Net-zero solar home plans to shine in Roseville

Architect Marc Sloot said he aimed for sustainability and beauty — a “perfect blend.” (design and rendering by SALA Architects)
Architect Marc Sloot said he aimed for sustainability and beauty — a “perfect blend.” (design and rendering by SALA Architects)
Mark and Kathryn Hanson turned up dirt at the future site of their net-zero solar home the evening of June 16. Mark said he worried about not having prepped the digging site to make the first turns a bit easier, and attendees chided him about the pace of the groundbreaking. One said, “No wonder it’s going to be [done around] Christmas.” Plans call for the home to be completed by the end of the year. (Mike Munzenrider/Review)
Mark and Kathryn Hanson turned up dirt at the future site of their net-zero solar home the evening of June 16. Mark said he worried about not having prepped the digging site to make the first turns a bit easier, and attendees chided him about the pace of the groundbreaking. One said, “No wonder it’s going to be [done around] Christmas.” Plans call for the home to be completed by the end of the year. (Mike Munzenrider/Review)

Owners aim to make more electricity than they take

A cloudy day greeted the groundbreaking of Mark and Kathryn Hansons' new Roseville home on Tuesday, June 16, and it's no stretch of the imagination that the two are hoping for sunnier days ahead.

The Hansons' house will be powered and heated by sunshine, so much so that Mark said the home should be "net-zero," generating more electricity via solar panels than it uses.

The Hansons are putting a twist on the typical net-zero story as well, with plans to charge their electric cars exclusively using the home's electricity.

"To think you can power your cars with solar panels [on your house] is really cool — solar panels can do it now," Mark said.

Some 40 people — family, friends, builders and neighbors, new and old — showed up for the groundbreaking event in the Hansons' future neighborhood, tucked in the southwestern corner of the city.

Gearheads and non-gearheads alike gawked at the various Teslas — there were at least three of the high-performance electric cars parked on St. Stephen Street — as the Hansons tried to pinpoint what excited them the most about their new home.

"It changes every day," Kathryn said, while Mark pondered, before answering, "I can say I produce as much energy per year as I use for my house and cars, without compromise."

Ohmward bound

Mark, 48, said his future house — lovingly called "Ohm Sweet Ohm" on a flier about the groundbreaking, a play on the word for the unit of measurement of electrical resistance — should meet all of his and Kathryn's electrical needs.

He said the home is slated to produce some 20,000 kilowatt hours each year, enough to keep the home whirring and the cars racing.

For context, Mark said the average U.S. household uses roughly 11,000 kwh of electricity each year, a fact backed up by the U.S. Department of Energy, which pegs the number at 11,280 kwh, costing, on average, $1,340, annually.

According to the Department of Energy, 1 kwh is the amount of electricity it takes to power a 1,000-watt device for one hour.

Where people's energy use mushrooms, Mark said, is in energy derived from natural gas and gasoline, used to power furnaces and automobiles. On top of that 11,000 kwh per year, he said, most folks use an additional 60,000 kwh that come from fossil fuels.

Beyond the solar panels, Mark said the house will be heated and cooled using a geothermal system. Geothermal is a means of using underground heat to cleanly and efficiently regulate the indoor temperature of a building.

In this case, the sun heats the land around the home and a heat exchanger or loop system collects the heat energy and brings it into the home.

Kathryn, 45, said the 2,500 or so square foot, two-bedroom house will make use of passive solar — windows, walls and floors designed to collect heat — for heating needs, as well.

She added that all the products used in the house will have some "green story" behind them and will be made with local materials when possible, including the furniture, the concrete, the landscaping, on down.

Kathryn said the heavy machinery showed up for the big digging the week of June 22, and she and Mark hope the home will be finished by the end of the year.

Fast cars and sci-fi

"We're going to put Roseville on the map," Mark's mother, Ginny Hanson, said following the groundbreaking, in which she helped shovel some sod.

Mark said he thinks his home, with its car-powering components, will be the first of its kind in the state.

A self-described former "IT jack of all trades for an Internet-based retailer," Mark said he bought his first Tesla car in October 2012, and since, he and Kathryn have put 100,000 miles on their electric cars.

Mark described the cars succinctly: "Environmentally friendly and a hell of a lot of fun."

Mark was always into science fiction, Ginny said, adding that her son "always looked at what was possible in the world."

Ginny recalled when she assisted with the construction of a house long ago that was loaded with passive solar features, an undertaking that might have helped Mark pick up on solar ideas "by osmosis." She conceded, though, that it's "really been all him," when it comes to conservation.

Still, she said, noting her own environmental consciousness, "living with someone who actually cares about the Earth," probably didn't hurt.

Ginny said Mark and Kathryn made attempts at net-zero living at their current home in Blaine, including switching out every incandescent light bulb in the place for an LED, but that they could never get it all the way down to zero.

With recent advancements in the solar industry in mind, though, Ginny said she thinks that they'll achieve their net-zero goal in Roseville.

The Hansons' Blaine house is 15 miles from their future home. Kathryn works for the Salvation Army in Roseville as a database administrator on the social work end of things.

The move alone, Mark estimates, will mean they will be driving 6,000 fewer miles per year.

Solar beauty

Hage Homes is building the house, which was designed by Marc Sloot of SALA Architects.

Sloot said the home's southern-facing roof will be nearly 80 percent covered in solar paneling — 61 panels in all — making for nearly 1,000 square feet of solar energy gathering space.

Roseville city code limits the amount of coverage that a roof can have at 80 percent, Sloot said, adding that most cities have some type of guidelines when it comes to solar panels.

"I think [the regulations are] good frankly," he said, adding that he likes that the code is "encouraging aesthetics."

Sloot said that some people describe homes that gather the sun's rays as "solar ugly," but he looks at the Hansons' house as "an example of how to do a project like this and do it beautifully."

Working on the project from literally the ground up — the Hansons experienced many stops and starts in their search for a lot — is an opportunity to work from a clean slate, Sloot said, adding that the stars aligned in them being able to locate in Roseville on an open lot previously owned by neighbors.

One of the Hansons' soon-to-be Roseville neighbors, Rick Anderson, said he's lived in the neighborhood for 18 years, adding "This is exciting ... the design [of the house] is very cool."

Anderson said he remembers reading about solar energy during high school in the 1970s and said he really thought it would be more accessible by now. "It's neat to see" it come this far, he said.

As for the Hansons and their home-building experience, they still have a long way to go, though they're already talking about their net-zero home in Roseville in the longest of terms.

Kathryn said, "This is our forever house."

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.


H2O conscious, too

Mark Hanson, who is building a home in Roseville designed to use solar power in order to produce more electricity than it uses, said “the city seems to be very receptive” to his plans.

Hanson added that he’s spoken to the Rice Creek Watershed District about getting curb cuts installed off his street, which will guide storm water onto his lot and into rain gardens, making the home waterway-friendly as well.

He described the watershed district’s reaction to the project as “very excited and receptive.”

Samantha Kreibich, a district technician at RCWD, said curb cuts are typically located near a storm water catch basin, and the cuts allow water to be absorbed into the ground instead of heading straight into the storm sewer system.

“It allows for natural infiltration that would have occurred prior to development,” Kreibich said, adding that the ground goes a long way in filtering water, which would normally go more or less directly into waterways, unfiltered.

Other ways the home is being designed to be water conscious, Hanson said, include plans to use rain barrels for collecting water destined for watering drought-tolerant plants. “There will be no need for irrigation once the plants are in,” he added.

Overall, Hanson said he believes his home could be a model for others to follow, to show what can be done.

“Education is a big part of this,” he said.


Solar costs

Mark Hanson said there are a number of state and federal incentives for installing and using solar power, including a federal tax rebate of 30 percent on the installation of photovoltaic solar panels.

Additionally, Hanson said, the state offers a Made In Minnesota Solar incentive, which holds an annual lottery to award funding for new residential, commercial and community garden solar systems. He added that those who don’t partake in the Made In Minnesota program can make use of Xcel Energy solar incentives.

“In our case, we are using the federal rebate and the Xcel incentives,” Hanson said. “The Xcel incentives should be about $1,500 per year for 10 years. Financially, the cost [for our solar system] after the rebate will be about $50,000.”

Hanson said most solar systems pay for themselves in eight to 10 years; in his case, he said, the payoff will likely be in 12-15 years.

 

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