Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tour of an environmental home in Nickerson, Minnesota

Hello everyone,

Prof. Cricket and I asked our friend to write a story about a environmentally conscious family and their home in Nickerson, Minn. We hope you enjoy this article about sustainability.

Caption: CERT participant, Chris Reed, by his greenhouse in Nickerson, Minn. (Photo by Wendy Grethen)

By Wendy Grethen

The Clean Energy Resource Team project
is your opportunity to play a role in shaping energy conservation and renewable energy implementation for your region of Minnesota . A growing number of Minnesotans envision an energy future built on using energy wisely and generating energy from local renewable resources like wind, solar, biomass, and even hydrogen from renewable sources. By relying more on community-scale renewable energy resources and energy conservation, communities can help prevent pollution and create local economic development opportunities.

The CERTs (Clean Energy Resource Team) held an Open House tour of the Reed Family home in Nickerson , MN on October 18. About 20 people attended and were shown several aspects of the home and operation that lead to a more environmental friendly practice. The family has been living on the site since the early 1980’s and it has been powered using renewable energy since 1981. The off grid home uses solar and wind (120 foot tower) power and is completely off grid. The Reeds have used a solar wind combo for their energy supply with about 50% of the electricity is generated by the wind turbine, 45% from the PV array and the remainder of the electric needs comes from a propane powered generator. Electric use for the home is about 270 kWha per month.

Their 3400 square foot log home has a heated in floor hydronic heating system using wood and propane boilers and a wood fireplace. Extra effort has been put in to extensive use compact fluorescent light and having good air sealing and re-insulating their roof. On the lower level, the Reeds have (and are still working on it)3 separate cellars to store produce. Each cellar area has a separate temperature and humidity range. A large barrel of water is in one of the cellar rooms to help in regulating the temperature and prevent freezing. A great deal of insulation is in the walls of the cellars to also assist in providing a uniform temperature to store the food.

The tracking solar array is “planted” in their garden area where they grow most of their own veggies. They also have a large hoop house greenhouse which is movable. They created a wooden rail system that allows the hoop house to slide and he shifts the location of the greenhouse depending on the season. Fresh veggies for over half the year? Yes - tomatoes, beets, bok choy, and more can be harvested. Chris has harvested lettuce until the end of November and starting in April using the greenhouse. Chris recommends the book by Elliot Coleman called “Four Season Harvest” as a must read for anyone considering expanding their produce production. He says most of what they do is an experiment. Some “trials” are more successful than others. The Reeds love to share what they are learning with whoever may be interested. Future plans include a solar hot water heating system integrated with the wood and natural gas boilers. Chris is on the CERTS steering committee.

If you live in Minnesota and want to get involved click here.

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