Monday, February 2, 2009

Leef / Norlander Home

Owners: Linda Leef & Wayne Norlander
Location: 2357 - 210th St., Luck, WI 54853
Phone: 715-825-6610
Email: linda_leef [at]
General Contractor: Mark Morgan, Bearpaw Construction, Strum, WI
Solar Contractor: Kris Schmid, Legacy Solar, Frederic, WI
Year Built: 2006

Linda and Wayne opened their home to participants in last fall's Solar Home Tour. What follows is the text of a handout they provided to their visitors.

Thank you for visiting our home. We have tried to incorporate as many alternative and green concepts into our home as we could while maintaining its integrity as our functional home and while staying within our budget. These items include:

Solar hot water heat: The solar panels on the east side of our home provide most of our space heat and also most of our domestic hot water. Our home is raised on a sand bed with the tubes from the solar hot water heater at the base. The hot water provided by the solar panels heats the entire sand bed providing a heat storage system and heating our floors. This is backed up by an on-demand gas water heater with pipes just below the floor. When there is demand for hot water, the water from the hot water storage tank (which has been heated by the solar panels) flows through the on-demand gas hot water heater. If it is not up to temperature, the on-demand heater heats it up to temperature.

Photo: A small photovoltaic array provides DC power to the circulating pump.

Passive solar design: While a passive solar design calls for all of the rooms to open to south sunlight, we modified the design so that most of our living space (all the most used rooms) receives south sunlight. The house has three foot overhangs. This shades the interior during the hot months when the sun is high in the sky. In the cooler and cold months when the sun is further south in the sky, the sun shines in through the windows, warming the interior floors and air. We have tried to keep obstructions out of the way so that the sun can shine in onto the dark colored floors.

Photo: Note where sunlight hits floor in October; by December it will reach much further into the room.

Thick walls: Our exterior walls are 12" thick with eight inches of cellulose insulation, ship lap siding and concrete board exterior siding. The interior walls are insulated from the exterior sheeting to prevent heat transference. The cellulose insulation was blown in damp so that it would stick to the walls, preventing the slumping that can occur over time with cellulose.

Photo: A "sun tube" brings natural light into a back hallway.

Environmentally friendly materials:
As many materials as possible were purchased from sources that were regional and/or environmentally friendly in their manufacturing processes. We tried to use recycled materials whenever possible. We tried to be careful that all materials within the home contained no urea-formaldehyde or other chemicals which would off-gas into our indoor air. This included paints, floor and cabinet finishes and door and cabinet construction materials.

High efficiency appliances: We purchased a high efficiency gas on-demand water heater (domestic hot water and space heat backup to solar hot water) and all appliances are as high efficiency as possible. We use compact fluorescent bulbs wherever possible.

Photo: Gas powered on-demand water heater (grey box on right) provides domestic hot water and back-up in-floor heat when needed.

High efficiency windows and doors and entry rooms: All doors and windows are high efficiency. The windows are all from Andersen as are the patio doors. We have designed the house so that the most frequently used doors enter into a space which can be closed off from the rest of the house to prevent cold drafts from entering the house when someone enters.

Multi-purposing: We tried to make most of the space in the house not just usable but USED, with most spaces serving multiple purposes. This allowed us to keep our square feet down without losing function.

Photo: Red tubes go to sand bed; black tubes to just beneath the floor.


Anonymous said...

How many KW hours do you get in a month with that solar array?

linda said...

The solar panels in the photo are solar thermal panels which produce heat (hot water), not electricity. They are very efficient whenever the sun is out, not so good in November and December when it is cloudy most of the time. They heat water to provide our radiant floor heat and our domestic hot water. There is a propane, high efficiency, on-demand back up boiler for the times when the solar panels are not enough. At the time, photo-voltaic panels were not cost effective for this area. With newer technologies, that is gradually changing. Linda