CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER
This super efficient home, overlooking the Root River valley several miles north of Preston, was built by Joel and Barbara Mielke. It is one of three homes that will be part of the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center’s Sustainable Home Tour on Saturday, April 22.
CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER This super efficient home, overlooking the Root River valley several miles north of Preston, was built by Joel and Barbara Mielke. It is one of three homes that will be part of the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center’s Sustainable Home Tour on Saturday, April 22.
Imagine being able to cut heating and cooling costs by nearly 80 percent! That’s exactly what Joe Deden was able to do with his home that overlooks the Root River northwest of Lanesboro.

“It used to take 17 cords of split oak firewood to heat the house for one winter,” noted Deden, who is the executive director of the Eagle Bluff Environmental Resource Center near Lanesboro. “It was very drafty and I spent nearly every weekend cutting enough wood to keep the pipes from freezing.”

Deden decided something had to be done. So after conducting extensive research six years ago, he undertook a massive remodeling project, turning the once very drafty and inefficient A-frame home into a super insulated abode. Six inches of insulation was placed over the whole envelop of the house, bringing the R-value up to 50. Triple pane windows were installed. The entire home was wrapped and sealed with a peel-and-stick bituminous membrane above grade. A visqueen moisture barrier was installed, below grade, which Deden likened to a rubber mat/pond liner, to keep moisture out of the basement level.

Because the structure is so air tight, an air exchanger and heat recovery ventilation system were needed to help the house breathe.

“It is super insulated now,” Deden said. “It was a major project, but the energy savings are well worth it.”

Deden’s home will be one of three sustainable homes that will be featured on a tour hosted by Eagle Bluff on Saturday, April 22. The tour will be held from 1 to 5 p.m.

The other two homes being featured on the tour are owned by Joel and Barb Mielke of rural Preston and John Gaddo and Nancy North of rural Lanesboro.

Turn the meter backwards

How about living in a passive solar home that produces enough electricity to turn the electric meter backwards and actually put “juice” back into the system?

That’s exactly what Joel and Barb Mielke have done with their home. The Mielkes’ home is also featured on the tour. Both Joel and Barb are engineers and decided to build a home that basically has a net zero energy rating.

“We’re still on the grid, so we don’t have batteries,” Barb explained. “But our house is so efficient and produces enough electricity that we do turn the electric meter backwards. We researched the technology for two years before we built our home. We are very happy with it.”

A passive house

The third home on the tour is that of John Gaddo and Nancy North. Their 1,514-square-foot home uses 90 percent less heating energy than an average home. This is mainly because the house is super insulated with 16 inches of cellulose insulation in the walls. The windows are UV protected triple panes. The doors and the windows have multiple latches on them to make sure they remain sealed.

In addition to using solar panels, Gaddo and North have utilized passive solar heat and lighting to the maximum with the strategic placement of the windows in the house. They added awnings above the windows on the south side of the house to allow the lower sun during winter into the home and to shade the house from the sun during the summer months.

Their decision to go solar was heavily influenced by a passive house workshop held at Eagle Bluff several years ago.

The tour

With the tour of his house at Eagle Bluff and the two other neighboring homes, Deden hopes to provide information and spark interest in energy efficient homes.

Homeowners will get information about retrofitting an existing home to increase energy efficiency and decrease energy consumption as well as ideas for persons thinking about new construction. The sustainable home tour at Eagle Bluff will be held on Saturday, April 22, will have something for everyone. The tour will be held from 1 to 5 p.m.

Find more information and sign up at http://www.eagle-bluff-skills-school.org/classes/sustainable-home-tour-2/