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Minnesota Homestead: Choosing Windows

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of posts describing the construction of a net-zero energy house in Rochester, Minnesota, by Tracee Vetting Wolf, Matt Vetting, and their son Max. You can find their complete blog here. A list of their previous posts appears at the bottom of this column. This post was written by Matt. One of the important features of our house are the windows. The house is oriented with one of the long dimensions facing south with large windows on the main floor in order to allow the winter sun to heat the 4-inch-thick concrete slab…

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Choosing a Safe Wall Assembly

Wall assemblies that are both well insulated and free of long-term moisture problems are a frequent topic for the Q&A Spotlight. Hasn’t this subject been raked over enough in the past to answer just about every possible question? Not according to Nat, a GBA reader and structural engineer who is planning his own house in Climate Zone 5. Even after poring through GBA and other websites, Nat finds himself uncertain about the planned wall assembly on his budget-conscious new home. The house design is simple. A plain box with a gable roof and a full basement, roughly 1,100 square feet…

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Seizing an Air-Sealing Opportunity

The soffits, fascias, and gutters need to be replaced, and that opens up an air-sealing opportunity The number one thing you need to do to protect a building is control water. As the Canadian building scientist Gus Handegord said, “The three biggest problems in buildings are water, water, and water.” So, with the 1961 house I bought this year, one of the first things I discovered was the failure at the edge of the roof. The gutters weren’t working well, resulting in water getting into places it shouldn’t be and rotting out the soffit and fascia boards in multiple places…

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The Green Police: Product Retrospective

For several years in the 2000s and early 2010s, I was half of the “Green Police,” a video series produced by Hanley Wood, along with green remodeler Michael Anschel of OA Design+Build+Architecture in Minneapolis, MN. The short “Green Police” videos included reviews of various green building materials, systems, and programs, and some recordings of a presentation we gave at ACI (Now known as the National Home Performance Conference) in Austin, Texas. We had a lot of fun, ran across some interesting products, learned a few things, and hopefully entertained some people in the process. Like all good things, the “Green…

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Tesla Unveils Another Version of Its Solar Roof

Tesla is now taking orders for the latest version of its solar roof. Installation should begin later this month. Photo courtesy of Tesla. Tesla’s solar roof—the breakthrough that seems perpetually right around the corner—is now in its third and most promising iteration and should be ready for installation in the coming weeks, the company’s CEO says. In a conference call with reporters late last month, Elon Musk admitted that earlier versions of the long-delayed solar roofing tiles “really didn’t work,” according to an article posted at Quartz. But the newest glass-topped tiles are larger, easier to install, and have higher…

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Solar Power Without Net Metering: Is It Worth It? 

The combination between solar panel installation costs, electricity rates, and market incentives offer a valuable alternative that allows you to save money on your utility bills and contribute in the fight against climate change. However, one of these elements appears to be at risk, according to latest events in some jurisdictions that seem to jeopardize the whole solar PV industry in the US. Net metering is a billing mechanism that offers the chance for those with photovoltaic systems installed on their homes to receive a credit for every kWh that is injected back to the grid, thanks to the installation of a bidirectional…

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