Today’s drizzle brought stressful memories of our move-in day, exactly one year ago. With heavy rain and no grass yet planted in the yard, we scrambled to install makeshift cardboard pathways and floor coverings to keep the movers from tracking mud through the house.
But that soggy experience proved to be merely a harbinger of challenging weather to come. The first 12 months have brought ice storms, a major blizzard, severe cold snaps, a killer heat wave, and wind storms that felled trees and power lines. The temperature in our yard has spanned more than 100 degrees. These extremes enabled us to see how comfortable the house could be in all kinds of conditions. They also revealed some glitches in the system that needed repair.
But to be honest, we haven’t done a good job of measuring our energy usage, particularly for heating and cooling. That neglect has been partly intentional. The first year of data for a new house is considered unrepresentative because materials are drying out, contributing to interior humidity, while occupants are learning to optimize use of the temperature controls and in our case also ventilation. In this coming year we plan to measure our usage accurately with the help of a monitor called The Energy Detective. The device will enable us to track real-time energy usage of our heat pump and some major appliances. Stay tuned — we hope to have some interesting results to report.
Meanwhile, fall brings a new round of teaching opportunities. This month our architect Tom-Bassett Dilly and I spoke to about 30 people at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. We stayed for 40 minutes after the scheduled session answering questions about the passive house model. It was heartening to see so much of interest in the idea of building and renovating homes to be ultra-efficient, both from architects and ordinary homeowners like us.
Next Saturday our house will be open to the public on the Green Connections Bike Tour, which will include 15 residential and community initiatives in Oak Park and River Forest. Participants must pre-register for the sites they want to visit. The tour is being held in conjunction with 350.org’s Moving Planet Day, a worldwide rally to encourage moving beyond fossil fuels.