Eric and Dotty have always been energy conservers and efficiency promoters. They were the proud owners of the first plug-in Prius that came to Vermont, co-chairs of the Warren Energy Committee, and heavily involved in the development of Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan. Eric and Dotty took that conservation knowledge and care for the environment to create their energy-efficient home.
The two grew up in the same town in New Jersey and reconnected at their 25th high school class reunion, which later turned into marriage. During this time, the couple was no stranger to Vermont; for years, Eric’s cousin managed the Christmas Tree Inn, located in Warren, which Eric would visit frequently. Dotty was a biking fanatic and was often in the area with a bicycle tour company.
I just fell in love with the idea of living here and innkeeping. With the bicycle tour every week, we would stay at a little B&B (bed and breakfast) and I thought, ‘God, this is a great life.’Dotty K.
The pair eventually made the move to Vermont and owned the West Hill House Bed and Breakfast in Warren for 13 years and also built their Warren home with just about every aspect of energy efficiency in mind.
A long and winding dirt road in Warren, Vermont led into the Green Mountain National Forest and Sugarbush Ski Resort. That land was divided into lots and Eric and Dotty were able to purchase a portion across from their bed and breakfast. They are the only full-time residents in their area while the other homes are used for seasonal vacations.
Building The Home
In 2006, Eric and Dotty cleared out a small portion of their eight acres of land to develop their red barn. They lived there while Eric built the rest of the main home from scratch.
He built the whole house and barn by himself with a mason who was a friend and an excavator. When it came time to build the rest of the home, all these beams, columns, and pillars are from wood that came off the property when we cleared it.Dotty K.
They thought of every possible way to make their 12,000-square-foot and 37-room home as efficient and green as possible. From heat pumps, to solar, all the way to modifications on their fireplace; It was all carefully thought out.
Eric and Dotty decided on wet-packed blown-in cellulose scraped down to the double 6-inch staggered studs in the main home. For the foundation, he installed highly efficient insulated concrete forms (ICF). During our interview, Dotty stated one of the lovely things about their home is how quiet the rooms are and how little noise they hear.
Even their appliances are eco-friendly. A propane stove top and oven with a lovely hood that is rarely used to reduce their fossil fuel usage which is little to none already.
I’m a cook and have been an innkeeper for 13 years. I know my way around the kitchen and am looking forward to being able to buy an induction cooktop. We have an electric oven and I use it all the time. Unless I have a 25-pound turkey, I don’t use the other gas oven connected to the stove.Dotty K.
With efficiency and comfort in mind, the couple had three outdoor heat pump compressors with a variety of indoor units such as a ceiling-mounted one. This indoor head heat pump covers a larger area than a traditional wall or floor-mounted unit.
We were amazed at how nice and convenient having heat pumps in our home is. You don’t have to worry about them, just turn them on and your solar panels do the work!Eric B.
Their RSF (renewable solid fuel) Canadian-manufactured fireplace heats the majority of their home. Eric placed a heat exchanger in the fireplace to allow the flames from the fire to heat water that goes into a holding tank. The fireplace also has a flue pipe that removes harmful byproducts of the burned fuel and an inline fan that moves heat to three other rooms. During a typical year, they use 7 cords of wood for their fireplace during colder temperatures.
The Solar System
Eric and Dotty did not stop there with green energy additions. Back in 1978 in Florida, Eric lived in a home that had an electric water heater. This sparked his idea to make his own solar panel to heat the water. He made a copper tube, soldered it together, and placed it in a wooden box with a piece of glass over it. When the coil boiled the water, Eric discovered how easy it was to utilize the sun to make life more energy efficient.
Originally, Eric and Dotty had eight solar hot water panels. Technology and trends changed and they had the panels and the couple knew what they wanted and that was a photovoltaic system solely owned by them.
In 2009, Building Energy installed three rows of solar panels giving them roughly nine kilowatts of electricity. Eight panels were added to the lower roof over the walkway. After completion, Eric and Dotty had the crew install more panels on the main house.
There are 110 panels between the main house and the barn.. We started right from square one saving money. It wasn’t make an investment and years later you see the return of your investment for us.Dotty K.
Since their solar system is now slightly older technology, the panels are wired or “strung” in a series rather than with their own inverter. Right now, if shade gets on one panel, they all shut off. If each panel has its own abilities, it would allow the string to avoid a cascading shutdown… but for now they have plenty of electricity or serve their needs!
We even just plug our car into the same solar panels for practical purposes.Eric B.
Eric and Dotty also do not have battery backup or other additions that allow them to be energy independent… yet! Their rooftop houses a “grid-tied system” where the panels produce power and feed excess back to the grid and allows them to draw those credits back at night or over the winter months. This is called “net metering.”
Changes Over Time
Solar panels have improved an average of four times since they had their system installed on their roof in 2009. Eric and Dotty would only need a quarter of the number of panels they have now to achieve the same amount of electricity. 48 panels would give them 21 kilowatts instead of the current 110 panels producing 14 kilowatts between the main home and the barn.
New Home, Same Idea
Eric and Dotty know the enormous house on the hill in Warren is becoming a lot for two people their age. Eric came to the decision it was time to build a significantly smaller house on the same property. This one is out of mostly wood with posts and beams.
Being an [energy] conservative person, we believe in conserving energy and not using fossil fuels because that’s what it’s all aboutEric B.
Eric and Dotty’s goal is to take everything they learned from their original home, both good and bad, and build a new highly efficient one out of their newly accumulated knowledge over the years.