewater Corners, VT 05035

Sustainable Building Technologies

We help businesses and individual homeowners generate their own electricity, space and water heating, and minimize energy needs with various conservation and efficiency methods. Whether your desire is to reduce or eliminate payments to your local utility provider, minimize carbon based pollution, increase the efficiency of your home or business, enhance security and productivity, or even live off-grid, RES-TEC designed systems can meet these goals!

We use our extensive engineering research coupled with field experience to separate the useful from the hype. RES-TEC only sells equipment that works reliably under real field conditions in our own installations. We avoid the one-size-fits-all approach to system design and component selection because each customer's application, energy needs, and budget vary widely. Our leading edge, code-compliant systems are safe, easy to install and understand, well documented and designed with our customers’ needs in mind.

A sustainable home, by definition, is more environmentally sound. It is healthier and more energy efficient. A sustainable home is a home which is thermally comfortable year-round, with little auxiliary energy. In other words, the temperature swings between night and day and between winter and summer are comfortable. A sustainable home may take advantage of natural energy flows to maintain thermal comfort, without relying on the forced or active circulation of hot or cold air. Sustainable homes require little auxiliary energy back-up because they are designed to retain captured solar energy. Space conditioning is accomplished by using airtight construction, super insulation, thermal mass, passive solar design and natural ventilation, backed up with active renewable energy systems.

Many sustainable homes aim to be independent of the utility company by producing their own domestic electricity with renewable energy systems. Photovoltaics, wind or micro-hydro electricity are energy sources that are natural, inexhaustible, diffuse and abundant. Renewable energy sources are more environmentally benign and inherently more sustainable than fossil-fuel based energy sources.

Often, meeting all of the above criteria is difficult. In fact, very few existing homes ever approach this ideal. Since sustainable building technologies are not geared toward only the wealthy, the sustainable home must also be affordable. Practically speaking, this usually means that some sort of back-up energy source is necessary to avoid the lack of economies-of-scale in making a house completely solar dependent. For example, in order to compensate for an extreme stretch of cloudy weather, the homeowner or builder has two choices: incorporate a tremendous amount of thermal mass into the home to store the sun’s heat for an extended period of cloudy weather, or install a back-up (non-solar) heating system. The extra masonry typically used for thermal mass would cost more than a small auxiliary energy source, such as a wood stove or geothermal heat pump. The cost-effective strategy is to use auxiliary heat for the coldest, cloudiest winter stretches. Fortunately, a naturally built home can be inherently energy efficient, requiring little auxiliary heating or cooling.

In summary, in designing a sustainable home we have many goals:

  • Thermal and Operational Comfort
  • Designed with Nature & Site In Mind
  • Reduce Embodied Energy
  • Reduce Operational Energy
  • Aesthetically Pleasing
  • Healthy, Durable and Safe
  • Affordable

Design strategies that constitute a good sustainable home:

  • Architecture: The first step in design architecture is orientation to take advantage of southern exposure in roof space for photo-voltaic and thermal modules and window placement for lighting and passive solar heating and cooling, that maintains an aesthetically pleasing site.
  • Quality Building Envelope: The key to a healthy, comfortable home with low space conditioning requirements is to build a super-insulated shell (foundation, roof, walls, doors and windows) with minimal air leakage and controlled ventilation. A quality building envelope helps to maintain human comfort and minimize energy requirements in both the summer & winter. Also, proper design and detailing of the building envelope minimizes moisture damage. Moisture can not only affect human comfort and indoor air quality, but it has a direct affect on a building's durability.
  • Passive Solar Strategies: Passive solar strategies primarily involve architecture with good southern exposure and window overhangs for summer shading, window sizing and placement, and thermal mass to slowly store and release thermal energy.
  • Green & Healthy Building Materials: Building materials should be safe and healthy, both for the environment and for occupants. Use of time-tested materials is best; some of the newer building concepts should be thoroughly evaluated with your builder before implementation, especially in the areas of insulation, manufactured wood products and heating/cooling/ventilation technologies. Additionally, the amount of energy required to produce the materials (embodied energy) will directly affect the cost of these materials as energy costs continue to rise.
  • Heating, Ventilation & Cooling: The electrical and heating/cooling energy consumption of a sustainable home should be considerably lower than the national average with a quality building envelope. Space conditioning (heating and cooling) comprises the lion’s share of energy expenditures for the average U.S. home. These energy costs can be dramatically reduced by employing simple natural conditioning strategies: passive solar heating, passive solar cooling, daylighting, and natural ventilation.

    Heating/cooling distribution is typically performed with a hydronic or air distribution system. Hydronic systems are the most energy efficient but should use low temperature distribution methods such as radiant floors or radiant panels with good thermal mass, but they are also more expensive to install and are not as efficient for summertime cooling needs. Forced air systems are the easiest to install and least expensive, however they can have problems with noise, air-quality and larger temperature swings (impacting comfort levels). Forced air systems are generally better for cooling and integration of ventilaiton systems.

    Ventilation systems are particularly important as the building envelope gets tighter with less air infiltration. Newer, tighter homes can suffer from air-quality issues. Integration of the heating, cooling and ventilation sytems to control comfort and air-quality levels is becoming increasingly important for the sustainable home.
  • Energy Efficiency: The electrical and thermal energy consumption of a sustainable home should be considerably lower than the national average. Increasing efficiency is always cheaper than supplying one's own electric power and heating/cooling needs. Efficiency strategies make renewable energy possible and cost-effective. It is cheaper to conserve and use energy efficiently than it is to produce renewable energy.

    The largest users of electricity in the average home is refrigeration and lighting and in some cases the use of electricity to produce heat or domestic hot water. Use of energy star or better appliances, fluorescent or LED lighting and geothermal heat pumps for heat generation can go a long way to reducing electrical needs.
  • Renewable Energy for Electrical and Heating Needs: The energy needs of a sustainable home can be broken down into two areas: electrical production and heating/cooling needs. Production of electricity today can be accomplished with solar photovoltaic panels, small wind turbines or micro-hydro turbines and can be used with grid-tied or off-grid homes. By far, solar PV is the most scalable and reliable with no moving parts, 25 year warranties, the most versatile in size and location, most environmentally friendly, and most cost effective. Both wind and micro-hydro are very dependent on site conditions and have maintenance and environmental considerations, but can be very effective with the right conditions.

    Heating and cooling production today is primarily performed with fossil fuels or electricity. The most viable alternatives today are geothermal heat pumps, wood/pellet stoves and wood/pellet boilers, and electric heaters using heat pumps. Woodstoves and boilers require significant labor, but will drastically reduce your fuel bills. Geothermal heat pumps have significant startup costs, but will reduce your fossil fuel bill significantly with payback times in the 5 - 10 year range.
  • Backup Systems: The use of backup systems, including fossil fuels can go a long way to minimizing the size and cost of renewable energy systems. For example, a small geothermal system using an existing well to cover summer cooling needs, domestic hot water needs and March through November heating needs, with a backup woodstove or fossil fuel heating system will minimize installation costs and maximize savings in fuel costs. Newer, automated control systems can efficiently control the use of various systems during different seasons and even time of day or different occupancy rates.

    The professionals at RES-TEC will be glad to assist you with your new sustainable home, renovation or renewable energy project. RES-TEC has tight partnerships with general contractors, HVAC designers, plumbing and heating contractors and electricians, both commercial and residential, to help you meet all your sustainable home project needs and goals. If you would like to explore your options further, Contact Us. We will schedule an appointment to visit your site in order to perform a thorough evaluation of your potential renewable resources. The design team at RES-TEC will generate a basic system design, and provide a proposal showing the estimated system cost, expected annual system performance estimate, carbon foot-print reduction calculation, and system pay-back times.

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