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Columbia Heights Homeowner Proves Slashing Pepco Bills Doable Without Sacrifice

By Dan Silverman*

[Note: Photographs accompanying this news story in the print edition can be viewed in the full PDF copy in the Current & Back Issues Archive.]

There is a green revolution on Newton Street — a six-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath home on three floors featuring two-zone central heating and air conditioning made possible by solar photovoltaic panels that generate electricity and a solar hot water heating system, a partly vegetated roof and recycled materials installed, and the use waste diverted from landfill.

The house originally was roughly 1,200 square feet of livable space on the first and second floors and a 600 square-foot crawl space basement. After renovation by a previous owner who went bankrupt, the house was expanded by a 20-foot rear extension and the addition of a third story, along with the digging out the basement to make it livable. Now the house has a total of 4,000 square feet and is the “greenest house on the green line!”

Eco-efficient features include: solar photovoltaic and solar thermal panels on the roof, no- or low-VOC paint on the interior and exterior, bamboo flooring on the first floor, carpet made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled material on the second and third floors, incredibly high percentage of re-used and diverted from landfill building materials and fixtures, energy-efficient central heating and air with two zone flexibility, optimization of natural light, and inviting social spaces throughout the interior. Additional green features coming in 2010 will include a partial green roof, front and rear landscaping to reduce storm water run-off, rooftop rainwater harvesting, and an exterior “living” wall from bamboo.

The solar photovoltaic panels that produce electricity reduce the house’s energy bills by 40 to 60 percent. The panels are incorporated into an open loop system so that at certain times the house acts like a power plant and supplies energy to the grid! For example, on a summer day when the air conditioning is off the house will be producing more electricity then it is using so the power flows into the grid. “At this time,” says owner Jimmy Edgerton, “I have not sold the RECs [Renewable Energy Credits] to Pepco because then I am effectively allowing Pepco to pollute and then the house loses its ability to say it is a carbon off-setting facility.” Edgerton’s company, jWEST Solutions, Inc., provides construction representation services focused, as he says, “around core tenets of conservation and communication.”

The solar thermal panels that pre-heat the hot water are backed up by an electric water heater that kicks in if the solar panels are not keeping the water hot enough. If showers are not taken all at once then approximately 80 to 90 percent of all the house’s hot water is generated by the solar panels.

* Dan Silverman is Founding Editor of the Prince of Petworth blog (www.princeofpetworth.com). Its focus highlights the happenings of many of the neighborhoods about which this newspaper reports — Petworth, Columbia Heights, Park View, Pleasant Plains, U Street, Mt. Pleasant, Logan Circle, Shaw, Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle. (This report, slightly modified for re-publication here, was initially posted in November 2009 on his site.)

Copyright (c) 2010 Prince of Petworth LLC & InTowner Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.