I did the Akron – Ohio Solar Tour on Sunday. There were Solar Tours all over the United States this weekend. (only 3 states did not have a Solar Tour today) I would love to have have gone to Cleveland Saturday, but Sunday’s tour of Akron was really nice. Hot, but nice.
We began at the Crown Point Ecology Center, which I will definitely visit again. The highlight there was passive solar heating for a barn/workspace. Passive solar heating consisted of utilizing a south-facing wall of the building, and collecting solar heat in a 6 in. space between the barn wall and a layer of greenhouse building materials. The inside of the workshop has windows at the top and bottom of the wall, which can be opened to circulate the warm air. Larry Jarvis, Property Manager, said that on days when the temperature was in the 30’s or below, he can heat his workspace comfortably (over 80F) using just the solar collector.
Next was the Starre Residence. This home was built specifically to honor the earth. Every consideration was made to conserve energy and resources. Most of the building products were recycled, and insulation was a priority. It is built into the side of a hill, creating an “earth berm,” which helps regulate temperature. The home also featured passive solar heating as the concrete floors absorbed heat from the sun to warm the house. There are also 4 geothermal wells about 150 ft deep that provide radiant floor heating. Solar tubes (pictured) provide excellent light in the back of the house. Solar tubes essentially capture light from the sun and direct it down into the home.
The Akron Zoo highlighted their LEED Certified features, which include 65 geothermal wells. The geothermal wells are essential to help provide proper temperatures for several “ecosystems” – a Komodo dragon, Chinese alligators, tortoises, a kitchen, a restaurant, classrooms, and more. Doug said the geothermal system has been drastically more efficient and effective at providing different temperatures than conventional heating and cooling systems in other buildings of the same age. Over 1/2 of the materials used in building the Komodo Kingdom were made within 500 miles of the Akron Zoo.
The Deneen residence utilized 40 photovoltaic solar panels to provide nearly all the power to the home. Mr. Deneen was not shy in telling us that he does not want to sacrificing comfort to save energy, and that it’s not always necessary. He and his family want to live comfortably, reduce their impact on the earth, and save a lot of money on energy. It’s possible with a renewable energy system like solar. He estimates that his solar system will pay for itself is less than 10 years.
My favorite elements highlighted in the Akron area Ohio Solar Tour were geothermal heating (and its practical use in a home), and radiant heat floors. I like the earth berm home, taking advantage of the earth’s natural temperature of 55F, and regulating the home’s temperature based on that stability. Much appreciation goes out to the homeowners for opening their homes to us, and to Green Energy Ohio for organizing the tour. Visit the Village Green for another account of the Solar Tour.