Where We Live: Energy efficient home shines in First Colony

Pam and Sheldon Franck have taken their environmental stewardship beyond the recycling of glass bottles and plastic containers

  • Local builder Michael Hipple and architect Roger Guernsey spent a lot of time and did a lot of research to build the most efficient and energy conscious home for the Francks. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    Local builder Michael Hipple and architect Roger Guernsey spent a lot of time and did a lot of research to build the most efficient and energy conscious home for the Francks. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • In their lifetimes, the Francks wanted to show their children and grandchildren that building and energy efficient home could be done.

    In their lifetimes, the Francks wanted to show their children and grandchildren that building an energy efficient home could be done. "It was an experiment - and it was very successful," said Pam Franck. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • When Pam Franck hears of someone building a new home, she wants to share her story about how easy it is to build an environmentally friendly home. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    When Pam Franck hears of someone building a new home, she wants to share her story about how easy it is to build an environmentally friendly home. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • The Francks are both environmentally conscious and had thought about building an energy efficient home for years. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    The Francks are both environmentally conscious and had thought about building an energy efficient home for years. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • In addition to solar panels, the Francks also use the most efficient lightbulbs and have installed efficient windows and doors. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    In addition to solar panels, the Francks also use the most efficient lightbulbs and have installed efficient windows and doors. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • The Craftsman-style home has plenty of room for the Franck's children and grandchildren when they come to visit. The grandchildren are proud of the home's efficiencies and often tell their teachers about it. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    The Craftsman-style home has plenty of room for the Franck's children and grandchildren when they come to visit. The grandchildren are proud of the home's efficiencies and often tell their teachers about it. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • In addition to solar panels, the Francks also use the most efficient lightbulbs and have installed efficient windows and doors. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    In addition to solar panels, the Francks also use the most efficient lightbulbs and have installed efficient windows and doors. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • In addition to solar panels, the Francks also use the most efficient lightbulbs and have installed efficient windows and doors. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    In addition to solar panels, the Francks also use the most efficient lightbulbs and have installed efficient windows and doors. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • Envelope insulation keeps the house from losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    Envelope insulation keeps the house from losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • Pam and Sheldon both drive electric cars, which are powered from their home. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    Pam and Sheldon both drive electric cars, which are powered from their home. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • An inverter transfers the solar energy to electric energy, which powers the home and cars. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    An inverter transfers the solar energy to electric energy, which powers the home and cars. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

  • The Craftsman-style home is located in First Colony and sits on almost 1 acre. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

    The Craftsman-style home is located in First Colony and sits on almost 1 acre. (Amy McCluskey/WYDaily)

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Pam and Sheldon Franck’s home is just like anybody’s else’s … only better.

Better for the environment, that is. Ever environmentally conscious, the Francks have long wanted to reduce their carbon footprint on Earth.

Pam, a retired science teacher, and Sheldon, a Williamsburg attorney, have lived in Williamsburg since the mid-1970s. Their children are now grown and off raising families of their own, so they decided to sell their house in the Kingswood neighborhood and build a home in First Colony — but not just any home.

Pam and Sheldon worked with local architect Roger Guernsey and local builder Michael Hipple to design and construct what is known as a “net-zero” home.

Net-zero homes are regular grid-tied homes that are so airtight, well-insulated and energy efficient that they produce as much renewable energy as they consume over the course of a year, leaving the homeowners with a net-zero energy bill and a carbon-free home.

“All of our lives we’ve tried to contribute in whatever way we can to doing a better job minimizing our footprint on the environment,” said Pam. “So when we had the opportunity to build, we wanted to show everyone that you could build a net-zero home and that it can be attractive. We hope that it will be an incentive for others to do the same.”

An additional incentive for building a net-zero home is that it’s not as costly as many may think. There are several energy efficiency incentives and tax credits available, which builder Michael Hipple and the Francks were able to use.

Built in 2010, the Craftsman-style home is 2,100 square feet and features 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. The roof design and angle of the home face south, so the solar panels can soak up the sun’s rays and provide electricity.

So how do solar panels work? A photovoltaic (PV) solar energy system is composed of solar panels, racking for mounting the panels on the roof, electrical wiring and an inverter. From sunrise to sunset, the solar panels generate direct current electricity, which is sent to the inverter. The inverter converts the DC current into alternating current, the type of electricity required for household use.

In addition to the solar panels, the home also features envelope insulation, which reduces heat loss by making it more difficult for heat to flow toward the cold outdoors during the winter and keeping the heat out of the cool interior during the summer.

Efficient doors and windows as well as a geothermal heating and cooling system round off the home’s environmentally savvy attributes.

How does a geothermal system work? A geothermal heat pump or ground-source heat pump is a central heating and/or cooling system that transfers heat to or from the ground. It uses the earth as a heat source in the winter or a heat sink in the summer.

The Franck’s cars are an extension of their green lifestyle as well. Both vehicles are electric and run off the power generated from the house.

“Not only do the solar panels give us energy for the house but it gives us transportation,” said Pam. “I just plug the car in then go.”

Her Chevrolet Bolt gets 250 miles on a charge. “There are no emissions, and that’s what’s so important.”

The Francks hope that others will see how easy it is to incorporate energy efficiency into their homes, either during the new construction phase or as an add-on to an existing home.

“People think that solar might make their house unattractive, which isn’t the case,” said Pam. “We hope that over time as more people do it, others will see that it works, and then this will be the future.”

 

 

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