How one couple's dream home is energy efficient and eco-friendly
Kelly Murphey had always dreamed of building his own home in the mountains, but never thought it would be possible while still in his twenties. Thanks to some creative partnerships with his employer-Montpelier Construction, the Stowe Land Trust, and Efficiency Vermont, plus design work by his architect parents, his dream has come true. Kelly and his wife Rachel Fussell are living in a 750 square foot house on 72 acres in Stowe. All the power they need, for their house and their electric car, is met by rooftop solar.
It was important to Kelly and Rachel to build a home in-line with their values. That meant something with a low carbon footprint, without chemicals, and with high quality indoor air. They teamed up with Efficiency Vermont early to take advantage of the residential new construction program and the team’s expertise on building efficiently. Efficiency Vermont staff offer consultations and incentives through every step of the process in creating an environmentally friendly home.
“We designed the house to mirror the simple beauty of our natural surroundings and were able to build it just the way we wanted.”
Land in Vermont can be costly. Fortunately, Kelly found an opportunity with the Stowe Land Trust, securing a beautiful property at an affordable price, by agreeing to keep a certain amount of his land in current use—an approach he was hoping to take, anyway. By the end of the project, just a single apple tree, out of 50, had been removed.
The construction of Kelly and Rachel‘s home produced just enough garbage to fill the bed of a small pick-up truck—that’s a stark contrast to the big dumpsters you’ll find at most construction sites. The rest of the leftover materials were either repurposed, recycled, or never created at all, thanks to careful design specifications.
From the thickness of the walls (16-20 inches of insulation throughout the home), to extensive air sealing and high performance lighting and appliances, everything in the home was chosen with comfort and energy efficiency in mind. As a result, the house is powered by a single rooftop solar array, including the heat pump that keeps the home warm through the coldest of Vermont days, and Kelly’s electric car, which he plugs in to charge every night.
Keeping a home’s air fresh is an important and often-overlooked consideration. Kelly and Rachel used a variety of tactics to achieve good air quality, stating with the building and design process. The interior includes a range of no-VOC, non-toxic paints, stains, tinted plasters, and other finishes that incorporate beeswax, oils, and other natural materials. Unlike traditional finishes, these natural alternatives emit little-to-no vapor. When it comes to day-to-day life, electric power means there’s no gas or carbon monoxide to worry about. Kelly and Rachel keep the air fresh with a simple, high-efficiency ventilation system. This keeps the air free of irritants like pollen and pet dander, while recovering energy from air exhausted from the home to keep heating bills down.
Kelly and Rachel’s achieved the High Performance Home certification. Ultimately, it became a great example of a healthy and efficient home. But most importantly, it meets the homeowners’ needs – philosophically as well as practically. Says Kelly, “We can’t believe how lucky we are to wake up here every day.”