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A sampling of energy-efficient Montana homes 



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A sampling of energy-efficient Montana homes 

Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation 
1520 East Sixth Avenue BPRST? Helena, MT 59620-2301 

Spring 1988 










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Table of Contents 

































Clyde Park 








Cut Bank 







Fort Peck 




Gallatin Gateway 





Where the Warm Places Are 

Jay Kirby: Different Ideas 

Kent and Mae Bolstad: RSDP Construction Saves Kilowatts 

Jerry and Lois Dalton: Striving for the Zero Heating Bill 

Clarke and Chris Elliott: Going Underground 

Jay and Irene Foley: A Question of Payback 

Steven and Gwayne Kramer: Indoor Swimming Pool Enhances Efficient Home 

Tom and Peggy Parker: House Shuts out Cold, Welcomes in Sun 

Jack and Sheryl Winkle: Blunting the Intrusions of Weather and Water 

Ted and Clara Becker: Construction Pays Back 

Kathy and Barry Bristow: House Wins on Economics, Heating 

Greg and Janice Hamley: Windows Take Edge Off Winter 

Wally and Mary Hansen: Old World Charm, New Techniques 

George and Vera Hoadley: No Drafts 

Merlin and Anna Jones: Home Buyers Stumble Across Energy Efficiency 

Kenny and Karen Kempt: Builder Sells Home Owner on Energy Efficiency 

Vivian Linden: Warm Floors and Fresh Air Delight Home Owner 

Shaila and Henry Sorenson: RSDP Helps Owner-Architect Design and Build for Montana Mountains 

Lew and Sarah Zimmer: Big House is Easily Heated 

Tom and Verna Jo Brewer: A Family Tradition of Saving Energy 

Bob and Nancy Ballou: Design Saves Energy, Protects Environment 

John and Barb Skoyen: A Remedy for High Heat Bills 

Dave and Ardene Zion: Getting Out of the Wind 

Terry Brown and Gwen Knight: Solar House in a Wood Stove Neighborhood 

Len and Jerry Arthun: The Need for a Warmer Place 

Don and Sandy Broesder: Escape From a Drafty Trailer 

Dave Oien and Sharon Eisenberg: A Bevy of Energy-saving Ideas 

Chuck and Val Skorupa: A Chilly Little House on the Prairie 

John and Rita Johnson: Montana's First Super Good Cents Home Returns Investment 

Larry and Blondie Woolston: A House for Cut Bank Weather 

Tom and Susie Bramlette: Airtight Drywall Seals House 

Roy Cornell: Lessons Learned 

Greg and Linda Hansen: "Little Tract House " Saves Energy, Provides Comfort 

Sam and Sherry Richardson: Roomy, With a Low Profile 

Jerome and Yvonne Coopmans: Sun Tempered and Superinsulated 

Jonathan Jennings: Apart From the Crowd 

John and Monta Campbell: Wanted: Warm New House 



Great Falls 
































Miles City 













Sun River 












Virginia City 


West Yellowstone 


Wolf Point 




Bob and Phyllis Newton: Going Underground in Eastern Montana 

Barry and JoAnn Nobel: A Warm Perch on the Edge of Town 

Brandborg, Gussa, and Thome: Living Beyond the Grid 

Clifford and Bennielee Horton: One-level Plan Saves Steps and Energy 

Cynthia Taylor: Low Income Can Buy Energy-efficient House 

Gary and June Hartze: Solarcrete Walls Defy Elements 

Hal and Judy Hay: Wood Underpinnings Support Energy-saving House 

Greg Jahn and Christine Torgrimson: A Warm Place With a View 

Dan and Cheryl McCauley: Buffeted by Winds 

David and MaryLynn Ramsey: Superinsulation Keeps House Cozy 

Tom Ryan and Heidi Goldman: Finnish Fireplace Backs Up Solar 

Julie Wulf and Frank DiNenna: Sun, Fans, and Superinsulation Keep House Warm 

Jim and Janet Livingston: A Dome in the Woods 

Gregg and Doris Johnson: Elegant Design Accommodates People and Energy Savings 

Jim and Judy Andler: Hidden Quality Makes the Difference 

Bruce and Yvonne McCallum: Quiet Comfort From Sunshine and Russian Furnace 

Dixon and Mitzi Rice: Affordable, Enjoyable, and Energy-efficient 

Bob and Marria Ross: Practical House Uses Multiple Heat Sources 

Henry and Leona Barta: A Family Dream 

Charles and Sally Karinen: A Well-lighted House 

Douglas and Cindy Hardy: Tricks for Saving Energy 

Calvin and Donna Stenseth: Workshop Points the Way 

Bob and Ferna Geer: Architectural Elegance Meshes with Energy Savings 

Mark and Barbara Cole: A Little House and a Big Idea 

Bill and Joyce Carr: Radiant Floors Offer Even Heat 

Mike and Mabelle Hardy: Blizzards Seen But Not Heard 

Charles and Bonnee Mekeal: Quality Tells the Tale 

Lindsay Richards and Tom Roberts: Historic Retrofit Builds in Comfort and Energy Savings 

Harley and Jean Hankins: Reluctant Yankees Spurn Superinsulation 

Ron Trosper: That "Made in Montana" Feeling 

Hazel and Martin Wersland: Tropical Montana Discovered 

Richard and Irene Bottomly: Berming Fends Off Wind, Preserves View 

Juanita Cutler: Bermed and Bright 

Roger and Juanita Hearst: Living in an Envelope of Air 

David and Kay Nelson: Superinsulation with a Difference 

Fred and Dana Beyer: No Shortage of Plans 

Jerry and Shirley Hayes: Sun-splashed Living 

Scott Wurster: Super Good Cents Log House 

Stephanie Wood: Solar Log Home for Snowy Winters 

Bill Colman: Heating a House in Snow Country for Less Than $100 a Year 

Ron and Mary Pipal: Earth Berming, No Concrete 


For More Energy Information 


A Smart New Breed 

The purpose of Warm Places is to 
persuade prospective home builders that 
the house they always wanted can also be 
energy efficient without sacrificing desir- 
able features. It is not necessary for an 
energy-efficient house to look like a box 
with tiny windows. A portfoUo of plans, 
ideas, photographs, illustrations, and in- 
terviews with home owners demonstrates 
a new breed of house construction that 
Montanans are choosing for comfort and 
energy savings in our extreme climate. 

Although all the houses in this book 
were built with energy efficiency in 
mind, not all are built and operated to 
save every possible nickel. The amount of 
saving depends on what energy conserva- 
tion measures are built into the house, the 
living patterns of the occupants, and the 
amount of effort the house occupants 
expend in activities such as setting 
thermostats back at night. A house that is 
kept at 75 degrees 24 hours a day will 
have higher than average utihty bills, for 
example. The indoor temperatures 
favored by the home owners in this book 
range from 62 to 80 degrees, with heating 
bills that vary accordingly. 

Galloping Technology 

The technology of building for energy 
efficiency has changed rapidly in the past 
10 years. All the houses in this book were 
built in this time period, and they reflect 
the changes in technology and approach. 
For instance, in the late seventies, earth- 
sheltered and envelope houses were 
popular. Since that time, builders have 

found simpler, less costly ways to achieve 
similar degrees of comfort and energy 

Even the best, most efficient houses 
could be improved by lessons learned in 
their construction and operation. Given 
the dynamic nature of energy-efficient 
housing, the reader may wonder what the 
future holds. 

Insulation and More 

When properly installed, insulation, 
caulking, multi-pane windows, insulated 
exterior doors, and an air-vapor barrier 
are some of the best investments avail- 
able when building a new house. But how 
much insulation is enough? That depends 
primarily on the construction budget, 
locality, and fuel choice. The table below 
lists generally accepted insulation ranges 
for energy-efficient houses in Montana. 

Natural gas currently is less expensive 
than electricity, so heating with gas may 

cost less than heating a similar house with 
electricity. The higher insulation 
achieved through double-wall construc- 
tion probably would be cost-effective for 
electrically heated houses, depending on 
the location. 

Air-vapor Barrier 

Insulation reduces conductive heat loss. 
It takes an air-vapor barrier to slow heat 
loss from air leaks. This barrier can be a 
polyethylene membrane installed in walls 
and ceiling, an air-tight layer of urethane 
insulation, gasketing and caulking behind 
drywall in combination with a moisture- 
impermeable paint, or polyisocyanurate 
foam board insulation with edges taped 
and caulked. 

In heavily insulated houses, the air- 
vapor barrier must be continuous if it is to 
do its job. That is, the barrier must 
enclose the walls and ceiling of the living 
space, and the openings around electrical 

Recommended Insulation Values for Houses 


Basement Walls 
Above-grade Walls 




|2 feet around 





Double glazed 

with Low-E film 

Foam Core 



(2 feet around 





Double glazed 

with Low-E film 

Foam Core 

plug-ins, light fixtures, plumbing stacks, 
and so forth, must be sealed. If the 
air-vapor barrier isn't continuous, 
positive air pressure (greater air pressure 
inside the house than outside) pushes air, 
which always carries some water vapor 
with it, into the walls or ceiling. In 
heavily insulated houses, the water vapor 
will condense and can cause moisture 
problems in the walls or ceiling before it 
makes its way to the exterior of the 

Controlled Ventilation 

Tightly-built houses require a ventila- 
tion system because they have no air 
leaks to bring outside air into the house or 
carry stale inside air out. Over the past 10 
years, heat recovery ventilation (HRV) 
systems have become common. Early 
models of this device sometimes had 
various problems, but the new models are 
vastly improved and normally operate 

Other ventilation options also are being 
installed in Montana. One system uses 
fans in kitchens, bathrooms, and other 
rooms to exhaust stale air, and a specially 
designed wall inlet to draw in outside air. 
A system such as this does not recover 
heat from the warm exhaust air, but is 
somewhat cheaper to install than the 
average HRV system. 

Leaving out the ceiUng air-vapor barrier 
so the house can "breathe " is a common 
but unreliable method for improving ven- 
tilation, and can create moisture 
problems in the ceihng or attic. If ceiling 
insulation is R38 or less and the house has 
good attic ventilation, the water vapor in 

the air escaping into the attic usually will 
be carried up and out of the house. With 
thick insulation, however, the water 
vapor will reach the dew point (see 
Glossary) and condense while traveling 
through the insulation. When the temper- 
ature is below freezing, the condensed 
water turns to frost. When the frost 
thaws, water drips back through the 
insulation, often collecting in light fixture 
bowls and staining the ceiling around 

Winter is especially conducive to mois- 
ture problems in tight houses without 
adequate ventilation. Houses are closed 
against the cold, which doesn't let mois- 
ture out through doors and windows; the 
attic is cold so no evaporation occurs. 

Enclosing the entire living space with a 
continuous air-vapor barrier and in- 
stalling a controlled ventilation system is 
the only sure-fire method for preventing 
condensation problems in tight, highly 
insulated houses. 

Passive Solar Gain 

Passive solar gain can be readily incor- 
porated into just about any house, and 
will be worth the effort, especially in the 
sunny portions of the state east of the 
Continental Divide. Among passive solar 
facilities, large windows on the south side 
of the house are the most common. 
Ideally, they should be equipped with 
thermal curtains to prevent heat loss at 
night or on sunless days. Greenhouses 
and other solar spaces can be either big 
heat gainers or big heat losers, depending 
on how they are built, located, and 
operated. Generally, such facilities 

should be equipped with curtains or other 
shading equipment, and should be well 
ventilated to prevent overheating. Con- 
crete or heavy masonry that can store 
solar heat inside the house usually are 
necessary to make sunspaces and green- 
houses gain more heat than they lose over 
the course of a year. 

Heating Systems 

Zoned heating systems provide heat 
only where it's needed and at the appro- 
priate temperature for that portion of the 
living space. Baseboard heaters, radiant 
floor heating systems, and ceiling panels 
all provide zoned heat control. Radiant 
floor systems usually use gas-fired hot 
water systems. Baseboard heaters can be 
electric, or gas- or oil-fired hot water. 
Ceihng panels are electric. 

It is critical that the under side of 
heated slabs be insulated with at least 2 
inches of extruded polystyrene, and a 
thermal break be installed between slab 
and foundation walls. Poorly insulated 
heated slabs can lose a tremendous 
amount of heat to the ground, especially 
if groundwater is within 10 feet. 

For forced-air heating systems, it can 
pay to install one of the oil or gas furnaces 
that promise an efficiency of 80 percent 
and greater. A new publication from 
DNRC, Gas Furnaces and Appliances- 
Sorting Through the Options, describes the 
new gas heating systems. 

Log Houses 

Many Montanans dream of living in a 
country log house. While this may be 

appeaUng to many, it's not the most 
energy-efficient choice because tra- 
ditional log walls are notorious energy 
wasters unless extraordinary measures 
are taken. Wood has an R-value of just 
1.25 per inch, compared to 3.5 per inch 
for fiberglass batts. Chinking eventually 
loosens as logs expand, contract, and 
crack, allowing drafts and heat loss. In 
spite of these drawbacks, the lure of log 
houses is strong for many people. We 
have included two log houses and the 
methods used to compensate for the log 

RSDP/RCDP Funding 

The energy efficient innovations in 20 
of the houses in this book were partially 
funded by the Bonneville Power Admini- 
stration. These houses were built to con- 
form to the energy-efficient construction 
standards of the Residential Standards 
Demonstration Program and the Residen- 
tial Construction Demonstration Project. 
These two programs are described in the 
Glossary. The remaining 57 houses in the 
book received no government energy 

Features That Fit 

Energy-efficient houses come in many 
different types. Warm Places is a begin- 
ning for prospective home buyers or 
builders who want to know what housing 
innovations are available and appropriate 
for their situation. The owners of each 
house in this book tell what it's like to live 
in that house, what has worked for them, 
and what hasn't. Rather than duplicating 
any particular house, most home owners 

or builders probably will want to pick and 
choose various features and combine 
them as their particular needs require. 

The home owners place varying 
degrees of importance of payback in 
energy savings features. Some ignore the 
cost of features because they want the 
benefit. Others have carefully calculated 
the return on fuel savings for the invest- 
ment in construction. Where possible, 
we've given the payback figure on certain 
energy features. On the whole, building 
an energy-efficient house will cost from 2 
to 5 percent more than a conventional 
house. Almost always, the fuel savings (at 
today's rates) over a period of five to ten 
years will be greater than the extra cost. 

In This Book 

The houses are arranged in alphabetical 
order of towns where they are located. All 
floor plans have been rendered at the 
scale of 1 inch equals 16 feet. A Glossary 
explains building terms used in the 

More Information 

While the Glossary gives some insight 
into building terms and techniques, some 
people will want more detailed informa- 
tion. An inventory of pertinent books 
from DNRC and others is listed in the 
bibliography at the end of this book. 
Utility companies can recommend build- 
ing techniques and workshops. Designers 
and builders familiar with energy- 
efficient construction techniques can 
provide advice. Q 


Without the cooperation of the home 
owners who so graciously shared their 
ideas and feelings and opened their 
houses to us, this book would not have 
been possible. We also thank the 
designers and builders who gave their 
time to review the articles and to bundle 
up their blueprints and send them to us. 

We are grateful to Capital High School 
in Helena for lending us their AutoCAD 
software from which the floor plans were 
rendered, and to Gary Duff at Capital 
High for instructing us in the use of the 

We thank Melanie Matson, a Univer- 
sity of Montana graduate student in 
journalism who contributed her editing 
skills to the project. 

Funding for this book was provided by 
the Montana Department of Natural 
Resources and Conservation, the Bonne- 
ville Power Administration, and the U.S. 
Department of Energy. 

Publication Staff 

Project Direction: Jeff Birkby, 

Mike McCourt 
Project Coordination: Patricia Kelley 
Writing: Patricia Kelley and 

Daniel Vichorek 
Editing: Tom Livers, Peggy Todd, 

Daniel Vichorek 
Graphics: Barbara Lien 
Technical Review: Brian Green, 

Jim Maunder, Marc Scow 
Manuscript Preparation: Margie Peterson 

No Endorsements or 
Responsibility for Errors 

The various types of house construction 
are described here as they were related to 
DNRC by home owners, architects, and 
builders. DNRC makes no warranties and 
assumes no legal liability or responsibility 
for the accuracy, completeness, or useful- 
ness of any information, product, or 
process, and does not endorse any one 
type of construction. 

Brand names were used as necessary 
for clarity. No endorsement, recommen- 
dation, or favoring of any product is 

Where the Warm Places Are 


"" •■■' .oim.,d •<:— 

• Opheim 

• Kalispell 

• Heron „, ^ , 

• Bigfork 

• Conrad 

Fort Peck • 

• Wolf Point 


■^ •Superior ^^|^^ 

• Choteau 

Sidney • J 

SunRiver^ ©Great Falls 


Glendive • 1 

"v Huson ^ 

<ki , ' • Missoula 

Lewistown • 


i'"' •Lolo ,Turah 

X„. .Victor 
f?^ • Corvallis 
.' • Hamilton 

Helena • 

Clancy • 

• Miles City ! 

">y • Darby 


Manhattan ^ Clyde Park 

' • Livingston 

• BUlings 


• Broadus 


Gallatin Gateway 

Virginia Cit>' 

Scale '-^■, 

20 *0 90 (20 '60 Mi;*» 




JP- ',^ ^"^---i. ">-P IWest Yellowstone 

Different Ideas 

Architects are always full of 
ideas for other peoples' 
houses, but what does the 
architect live in? The Arlee house of 
Missoula-based architect Jay Kirby pro- 
vides one intriguing answer to this 
question. Though not complete as of this 
writing, Kirby's irregular polygonal 22- 
sided earth sheltered post-and-beam 
house with geodesic dome cupola clear- 
ly is an example of free-thinking design. 
The house is roughly circular, with an 
average diameter of about 46 feet. The 
living area is all on the main floor except 
for a small work space elevated in the 
geodesic cupola. 

The Montana Vernacular 

Despite the seeming oddity of this 
house at first glance, there is much that 
is familiar to Montanans. Massive log 
ceiling beams, dirt roof, and fireplace all 
hark back to the functional buildings 
that pioneering miners and ranchers 
fashioned from materials at hand. The 
house is one example of what Kirby 
refers to as the "Montana vernacular" 
style of building: the use of traditional, 
nostalgic building elements in modern 

Building With Concrete 

Kirby built most of his outer wall with 
4-inch-thick concrete panels. These pan- 
els were made by pouring concrete into 
forms lying flat around the perimeter of 
the floor slab. Before pouring the con- 

The south side of Jay Kirby's house. Note Trombe wall inside center glass panel. 

Crete, Kirby placed 2-inch sheets of 
expanded polystyrene into the forms as 
insulation for the interior side of the 
walls. He later added an inch of polyi- 
socyanurate over the polystyrene. 

Immediately after the concrete was 
poured into the forms, flat rocks were 
seated into the wet surface to give a rock 
look to the outside of the exterior walls. 

After the concrete was hardened, a 
farm tractor with a hydrauhc hoist was 
used to tip the panels outward into 
place. Once all the panels were erect 
and in place, a cable was tightened 
around the outside as a permanent 
tension band. The 18-inch-diameter log 
roof beams were then hoisted into place 
with Jay's International Scout and a 
boom pole. 

Holding Up the Roof 

Inside the structure, the ends of some 
of the log beams are supported by a 
curved, 4-inch-thick concrete wall. This 
wall was built with several sequential 
pours of concrete into shp forms that 
were raised and reset after each pour 
hardened. Other logs are supported by 
log posts. 

Various Forms of 

Most concrete sections of the outer 
wall are sheltered by the earth berm. 
Bedrooms are located on the upwind 
side of the house, and closets in the 
bedrooms are buih along the outside 
wall to further insulate the living space. 


Jay Kirby 




Jay Kirby 


Jay Kirby, Architect 
2011 South Fourth West 
Missoula, MX 59801 



22-sided Polygonal 

Upper Level Geodesic Dome 


Roof - R40 
Frame Walls - R25 
Concrete Walls - R17 
Slab - RIO 

Square Feet 

Main • 1.700 

Special Features 

Trombe Wall 

Earth Sheltering 

Polygonal Shape 

Internal Stone Walls 

Rock-bed Heat Storage 

Holding Tank 

Unconventional Fireplace Design 



Passive Solar, Electric, Fireplace 


Projected for early 1988 

Frame portions of the outer wall are 
insulated with R19 fiberglass batts. 
Impregnated sheathing and cedar 
shakes give the frame walls a total 
R-value of about 25. The floor is insulat- 
ed with 2 inches of extruded polysty- 
rene between the underlying 6 inches of 
gravel and the 4-inch concrete slab. 

Dirt on the Roof 

The roof support structure consists of 
2x6 tongue-and-groove decking over 
the log beams, with rough-sawn planks 
over the decking for additional strength. 
Toward the apex where the span be- 
tween beams decreases, 2 1/2-inch rough 
planks were used. Farther out where 
span between the beams is greater, 3 
1/2-inch planks were laid down. 

Four inches of urethane was foamed 
in place over the rough planks. For 
waterproofing, two layers of painted-on 

polyurethane membrane were applied 
over the foam. Two inches of gravel 
were placed over the polyurethane for 
drainage, and 10 to 12 inches of topsoil 
was laid on top to complete the roof. Jay 
said the total R-value of the roof is about 

Plenty of Windows 

The extensive glazing on the south 
side is double pane, with triple pane 
glass in the smaller windows on the 
north side. Low-E glass was not avail- 
able when the windows were installed. 
Jay said, but will be used to replace the 
temporary glazing in the dome. An 
obvious adjunct to the south glazing is a 
10-foot-long concrete Trombe wall (see 
Glossaryl that rises to ceiling height 
immediately inside the glass on the 
south side. This wall is part of one of the 
systems used to heat the house. 

A Hard-working Fireplace 

The Kirby house is designed to be 
heated primarily by the sun, but when 
additional heat is needed, a massive 
native stone wood-burning fireplace is 
ready for the chore. Two fans draw air 
into vents in the fireplace masonry near 
the ceiling and pull it downward along 
the flue. As it moves down, the air is 
warmed in part by short sections of 
rebar placed horizontally in the cavity 
along the flue, with one end touching 
the flue. Heat from the flue warms these 
rods, which then warm the air. The air 
is further warmed by passing through 
the space between the masonry and the 
metal fireplace form. This warm air is 
discharged through one or more of three 

outlets near floor level An operable grill 
on each of these outlets makes it possi- 
ble to direct the warm air to where it is 
needed. Two of the outlets discharge 
heated air directly into the living space. 
The third pushes air into a plenum 
under the concrete floor where rocks 
from 1 inch to 4 inches diameter absorb 
heat which can later be retrieved by air 
moving through the plenum. Air from 
the plenum is discharged through a floor 
vent into the narrow air space between 
the Trombe wall and the exterior wall 
glass. On sunny days, warm air entering 
this space can be further heated by the 
sunlight coming through the window 
and shining on the massive wall. Jay 
said he intends eventually to add two 
active solar collectors to enhance the 

A facing of smooth-worn nver rocks makes Kirby's Trombe wall a handsome addition to 
the house interior. 



■ V 

Massive fireplace near the center of the 
house is a major heat contributor. 

house's solar heating capacity. Plans 
also include completing the built-in 
greenhouse on the southeast side. 

Warm Rocks 

The Kirby house contains a large 
volume of thermal mass. Besides the 
massive fireplace and Trombe wall, 
interior stone walls provide capacity for 
considerable heat storage. Jay said it 
takes several days to warm up all this 
mass, but that once warm, the house 
requires little additional heating to stay 
at a comfortable temperature. Backup 

heat is provided by electric baseboard 
heaters and two electric fan heaters that 
can take the chill off until the fireplace 
warms the living space. A small wood- 
burning stove on the main floor directly 
under the apex of the house also pro- 
vides additional heat when necessary. 

Other Ways of Heating 

Among the various energy-saving 
strategies employed in the house are 
two ideas for saving money on water 
heating. The first of these is already 
operating, and uses a holding tank near 
the fireplace to retain well water for a 
time before it is moved to the electric 
water heater. Water in the tank warms 
to room temperature or a little above. 
Jay said, adding, "This way, we only 
have to heat it from 75 degrees to 120, 
rather than from 40 to 120. " Looking to 
the improvement of this system. Jay 
wrapped 33 feet of half-inch copper 
tubing around the fireplace flue inside 
the masonry. Eventually, this tubing 
will be used to heat water for household 
use, he said. 

A House in the Round 

The rounded shape of the Kirby house 
helps energy efficiency by requiring less 
outside wall surface to contain a given 
floor space than a rectangular structure 
would require. Less wall means less 
heat lost to the outside. 

A Well-considered 

Despite Kirby's painstaking efforts to 
enhance the energy-saving qualities of 
his house, he said that his main empha- 
sis was on livabiUty, of which energy 

efficiency is only one aspect. Good 
design, including careful planning and 
siting, should enhance both energy effic- 
iency and livability, Jay said. For exam- 
ple, he said, design features that let 
plenty of light into the Uving space serve 
both purposes. In the Kirby house, light 
passing through the windows in the roof 
dome streams down into the atrium in 
the central area. Each of the four bed- 
rooms has a window into the central 
atrium and a window to the outside 
above the level of the earth berm. 

A Lot of Building Ideas, 
Mostly Good 

Jay said building this unusual house 
gave him the chance to try out a lot of 
building ideas he developed over the 
years. Some of these ideas worked and 
some left room for improvement. For 
example, the sloped windows in the 
geodesic dome are much more prone to 
leaking than vertical glazing. 

Another possible change would be the 
use of modular concrete roof panels. 
These could be put up in one day and 
would cut down on construction time 
and cost. 

How Much it Cost 

One concern in the construction of 
nonstandard structures such as the Kir- 
by house is costs that result from the 
builders' lack of know-how with un- 
familiar building methods. Kirby built 
his house himself over a period of years 
and so saved labor costs. He said he has 
about $35,000 in materials in the nearly 
finished structure. He estimated it 
would cost about $85,000 to hire a 
professional contractor to build a similar 
house. That works out to $50 per square 

Energy Consumption Not 
Yet Established 

No reliable estimate of the house's 
energy consumption is available. Pend- 
ing completion of the finishing touches, 
the Kirbys are not living in the house 
and have not established its energy 
consumption, though they often spend 
weekends there and report that it re- 
tains heat well. 

Jury Still Out 

Kirby does not subscribe to the con- 
ventional idea that nonstandard houses 
are more difficult to resell than less 
exotic designs. In support of this idea, 
he notes that two clients who saw the 
house have commissioned him to design 
similar structures, one of which has 
since been built near Ronan (see write- 
up on Ron Trosper's house). 

The Montana 'Vernacular may not be 
for everybody, and may not be the last 
word in energy efficiency, but it does 
provide a style of living that could 
please many Montanans by its combina- 
tion of traditional Montana building 
materials and styles with modern energy- 
saving technology. D 

RSDP Construction Saves Kilowatts 


Kent and Mae Bolstad 




Mike Torgerson 

Architectural Energy Development 

P.O. Box 186 

Bigfork, MT 59911 



Larry Hill and Dan Day 
P.O. Box 215 
Bigfork, MT 599U 
837-4163, 837-5226 


1 Story with Walk-out Basement 


Ceiling - R45 
Double Wall - R37 
Basement Wall - R25 
Slab - R5 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,224 
Basement - 1,232 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 




Electric Radiant Ceiling 


December 1984 

Kent and Mae Bolstad were the 
first to build an energy- 
efficient house in the piney 
woods of Ferndale, near Bigfork, but they 
aren't the last. Neighbors who saw the 
Bolstads basking in their warm, super- 
insulated house and gloating over their 
low heat bills decided to get in on the 
action and build their own warm places. 
Heating the Bolstad house for a year 
required 3.77 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per 
square foot. To heat a house built to HUD 
standards for a year required an average 
of 6.58 kWh per square foot in northwest- 
em Montana. At a rate of $0.05 per kWh, 
it cost $464 to heat the Bolstad s house for 
a year compared to $810 to heat a HUD 
house of similar size in the same location. 

Integrating RSDP 

So what made the difference in the 
kilowatts used? "Building to Residential 
Standards Demonstration Program 
(RSDP) specifications," Kent said. "Mike 
Torgerson (the designer) knew about 
energy-efficient construction and the 
RSDP. Mae and I wanted a solar house; 
Mike helped us fit the plan to RSDP 

Designed to save space heating costs in 
electrically-heated houses, the RSDP 
offered incentives for incorporating cer- 
tain energy-efficient features into new 
houses. To meet RSDP specifications for 
reducing the number of kilowatts needed 
to heat their house, the Bolstads com- 
bined high levels of insulation and air- 
tightness with a design that makes use of 
solar heat. The energy-efficient improve- 

Double wall construction and berming affords warm living in Kent and Mae Bolstad's cedar 
house despite winter snows. Framing on the roof is for future installation of a solar collector. 

ments added about $5,500 to the cost of 
the construction. 

Double wall construction in the upper 
level of the house— an interior 2x4 wall 
and an exterior 2x6 wall— provides room 
for R13 and R19 fiberglass batts. Sheath- 
ing of 3/4-inch polyisocyanurate foam 
board adds an R-value of 5 to the walls. 
Raised heel trusses make room for blown- 
in fiberglass to R45. Earth berming 
shelters the lower level of the house on 
three sides. The 8-inch basement walls 
are sheathed on the exterior with 3-inch 
extruded polystyrene foam board. A 
4-inch concrete slab rests on a layer of 
2-inch gravel fill. A 6-mil polyethylene 
air-vapor barrier and 1-inch extruded 
polystyrene foam board provide moisture 

and thermal barriers beneath the slab and 
the gravel fill. 

Although an air-vapor barrier of 6-mil 
polyethylene tightly seals the house 
between the two stud walls in the double 
wall and in the ceiling, Kent went a step 
further. "I was a little concerned about 
moisture entering the interior surface of 
the wall," he said, "so I painted the walls 
and ceiling with Glidden vapor barrier 
paint. In my job at a retail paint and 
wallpaper store, I had been working with 
Pacific Power and Light Company which 
was specifying vapor barrier paint for 
certain types of construction. 1 decided to 
put it in my own house. It goes on like 
regular paint, but it costs a bit more." 

Electric Heat Supplemented 
by Solar 

Electric coils embedded in ceiling 
drywall provide radiant heat throughout 
the house. Total rated capacity of the coils 
is about 10,000 watts, distributed as 
follows. 3,340 watts in the living-dining- 
kitchen area, 1,195 watts in the master 
bedroom, 450 watts in the sewing room, 
2,390 watts in the recreation room, 475 
watts in each downstairs bedroom and 
the den, and 245 watts in each of the 
three bathrooms. 

"Having the heat panels in the ceiling 
means we can place our furniture any- 
where, no need to worry about base- 
boards or registers," Mae said, "It's also a 
steady, even heat. We maintain the 
thermostats at 68 degrees." 

Facing the house to look south out over 
the airstrip served more of a purpose than 
to keep an eye on Kent's Cessna 150. 
Windows and the large opening in the 
forest required by the airstrip open the 
south side of the house to light and sun. 
"On a clear day, we get plenty of solar 
heat in here, even though it may be 




A cantilevered dining area with a south-facing bay window provides a sunny space for Kent 
and Mae Bolstad to sip coffee and watch the deer outside. All windows are triple glazed. 

minus 20 degrees outside," Kent said. 
"And even on foggy days, we get some 
heat." Verosol pleated shades are low- 
ered to cover the triple-glazed windows 
on winter nights to slow heat loss. In the 
summer, the shades help keep out the hot 
sun during the day. "What is critical, 
though, " Kent said, "is the 3-foot over- 
hang that admits the low-angle rays from 
the winter sun, but in summer keeps 
them from cooking us." 

"If we had it to do over, wed somehow 
achieve as much solar gain downstairs as 
we have upstairs," Mae said. "There's a 
big difference in the amount of electric 
heat needed between the two floors: the 
downstairs simply doesnt get enough 

Fresh Air and a Clean 

To keep fresh air circulating in the tight 
house, an EZ Vent heat recovery venti- 
lator nms continuously at the lowest 
setting of the variable speed control. 
When the outside temperature drops to 
34 degrees, a defroster in the unit per- 
iodically recycles warm air through the 
ventilator to prevent ice buildup on its 
core. "We have no moisture problems 
anywhere in the house." Kent said. 
"Mike designed the ventilator and duct- 
ing system carefully for the size and 
layout of the house. It's incredible how 
fresh and dust-free the house is. It's the 
cleanest house we've ever lived in." □ 

Striving for the Zero Heating Bill 


Jerry and Lois Dalton 




Jerry Dalton and Rick Barfa 


Barta and Sun 
5720 Homer Davis 
Shepherd, MT 59079 


1 1/2 Story with Unfinished 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R45 
Basement Wall • R19 
Slab ■ RIO 

Square Feet 

Upper ■ 500 
Main - 1,200 

Special Features 


Low-E Triple-pane Windows 


Passive Solar. Natural Gas 


December 1985 

It wasn't that Jerry and Lois 
Dalton's old house in BiUings 
was an energy hog. "It had 
plaster walls, and was pretty well 
sealed," Jerry said. But that wasn't 
enough. Jerry was a member of 
AERO, the AJternative Energy Resource 
Organization, and he was more than 
ordinarily interested in saving energy. 
"My goal was to pay zero for space 
heating," he said. 

Aiming at paying zero for heat, Jerry 
and Lois decided they needed a new 
house with state-of-the-art energy- 
saving technology. They knew that 
builder Rick Barta was interested in 
houses of this type, so they hired him to 
help with the plan and do the construc- 
tion. The finished product shows the 
handsome side of energy efficiency. 
With a total of 1,700 square feet on two 
floors, and with an unfinished basement 
that can be finished to provide substan- 
tially more space, the Dalton house has 
plenty of room to go along with modern 
style and energy efficiency. It fits com- 
fortably into the prosperous Billings 
neighborhood where it is located. 

A Plethora of Energy- 
saving Features 

The house's energy efficiency results 
primarily from the double-wall, superin- 
sulated construction. Each of the 2x4 
stud walls in the 13-inch double wall has 
Rll fiberglass batts, with R19 batts in 
the space between. Total R-value of the 
walls with drywall and siding is 45. 
Ceiling insulation is blown-in fiberglass 

The Daltons' comfortable house in Billings. Note foliage that shades the 

lindows in 

to R60. The vaulted portion of the 
ceiling is insulated with three layers of 
R19 batts. Basement walls are furred out 
with 2x4 studs and insulated with R19 
batts. Two inches of extruded polysty- 
rene under the slab have an R value of 
10. A 4-mil TuTuff air-vapor barrier was 
installed on the back side of the inner 
stud wall. 

All windows are Weathershield triple 
pane with low-E coating. If he had it to 
do over, Jerry said he would not go with 
the triple-pane low-E. "It added $500 to 
the cost of the windows, it reduced the 
growth of our house plants, and worst of 
all, it always looks dirty," Jerry said. 

(DNRC building specialists note that 
the use of low-E glass in double-pane 
windows avoids most of the problems 
Jerry noted and is substantially cheaper 

than low-E triple pane, with a much 
shorter payback period. Home owner 
experience indicates that double-pane 
low-E is the best compromise. Double- 
pane low-E costs 15 percent more than 
plain double pane but is almost as 
effective as triple-pane low-E in pre- 
venting heat loss. Standard double pane 
admits 82 percent of the light striking it, 
compared to 74 percent for double pane 
with low-E, and 68 percent for triple 
pane with low-E. | 

Most of the Daltons' glazing is on the 
south side for passive solar heating. The 
north side has only three small 

Fresh Air, No Cold Spots 

Space heat and domestic hot water 
heating are provided by a Weil McLain 

gas-fired, direct-vent 50,000 Btu boiler. 
Sometimes neither of the Daltons is 
home during the day, but they do not set 
the thermostat back. "It simply is not 
worth it to mess with the thermostat," 
Jerry said. One of the benefits of super- 
insulation is the uniform warmth 
throughout the house. "There are no 
cold spots," Jerry said. A VanEE heat 
recovery ventilator keeps the air fresh in 
the house. 

Cost to build the house, exclusive of 
land, was approximately $74,000, which 
comes to $43.50 per square foot of 
finished space. Barta estimated that the 
superinsulation equipment, materials, 
and extra labor added about $5,000 to 
the cost of the house. The payback 
period on this $5,000 would be about 
eight years at current utility prices, 
though payback is likely to be quicker as 
energy prices escalate with time. 

Even though the DaUons have not yet 
trimmed their heat bill to zero, they 
seem to be on the right track. Their total 
heating cost for 1986 was $130. D 


open to 
rooms below 


Draft-free atrium patio doors lead to the kitchen and dining area in the Dalton house. 

Going Underground 


Clarke and Chris Elliott 




Rick Barta and 
Building Specialties, Inc. 
195 Lexington Drive 
Billings, Montana 59102 


Barta and Sun 
5720 Homer Davis 
Shepherd, MT 59079 


Underground, Single Level 


Ceiling • R38 

South Wall ■ R19 

Below -grade Concrete Walls - RIO 

Roof - RIO 

Square Feet 

Main - 2,000 

Special Features 

Full Underground Design 
Metal Roof Trusses 


Passive Solar, Wood and Coal 



Building technology has come 
a long way since home- 
steaders in eastern Montana 
stayed snug in dugout shelters or sod 
houses, but many people in those parts 
are still nostalgic for living quarters 
sheltered by the earth. Modern materi- 
als and building methods make the 
underground house easier to build than 
ever before, although the structural 
strength needed to support a dirt roof 
tends to drive costs up. 

Chris and Clarke Elliott did some 
research on the topic and confirmed that 
they wanted to build an underground 
house, even though their inquiries dis- 
covered some of the things that can go 
wrong with such structures. For exam- 
ple, underground houses can be gloomy 
if not properly designed and built. The 
Elliotts even found one that was built 
facing north. 

When the Elliotts were ready to have 
their underground house built, they had 
just the right place for it: the south- 
facing edge of a ravine in the hills south 
of Billings. Off to the south was a 
pleasant view of junipers and pines, 
with no big trees or other obstacles to 
sunlight. They hired an engineer to 
draw up a structural plan, and Rick 
Barta to design the energy efficiency 
features, and soon they had a big hole in 
the ground that was the physical begin- 
ning of their house. That was in 1983. 
Building proceeded at a leisurely off- 
and-on pace as money was available and 
other projects allowed, and it wasn't 
until 1986 that the house was finished 
and the Elliotts went underground. 

The Elliotts liuu^v laces south across a deep ravine. 

An Easy Heater 

Clarke said they used about 500 
pounds of coal and 3/4 of a cord of wood 
in their first heating season in the house. 
Coal sells for about $90 per ton, so the 
500 pounds added approximately $22.50 
to the heating bill. The Elliotts' Gibraltar 
wood/coal stove is their sole source of 
heat other than the sunlight that floods 
in through the big windows on the south 
side. "On New Years Eve we had some 
people over and it got so warm in here 
we had to open the windows, even 
though it was zero degrees outside and 
the stove was not lit," Clarke said. Chris 
complained good naturedly that she 
often has to open the windows when 

she gets home from work, because 
Clarke and their daughter get home first 
and build a fire that quickly overheats 
the living space. Even drying the clothes 
can provide more heat than needed 
inside the house. "We've changed our 
lifestyle a little," Chris said. "I wash a 
load a day instead of doing all the 
laundry on Saturday." 

A Clean, Well-lighted Place 

Besides being an easy heater, the 
Elliott house is a nice place to live. 
Bright and airy inside, every room has 
natural daylight except the small sewing 
room at the northwest corner. This 
comfort is not the result of an accident. 

The west side of the Elliott house. Some backfilling remains to be done. 

South-facing windows look out on the natural landscape, with no hint that the house is 
underground. Most heat is provided by sun through the windows, with backup by 
coal-wood stove at left. 

but comes from good planning and 
design. Given the right kind of prepara- 
tion and construction, underground 
houses can be first quality hving space. 
However, structural flav\?s that might 
not even be noticed in conventional 
construction invite disaster in under- 
ground building. Consider, for illustra- 
tive purposes, that the 18-inch earth 
cover on the Elliotts' roof weighs about 
280,000 pounds. 

Steel Web Trusses 

Roof support is always a major consid- 
eration in underground houses. The 
engineer the Elliotts hired calculated the 
roof stresses and came up with a struc- 
tural design to support the weight. The 
key to the design was steel web trusses, 
installed 2 feet on centers and supported 
at midspan by a steel I-beam. The 
maximum span of the trusses is 16 feet. 

Corrugated 24-gauge galvanized roof- 
ing was laid across the trusses, and 3 
inches of reinforced 5-bag concrete was 
then poured over it. A Bituthane mem- 
brane was applied over the concrete, 
followed by 2 inches of extruded poly- 

styrene, 2 inches of sand, 10 inches of 
clay soil, and 6 inches of topsoil. 

Twelve inches of fiberglass insulation 
were blown into the spaces among the 
steel web trusses. Two-inch extruded 
polystyrene sheets were applied to the 
outside of concrete walls and to the 
foundation wall across the front. The 
under side of the floor slab is insulated 
along the southern edge with a 2-foot 
wide sheet of 2-inch extruded polysty- 
rene. The inner surface of the concrete 
walls is not insulated, but is finished 
with drywall. Leaving the inner surface 
of the walls uninsulated allows them to 
function as thermal collectors, soaking 
up heat during the warm part of the day 
and releasing it when the air cools. 

Now that the Elliotts have been sub- 
terranean for more than a year, they are 
more enthusiastic than ever about their 
underground house. "We wouldn't do a 
thing different," they said, "except 
maybe make the master bath bigger and 
the closet and storage space a little 
smaller " Cost of the Elliotts' house, 
exclusive of land and utilities, was 
$74,000, or about $37 per square foot. 

A Question of Payback 


Jay and Irene Foley 




Rick Barta 


Barta and Sun 
5720 Homer Davis 
Shepherd, MT 59079 


Single Level with Basement 


Ceiling - R38 
Walls -Rig 
Basement Walls - R19 

Square Feet 

Main - 1.250 
Basement • 800 

Special Features 

Heat-recovery Ventilator 
Domestic Water Heater 


Natural Gas Hydronic System 


November 1987 

One of the big questions when 
building an energy-efficient 
house is, how much money 
should be invested to save energy? It is 
possible to spend so much money on 
energy efficiency that it can never be 
paid back by the savings. 

Jay and Irene Foley of Billings pon- 
dered this question as most people 
would when setting out to build a new 
house, and came up with an answer that 
suits them. They worked with builder 
Rick Barta to design a house that has 
modest construction costs coupled with 
big energy savings, and is still more than 
sufficiently stylish to hold its own on 
Rimrock Drive in Billings. 

As designed and built by Barta, the 
house has 1,250 square feet on the main 
floor, with 800 square feet of finished 
space in the basement. The exterior 
walls are 2x6 studs with R19 fiberglass 
batts. The attic is insulated with blown- 
in fiberglass to R38. The finished 
portion of the basement has a 2 x 4 stud 
wall with fiberglass batts to R19. No 
insulation was placed under the slab. 

Strategy for Saving Energy 

Barta installed a continuous polyethy- 
lene vapor barrier. A Vent-aire heat 
recovery ventilator brings air from out- 
side through a buried pipe which warms 
the air to earth temperature in cold 
weather and prevents freezing of the 
ventilator system. Windows are stan- 
dard double pane. Large windows on 
the south side provide passive solar 

Large windows on the south side of the Foley house capture the sun. 

heating, and clerestory windows bright- 
en the living space. 

The heating system used in the house 
is a relatively new type which Barta said 
works well in energy-efficient houses. 
This system is based primarily on a coil 
that operates with hot water from the 
domestic hot water heater to warm air 
brought from outside by the heat recov- 
ery ventilator. The extra fixtures needed 
to adapt the hot water heater for space 
heating add about $200 to its cost. 
Ventilation requirements are minimum 
with this unit, because intake air and 
exhaust gases both pass through the 
same double-wall flue. 

Questions of Efficiency 

"The efficiency of this type of heating 
system is less than that of a high- 
efficiency gas furnace, but the cost is 
hundreds of dollars less, the exact 
figures depending on heating require- 
ments and other variables, ' ' Barta said. 
He estimated the efficiency of the hot- 
water heater to be about 80 percent, 
noting that efficiency would vary de- 
pending on how much hot water is used 
for household purposes. 

Low Bills Predicted 

The Foleys had not moved into their 
house at the time of DNRC's visit in late 


fall, so there are no hard data on heating 
costs. However, three separate comput- 
er programs developed for predicting 
heat bills indicate that annual costs will 
be approximately $140. Heat bills this 
low indicate that only small additional 
amounts of energy would be saved by 
installing more insulation or a high- 
efficiency furnace, and that the savings 
would not pay back the higher cost of 
the furnace. If the Foley house did not 
have access to natural gas, the story 
might be different. DNRC calculations 
indicate it would cost about $375 a year 
to heat the Foley house with electricity, 
which might make it economical to 
install more insulation. 

One of the goals in energy-efficient 
construction is to have no more than 
one combustion device in a house, 
minimizing the amount of combustion 
air needed and requiring only one flue 
through the roof or outer wall. This 
approach requires that domestic hot 
water heating and space heating be 
combined in the same combustion unit. 
The two functions can be combined 
either by using a high-efficiency furnace 
with built-in water heater, or by using 
the hot water heater for space heating, 
as in the Foley house. Although natural 
gas is more economical to use, electric 
space heating and hot-water heating 
avoid the problems associated with 
combustion units. 

Money Spent, Money 

Having saved money on their space- 
heating equipment, the Foleys also were 
pleased with the total bill for building 
their new house, which came to about 
$55,000. This is about $24.40 per square 
foot of usable space, if the finished 
basement space is included in the 
calculation. D 



bedroom 1 



family room 

Lv ^ 

InJv ^ 



^m 1 




r*^ bedroom 

^ ^ 





living room 





dining \ 

1 ^ 


bedroom > 








|l 1 










A view from the dinmg room m the Foley house. Douhk-paned windows and atnum dour: 

reduce heal loss 


Indoor Swimming Pool Enhances 
Efficient Home 


Steven and Gwayne Kramer 




Steven L, Kramer 
3206 Viola 
Billings, MT 59102 


Schooner Realty & 
Development, Inc. 
3206 Viola 
Billings, MT 59102 


Split Entry Multi-Level 


Ceiling - R60 
2x6 Wall - R27 
Basement Wall • R6 

Square Feet 

Loft - 252 
Main - 1,972 
Basement - 1,184 
Pool Room - 1,288 

Special Features 

Solar-heated Swimming Pool 
Groimd-coupled Cooling Tube 
On-demand Water Heater 
85%-Efficient Furnace 


Natural Gas 


August 1984 

Can a highly insulated house 
have a swimming pool in 
the basement and not be 
dripping with condensation? "Defin- 
itely," said Steve Kramer of Billings. 
"Humidity isn't a problem in our house. 
In fact, we open the door to the pool room 
because the rest of the house is too dry. 
Our cupboards even shrank from lack of 
humidity. Indoor pools aren't the 
problem people expect, and you don't 
have the heat loss that you do with 
outdoor pools." 

Although the Kramers installed two 
heat recovery ventilators— one for the 
pool and one for the rest of the house— 
they don't use them much. "About the 
only time we use the house ventilator is to 
vent humidity out of the bathroom after 
we shower," Steve said. 

Sunlight and Earth Warm 
Basement Pool 

To keep the pool warm, a roof-mounted 
solar heating system operates eight 
months of the year. During the other four 
months, the Kramers heat the 448- 
square-foot pool with gas for about $50 a 
month. Steve noted that he used 
DNRC's "Solar Data" book to properly 
orient the solar panels. 

The bottom of the uninsulated swim- 
ming pool is 4 feet below the basement 
floor, and 9 feet below the ground 
surface. "When we were building the 
house, the swimming pool was in but not 
heated," Steve said. "Although the out- 
side temperature registered 30 below, the 
room gained enough heat from the sun 

Solar panels on the root ot Steve and Gwayne Kramer's house {between the two vent 
stacks) heat the water for the indoor swimming pool. South-facing windows and a 
concrete slab around the pool add thermal storage. 

and earth so that we never had to use a 
heater to stay above freezing." 

Part of the pool room's ceiling is a 
pre-stressed concrete slab that doubles as 
a garage floor. Part of the slab rests on the 
ground and is insulated underneath with 
1 1/2-inch extruded polystyrene foam 
board, laid over a moisture barrier of 
8-mil polyethylene. 

Earth Cools House 

The swimming pool is just one of 
several special features in Steve and 
Gwayne Kramer's house. For cooling in 
Billings' hot summers, the Kramers rely 
on a ground-coupled cooling tube. On hot 


days a pump circulates water continu- 
ously from a water coil in their gas 
furnace through approximately 440 feet 
of PVC pipe placed 9 feet below ground, 
winding around the foundation, and 
back. Steve noted that the pipe had to be 
more than 7 feet deep to take advantage 
of the stable, ambient temperature of the 
earth. The furnace fan blows hot house 
air through the water coil which absorbs 
the heat. The cooled air is distributed 
through the furnace ductwork. "Not a lot 
of literature exists on earth cooling tubes, 
so I took a seat-of-the-pants guess on the 
amount of pipe I needed, " Steve said. 
"We hooked it up last summer and it 
cooled the house fairly quickly, so I guess 
we have enough pipe." 

Using On-demand Hot 

For domestic hot water, the Kramers 
use a Thermar instant water heater. The 
100,000 Btu heater kicks on when the 
flow of water past it reaches a certain 
speed, such as that demanded for a 
shower. "With the instant heater," Steve 
said, "we could take showers all day long 
and not run out of hot water. If somebody 
else in the house is using hot water, we 
can put the showers on half flow so 
there's plenty to go around." 

But he cautions that adjusting these 
heaters can be tricky. "Others contem- 
plating on-demand heaters," Steve 
emphasized, "should pay attention to the 
installation. Many plumbers aren't fa- 
miliar with the heaters and don't know 
how to adjust them for proper perform- 
ance. It's similar to tuning a carburetor, but 
in this case, the components are gas feed, 
air bleeder, and water pressure valve " 

Steve said that using an on-demand 
heater means appliances have to be pur- 
chased or adjusted to adapt to the heater. 
"A dishwasher should have a preheater. 
The small volume of water it uses doesn't 
cause enough flow to turn on the water 
heater," he explained. "Clothes washing 
has to be done in either cold or hot water. 
On the warm cycle the regulator in a 
washing machine feeds in so much cold 
water in relation to the hot that the flow 
isn't enough to kick on the heater. " 

But this kind of heater isn't for every- 
body. "Although we love the Thermar, " 
Steve said, "people who take lots of baths 
aren't going to be impressed. The slower 
flow means the tub doesn't fill rapidly. " 
He added a tip: "A small holding tank 
(about 15 gallons) ahead of the heater 
starts water heating to room temperature, 
reducing the time and amount of energy 
needed to heat water." 

Building Techniques Save 

The house faces almost due south. Most 
of the windows are on the south side and 
all windows are triple glazed. The walls 
are 2 X 6 with R19 fiberglass batts. "In 
1977, the codes changed to let us put 2x6 
studs on 2-foot centers," Steve said, "and 
since then we use them on all the houses 
we build. There's less twisting and 
shrinking with 2x6 studs." He also uses 
drywall clips exclusively so he can place 
more insulation in the walls. Drywall 
cUps replace studs that are used only as 
backing to secure drywall. 

Steve pointed out the almost 2-foot 
depth at the heel of the trusses which 
'allows for rock wool knee-deep in the 

Care Taken on Air and 
Vapor Barriers 

"What helps make tfiis house work," 
Steve said, "is no air infiltration. We used 
3/4-inch foil-faced polyisocyanurate foam 
sheathing on the exterior. But, we didn't 
apply it when we framed. The siding and 
the sheathing went up at the same time so 
the wind didn't blow against the sheath- 
ing and stretch the nail holes." 

Ron Kimmell, foreman on the building 
job, noted the extra care taken on the 
air-vapor barrier. "We sealed the 8-mil 
polyethylene with a special caulk that 
never hardens, and used a double row of 
caulk on the polyethylene overlaps. We 
repaired the polyethylene after the 
framers, electricians, and plumbers were 
finished," Ron emphasized. "We also 
caulked under the sills while we were 
framing, and went through the house 
seahng all openings and cracks with 
expanded foam " 

Steve briefly reviewed other energy- 
saving features in the house. "The front 
door is insulated steel. We used French 





patio doors in the dining room and the 
pool room. French doors don't have the 
air infiltration of patio sliding doors, and 
are trouble free," he said. 

Drywall Tips 

Steve had some suggestions for those 
installing drywall. "They need to adapt to 
these tight houses and use screws instead 
of nails," he said. "In superinsulated 
houses, the bottom chord of the truss lies 
under a thick layer of insulation which 
keeps the chord dry and warm, and may 
cause it to shrink a bit, especially in the 
first year. The top chord is above the 
insulation and is surrounded by cold air 
and perhaps even moisture which can 

cause it to expand and elongate. The 
difference in length of the two chords can 
cause the truss to bow slightly upwards, 
moving the drywall. When you nail 
drywall sheets at the top, the movement 
of the trusses pops the nails. Same 
problem with the ceiling. CeiUng drywall 
moves as the trusses expand and contract. 
Drywall screws have greater holding 
power than nails, and they don't back out 
under stress." 

Second Thoughts on 

The construction strategies are work- 
ing. "We have no drafts. When the wind 
blows, we aren't aware of it. We are 

losing so little heat," Steve said, "that if I 
had it to do over, I'd use baseboard 
heaters. The gas furnace, rated at 85,000 
Btu, doesn't operate at total efficiency 
because it isn't running very long at a 
time." In January 1987, Steve added a 
small airtight wood stove to heat his office 
in the lower level. "1 didn't want to heat 
the whole house when I just needed heat 
in here," he explained. 

Open and Bright 

At the home's center, waist-high 
cabinets separate the kitchen from the 
living and dining areas. "I like a large 
open room," Gwaynesaid. "When I'm in 
the kitchen I don't want to be isolated 

Ayi o^fcii liuu/ f^u 

•J vaulted ceilings promote air circulation. Sunlight streams through the French doors lending lu the deck. 

from the rest of the family." 

Steve laid his hand on the heavy gray- 
brown tile on the countertop. ' 'One thing 
that surprised us," he said, "is what 
thermal storage this tile and the drywall 
have. We turned the heat down to 55 
degrees and left for eight days last winter. 
The house stayed at 62 degrees even 
though it got as low as 13 degrees outside. 
But the mass also means that it takes time 
to warm up," he added. "Once it's warm, 
though, it stays warm with little heat." 
Between the Uving area and the master 
bedroom, a skylight brightens the bath 
and hallway. "The skylight is a trade-off 
between some air leakage and a saving in 
electricity," Steve commented. South- 
facing French doors in the bedroom admit 
more sunlight and heat. A loft above the 
garage houses two bedrooms and an attic. 
More south-facing French doors admit 
sun to warm the downstairs office. Oak 
parquet covers the basement's concrete 
slab which serves as thermal storage. 
"The parquet is also good because it 
doesn't build the static electricity that 
could damage my desktop computer," 
Steve noted. 

Costing It Out 

"We tried to build an efficient house 
without sacrificing aesthetics or going 
broke," Steve said. "This house surpasses 
the energy savings we'd hoped for. Our 
highest gas bill was $ 1 54, and $50 of that 
was for the pool. We average $62. 14 a 
month for space, water, and pool heating. 

"To build a similar house would cost 
between $60 and $70 a square foot, 
including the pool. Approximately $2,500 
of this is for the solar panels, and another 
$750 for the cooUng tube installation. 

"People have to be convinced to pay for 
energy extras," Steve said. ""But what 
satisfaction it is to get a low gas bill and 
not have to sacrifice comfort." D 


House Shuts out Cold, Welcomes in Sun 

Tom Parker, avid duck hunter 
and ex-trapper, knows first- 
hand the value of thick 
clothing against fierce Montana winter 
weather. But he didn't care to ramble 
around his house wrapped in heavy 
clothes to keep warm, nor did he want to 
spend his paycheck on heating fuel. So he 
and his wife, Peggy, decided a superinsu- 
lated home would be the ticket. 

"I'd been reading about energy-saving 
houses for years, and spent two years 
walking through houses seeing how they 
were put together," Tom said. "My big- 
gest problem was finding someone who 
knew how to build one. I finally ran 
across Gordon Aldinger, who'd spent 
some time at the Saskatoon energy- 
efficient housing project conducted by the 
Canadian government." 

The north side has only one window, minimizing the passage of street noise and heat. All 
windows are triple pane with low-E coating. An insulated metal door opens to the front 

Tom's research and Gordon's skills 
meshed to produce a house frugal in 
energy use. Located on the edge of open 
fields east of Billings, the house gets 
plenty of cold blasts from the wind. But, 
from November to March, monthly gas 
bills averaged just $41 for space and 
water heating, of which Tom estimates 
$15 to $18 was for heating water. "When 
the sun shines, the furnace rarely comes 
on," Tom said. The Parkers keep the 
daytime temperature at 70 degrees, set- 
ting the thermostat back to 65 at night. 

French doors opening to the decks are insulated metal with d^ ■ . low-E glass. 

The doors allow entry to the southeast deck (above] from the ki: • • , • , spa room, and 
to a south deck from the master bedroom. 

Double Walls Foil Cold 

Heavy insulation buffers the house 
from the extremes of Montana weather. 


Tom and Peggy Parker 






Gordon Aldinger 

Aldinger Homes 

4704 North Woodhaven Way 

Billings, MT 59106 



1 Story with Basement 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R30 
Basement Wall - R29 

Square Feet 

Main Floor - 2,475 
Basement - 2,475 

Special Features 

Sealed Combustion Gas Appliances 


Natural Gas 


February 1986 





Two-inch extruded polystyrene sheathes 
the outside of the 8-inch concrete base- 
ment wall, and an insulated 2x6 wall 
was installed on the interior. 

On the main floor, double walls built 
with two 2x4 walls spaced 2 inches apart 
hold two layers of fiberglass batts— one 
R19 and the other Rll. A continuous 
6-mil polyethylene air-vapor barrier 
caulked with acoustical sealant at all 
seams keeps moisture out of wall cavities. 
Beneath the Masonite siding, Tyvek pro- 
tects the exterior plywood, preventing 
frigid air from creeping into the house. In 
the roof, raised-heel trusses provide room 
for R60 blown-in fiberglass insulation 
from outside wall to outside wall. The 
garage has insulated 2x4 walls. 

It was evident early on that the home's 
superinsulated walls would keep out the 
cold. "Even before we insulated the 

ceiling, and when some of the window 
holes just had polyethylene covering 
them, the house stayed around 45 degrees 
despite sub-zero temperatures outside," 
Tom said. 

Controlling Humidity 

A dehumidistat-controUed VanEE-2000 
heat recovery ventilator periodically 
draws fresh air through the house, and 
exhausts stale air. "We have to watch the 
weather report," Tom said. "If we're in 
for a real cold snap, we kick the de- 
humidistat down so the ventilator turns 
on at a lower humidity level to prevent 
condensation from forming on the win- 
dows. The first time the temperature 
dropped like that, it caused a lot of 
condensation and the shades froze to the 

1^ — ^ ^;:i 

Generous windows on the south bring in heat and light from the sun. The massive 
chimney from the wood stove does multiple duty, separating the living room from the 
kitchen, and absorbing heat both from the low-lying winter sun and from the wood stove, 
and releasing it at night to warm the house. 


Parquet floors in the country kitchen comple- 
ment the early American wallpaper and 
oiled oak cabinets. On the upper glass 
cabinet doors, peach-hued swirls of stained 
glass echo the color of the antique sideboard 
doors. A suspended ceiling conceals a bank 
of efficient fluorescent tubes. In the entire 
house, only four ceiling lights penetrate the 
air-vapor barrier. 

Insulation beneath and around the spa 
tub and an insulated cover minimize heal 
dissipation from the water. The spa room 
has its own exhaust duct into the heat 
recovery ventilator system, and Tom said 
moisture in the room had never been a 

Steel Doors Save Heat, 
Don't Warp 

The Parkers chose insulated steel 
exterior doors to prevent heat loss and to 
avoid warp. "When one side of the door 

is exposed to a warm and relatively 
humid environment and the other side is 
exposed to dry, cold air, the wood 
expands and contracts differently. Over 
time this may cause the door to warp,' 
Tom explained. 

Heating With Gas 

A 93-percent efficient Carrier 
Weatherman SX furnace rated at 60,000 
Btu supplies the space heat. The compact 
furnace requires just a few square feet of 
floor space in the basement. A wood 

stove was mstalled in the living room, but 
isn't in use yet. Tom is improving on it to 
make it truly airtight. It will eventually 
contribute to the space heat. 

Because the superinsulation sub- 
stantially cuts the amount of air coming 
into the house from the outside, the 
Parkers paid particular attention to the 
combustion air needs of their gas appli- 
ances and wood stove. Ducts bring out- 
side air directly to the furnace, water 
heater, and firebox of the wood stove. 
' We chose a State Turbo Saver gas water 
heater because it is one of the few which 

has a sealed combustion unit, " Tom said. 
"The heater flue is a pipe within a pipe. 
The inner pipe brings in outside air and 
the outside pipe exhausts the hot gasses. 
The heater is also well insulated." 
Because of the low temperature of the 
exhaust from the condensing gas furnace, 
the flue is P'VC pipe and exits through a 
wall, eliminating a penetration in the 
ceiling air-vapor barrier. 

"We're real happy with the house," 
Tom said. "It's so quiet we hardly realize 
we have neighbors. Gordon's work- 
manship is excellent." Q 


Blunting the Intrusions of Weather and Water 


Jack and Sheryl Winkle 



Designer and Builder 

Aldinger Homes 

4704 North Woodhaven Way 

Billings, MT 59106 



Multilevel Split 


Ceiling - R50 
Double Wall - R30 
Family Room Slab - R5 
Crawl Space Walls - R5 
Basement Wall - Rll 

Square Feet 

Upper - 780 
Main - 1,728 
Basement - 630 

Special Features 

83% Efficient Furnace 
Outside Combustion Air 


Natural Gas, Wood 


February 1985 

Located in the middle of flat corn- 
fields to the west of Billings, 
Jack and Sheryl Winkle's house 
stands up to strong winds, thick dust, and 
rising water on a regular basis and per- 
forms like a champ. "We simply didn't 
realize the heavy southwest winds that 
roar through here when we picked this 
spot," Jack said. "One night we thought a 
semi-truck had slammed against the side 
of the house. We raced outside and found 
it was just the wind. Another time the 
wind hfted the topper off our pickup 
truck and carried it out into the field. 
We'd planned to put a window on the 
west side," Jack added. "I'm glad we 

Add some below-zero weather to the 
frequent winds and most houses would 
leak energy dollars like a sieve. Not the 
Winkles'. Thick insulation and a continu- 
ous air-vapor barrier keep drafts out and 
heat in. It shows up in their pocketbook. 
"Our highest gas bill was $63 for the 30 
days from November 21 to December 20 
in 1985, which was an extremely cold 
period. That included water heating, 
too," Sheryl said. An 83-percent-efficient 
Carrier natural gas furnace rated at 
40,000 Btu supplies most of the heat for 
the Winkles' house. Electronic ignition 
replaces the pilot light and saves on fuel. 
Records from Montana Dakota Utilities 
show the Winkles average $26 a month 
for gas— including $ 12 average for water 

An Elko airtight fireplace supplements 
the gas heat, using about 2 cords of wood 
annually. Variable speed fans in the 

A louvered patio canopy on Jack and Sherry Winkle's house directs sunlight into the house 
in the winter and deflects it in the summer. The 3,062-square-foot house has fuel costs of less 
than t200 in gas and 2 cords of wood per year. 

plenums built into the rock surrounding 
the fireplace blow heat out into the family 
room. Outside air is pulled in through 
special channels in the chimney to pro- 
vide the combustion air for the fireplace. 
If they were to plan their heating system 
over, the Winkles would make one 
change. "I'd figure out a better way to 
circulate the heat downstairs from the 
fireplace," Jack said. "It gets too hot in 
the upper living area. If we stoke it up at 
night, it's too warm for sleeping." 

Coordinating a fireplace with a Jenn-Air 
self-venting range in a tight house took 
some getting used to. "We were warned 
that in a superinsulated house hke this, 
the fireplace would backdraft if we 

turned on the Jenn-Air without cracking a 
window," Sheryl recalled. "Well, one 
night we did. The Jenn-Air exhausted so 
much room air that it started pulling 
outside air down the fireplace chimney. 
We had smoke everywhere." 

Sun Warms People and 

During dayUght hours, a swinging patio 
door and two tall windows in the family 
room gather heat from the winter sun. A 
concrete slab beneath the carpeting soaks 
up some of the extra warmth, and 
insulated draperies keep heat from 
escaping into the cold night. "We faced 


the house just a little east of south for the 
best solar gain," Jack said. 

Jack, an amateur horticulturist, grows a 
small forest of plants in the warmth of the 
family room windows. Papayas, figs, and 
oranges are some of his produce. He's 
been so successful that he was recently 
asked by the Indoor Citrus and Rare Fruit 
Society to write a paper about his 
methods for coaxing mandarin oranges to 
fruit. Seedlings of guava, geraniums, 
mandarin oranges, pine trees, and even 
orchids are getting their start in the 
basement. The 8-inch walls and 2-inch 
rigid insulation on the inside perimeter of 
the foundation help maintain an even 
temperature of 68 degrees. Gro-lites fur- 
nish the spectrum of light needed by the 

A compact, SS-percentellicient Carrier gas 
furnace rated at 40, 000 Btu takes up little 
space in the Winkles' basement. 

Louvers Direct Sunlight 

Jack pointed out the wooden louvered 
patio canopy outside the family room. 
"That's designed so the louvers will direct 
the winter sunlight into the house or 
deflect the summer sun. " Within the 12 x 
16-foot overhead canopy, twelve 4-foot- 
square frames hold fixed louvers. By 
pushing up from below Jack can lift each 
square out, turn it 180 degrees so the 
louvers tilt in the opposite direction, and 
drop the square back into the frame. 

In the sunmier, the heavy insulation 
keeps the house cool. "We have air 
conditioning, but we don't need it," 
Sheryl said. "Last summer we used it two 
days. We let the evening breezes cool the 
house, then close it up during the day. We 
can also use the fireplace fans to pull 
outside air through channels in the chim- 
ney. The stone cools the air on its way 
into the house." 

Ventilation Keeps House 
Clean and Fresh 

A VanEE-2000 heat recovery ventilator 
brings fresh air into the house, filtering 
out a lot of dust in the process. About the 
only upkeep on the ventilator is cleaning 
the filter— often. "To give you an idea of 
the amount of dirt floating around," Jack 
said, "people come out from town to 
scoop up the topsoil that regularly blows 
into the ditches alongside the roads." 

The Winkles recognized early on, how- 
ever, that the ventilator isn't the answer 
for all bad air. "One night a skunk 
sprayed just outside the house," Sheryl 
said, wincing. "We thought, 'Ah, ha! 
We " 11 take care of that , " and turned on the 
ventilator. Well, that just brought more 
smell in faster. We had tears running 
down our faces, " she said, laughing. "We 
quickly shut off the ventilator and opened 


the windows to get a cross breeze going. ' ' 

Sheryl pointed out the dehumidistat 
control which matches the operation of 
the ventilator to the weather and condi- 
tions in the house. '"We thought we'd 
never figure this out,"' she said, "but it's 
second nature now." About the only 
complaint the Winkles have with the 
ventilator is the location of a fresh air vent 
on the staircase wall. Sometimes they can 
feel the cool air when they are sitting in 
the living room. 

Landscaping for Control 

The Winkles also have to deal with 
groundwater that comes near the surface 
as a result of irrigating cornfields on 
bentonite clay. "When the farmers are 
irrigating in the summer, the water table 
rises, and wet bentonite can put a lot of 
pressure on the foundation," Jack said. 
"So the foundation only extends 4 feet 
below original ground level, with a berm 
rising another 4 feet up the foundation. 


Drain tiles surround the basement to 
provide drainage. All the area under the 
house drains to a sump pump in the 
basement. Last year the pump hardly ran, 
so 1 think the trees we've planted may be 
taking up some of the moisture. To avoid 
watering near the house, we terraced the 
berm and set flowers in the terraces away 
from the house." 

Rapidly growing windbreaks on the 
west side of the house promise protection 
in the future. Jack knows what plants 
work in this country. "Hybrid poplar, 
buffalo berry shrub, and Siberian pea 
shrub have turned out to be the best," he 

said. "Wind dries out conifers." Around 
the comer, in a more sheltered spot, he's 
experimenting with hickory and butter- 
nut trees. 

Why did they build an energy-efficient 
house? "It was a combination of seeing 
our utility bills go up over the years, and 
being impressed with Gordon Aldinger's 
quality construction," Jack said. He 
ticked off the energy-saving features of 
their house: double 2x4 wall construc- 
tion, a 6-mil polyethylene air-vapor 
barrier on the inside, a spun-bonded 
polyolefin air barrier on the outside, an 
insulated basement and garage. "Gordon 

caulks everything, " Jack said, "all the 
staple holes in the vapor barrier, all the 
seams. He foams the sills and windows." 
Light fixtures mounted on the wall 
instead of the ceiling minimize energy- 
losing penetrations of the air-vapor 

Sheryl pointed out the bank of oak 
cabinets in the convenient U-shaped kit- 
chen. "Gordon also puts lots of extras in 
his houses," she said. "In here I have a 
pull-down cookbook shelf, an appliance 
garage, vertical racks for my baking 
sheets, pull-out shelves in the lower 
cupboards, and two lazy Susans." 

All in all, the Winkles are pleased with 
their home, although they'd change a few 
things. "I think people should be able to 
live in a place about a year, and then go 
back and build what they really want," 
Jack said with a laugh. "I'd put a faucet in 
the basement for my plants. I'd definitely 
use different siding— stucco, probably. 
The sun and wind really take their toll on 
cedar, and so do drips from the outside 
faucets. We have to oil the siding twice a 
year; more often where the drips are. But 
we figure this house will give us long- 
term savings." D 

Family room windows harvest free heat 
from the sun for the Winkles and their 
young daughter. Exotic plants flourish in 
the natural light and warmth of the south- 
facing windows. 


Construction Pays Back 

Located on the top of a ridge over- 
looking Bozeman, Ted and Clara 
Becker's elegant house unfolds 
in a series of airy rooms. Banks of 
windows offer panoramic views of the 
surrounding mountains. "We could 
have had a tighter house if we'd had 
fewer windows, " Ted said. "But we 
compromised for the view. All of our 
windows are either triple-glazed or 
double-glazed with low-E film. " 

Ceilings 1 1 feet high in the main living 
areas upstairs recall the Beckers' years in 
Latin America where Ted was a corporate 
treasurer with an oil firm. 'We like the 
spacious feeling we get from the high 
ceilings and I think the large volume gives 
us good air circulation," Clara said. "In 
fact, we seldom use the heat recovery 
ventilator— mainly to exhaust the kitchen, 
baths, and to remove cigarette smoke. I'm 
an ex-smoker and I can't stand the smell 
of it now." 

4,328 Square Feet Heated 
for Less than $400 

The insulated windows and heat 
recovery ventilator in the Becker house 
are just part of a package of energy-saving 
features (see accompanying hst) designed 
into the house by Bill Roller. "When the 
time came to build in Montana, we 
looked up Roller, who was one of the few 
builders promoting energy-efficient 
housing at the time, " Ted said. "After 
touring the Zimmer house, (see the re- 
lated article on page 47), we contracted 
with Roller. 

From the sunspace on the south side of Ted and Clara Becker's house, a glass door leads 
to a sheltered deck. On almost any sunny day, the deck collects enough warmth to make 
it comfortable for use. Below the sunspace, a greenhouse provides fresh tomatoes 

"1 figure that in five years the fuel 
savings will pay back the additional costs 
of energy-efficient construction," Ted 
Becker said. ' 'Our highest gas usage was 
13,100 cubic feet (at a cost of $44) in 
December 1985. Since then, we've used 
between 8,000 and 11,000 cubic feet a 
month during the winter. Of this, 2,500 
cubic feet is for hot water. Our total bill 
for both gas and electricity from January 
1986 to January 1987 was $1,050, of 
which $400 was for heat." 

Sunspace Adds Color and 

The house is designed and oriented for 
optimum solar gain. A cheery sunspace, 
profuse with the pinks and whites of 
begonias, borders the south side of the 
house with access from both kitchen and 
living room. More than just a habitat for 
plants, the room acts as a passive solar 
collector and provides a sunny green 
refuge on cold, wintry days. 

As the sun rises, the sunspace warms 
up. "Earlier this morning it was 28 


Ted and Clara Becker 



Designer and Builder 

Bill Roller 

Roller Construction 

501 East Peach, Suite A 

Bozeman, MT 59715 



2 Story 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R40 
Basement Wall - R22 
Slab - R5 

Square Feet 

Main - 2, 164 
Basement - 2,164 

Special Features 

Natural Daylight 
Outside Combustion Air 
Two Water Heaters 


Passive Solar, Natural Gas, Wood, 
Electric Baseboard 


Spring 1985 


degrees outside. By 10:30 a.m., it was 72 
degrees in the sunspace, " Ted said. He 
pointed to the return air vent high on 
the sunspace wall. "We can turn on the 
furnace fan and circulate heat from the 
sunspace through that vent to the rest of 
the house." 

Although the sunspace gains heat 
through the day, once the sun drops over 
the horizon, the room loses heat to the 
outside through the extensive glazing. On 
below-freezing nights, heat is required to 
keep the plants aUve. Insulated window 
coverings would slow the heat reversal. 

Natural Light Bathes 

Natural light is important to the 
Beckers, and their design included a 
variety of methods for bringing it inside. 
In the back of the sunspace, a large 
window allows light to enter the stair- 
well. A "pocket" door slips back into 
the wall to let light and warmth into the 
kitchen from the sunspace. IVlore day- 
ight comes through sHding glass doors 
between the living room and the sun- 
space, and through floor-to-ceihng 
windows on the west side of the living 
room and in the dining room. 
To avoid too much sun, Verosol 

shades with aluminum backing cover 
the windows. The shades also have an 
added advantage. "We can see through 
them," Clara pointed out. A glass door 
leads from the living room to an expan- 
sive deck. "We didn't want a deck 
railing to interfere with the view," Clara 
said. ' 'But the building code said we had 
to have a railing that a child couldn't get 
through, so we chose tempered glass 
panels. Actually they weren't much 
more expensive than wood rails because 
they don't take as much labor to install. 
We use that deck a lot on summer 
mornings. It's on the northwest side and 
out of the noon sun." 

"We should have built a lower roof on 
the west side," Ted said. "Although the 
overhang is 10 feet long, it's too high to 
shade the full length of the windows in 
the summer." 

Downstairs Retreat 

The west side of the walk-out base- 
ment has plenty of windows to bring in 
daylight. A family room provides a cozy 
retreat. Clara gestured to a Kent wood 
stove sitting on a raised granite slab in 
the corner. "On a snowy, cold, miser- 
able day, Ted will come down and start 
a fire. By the time we're ready to go 
down an hour later to watch the news 
on T.'V., it's delightfully warm. This 
floor keeps its warmth because of the 
insulation underneath," she said. Ted 
added, "The only wood we've used is 
from building scraps. At the rate we're 
going, I figure we've got two years left 
before we run out." Combustion air is 
piped directly to the wood stove from 
the outside. 

Greenhouse Offers 
Exercise, Food 

A picture window and glass door open 
the family room to the adjacent green- 

A handsome granite fireplace sweeps from 
floor to the vaulted ceiling of the Becker 
living room. Air for combustion feeds 
directly to the firebox from the outside. 
Sliding glass doors at the left of the 
fireplace open to the sunspace. 

On a wintry day, the Becker's sunspace 
offers a warm spot for watching wildlife. Elk 
often graze just on the other side of the fence 
and a red fox lives nearby. Moose, sage 
grouse, and weasels also visit periodically. 

house. In the greenhouse, a hot tub, 
exercise equipment, and wood storage 
share space with potted plants. "Because 
the hot tub is inside, any heat it loses can 
be used by the plants," Ted said. An 
exhaust duct from the heat recovery 
ventilator carries out excess moisture. 

Green indoor-outdoor carpeting brings 
a continual springtime feeling to the 
redwood-lined room. Light filters in from 
a garden window over the hot tub and 
through the corner window wall. Ted 
pointed out a Verosol shade covering the 
skylight over the plants. "The shade 
keeps the greenhouse from overheating 
and the filtered light is just right for the 
plants." He reached over to a bank of 
pots. "Imagine fresh tomatoes in 
February in Montana," he exclaimed. "I 
picked a dozen just yesterday." 

An office and guest room share a 
downstairs bath. A nearby electric hot 
water heater supplies this bathroom and 
the two directly upstairs. A second water 
heater, located in the mechanical room, 
supplies the utility room and kitchen, 
both of which are located directly above 
the heater. "By having a separate heater 
for the bathrooms, we avoid waiting for 
hot water from the main tank to displace 
cold water in 40 feet of pipe," Ted noted. 

Sizing the Furnace 

Ted pointed out the electric baseboard 
heaters in the downstairs rooms. "We've 
found those heaters aren't needed. The 
gas furnace could have heated the whole 
downstairs as well." But the Beckers had 
a big job convincing the heating con- 
tractor that one gas furnace would be 
enough, even with the baseboard heaters. 

"Manufacturers of heating equipment 
have specifications that aren't scaled for 
energy-efficient houses," Ted said. 

Their tables said we should have a 


furnace rated at more than 100,000 Btu 
per hour. 

"One contractor wanted to put in two 
60,000 Btu furnaces, one downstairs and 
one upstairs. That would have been very 
expensive. Another contractor agreed to 
put in one 100,000 Btu, 94 percent-effi- 
cient gas furnace to serve the main floor 
and two rooms downstairs, with electric 
baseboard in the other rooms. Even 

Construction Features 

• Placement for optimal solar gain 

• Exterior composed of two 2x4 walls, 
with a 3-inch space between 

• Outside wall component framed, and 
fiberglass batt insulation and 6-mil 
polyethylene air-vapor barrier 
applied before interior component 

• Inside wall component sprayed with 
1-inch urethane 

• Plumbing and wiring contained in 
interior wall component so it doesn't 
penetrate air-vapor barrier 

• Ceiling insulated with blown-in 

• Continuous air-vapor barrier in 

• Moisture barrier of 6-mil polyethy- 
lene and insulation of 1-inch 
extruded polystyrene under the base- 
ment slab 

• Air-vapor barrier of 2-inch urethane 
foam on rim joist and on all rough 

• Windows triple-glazed or double- 
glazed with low-E film 

• Insulated exterior doors 

• Foam-form-foundation 

• Avoidance of building materials that 
give off formaldehyde fumes 

when it's cold and the wind is blowing, 
the furnace is just loafing— running for 
five minutes, then off for ten minutes." 
The Beckers keep the house at 69 
degrees with a 5 degree setback at night. 

Strategy for Mechanical 

Lots of thought went into the equip- 
ment needed to run the house. An elec- 
tronic filter on the forced air furnace 
takes out most of the dust before it can 
settle in the house. "We haven't touched 
the house since we had 14 people in a 
week ago," Clara remarked, "and there is 
absolutely no dust on the furniture. ' ' The 
furnace is a sealed combustion unit. 

Of particular concern was their water 
source. "We're on our own well. We 
have a softener for domestic water with a 
bypass for hard water to use on both 
indoor and outdoor plants, " Ted said. 
' 'And, if we should have a power outage, 
although that hasn't occurred, we put in 
double pressure tanks to keep us going for 
awhile. Another lesson from past experi- 
ence is to have an outside entrance to the 
mechanical room. It makes it convenient 
for repairmen to get to the equipment." 

Heavenly Warmth 

How do they feel about the house after 
living in it for almost three years? "This is 
sheer heaven. The house is like a big 
thermos jug— it holds the heal. And the 
even warmth is much more comfortable 
than our old house, which had fluctuating 
temperatures. I don't even need a sweater 
in the wintertime," Clara said. "It's com- 
fortable both winter and summer," Ted 
added. "And double wall construction 
means wide window sills for holding 
house plants." D 

High light-colored ceilings diffuse daylight to all corners of the Becker kitchen. Rounded 
edges on the countertops of the satin-smooth oak cabinets indicate the attention to detail 
m the house. 


House Wins on Economics, Heating 

Construction costs of $43,000. heat- 
ing costs of less than $200 a year, 
and a fresh approach to a stan- 
dard design garnered a Bozeman house a 
6-page spread in a national magazine. 
Building Ideas, a publication of Better 
Homes & Gardens awarded Linda Brock 
and Russ Heliker its Energy-Efficient 
House Design Award for 1984. According 
to the second owners, Kathy and Barry 
Bristow. the house is just as economical 
and comfortable today. 

Split Entry Efficiency 

When the husband and wife team of 
Heliker and Brock combined their exper- 
tise as energy consultant and architect to 
build their ideal house, their first criterion 
was that it be compact. ' A study done in 
the 1970s showed that size is the biggest 
predictor of energy use— the larger the 
house, the larger the energy bill," Russ 
said. With that in mind, Linda began with 
a split-entry design, one of the most 
economical houses to build, and one that 
makes the most efficient use of space. 

The house seems bigger than its square 
footage would indicate. A "great room" 
combines living and dining activities into 
one large area. Half-high walls separate 
the living space from hallway and entry. 
The open space above the walls visually 
enlarges the entire area. Off the kitchen, a 
closet pantry makes the best use of space 
without the expense of cabinets. 

Economical Heat 

A centrally-located Nordic wood stove 
vsrith an outside air intake serves as the 




Bemung uj the ftnl ievei u/ iht- Btt^luw iiuum; un the ea:>l, west, and north sides, and to the 
bottom of the garden windows on the south, directs winds up and over the house and 
reduces infiltration. The deck faces west, taking advantage of sunny afternoons. 

main heat source on the upper floor. "For 
better circulation we installed the stove in 
front of an angled wall instead of locating 
it in a comer which would block radiant 
heat to the sides," Russ said. 

A natural gas standard Heil furnace 
augments the wood heat. Free sunshine 
streaming in through a bank of south- 
facing windows heats the lower level. A 
sandblasted, exposed concrete wall nm- 
ning through the center of the lower level 
absorbs heat from the sun and some 
waste heat from the water heater, dryer, 

and furnace ducts. 'During the three 
years we lived in the house," Linda said, 
"the lower level seldom dropped below 
60 degrees and never below 50 degrees 
even on cloudy, subzero days, and with- 
out backup heat." 

Energy Efficiency on a 

"We tried to use fairly conventional 
building techniques and do something 
different," Russ explained. "While that s 


Kathy and Barry Bristow 



Linda Brock, Architect 
Brock Associates 


Russ Heliker 
Brock Associates 
One West Main 
Bozeman, MX 59715 


Split Entry 


Ceiling - R38 
2x4 Wall - R19 
Basement Wall - R19 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,064 
Basement • 1,064 

Special Features 

Economical Construction 
Thermal Storage 


Passive Solar, Wood, Gas 







— ] 





utrlity room "-^ 







easy to do when you have plenty of 
money, doing it on a budget is another 

Their money-saving efforts started with 
the walls. To add insulation value to the 
walls without adding substantially to the 
cost, they sheathed the outside of the 
conventional walls (2x4 stud walls with 
3 1/2 inches of fiberglass batt insulation) 
with 1-inch foil-faced polyisocyanurate 
foam board. This raised the insulation 
value from Rll to R19. Duct tape seals 
the foam board seams. A 4- mil polyethy- 
lene air-vapor barrier overlapped at least 

one full framing space stops air and 
moisture movement into the ceiUng and 
walls. To save labor, the polyethylene 
wasn't caulked. The ceiling is filled with 
blown-in cellulose to R38. Russ and Linda 
now feel a caulked 6-mil polyethylene 
air-vapor barrier, an R26 wall, and an R50 
ceiling will save enough energy to be cost 
effective for a house heated with natural 
gas. They said a house with more expen- 
sive electric heat would warrant even 
more insulation. 

One-inch extruded polystyrene foam 
board was placed between the exterior 

A centrally located wood stove augments passive solar heat. Half-walls open the living area 
to entry, and hallway. 


concrete walls and the backfill. On the 
interior the concrete walls were furred 
with 2x4 studs and insulated with 
fiberglass batts. "Although we now 
recommend insulating the basement floor 
slab, the one in this house is not," Russ 

Judicious placement of windows en- 
hances solar heating. Approximately 85 
percent of the glazing is on the south, 10 
percent on the west, and 5 percent on the 
north. The windows are actually single 
pane with a "storm" window mounted 
inside which Linda and Russ don't 
recommend. "In high humidity, inside 
storms allow water vapor around the 
seam," Russ said. "Today we would use 
double glazing with a low-E film, or else 
triple glazing. Those options were very 

expensive at the time we built this 

Overhang Tips 

Russ had some tips for overhang design 
so the overhang doesn't shade the sun too 
early in the spring or too late in the fall. 
"Lay out the window and roof truss to 
scale, then draw in the sun angles using 
an architect's scale. But to be sure, wait to 
cut off the truss tails until the windows 
are installed. If you install different size 
windows than you'd originally planned, 
the change can really mess up your 
shading. The same problem results from a 
last minute change in roof pitch. 

"To shade the lower level windows, 

awnings could be installed. Mobile 
awnings, although expensive, can be 
retracted in the winter. Alternatively, 
awnings can be mounted on a metal 
frame bolted between the first and second 

Grouping the lower level windows 
together with shared casings makes it 
possible to install large insulated shades 
so that few shade edges are exposed. 

Kathy and Barry Bristow bought the 
house from Russ and Linda in 1984. 
They, too, are finding it economical to 
heat. "The past heating season we used 2 
1/2 cords of wood, " Kathy remarked. 
"We don't use the gas furnace; the wood 
stove and solar heat keep the house very 
comfortable." D 

Rays of the winter sun strike the floor and 
the center wall of the lower level solarium. 
The concrete absorbs the heat then slowly 
releases it as the inside temperature drops. 


Windows Take Edge Off Winter 


Greg and Janice Hamley 



Designer and Builder 

Jonathan C. Jennings 
Mountain Home Builders 
185 Little Bear Road West 
Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730 


1 1/2 Story plus Basement 


Ceiling - R60 

2x8 Wall • R30 

Floor over Crawl Space ■ R30 

Basement Wall • R30 

Slab Perimeter- R22 

Square Feet 

Upper ■ 530 
Main ■ 1,250 
Basement - 640 

Special Features 

RCDP Construction 
Advanced Framing 
Trombe Wall 


Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard 


September 1986 

In the evenings, Janice Hamley makes 
dinner in the cozy kitchen of her new 
house. Over the course of a year, she 
watches the sun as it moves along its 
regular schedule, its warm rays faUing 
across the kitchen walls. After years of 
cold living in drafty trailers and houses, 
Janice appreciates the friendly sunlight. 
"The light is really important to me," 
Janice said, "especially with our long 
winters. But cold windows aren't very 

Janice knows about cold windows from 
experience. The decision to build an 
energy-efficient house evolved over the 3 
years Janice and Greg lived in a chilly and 
breezy trailer and before and after that 
when they rented almost equally uncom- 
fortable houses. When it was time to 
build, they contacted Jonathan Jennings. 
"Jonathan has been a personal friend for 
many years," Janice explained. "We 
knew of his interest in building energy- 
saving homes, and the type of work he 
did. It was right up our alley." 

RCDP Construction 

Jonathan planned a strategy for the 
home— a tough skin to face the elements, 
and a strategy to help pay for the extra 
energy features. He did that by making 
the house's construction acceptable to the 
Residential Construction Demonstration 
Project, a BonnevUle Power incentive 
project to fund energy-saving innovations 
and technologies in electrically heated 

To meet the program's requirement for 
high-R walls, the house is built with 2x8 

Plenty of windows fend off gloomy winter blues in this house south of Bozeman. Built to 
Residential Construction Demonstration Project specifications, the house incorporates a 
number of energy-saving features. 

stud walls on 24-inch centers. The wall 
cavities are filled with fiberglass batts, 
and 1-inch polyisocyanurate foam boards 
were applied to the exterior. A continu- 
ous 6-mil polyethylene air-vapor barrier 
was placed under the drywall, its over- 
lapping seams and penetrations sealed 
with acoustical sealant. 

Advanced framing reduced the amount 
of non.structural wood in the house and 
decreased the potential for conductive 
heat loss through studs to the outside. 

The concrete foundation is water- 
proofed and clad on the exterior with 
2-inch extruded polystyrene. Basement 
walls are furred out with 2x4 walls and 

insulated with fiberglass batts. A 2-foot- 
wide border of 3-inch polyisocyanurate 
foam board insulation lies between the 
basement slab and an 8-inch gravel base. 
A 6-mil air-vapor barrier was applied over 
the polystyrene. In the crawl space, a 
6-mil moisture barrier covers the ground, 
and 9-inch fiberglass batts fit between 
floor joists. 

Sheathed in attractive and durable red- 
wood bevel siding, the house turns its 
fashionable backside to the street on the 
north, and faces south to a view of the 
Hyalite foothills. Placement of the garage 
shelters the entry and home from winds 
ripping out of the northwest and buffers 


the Hamleys from street noise. The 
garage also serves as a tempered shelter 
and entry for the Hamleys large dog. An 
airlock vestibule brings guests in from the 
cold without sacrificing heat to the 

Special Wall Stores Heat 

Other components contribute to the 
energy efficiency and comfort of the 
Hamley home. A sunspace collects heat 
and light. Concrete stores the heat. One 
side of the living room is an 8-inch-thick 

Trombe wall, textured and painted white 
just like the other walls. The Trombe wall 
rises 2 1 feet from foundation to the top of 
the second story. 

"People expect a Trombe wall to be 
warm," the builder said. "In actuality, 
the temperature runs between 60 and 90 
degrees which, considering the average 
temperature of the human hand, feels 
cool to the touch. But it's certainly 
warmer than the outdoors in winter and 
releases warmth as the house cools down 
in the evening." 

A sunspace on the south side of the house is one of Greg and Janice Hamleys favorite spots 
for reading, having morning coffee, or playing with their young son. Transom windows 
above the French doors in the Trombe wall help regulate the admission of heat to the living 


A window relieves the monolithic 
solidity of the Trombe wall and affords a 
view from the living room to Hyalite 
Creek and the trees bordering the creek at 
the edge of the property. Glazed ceramic 
tile covers the concrete floor of the 
sunspace, its copper color adding visual 

By opening the sunspace's French 
doors and transom windows, the Ham- 
leys control the heat flow from the 
sunspace into the living area. "It really 
works," Greg said. "If the sun is shining 
and everything is opened up, we don't 
need the electric heat." 

All windows are Pella double glazed 
with low-E film. Although the Hamleys 
haven't installed insulated window cover- 

ings yet, they said the coverings would 
help hold the heat. The overhang, care- 
fully sized for the windows, blocks the 
hot rays of the summer sun. 

Circulating the Air 

A VanEE-2000 heat recovery ventilator 
continuously wafts warmed fresh air into 
the house and expels the stale. A small 
electric heater in the ductwork ensures 
that the air is warm enough to avoid 
unwanted cool drafts. 

Greg pointed out the ceihng fan which 
also stirs the air. "I can really feel the 
difference when I turn it on," he said. "It 
draws the heat down in the winter and 
moves it out in the summer." 

Tracking Kilowatts 

For the 12-month period beginning 
November 1986 Hamley's total kilowatt- 
hour |kWh) usage was 16.169 or $790 at 
an average rate of $0,049 per kWh. In 
February 1987 meters were installed to 
separately track electricity usage for 
space heating, water heating, and other 
uses. From February 10 to April 29, the 
Hamleys averaged 103 kWh per week for 
space heat and 145 kWh per week for 
water heating. 

Janice said they are very pleased with 
the performance of the house. "I'm not 
aware of the air temperature in this 
house, which means it must be comfort- 
able," she added. "We also are 

comfortable at lower temperatures 
because we have no drafts." 

Building Energy Efficiently 

Janice said people ask her if it's more 
difficult to build an energy-efficient 
home. "Absolutely not," she exclaimed. 
"Of course, having someone build any 
home for you deflects a lot of the anguish 
you'd have building it yourself. About the 
only things we had to deal with were the 
same things we'd have to deal with in any 
house— picking colors, floor coverings, 
and so forth." 

To build a home of this size and style, 
Jonathan Jeimings estimates the cost at 
$50 a square foot, not including lot, septic 
system, weU, or utility hookups. P 

Diffuse north light shines through 
clerestory windows above the loft (top left 
ofphotoj, while warm southern rays pour 
in through the sunspace. 

7\vo large windows over the kitchen sink bring in the warm winter sun. The windows swivel 
from the center so both sides can be cleaned from inside the house. 


Old World Charm, New Techniques 

Outlined against the sharp, 
snowy peaks of the Bridger 
and Gallatin mountains, 
VVally and Mary Hansen's house 
might be sitting on a hillside in 
Switzerland. Exposed roof trusses on the 
4-foot gable roof overhang, a long sloping 
roof, and suspended decks bestow a styMe 
reminiscent of alpine chalets. 

Wally designed the house to fit into the 
natural beauty of the site. The house's 
low profile hugs the ground. A bermed 
patio area around the southwest corner 
shelters the front entry. Broad eaves built 
into the expansive roof are sized to allow 
maximum winter sun penetration while 
providing shade from the summer sun. At 
the back a sunken garden patio offers a 
retreat where a recirculating waterfall 
splashes into a small pool in the summer. 

Living room, dining area, and kitchen 
flow into one another, sharing space and 
light. Vaulted ceilings, an open loft, and 
white walls emphasize the feeling of 
spaciousness. From the west gable, day- 
light streams into the house through two 
tiers of glass crowned by a Palladian 
half-round window. 

The deep dining room window sills 
nurture flats of seedlings in the spring and 
geraniums and begonias later in the sea- 
son. Behind the kitchen sink and range, 
teal blue accent tile borders the oak 
backsplash beneath the European-style 
kitchen cabinets. 

The sequestered master bedroom and 
bath ensures privacy and a view of the 
stars. Above the bed and over the whirl- 
pool bath, Velux roof windows embedded 
in the south-sloping roof bring the 

Exposed trusses give Wally and Mary Hansen's house a look reminiscent of alpine 
chalets. The truss style allows room for plenty of insulation in the ceiling. A detached 
two-car garage and bermed patio shelter the entryway from cold winds. 

Montana sky inside. Adjacent to the 
bedroom, a roomy sitting area in the loft 
overlooks the hving room. 

Economy of Labor and 

The Hansen house design is more than 
decorative; it emphasizes energy- 
efficiency with a minimum of labor and 
materials. As one of the pioneering archi- 
tects at the National Center for Appropri- 
ate Technology in Butte in the early 
1970s, Wally researched building tech- 
niques that would save people the most 
energy while still affording an enjoyable 
place to Uve. Now, with help from the 
Residential Standards Demonstration 
Program, he was putting that knowledge 
to work for his family. 

The lower level opens onto a sunken 
garden patio. Windows on the south and 
east sides open the basement to light and 
heat from the sun. 


Wally and Mary Hansen 




C. W, Hansen, Architect 
PC. Box 41 
40 East Main, No. 6 
Bozeman, MT 59715 



Harry Annear Construction 

P.O Box 394 

Bozeman, MT 59715 


and Owner-Architect 


1 1/2 Story with Walk-Out 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R38 
Basemen! Wall - R19 
Slab ■ RIO 

Square Feel 

Upper - 669 
Main - 1,232 
Basement - 1,232 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 
Exposed Roof Trusses 
Air Quality Monitoring 
Economy of Construction 


Electric Baseboard 


February 1985 




Wally described the construction that 
met the RSDP guidelines. "The trusses 
afford plenty of room for a loft without 
the need for second floor sidewalls," 
Wally said. "And by using this truss 
system, we didn't have to resort to on-site 
framing to get sufficient insulation in the 
vaulted ceiling." 

The 20-inch depth of the roof trusses 
accommodates 18 inches of blown fiber- 
glass. Baffles maintain a 2-inch ventila- 
tion path from soffits to the attic. "The 
continuous ridge vent is one of the best 
ways to vent an attic and is a nice way to 
finish off the ridge," Wally said. 

Based on his extensive research, Wally 
built 11 -inch walls using two 2x4 stud 
walls, each insulated with 5 1/2-inch 
fiberglass batts. ' This type of wall is most 
cost effective, especially for people plan- 
ning to do their own insulating," he said. 
"Installing fiberglass batts properly 
requires some knowledge, but doesn't 
require a separate subcontractor with all 

kinds of specialized equipment." The 
air-vapor barrier was placed directly 
under the drywall. Electrical outlets 
were set in special polyethylene boxes 
to which the air-vapor barrier was 
sealed. To ensure the integrity of the 
air-vapor barrier between floor levels, 
1-inch polyisocyanurate rigid board was 
installed and carefully caulked with 
Tremco acoustical sealant. 

The basement slab was insulated with 2 
inches of extruded polystyrene foam 
board over a 6-mil polyethylene moisture 
barrier. The basement was furred out 
with 2x6 studs and the cavities packed 
with R19 fiberglass batts. 

House Openings 

Placement of triple-glazed clad case- 
ment windows maximizes solar gain in 
winter and cross-ventilation cooling in 
summer. "Although our view of the 
Bridger Range to the north was 

Two gable windows and a door leading from the bedroom to a deck admit early morning 
east light. Winter sunlight enters the three south-facing roof windows. 


The open floor plan promotes air circulation and a feeling of spaciousness. 

To gam access to a large deck overlooking the garden at the rear of the house, a gallery 
replete with plants and paintings leads from the living area past two bedrooms, a bath, 
and utility area. 

important, we kept that glazing to a 
minimum, " Wally said. The north win- 
dows consist of one in the living room, 
one in a bedroom, and a roof window 
over the stairwell. Metal cladding on the 
exterior window frames ensures easy 
maintenance. Insulated steel exterior 
doors are magnetically weatherstripped 
to ensure a tight seal. 

Air Quality 

To maintain air quality and a comfort- 
able humidity in the house, a VanEE- 
R2000 heat recovery ventilator brings in 
fresh air and expels the stale air when 47 
percent humidity is exceeded, or when 
switched on from the bathrooms or kit- 
chen. Both the ventilator and hot water 
heater are located behind the knee wall, 
an easily accessible, heated portion of the 
house, and do not impinge upon any 
usable floor area. This location minimizes 
duct rims and helps to maximize air flow 
from the heat exchanger. Supply outlets 
were carefully placed so occupants don't 
feel any draft from the incoming fresh air. 

To answer questions on air quality in 
tight houses, the RSDP installed monitors 
in all program homes to track radon and 
formaldehyde levels the first year. Read- 
ings of 2 picocuries per litre for radon 
were well below the acceptable level of 5. 
The difference between the first formal- 
dehyde sample and the second sample a 
few months later reflected some initial 
emission of formaldehyde fumes from the 
new construction materials. However, 
the level of 0.1 part per million met the 
standards the Department of Energy con- 
siders acceptable. 

The Kilowatt Difference 

Does the house perform? From April of 
1985 to April of 1986, Wally and Mary 
used just 6,812 kilowatt-hours |kWh| of 
electricity for space heating |2.17 kWh 

per square foot per year|. At the current 
rate of $0,053 per kWh this amounts to 
about $360 a year. To show it in perspec- 
tive, space heating for RSDP homes over- 
all averaged 2.59 kWh per square foot per 
year. Homes built to HUD standards 
average 6.58 or $1,087 in space heating 
costs per year. The extra cost of $5,420 for 
construction above HUD standards to 
meet the RSDP specifications should be 
paid back in a httle over seven years at 
today's utihty rates. 

Conserving Energy is a 

But saving energy entails more than 
just building a superinsulated house. 
"Lifestyles and individual philosophies 
remain as the most important ingredi- 
ents," Wally said. "To effectively use an 
energy -efficient house takes a new way of 
thinking. For instance, we have friends 
who live in a log cabin with wood heat. 
When it's zero degrees outside, they come 
into this house and automatically look for 
the hot spot— the radiant heat from a 
wood stove— for immediate gratification. 
That's not how an energy-efficient system 
works. These tight homes have a totally 
controlled indoor environment which in- 
cludes air quality, humidity, and heat, 
eliminating any need for a hot spot." 

An Affordable Plan 

"The straightforward design and con- 
struction techniques allow this type of 
home to be built within a moderate price 
range, " Wally said. "Evidence of this is 
the several speculation' houses built and 
sold in the Bozeman area based upon this 
design and using these construction 
methods. Site arrangements and slight 
plan adjustments have been made, but 
the comfort and satisfaction with the 
energy-conserving performance remains 
the same in all cases. " Q 


No Drafts 


George and Vera Hoadley 



Designer and Builder 

Bill Roller 

Roller Construction, Inc. 

501 East Peach Street, Suite A 

Bozeman. MT 59715 



1 Story with Basement 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R32 
Basement Wall - R22 
Slab - R5 

Square Feet 

Main • 1,676 
Basement - 1,676 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 


Electric Hot Water Baseboard 


January 1985 

On a quiet street just a short 
stroll from downtown 
Bozeman, George and 
Vera Hoadley's brick and frame house 
gives no outward indication that it's built 
any differently than its neighbors. About 
the only tip-off is windowsills wide 
enough to hold large potted plants. The 9 
1/2-inch-deep windowsills are the result 
of double wall construction. Two thick- 
nesses of fiberglass batts fit in the 
double 2x4 stud walls. A raised truss 
ceiling allows room for an 18 1/2-inch 
layer of Silvawool from one outside edge 
of the house to the other. A 6-mil 
polyethylene air-vapor barrier was 
installed on the exterior-facing side of 
the interior stud wall and between the 
gypsum board and framing in the ceil- 
ing. A fully insulated basement provides 
additional warm space. But let George 
talk about the basement. 

Foam Forms for the 

"Finished the way it is, as long as 
there's any heat in the house at all, the 
basement would never freeze, even when 
it's 40 below outside," George said. 
"Here's how Bill (Bill Roller, the builder) 
does it. He uses foam panels instead of 
wooden forms when he pours the con- 
crete for the basement walls. He pours 
the footings, then builds the wall forms 
with these foam panels. Their edges are 
tongue and groove so they fit tightly 
together. Rebar is installed in the con- 
ventional manner and big wood clamps 

Energy-elJicicnt Icaturcs keep Geurgc and 
Vera Hoadley's 3,352-square-foot-house 
draft-free and comfortable for about $50 a 

Foam panels stack to make concrete wall 
forms which are left in place for their 
insulating value- 

hold the forms straight while the 
concrete is poured." 

Bill Roller says the foam forms, made of 
2-inch thick extruded polystyrene, are big 
savers of time and material. Cumbersome 
wooden forms aren't needed and the 
foam remains in place to insulate the 
walls to R22. "We can do a basement in 
about one-fourth the time it would take to 
construct one using wooden forms and to 
sheath it with foam after the concrete has 
hardened," Bill said. 

To complete the basement, the walls 
were furred out and covered with dry- 


wall. Under the 4-mch-thick concrete 
slab, a 4-inch layer of washed rock, a 
6-mil polyethylene moisture barrier, and 
1 inch of extruded polystyrene insulation 
prevent the loss of interior heat through 
the basement floor. 

Draft-free Living 

A comfortable basement is a necessity 
for George, who spends a lot of time 
downstairs repairing small engines. For 
Vera, a draft-free living space is impor- 
tant. "Just a little bit of breeze in the 
house and I'm chilled through and 
through," she said. "I think the double 
walls keep the temperature from 
fluctuating. One of the things we use the 
ventilator for is to freshen the air when 
it gets too stuffy. That's better for me 
than opening doors or windows. I also 
use the ventilator when I burn some- 
thing cooking or fry fish, " she said. 





« - ■• 

- 1 




Insulated flexible ducts carrying fresh air 
make an S-curve on the heat recovery 
ventilator {ducts shown on the left of the 
unit). The gradual curve is part of the 
strategy to keep the ventilator vi/hisper quiet. 
Its basement location keeps duct runs short 
and straight to the rooms above, and makes 
the ventilator accessible for regular filter 

chuckling. "We don't have to worry 
about odors, " George added. 

The heat recovery ventilator automati- 
cally turns on if the humidity increases to 
more than 40 percent. "It rarely runs, 
though, " George said, "When it gets 
colder outside, I lower the humidity level 
a bit. We've never had any condensation 
on the windows." 

The air is warmed by sunlight that 
enters windows on the southwest corner 
of the house. Triple-glazed Andersen Per- 
mashield windows keep heat from escap- 
ing when night falls. Zero-maintenance 
steel siding and brick help conserve 
George's energy. "My neighbors are quite 
envious. When they paint, I can play," he 
said. "The siding is guaranteed for 40 
years. 1 told the distributor that it 
probably would outlast me, " he added 
with a grin. 

Heat by Hot Water 

The Hoadleys liked the even heat pro- 
vided by the gas-fired hot water heating 
system in their previous house, and they 
wanted a similar system in their new 
house. They opted for hot water base- 
board heat. The water is heated by 
electricity and each baseboard unit is 
individually controlled. Except for the 
bedroom and the basement, the tempera- 
tures are kept around 74 degrees. From 
March 1985 to March 1986, the Hoadleys 
used 11,844 kWh for space heating, or 
about $50 a month. 

To build a house similar to the 
Hoadleys' would cost about $95,000, not 
including land or site improvements. The 
energy extras for the double-wall con- 
struction, heat recovery ventilator, air- 
vapor barrier, and triple glazing cost 
about $5,500. 

A Comfortable House 

How did the Hoadleys learn about 
energy -efficient living? "We just wanted a 
nice, warm, comfortable place to live, " 
George said. "Our son had seen some of 
Bill Roller's work and said he wouldn't 
have a house built unless Bill did the 
work. So Bill did the work. He submitted 
our house for the Residential Construc- 
tion Demonstration Program and it was 
accepted. We didn't know too much 
about the program, but feel we've bene- 
fitted from the construction," 

""I went to a home show here in 
Bozeman," Vera said. "There was a 
fellow there exhibiting insulation, and 
when I told him about our house he said, 
If Bill Roller built you a house, you don't 
need any insulation.' He's right. This is a 
very good house, very comfortable." D 


Home Buyers Stumble Across Energy Efficiency 


Merlin and Anna Jones 



Designer and Builder 

Jim Baerg 

1900 Nelson Road 

Bozeman, MT 59715 



Split Level 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall ■ R42 
2x6 Upper Wall - R27 
Floor - R19 

Crawl Space Walls ■ R15 
Basement Stem Walls - RIO 
Basement Pony Walls - R23 
Slab Perimeter - RIO 

Square Feet 

Upper ■ 832 
Main - 648 
Basement - 832 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 
Insulated Window Shades 


Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard 


August 1984 

Checking the real estate section 
of the Sunday paper and 
then roaming through the 
advertised open houses provides enjoy- 
ment for many Montanans on lazy week- 
ends. Anna and Merlin Jones had taken 
many such tours when they stumbled 
across a special house in Mountain View 
Subdivision near the little town of Bel- 
grade. "Although we weren't particu- 
larly looking for an energy-efficient 
house," Anna said, "we simply got 
hooked on it." After living in this house 
for three years, they remain enthusiastic 
about its features. 

Proper Orientation Pulls in 

The house faces a few degrees west of 
south, to make the best use of the sun. 
"On a clear day in the winter, 1 open the 
living room shades in the morning and 
the heat just pours in," Anna said. "If I 
leave the door to the sewing room open, I 
can heat the upstairs simply from the sun 
coming in through those windows. Most 
houses in this neighborhood aren't 
designed to take advantage of the sun. It's 
really too bad." 

"One of the things I like best is that the 
house stays clean," Anna said. "I dust 
about every three or four weeks. In fact, I 
washed off the plants last summer. After 
six months they still aren't dusty." Anna 
attributes the cleanliness to the tight 
construction, the heat recovery venti- 
lator, and the lack of a wood stove. 

Superinsulation and winter sun pouring m through 89 square feet of south-facmg 
windows add up to tiny heat bills for Merlin and Anna Jones. Their home near Belgrade 
is one of 67 m Montana built to the specifications of the Residential Standards 
Demonstration Program sponsored by Bonneville Power Administration in 1984. 

Perspectives on Wood 

Merlin, who keeps the boilers working 
at Montana State University, talked about 
switching from their old house heated 
with wood to their new one heated with 
electricity. "Our other house was usually 
too hot," he said. "This is even heat and, I 
think, healthier because we're not contin- 
ually breathing wood smoke. Besides, I 
can't cut wood for what it costs me in 
electricity here, and I don't want the mess 
in this house. 

"If we were to get another wood stove, 
I'd install it in the basement. It also would 

be a stove specially made to burn wood 
pellets. I converted the wood stove in the 
last house to bum pellets." 

Less Than $200 for Electric 

Although Anna and Merlin keep their 
house at a constant 70 degrees during 
the day with an automatic setback at 
night to 60 degrees, their usage is low. 
"Our friends say, 'What you pay in a 
year for heat, we pay in a month,'" 
Anna said, with a laugh. "But, it's true." 
She laid out the heating bills for the past 


heating season. Based on a rale of just 
over 5 cents per kilowatt hour, this is 
what they paid. 


$ 0.00 

















The total heating cost for the year was 
$195.50. Merlin and Anna were able to 
identify their costs for space heating 
because the house was built under the 
Residential Standards Demonstration 
Program which requires installation of a 
submeter that tracks kilowatts used 
for space heating. 

Besides the home's even heat and 
cteanlmess, Merlin said they also enjoy its 
quiet. "We can't even hear the train 
across the way," he said. Aruia added that 



The dining area extends a few feet out on the 
north of the house, opening the room to a 
view of the Bridger Range and plenty of 
natural tight. An insulated door offers con- 
venient access from the dining area to a large 
deck and yard. Seated at the table is builder 
Jim Baerg, who discusses aspects of the 
house with Merlin and Anna Jones. 


Suspended fluurescent /i^'/i/i dliiminate the 
kitchen. This efficient light source sheds 
the maximum amount of light for watts 
used, and the suspended fixtures eliminate 
the need for penetrations of the ceiling 
air-vapor barrier. 

when their 5 1/2 year old granddaughter 
came to visit, she said, "Grandma, this 
house is weird, you can't hear anything." 

RSDP Construction 

The home gains its comfort from the 
thick insulation and tight construction the 
builder used when he built the house to 
the specifications of the Residential Stan- 
dards Demonstration Program. Raised 
heel energy trusses left room in the attic 

for R60 fiberglass insulation to the edge of 
the outside walls. Double thickness walls 
on the north, east, and v/est contain two 
R19 fiberglass batts. The 2x6 stud wall 
on the south contains one R19 batt. The 
walls are sheathed on the exterior with 
1-inch polyisocyanurate foam board. A 
6-mil continuous air-vapor barrier was 
installed on all exterior walls and the 
ceiling before the drywall was hung. 

The main living area is built over a 
crawl space with R19 batts in the floor 
above the crawl space. Three-inch 
extruded polystyrene insulates the inside 
of the three exterior crawl space walls. A 
6-mil polystyrene moisture barrier covers 
the ground in the crawl space and runs up 
over the insulated crawl space walls to 
the rim joists. 

On the interior of the common wall 
between the crawl space and the base- 
ment, 2x6 framing contains R19 
fiberglass batts. Two-inch extruded 
polystyrene sheathes the exterior of the 
other three basement stem walls. The 2 
X 6 framed portions of the basement 
walls are insulated with R19 fiberglass 
batts and sheathed on the exterior with 
3/4-inch polyisocyanurate foam board. 
A continuous 6-mil air-vapor barrier 
was installed under the drywall in all 
walls. A 2-foot-wide border of 3-inch 
extruded polystyrene insulates the outer 
area of the slab. A moisture barrier of 
6-mil polyethylene lies over a 4-inch 
gravel base. 

According to DNRC records, building 
the house to meet RSDP specifications 
cost about $2.90 a square foot more than 
houses built to HUD standards. This 
included additional framing and insula 
tion, an air-vapor barrier, a heat recc- y 
ventilator, and extra glazing. Jin bae- 
the builder, estimated the cost to ouild a 
similar house would be $45 to $50 per 
square foot. 

Added Attractions 

Although energy savings played a big 
factor in Merhn and Anna's decision to 
buy the house, other custom features 
attracted them. The mellow grain of oak 
in the floor of the entry, window casings, 
moldings, and balusters accents the 
creamy beige carpeting of the living room 
and hall. European cabinets and ivory 
and beige striped wallpaper contribute a 

fresh, sleek look to the kitchen. Location 
of the coffee maker, mixer, toaster, and 
other appUances in the pantry leaves 
kitchen countertops uncluttered and 
ready for food preparation. 

Anna surveyed the living area. 
"About the only major change I can 
think of would be to add clean-up 
facilities in the garage to keep mud and 
dirt out of the house. All in all, the home 
suits us just fine." D 

Double-^ 'azed Pozzi vjinduwi, and insulated Window Quilts minimize heat loss to the 
outside ouring sunless hours. Air circulates to the entry and kitchen over the short walls 
separating them from the living room. 


Builder Sells Home Owner on Energy Efficiency 

In February of 1982, Kenny and 
Karen Kempt happened upon 
Bill Roller demonstrating 
energ>'-efficient house construction at the 
Bozeman Winter Fair. "I'd already picked 
a builder for my house, " Kenny said, 
"but Bill kept touting energy-efficiency. 
He finally convinced me, and I was a 
hard one to convince. We've never been 

"Bill is a perfectionist," Kenny said. 
"He caulked every crack, every staple in 
the vapor barrier. He sprayed urethane 
foam around the windows. He put a 
double bead of caulking between floor 
plates and gasketing under sole plates and 
sill plates. His carpenters literally framed 
the house with a caulking gun handy in 
their hip pockets." 

Brick and Tile Absorb Sun's 

Located northwest of Bozeman, the 
Kempt's stylish house looks out on the 
driving range of the Riverside Golf 
Course. Mountains can be seen from 
every window: the Bridgers, Spanish 
Peaks, Tobacco Roots, and Hyalites. 

But the setting provides more than a 
view. The home faces a little west of 
south so that rooms on the south side of 
the house soak up heat from the low rays 
of the winter sun. On the north wall of 
the family room, floor-to-ceiling brick 
stores the heat from the sunlight stream- 
ing through the two-story windows across 
the room. In summer, the overhang 
blocks most of the sun and the window 
coverings do the rest. "The house stays 
comfortable year-round," Kenny said. 

Steeply-pitched rooflines at each end of Karen and Kenny Kempt's house lend more than 
style. On the west, the extra-high ceilings allow more south window space for solar 
heating in the vaulted family room. On the east, the elevated roof and basement allows 
for two levels of private space. 

On the north side of the house, windows are etthc) rr, , . ,, ,/ . / protected hvvcrtical ho.'i 
beams to keep the wind from blowing across the triple-glazed wind" 
heat out. A sheltered porch and airlock vestibule keep outside chill ,;■ _ ■ '' 

exterior doors open. 

Kenny and Karen Kempt 


Designer and Builder 

Bill Roller 

Roller Construction, Inc. 

501 East Peach, Suite A 

Bozeman, MT 59715 



1 1/2 Story 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Walls - R44 
Slab - R5 

Square Feet 

Upper - 1,024 
Main - 1,824 
Basement - 224 

Special Features 

Thermal Storage 

Wall Temperature Sensors 


Electric Radiant Ceiling Panels 


June 1983 


The brick wall also encloses a wood- 
stove. Kenny said they could probably do 
without it. "We've only burned about 
half a cord of wood in the three years 
we've been here," he said. "I just don't 
like the mess or the smell." 

In the centrally-located dining room, 
bronze-colored quarry tile covers the con- 
crete slab. During the day, the tile and 
concrete collect and store the sun's heat, 
and at night release that heat to the 
surrounding rooms. Quadruple window 
panes with low-E film and insulated 
draperies retain the heat after the sun 
drops from view. 

The tile floor continues through the 
kitchen where tall windows and two 
skylights allow sunlight into the corner 
breakfast area. Kenny motioned to a 
beveled leaded-glass insert adjacent to the 
atrium patio door. "That glass came from 
my mother's house. Bill sandwiched the 
single pane between two pieces of regular 
3/16-inch glass, making it a tri-pane." 

Hidden Details Contribute 
to Comfort 

Superinsulation and negligible air infil- 
tration also contribute to the home's 
energy savings. The double walls are 10 
inches thick and packed with two layers 
of fiberglass batts. The inner portion of 
the wall is lined with 2 inches of urethane 
foam and a 6-mil air-vapor barrier. The 
wall is sheathed with polyisocyanurate 
foam board. The ceilings are filled with 
blown-in cellulose. To slow heat loss to 
the ground, the 4-inch foundation slab 
rests on 1-inch extruded polystyrene 
foam board. Six-mil polyethylene 
provides a moisture barrier under the 
insulation. Extruded polystyrene foam 
board covers foundation walls from foot- 
ings to sill plate. 

Kenny led the way up a half-flight of 
stairs to the luxurious master bedroom 


and bath. He pulled open the door to the 
attic storage. "This is a specially built 
door. It's even insulated." 

A combined utility, office, and exercise 
room occupy the lowest level four steps 
down from the main living area. Garden 
windows introduce plenty of natural light 
into the cheery utility area. Kenny 
pointed out the laundry chute and central 
vacuum system. "Talk about energy 
saving," he said, "those two items 
certainly do their part for people." 

Air and Moisture Control 
Made Easier 

To learn more about the performance 
of double wall construction in this part of 
Montana, the builder. Bill Roller, in- 
stalled six temperature sensors at 1-inch 
intervals from interior to exterior in the 
north wall. "The information helped us 
understand how heat is transferred in a 
wall," Roller said. "Our data showed that 
so long as the outer wall was two-thirds or 
more thicker than the inner wall of the 
double wall, we could put the continuous 
air-vapor barrier behind the insulation of 
the inside wall without condensation 
forming on the air-vapor barrier. This 
meant we could put all wiring and 
plumbing in the interior wall and avoid 
penetrating the air-vapor barrier. This 
reduces the amount of caulking needed to 
seal the air-vapor barrier and makes 
construction more energy efficient and 
more affordable." 

Winter sunshine creeps across the Kempt's 
family room. The heat from the sun will be 
absorbed by the brick and released at night 
as the house cools. At the left of the stove a 
door leads to a wood storage area which 
can be filled from the outside. 

The Kempts don't have a central heat 
recovery ventilation system. Instead, they 
opted for a wall-mounted Mitsubishi heat • 
exchanger to control conditions in the 
master bedroom-bath area. 'We thought 
that if humidity was a problem, we'd 
install a central ventilation system later," 
Kenny said. The first year the moisture 
was a bit excessive, but its decreased 
now to where the temperature has to 
drop below zero for minor condensation 
to form at the bottom of the windows ' 

Even Heat From Radiant 
Ceiling Panels 

In the ceiling, 8-foot electric heating 
panels pick up the heating job when the 
sun shuts off. "We chose electric heat 
because it's clean and quiet and even, " 
Kenny said. "By installing ceiling panels 

we don't have to worry about draperies 
hanging over baseboard heaters. And we 
have a panel and thermostat for each 
room, so we only heat the rooms we 

"Our first winter in this house, our 
highest monthly electric bill was $165, 
which seemed a bit high. Then we 
checked with our neighbors who have a 
conventional house the same size and 
found theirs was $325, so we felt 
pretty good. Since then, the bill has gone 
as high as $2 19 a month, but the rates have 
gone up, too." 

Is this house different from their 
previous house? "Absolutely," Kenny 
said. "It's much quieter, and the heat is so 
even. In the evening it's a smooth transi- 
tion from solar to electric, no noisy 
blowers, no pipes popping." D 


^ " 



...A ^^^^H 







|. .:.!f1 

To keep penetranons of the vapor barrier to a minimum, the Kempts installed an 
Emerson electrostatic air purifier above the island cooktop that removes odors and 
grease without being vented to the outside. The purifier's filter can be cleaned in the 

Large windows brmg winter sunlight into the duung room. A tiled concrete floor stores 
the sun's heat. 


Warm Floors and Fresh Air Delight Home Owner 


Vivian Linden 






Dave Wesen 

Boone & Crockett Construction 

P O- Box 3744 

Bozeman, IVIT 59715 



2 Story, Daylight Basement 


Ceiling • R50 
2x6 Wall • R40 
Basement Wall • R21 
Slab - RIO 

Square Feet 

Main - 948 
Basement - 896 

Special Features 

RCDP Construction 


Electric Radiant Ceiling Panels 
and Baseboard 


September 1986 

Last year Vivian Linden burned 
wood for heat and still paid 
more for electricity than she 
did this year for a totally electric house 
of twice the size. "I look forward to 
getting my utility bills now," she said. 
"It costs me from $60 to $70 for all my 
heat during the winter. For the month of 
March I used just 324 kilowatt-hours." 
At the rate of $0,052 a kilowatt-hour, 
that means a $16.85 heat bill for March. 
Vivian said the energy-efficient water 
heater costs approximately $9.00 a 
month in electricity. 

On acreage west of Bozeman, Vivian 
resides with Rover, her very indepen- 
dent black cat. For nine months of the 
year she teaches sixth grade math and 
science; for the other three she wrangles 
horses and cattle on a ranch near Quake 
Lake. Having worked with energy edu- 
cation for a long time (she serves on the 
state energy education committee), 
Vivian knew what kind of house she 
wanted and the type of space she 
needed, so she drew up her own house 

Solar Heat Aids Green 

In the living room, the rounded south 
wall catches the eye with its bank of 
four large windows. All windows are 
Andersen double glazed with low-E 
film. Dave Wesen (the builder) said they 
are specially built for altitudes over 4,500 
feet, which means reduced gas pressure 
inside the glass to make a clearer pane 

Energy-saving construction includes prefinished siding and vinyl clad windows in Vivian 
Linden 's house west of Bozeman. The only exterior painting required is on the corner 
trim and fascia board. 

On the upper level of the Linden house, electric radiant panels, concealed in the ceiling 
drywall, augment solar heat pouring in through the large band of south-facing windows. 


and prevent pressure breakage, and have 
a 20-year guarantee. 

In the spring, Ught from these win- 
dows nurture potting plant seedHngs. 
Fifty or more seedling pots sit on tables 
in front of the windows, tiny green 
plants poking their heads above the soil. 
The windows also provide the home's 
solar heat gain. 'I haven't had the heat 
on since the first of April, ' Vivian said. 
■ 'If the sun shines, I get heat, even when 
the outside temperature is zero or less. 
On January 25th it was 40 degrees and 
sunny. I didn't turn the heat on and it 
was still 68 degrees in here. " Even with 
all the plants, humidity isn't a problem. 

For someone who enjoys gardening, a 
greenhouse is almost a necessity in 

Staggered Stud Wall 



southwestern Montana. Vivian's green- 
house is next to the west end of the 
walk-out basement's south wall. The 
greenhouse is the one thing she'd do 
differently. Td include it as part of the 
house's structure so I'd have direct 
access to the doors in winter. " On the 
north side of the basement, a root cellar 
stores produce. 

Insulation Also Acts As Air- 
Vapor Barrier 

Dave Wesen, who built the house 
under the Residential Construction 
Demonstration Project (RCDP), attri- 
butes the low cost of insulating the 
house to his own brand of single wall 
construction, which he says is as effec- 
tive as double-wall construction. "It cost 
$4,200 to insulate the whole house, 
including the slab, the basement walls, 
the upstairs walls, and the entire ceiling. 
I don't think any double-walled house 
can be built as tight as this one for the 
money. And I've built more than half a 
dozen homes with double-wall construc- 
tion and air-vapor barriers." 

Dave's technique is to use 6-inch-wide 
top and bottom plates. He staggers 2x4 
studs on 24-inch centers, placing one 
stud on the outside wall, the next stud 
on the inside, and so forth (see diagram). 
Staggering the studs prevents thermal 
bridging. He foams layers of urethane 
into the wall cavity to a 5 1/2-inch 
thickness, resulting in an R-value of 40. 
The urethane serves both as an air- 
vapor barrier and insulation. In the 
ceiling 1 1/2-inch-thick urethane is cov- 
ered by blown-in fiberglass batts (Insul- 
safe-III|. The urethane in the ceiUng also 
serves as the ceiling air-vapor barrier. 

Beneath the basement slab, 2-inch 
extruded polystyrene over a 6-mil poly- 
ethylene moisture barrier rests on a 


6-inch layer of packed gravel. On the 
interior of the concrete basement walls, 
a 2 X 4 stud wall contains foamed-in- 
place urethane. All the walls of the 
house are finished with drywall. 

"When DNRC conducted the blower 
door test," Dave said, "the only leaky 
spot that showed up was a hole where a 
piece of plywood flooring was poorly 
glued. I drilled and caulked it, which 
stopped the leak. " 

Vivian appreciates the VanEE-2000 
heat recovery ventilator. "I'm a nut for 
fresh air," she said. "With the venti- 
lator, I don't have to open the windows 
and let in the dust and cold air. " 


Although it costs a bit more to build 
energy efficiency into a house, Vivian 
says it's well worth it. "Moving here 
from my mobile home makes me feel 
like I've gone to heaven," she said. "I 
can run barefoot upstairs or down and 
the floors are toasty warm. There isn't 
one cold spot in the entire house." 

To build a similar house, excluding 
the lot and utility improvements, would 
cost approximately $31 per square foot, 
Dave estimates. "As time goes on and 
utility rates rise, we're going to find that 
these efficient houses will be in 
demand." D 


RSDP Helps Owner- Architect Design and Build 
for Montana Mountains 


Shaila and Henry Sorenson 




Henry Sorenson 


Mike Christophersen 
P.O. Box 991 
Belgrade, MT 59714 


2 Story 


Ceiling - R38 
Double Wall - R35 
Basement Wall - R18 
Slab - R5 

Square Feet 

Upper - 686 
Lower - 896 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 
Thermal Storage 


Passive Solar, 


October 1984 

Electric Baseboard, 

Rumors of monthly $350 heating 
bills in the area where they 
planned to build spurred 
Shaila and Henry Sorenson to examine 
energy-efficient housing. "We had just 
moved from Florida, where houses are 
designed to keep the sun out. Here we 
had to design to capture the sun," Shaila 

Through his teaching position in the 
School of Architecture at Montana State 
University, Henry heard about the Resi- 
dential Standards Demonstration Pro- 
gram (RSDP). He designed the house to 
meet RSDP specifications and the house 
was built to comply with the require- 
ments of the program. Shaila and Henry 
are now spending less money to stay 
warm than they did to stay cool. 

Construction Combines 

Shaila, who also is an architect, talked 
about the construction. "Before we built, 
we checked different techniques for 
making the house energy efficient, 
including active and passive solar, earth 
sheltering, and superinsulation. We com- 
bined several of those methods." 

The home's lower level is embedded 4 
feet in the ground. The 4-inch concrete 
slab was poured over a 6-mil moisture 
barrier covering 1-inch extruded polysty- 
rene, underlain by a 4-inch gravel base. 
The concrete walls of the basement are 
insulated with 1-inch extruded polysty- 
rene on the outside and 2x4 stud walls 
with R13 fiberglass batts on the inside. 

Two-story windows in Sliaila and Henry Sorenson's house capture a view and heat from 
the winter sun. Roof overhangs shade the windows in summer. 

Double walls frame the upper level. 
Each of the two 2x4 walls in the double 
wall contains R13 batts. One inch of 
expanded polystyrene between the walls 
adds insulating value and acts as a ther- 
mal barrier between the studs. Polyiso- 
cyanurate sheathing on the exterior 
brings the total wall R-value to 35. Six-mil 
polyethylene beneath the drywall forms 
an air-vapor barrier. Tyvek beneath the 

siding and around the rim joists further 
tightens the house against air infiltration. 
High energy roof trusses allow room for 
12 inches of blown-in fiberglass in the 
attic. The ceiling has a 6-mil polyethylene 
air-vapor barrier. To keep the insulation 
bone dry, continuous soffit vents and four 
ridge vents carry moisture up and out of 
the attic. 


To minimize heat loss through win- 
dows, the Sorensons installed only 2 
windows on the north side and used triple 
glazing. Overhangs on the south shade 
the windows from direct summer sun- 
light, helping to cool the house. 

An E-Z-Vent 210 heat recovery ventil- 
ator keeps the air fresh. "We do get some 
condensation in the downstairs bedroom 
next to the bath, but we don't run the 
ventilator continuously because I don't 
like the fan noise, " Shaila said. 

Space Heat Less Than $200 
A Year 

The energy-efficient design works. 
According to RSDP records, the Soren- 
sons used less than 3,000 kilowatt hours 
from April 1985 to April 1986 for space 
heating. At a rate of $0,042 per kWh, that 
amounts to $126 for a year's worth of 
heating. Although a wood stove supple- 
ments the heat with 1/2 cord of wood a 
year, the biggest auxiliary heat source is 
the sun. 

^ ^W^ 

Heat from the greenhouse pours into the dining area through sliding doors. 

The extended roofline shelters both front and back entries. 


To collect free heat on Bozeman's many 
clear days, Henry faced the house for 
optimum solar gain and designed thermal 
storage into the structure. Winter sun 
streams through double-decker windows 
in the two-story-high living room. A 
handsome floor of exposed aggregate 
concrete absorbs the extra heat, releasing 
it at night when the house cools. 

On the second level, a small green- 
house off the dining room acts as a solar 
collector. "When our son was an infant, 
he was very sensitive to changes in 
temperature," Shailasaid. "I'd put him 
in the greenhouse to sleep where it 
stayed warm." 

Composite Design 

The Sorenson's house, sitting atop a 
high hill with panoramic views, is a 
composite of features the Sorensons 
admired in other plans. On the upper 
level an airlock vestibule at the north 
entry has a bench to sit on when pulling 
on snowboots, with hooks for hanging 
bulky clothing. Muddy clothes and shoes 
can go directly to the utility room/half- 
bath just around the corner. 

A convenient U-shaped kitchen opens 
to the dining area. Sliding doors can be 
opened to admit heat from the green- 

house. Shaila pointed out the wood strips 
on the vaulted ceiling. "That's T-1-11 
panehng, which looks hke tongue-and- 
groove cedar but is considerably cheap- 
er," Adjacent to the kitchen, a loft is 
occupied by the TV-lounge room which 
looks into the living room below. 

The lower level houses the living room, 
three bedrooms, and a large bath. The 
open plan encourages air circulation and 
allows rooms to share views and space. 

The Payoff 

The various additions required to meet 
RSDP specifications, including materials 
and labor for more-than-normal insula- 
tion, triple glazing, a heat recovery venti- 
lator, air-vapor barrier, and so forth, cost 
about $6,000, or approximately 8 percent 
of the total building costs. 

With heating bills of less than $200 a 
year compared to the over $1,000 they 
suspect they would have spent without 
the energy features, the Sorensons calcu- 
late the payback should be within five to 
seven years. In the meantime, they enjoy 
the view of the snow-capped Bridger and 
Tobacco Root mountains while their 
windows admit free heat from the win- 
ter sun and their superinsulated house 
keeps it in. n 

Heal from the winter sun streaming in 
through south-facing wmdows (leftl is 
absorbed by the concrete floor of the living 
room. Two west-facing windows and light- 
colored walls balance the natural lighting, 
illuminating all comers of the living area. 


Big House is Easily Heated 

A stately cedar and stone house 
presides from a ridge looking 
over Bozeman. The sub- 
stantial expanse of windows makes it 
seem unlikely that this house is energy- 
efficient. But it is. "Tell people, " Sarah 
Zimmer said, "This this house is easy to 
heat, and that we never have a cold 

The secret to miserly heating bills is 
found in the home's construction: triple 
glazing, a continuous air-vapor barrier, 
insulated double walls, a thick layer of 
attic insulation, and insulated basement 
walls and slab. "The only place you can 
feel any air infiltration is along the sliding 
glass door in the kitchen, ' Sarah said. 
"But Bill Roller, our builder, warned us 
that a sliding glass door wouldn't be 

The construction of the Zimmer house 
is similar to that of the Kempt house (see 
the related story on page 39). When Lew 
Zimmer was shopping for houses in 






Lew and Sarah Zimmer's house is placed so that the Uving room, dining room, kitchen, 
and family rooms look out on the Spanish Peaks and Tobacco Root mountains. The long 
overhang and deck protect most of the west-facing windows from summer sun. Window 
coverings shade the rest. 

A garage beneath the cathedral-roofed studio 
(right side} on the north buffers the Zimmer 
house from wintry winds and shelters the 
recessed entry. 

Bozeman, he saw the Kempt house. It 
looked a lot like what they wanted, with 
some changes. 

One of those changes was to install 
wood and gas heating systems along with 
electric heaters. The Zimmers bum an 
average of 6 cords of wood a year and pay 
$3.00 to $5.00 a month for gas heat in the 
7,500-square-foot house. The bedrooms 
and bath upstairs have electric wall heat- 
ers. ""The heaters aren"t used much 
because the upstairs gets a lot of heat 
from the rising warm air, " Sarah noted. 

Enjoying Wood Heat 

The Zimmers use wood for most of 
their heat. "We're outdoor people, and 
we enjoy gathering and chopping wood," 
Sarah said. Ninety percent of their wood 
heat is deUvered from an airtight stove on 
the lower level. A blower on the stove 
circulates heat through the first level, and 
a register with fan placed in the floor 
above the basement draws heat to the 


Lew and Sarah Zimmer 



Zimmer-RoUer Revision of 
Stock Plan from 
Home Magazine Ltd. 


Roller Construction, Inc. 
501 East Peach. Suite A 
Bozeman, MT 59715 


2 Story with Walk-out Basement 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R32 
Basement Wall - R22 
Slab - R4 

Square Feet 

Upper - 1,400 
Main - 2,700 
Basement - 2,700 

Special Features 


Solar Preheated Hot Water 

Outside Combustion Air 


Wood Natural Gas, Electricity 




hobby room 






wood storage 


Sarah pointed out the wood storage in 
an adjoining room. "It's easy to get wood 
in here because we allowed for a 3- x 
4-foot entry in the foundation, and fitted a 
chute to the window well. We simply 
throw our wood down the chute from the 
driveway above." 

A stove recessed in a ceiUng-high stone 
wall in the vaulted family room is a 
second source of radiant wood heat. A 
staircase rises adjacent to the stove. Sarah 
opened a door in the staircase wall to 
reveal a neatly stacked wood pile. "This 
is accessible from the garage, which 


open to 

family room 


L stor 

13 -h 

open to 
foyer below 

keeps the wood splinters out of the 
carpeting," Sarah said. "About the only 
thing I would do differently," she said, 
"is to set the stove in front of the stone 
wall rather than within it, so more heat 
would radiate into the room." On clear 
winter days, the stone wall does double 
duty. The rays of the sun stream through 
opposing two-story windows and warm 
the stone, which releases the heat as the 
house cools off. 

Gas Pulse Supplements 

Two gas pulse furnaces supplement the 
wood heat. "We've found we don't need 
both furnaces," Sarah said. "The heating 
contractor thought the duct runs from 
one furnace would be too long and too 
small to deliver enough heat. But once the 
heat is delivered to a room, it doesn't 
leave. "Because of the low temperature of 

the exhaust, the furnaces vent through 
PVC pipe out through the wall under the 
deck, ehminating the need for a chimney 
through the roof. 

Combustion air is delivered directly 
from the outside to the combustion 
chambers of the furnaces and wood 

Sun Plays a Part 

A sunspace on the south side of the 
house gathers free heat and affords a 
comfortable spot for a hot tub. During the 
course of a day, the sun pours first 
through the east-facing windows in the 
sunspace, then the south-facing windows, 
and finally through the west windows. 
The sun also is tapped to preheat water. A 
coil embedded in the floor of the sunroom 


carries water to the hot water tank. Water 
on its way to the water heater picks up 
heat from the sun-warmed concrete. 

Upstairs Designed for Air 

Two staircases, one from the family 
room and one from the foyer, lead to a 
large, vaulted studio, the children's bed- 
rooms, and a bath. The open stairways 
and a corridor running the length of the 
second story promote air circulation 
between the two upper floors. Sarah 
pointed out the open transoms over the 
bedroom doors, which allow air circula- 
tion to the rooms even when the doors are 

"Bill was very fussy about putting 
openings through the ceiling vapor bar- 
rier," Sarah said, "so we eliminated the 
two skylights we planned for the bath and 

one of the bedrooms up here. The bath 
has no windows to the outside, but the 
lack of natural light in here hasn't 
bothered us." She also said they chose an 
electric water heater to avoid installing a 
vent through the ceiling." 

A Favorable Experience 

The Zimmers have nothing but praise 
for the energy-efficient construction and 
performance of their house. "Our original 
plan was from a stock plan in a maga- 
zine," Sarah said. "After we saw the 
Kempt house, we had Bill Roller design 
the energy-saving features into the house. 
Then we got three bids from contractors 
wanting to build the house," Sarah said. 
"All of them were willing to do the 
energy -efficient construction, but Bill pro- 
moted it more than the others. We have 
no regrets. It was a very favorable build- 
ing experience." D 

While sno\u covers the ground outside, the sunspace proves just right for soaking up the 
heat pouring in through the windows. 

Double doors leading from a foyer to an airlock entry are closed in the winter to stop 
heat from rushing out when the front door is opened. The foyer leads to the upstairs, 
master bedroom, central hallways, and living room. A door from the living room (right 
center in the picture! opens to admit heat from the sunspace. 


A Family Tradition of Saving Energy 


Tom and Verna Jo Brewer 




Owners and Jim Goodwin, 


South of Siieridan 

Slieridan, WY 82842 




3 Levels. Underground 


Roof - R20 

Front Wall - R19 

Below-grade Concrete Walls - RIO 

Square Feet 

Upper - 450 
Main - 1,200 
Basement - 450 

Special Features 



Passive Solar, Wood, Electric 


January 1985 

When Tom and Verna Jo 
Brewer of Broadus 
decided to build a new 
house, they made energy efficiency 
a top priority. Verna Jo's father, Albert 
Pikkula, had experimented extensively 
with various applications of solar power 
at his home nearby. He was using 
passive solar sunspaces with liquid- 
filled containers to store solar heat long 
before high energy prices made energy 
conservation popular. 

Partly on the basis of Mr. Pikkula's 
efforts, the Brewers decided to build an 
underground house with passive solar 
adaptations. They had an ideal location 
for such a house: a high, south-facing 
bank of gumbo on their property just 
outside Broadus. This gumbo proved 
harder than expected, and blasting was 
necessary to dig the hole. 

Fitting into the 

The Brewers designed the house 
themselves with the assistance of Jim 
Goodwin, an architect from Sheridan, 
Wyoming. The house is built on three 
levels, with a total of about 2, 100 square 
feet of living space and a 14 x 24 garage 
on the east end. On the outside, the 
structure blends harmoniously into its 
surroundings. Dropping down from the 
front of the house, terraces rip-rapped 
with native sandstone increase the eye 

The south side of the structure faces 
about 14 degrees west of due south, 
because that was the orientation of the 

The Brewer house, backed into Ihe gumbo just outside Broadus. 

bank the house is built into. The roof 
overhang prevents entry of direct sun- 
light during the summer months. Verna 
Jo said that the house tends to be cooler 
in March than in January because the 
outside temperatures in March are fairly 
low and the sun is at a high enough 
angle to be largely blocked by the 

Electric Heaters Not 

Next to the sun, the most important 
heat source for the house is a large Blaze 

King wood stove. This stove normally 
burns about 3 cords of cottonwood each 
winter. Electric baseboard heaters were 
installed to provide any additional heat 
necessary, but these have not been 
turned on since shortly after the 
Brewers moved in. 

Natural Light 

The front entrance leads directly into 
a large room that is flooded with natural 
light from the bank of south-facing 
windows, even when the overhang 
prevents entry of direct sunlight. The 


floor in this room is mostly carpeted, 
but with quarry tile along the area next 
to the windows. Sunlight warms the tile 
in the winter, and the heat thus stored 
helps warm the living space after the 
sun has set and temperatures start to 
drop. The kitchen in the northeast 
corner of this room receives plenty of 
indirect natural light during most of the 

Thoughtful Design 

The two bedrooms used by the 
children are upstairs with a bathroom 
between them. The stairs leading to the 
second story are designed to present an 
opening so the parents can see into the 
children's bedrooms from the main 
floor. If the Brewers were building the 

house today they would alter the design 
to make visual access to the upstairs 
bedrooms even more open, so they 
could see the children from a wider area 
of the main floor. 

The lowest level of the house is 
reached by descending two steps from 
the main floor. This lowest level is in the 
rear of the building and is partially 
taken up by a family room. The wood- 
burning stove is located in the family 
room against the north wall of the 
house. The laundry room and a storage 
area take up the remainder of the space 
on this level. 

The interior surfaces of the concrete 
walls are finished with dr^'wall mud 
applied directly to the concrete and 
painted. There is no visible hint that the 
walls are concrete. An interesting con- 

Sun through the south windows heats the Brewer house and stores solar heal m the 
floor tile. 


^ II HII"- ! 


fomily room 






struction feature in the living room is 
the rectangular recesses that were 
formed into the concrete to allow place- 
ment of pictures or wall hangings. 

Plenty of Concrete 

As with most houses of this type, the 
roof and outer wall structure is con- 
crete. Side walls and the rear wall are all 
12-inch reinforced concrete, for the first 
8 feet up from the footings, then 8-inch 
concrete above that. The front wall with 
its many sun-collecting windows is a 
single 2x6 studwall with R19 fiberglass 
insulation. Concrete walls were 
insulated on the exterior with a single 
thickness of 2-inch extruded poly- 
styrene extending down to the footings. 

The upper level roof is 8-inch rein- 
forced concrete, and the lower is 10- 

inch. The roof is supported at midspan 
by four 5-inch support pipes. Two of 
these are concealed in the front stud 
wall, another is hidden in a stairway 
riser, and the fourth is in an inside wall. 

One Fixable Leak 

A Bituthene membrane was used to 
waterproof the outside of the concrete 
walls and roof. On the roof, the 
Bituthene was applied directly to the 
concrete and a single 4-inch thickness of 
high density extruded polystyrene was 
laid over it. Four inches of sand was 
placed over the polystyrene, and then 
10 inches of soil. The sand layer was 
intended to intercept any water that gets 
through the dirt and drain it off to the 
front of the roof where it would be 
collected by a perforated drain pipe. It is 


Recesses in the concrete walls are good for displaying art works. 

not clear whether the sand layer was 
needed. The only problem with the roof 
was a leak around one of the pipes going 
through it. The leak was found to be 
caused by a pucker in the Bituthene, 
and was readily corrected. 

Thinking Ahead 

Conduit containing electrical wiring 
was placed in a 4-inch PVC pipe, so it 
could easily be withdrawn in case 
repairs were needed. One construction 
technique that saved a lot of effort was 
the use of drywall mud to fill cracks 
between the sheets of plywood in the 
roof forms before the concrete was 
poured. This resulted in a smooth ceil- 
ing surface that required only a mini- 
mum of additional smoothing before the 
drywall finish could be applied. 

Reasonable Cost, High 

Exclusive of well and septic systems, 
the house cost approximately $75,000 to 
build, or about $36.20 per square foot. 
The Brewers kept costs at a minimum 
by doing almost all the work them- 
selves. Costs were driven up by the high 
price of concrete in the Broadus area; 
$76 per cubic yard for the 225 yards 

The Brewers are a young family with 
two of their four children still in 
diapers. Verna Jo is home most of the 
time with at least one of the children, 
and temperatures are kept high enough 
to be comfortable for the babies. The 
Brewers say the underground design of 
their house makes it easy and economi- 
cal to maintain the desired conditions. 
After three years in their house, the 
Brewers are happy with its perform- 
ance, and the family tradition of saving 
energy is continuing. Q 

Design Saves Energy, Protects Environment 

Bob and Nancy Ballou's house sits 
atop a low grassy knoll between 
the tiny town of Charlo and the 
majestic Mission Mountains. Numerous 
small ponds gouged out by ancient 
glaciers dot the open countryside, offer- 
ing choice habitat for cattails and water 
birds. But the system is fragile, with thin 
topsoil covering impervious clay. "We 
put in a septic system to handle graywater 
(discharge from sinks, shower and bath, 
washing machine, and dishwasher), but 
we didn't want to empty toilets into the 
septic tank and risk sewage spilling over 
into the surrounding area," said Bob, a 
retired wildlife biologist who worked for 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To 
avoid overloading the fragile environ- 
ment, the Ballous incorporated a Clivus 
Multrum composting toilet system when 
they were designing their superinsulated 

"When you design around a Clivus, 
you have to build the bathrooms and 
kitchen back to back so the garbage 
disposal dumps into the same tank as the 
toilets," he explained. 

Nancy and Bob Ballou placed their house to capture the magnificent view of the Mission 
Mountains to the east. The windows gain some heat from the sun, but it's the house's 
superinsulation that keeps the heating bills down. 

pesticide. "We're careful about what we 
put down the garbage disposal. Banana 
peels seem to attract fruit flies. But the 
Clivus has absolutely no odor, " he added. 
A fan continuously ventilates the toilet. 

Composting System Works Superinsulation Traps Heat 

The 4-foot X 8-foot x 5-foot tank for the 
Clivus composting toilet occupies a room 
in the basement. "The Clivus takes some 
maintenance, but it becomes routine," 
Bob said. "About four times a year I 
pump out the liquid, and remove a bushel 
or so of solids once a year. They make 
excellent manure tea' and compost for 
the flowers. " 

Bob controls a minor insect problem by 
spraying with Pyrethrin, an organic 

"My former boss built a well insulated 
house and urged me to consider that type 
of construction," Bob said. "It made 
sense. It's so often overcast here in the 
winter, it seemed that superinsulation 
would work better than trying to design 
for solar gain. We did look into earth- 
sheltered housing and bermed the lower 
portion of the house. 

"We learned a lot about insulation from 
Brian Curran who was a builder in Butte 
at that time. He helped us with the 
concept, but the house was a little more 
custom than what he was building. Rob 
Sand, a builder in Charlo who was 
famihar with superinsulation, took over. 
He built the house as if it were his own . ' ' 

Double 2x4 walls hold three layers of 
fiberglass bafts. Overhead, a thick blan- 
ket of blown-in cellulose insulates the 
west ceiling and fiberglass batts insulate 
the ceiMng above the loft and living area. 

A continuous air-vapor barrier of 
TuTuff was installed in the walls and 
ceiling. "The air-vapor barrier is critical, " 
Bob emphasized. "Don't put any more 
holes in it than you have to. When we 


Bob and Nancy Ballou 




Owner and Builder 


Rob Sand and Doug Hicks 
Sun Garden Resources 
Route 1, Box 121B 
Charlo, MT 59824 


1 1/2 Story with Walk-out 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R40 
Basement Wall ■ R19 
Slab - R5 

Square Feet 

Loft - 280 
Main - 1.540 
Basement - 952 

Special Features 

Composting Toilet 

Cold Room " 
Outside Combustion Air 


Wood, Electric Baseboard 


November 1983 



cold room 
















. ,, open to , , 
l°'t rooms 1 



put in a wood stove and had to puncture 
the polyethylene, we were very careful 
to seal it tightly with a heat resistant 
sealant that wouldn't deteriorate the 

Although the windows are triple- 
glazed, some heat is lost through them 
according to Bob. "We haven't installed 
insulated window coverings. I figure it 
might take an extra stick of wood a day, 
and maybe not that much, to replace the 
heat going out through the windows. In 
summer, we leave the doors and win- 
dows open at night to bring in the cool 
air. About 9:00 a.m., we close the house 
up tight, pull the blinds to keep out the 
sun, and it stays cool." 

A Memphremagog heat recovery 
ventilator provides ventilation. The ven- 

tilator is controlled by a time clock that 
turns it on for a fixed period each hour. 

Register Fan Distributes 

During the first two years they were 
in the house, the Ballous relied on 18 
feet of electric baseboard heaters to 
keep them warm. In 1985 they added a 
wood stove. Last season they burned 
about 2 1/2 cords of wood, and didn't 
use the baseboards at all. "The house 
retains heat," Bob said. "I haven't had 
the stove on since yesterday. This 
morning it was 6 degrees outside but 
at 9:30 a.m. it was 65 degrees in the 
living room." 

The house's main heat source, the 
Osborn wood stove, is in the basement 
at the foot of the stairs. Because it is 
supplied by outside combustion air, the 
stove doesn't draw warm air from inside 
the house to feed the fire. 

Air warmed by the stove reaches the 
main floor either by rising up the stair- 
well or by passing through a floor 
register at the far corner of the house. A 
fan in the register draws warm air 
across the basement ceiling and through 
the register. 

Bringing the Outdoors In 

The heart of the house is an open 
living room, dining area, and kitchen 
area. Two tall trapezoidal windows 

crown the lower windows on the east 
wall of the room, filling the house with 
light. From the dining area, a door to the 
spacious deck encourages outdoor 
lounging and meals. 

Apart from the living space but con- 
nected to it by a large window, a special 
room contains shelves of colorful yarn 
and a knitting machine. "Nancy wanted 
space for her knitting activities without 
being isolated from the main area, ' ' Bob 
explained. "The window served that 

A roomy master suite occupies the 
west side of the house. The Ballous 
particularly enjoy the cedar-lined sauna 
located just off the master bath. 


( 'ramy walls complement the warm tones 
of the loft's balusters of western red cedar, 
and posts and beams of spruce and pine. 
The kitchen floor of native sandstone 
accents the oak cabinets. 

' The steam from the sauna dissipates 
in about half an hour. We have absolutely 
no trouble with condensation anywhere 
in the house," Bob said. 

Earth Moderates 
Temperature of Cold Room 

An underground "cold room" off the 
basement to the north is used to store 
fruits and vegetables. The room is on the 
same level as the basement and is 
reached through a door in the basement 
wall. The room has uninsulated con- 
crete walls and a dirt floor, and stays at 
a nearly constant 45 degrees with 70 
percent humidity. The floor of a similar 
room under the bedroom to the west 

was covered with concrete paving 
blocks over a 6-mil moisture barrier. 
This reduces the humidity to around 50 
percent. The Ballous use the room for 
extra storage. 

Basement walls are insulated with 
fiberglass batts. The basement slab is 
insulated with extruded polystyrene, 
and has a moisture barrier of 6-mil 

On the south side of the house, patio 
doors lead from the basement to a 
spacious greenhouse under construc- 
tion. When it's finished, the Ballous will 
have completed another step towards 
their goal of self-sufficient living in the 
Mission valley of northwest Montana, 


A Remedy for High Heat Bills 


John and Barb Skoyen 




Owners and Buffalo Homes 


Buffalo Homes 
P.O. Box 4080 
185 South Parkmont 
Industrial Park 
Butte, MT 59702 


Two-piece Modular with Basement 


Ceiling - R60 
Stud Walls - R42 
Basement Wall - R30 
Slab - RIO 

Square Feet 


Special Features 



Passive Solar, Wood, 
Electric Baseboard 


September 1985 

For John and Barb Skoyen, the 
remedy for winter drafts 
and high heat bills was a 
superinsulated pre-built modular home. 
Watching television in their old house, 
the Skoyens saw advertisements for 
Buffalo pre-built homes, suggesting the 
possibility of yearly heat bills less than 
$200. At that time, the Skoyens' heat 
bills sometimes ran more than $200 per 
month. "Those $200 bills were just 
killing us," Barb Skoyen said. 

Following up on the interest generated 
by the television ad, the Skoyens in- 
vestigated Buffalo Homes, and eventu- 
ally decided to purchase a 1,280 square 
foot modular house built by that firm. 
They designed the floor plan them- 
selves, which is one of the options 
available from Buffalo. Delivered to 
their rural location north of Chinook, 
the house cost $52,000. Excavation and 
concrete for the full basement was 
another $6,000. The house with un- 
finished basement thus cost $45 per 
square foot of living space, but this 
could be almost halved by finishing the 
basement, which would double the 
living space for a small additional 

Cost More, But Worth It 

The Skoyens said it cost about $8,000 
more to build the house to superinsula- 
tion standards than it would cost to 
build an otherwise similar house to 
current HUD standards. They think it 
was worth it. "Our highest monthly 
heat bill for the last year was $20, " Barb 

South-lacing windows warm both mam tloor and basement of the Skoyen house. 

Skoyen said. The superinsulation fea- 
tures used by Buffalo Homes are shown 
in the Glossary. They include the 
double wall with three thicknesses of 
fiberglass batt insulation, polyethylene 
air-vapor barrier, double- and triple- 
pane windows, a heat-recovery ventil- 
ator, and a thick layer of ceiling 

Participation Required 

One thing the Skoyens have learned 
about living in a superinsulated house is 

that achieving maximum comfort and 
energy efficiency requires participation 
by the occupants. Operating the heat 
recovery ventilator at the right level, for 
example, requires experience and 
practice. "It takes a while," Barb said. 
"You've got to get used to it." Some 
aspects of making the house comfort- 
able require only common sense. For 
example, when days are hot and nights 
are cool, the Skoyens open the windows 
at night and close them in the morning. 
"It's just like it's air conditioned" John 
said. Once the house is cool inside, it 


stays that way, he said. A roll-up awning 
on a west-facing window helps cut 
down on solar heating in the warm 
months when it is not needed. 

Waste Heat Gets Used 

The tightness of the house is such that 
small amounts of waste heat contribute 
significantly to space heating. The heat 
generated by the freezer, television and 
other appliances, light bulbs, and 
human bodies all makes a difference. 
The electric cookstove makes a particu- 
larly noticeable contribution, and Barb 
said that when they operate the cleaning 
mode of the self-cleaning oven, it pro- 
duces enough heat to warm part of the 
house on cold evenings. The Skoyens 
have a wood stove in the basement, but 
they rely primarily on the solar heating 
they get through their south-facing win- 
dows, with a little help from their 
electric baseboards. John said the base- 
board is used for backup heat when no 
one is home, or if they run out of wood. 
They normally use about five pickup 
loads of wood each winter. "Those are 
not tightly stacked loads," Barb said. If 
temperatures stay above zero, the Skoy- 
ens usually don't use the wood stove 
until evening, especially on sunny days. 
A pipe brings combustion air from 
outside so the wood stove does not drive 
heated room air up the chimney. 

The Envy of the 

The phenomenon of a superinsulated 
house is still rare enough in the Chinook 
vicinity to excite interest. John said that 
when cold weather comes he gets a lot 
of questioners wanting to know, 
"How's your heat bill? " The answer, 
the Skoyens are happy to say, is "Pretty 
small. " □ 

Curtains control the amount ul unnter sun aUu\wd to enter the Skoyen living room. 


Getting Out of the Wind 


Dave and Ardene Zion 







Zion Construction Company 

Choteau, MT 59422 



3 Story 


Roof - R52 
Stud Walls ■ R25 
Foundation - RIO 

Square Feet 

Upper ■ 100 
Second - 1,400 
Main - 2,000 

Special Features 

"Cool tube" 

Use of Reclaimed Materials 
Combination Urethane- 
Fiberglass Insulation 
Wind-shedding Design 
Crawl-space Plenum 
Convective Heat Distribution 


Passive Solar, Wood, Natural Gas 


June 1987 

Building styles may change with 
time, but when building a 
house in the breezy open 
spaces of Montana, the first priority is 
always to escape the wind. When Dave 
and Ardene Zion of Choteau were plan- 
ning the design of their new house, they 
knew its comfort and energy efficiency 
would depend in large part upon how 
well it could shed the winter blasts from 
the north. 

The Zions employed a variety of 
strategies for dealing with the wind. 
First, they designed the house with a 
wedge shape and faced it to deflect cold 
north winds up and over the long side of 
the roof. The house has only two win- 
dows on the north side, one on the main 
floor and another in the third floor 
cupola where it is needed for ventila- 
tion. The garage is built into the house 
on the north side, which helps protect 
first floor living space from the north 
wind. On the second floor, a closet along 
the north wall runs the full length of the 
house. Further wind protection was 
provided by placing entrances out of the 
prevailing wind and installing airlocks 
on them. 

A Place in the Sun 

The south side of the house is 
designed to take advantage of the sun. 
The main solar feature is an 8 x 32 
built-in greenhouse. Direct light enter- 
ing this space warms the concrete wall 
at the rear, and this heat is radiated into 
the living space. The south side of this 
8-inch concrete wall is corrugated and 



A /('/(],' /no/ (n ihi ritii (h (/(//('I f.N winds ovei I he Ziun lunj^t' Suitlh-tacing windows and 
greenhouse bring in the sun. 


Decorative stonework adds mass to the inner side of the concrete wall between the 
greenhouse and the living room. 

painted black to increase the capacity 
for solar heat absorption. The north side 
of this wall faces into the living room. 
The living room side of the wall is faced 
with 4 inches of ornamental stone, 
which increases the thermal mass. 

The concrete and stone wall isolates 
the solar space from the living space, 
although three narrow vertical windows 
in the wall provide visual access 
between the sunspace and the living 
room. Skylights in the solar space and in 
the dining room-kitchen area provide 
natural light to the interior. Three sky- 
lights on the north side of the roof bring 
light to the second story. 

Cooling it With a Tube 

The 4-foot-deep crawl space under the 
house has an important role in the 
heating and cooling strategy. For cool- 
ing, a 14-inch culvert was installed to 
bring air from outside into the crawl 
space. This "cool tube" passes under 
the garage floor slab from the north side 
of the house. When cooling is needed, a 
window is opened in the third floor 
cupola. Warm air in the house is ex- 
hausted out the window by natural draft 
and replaced by cool air drawn into the 
house through the cool tube. 

Crawl Space Acts as Heat 

For heating, a Heil 96-percent- 
efficient natural gas furnace on the 
ground floor blows warm air down into 
the crawl space. The heated air rises by 
convection through floor vents to the 
living space. This heated air warms each 
level as it gradually rises to the third 
floor where it is drawn through a return 
vent. The air is then ducted back to the 
furnace where it is reheated and blown 
again into the plenum to continue the 

cycle. When the heating season begins 
in the Fall, Dave gets into the crawl 
space and covers the end of the cool 
tube with a piece of plywood to keep 
heat from escaping. 

The furnace supplements the substan- 
tial amount of solar heat collected 
through the greenhouse and south- 
facing windows. Supplementary heat 
also is available from two wood- 
burners, one a heating stove and the 
other a cook stove, both on the main 
floor. Both wood stoves and the gas 
furnace receive combustion air through 
a pipe from outside. 

Non-conventional Walls 

Exterior walls are single-thickness, 
built with 2x6 studs, 16 inches on 
center. Two types of insulation were 
used in the walls. Two inches of 
urethane was foamed into the outer 
portion of the wall, with 3 1/2-inch 
fiberglass batts applied inward from 
that. The foam also functions as an 
air-vapor barrier. (DNRC building 
specialists noted that the dew point [see 
Glossary] in this wall would always be 
located inside the urethane under any 
combination of contributing conditions. 
The urethane is thick enough to act as 
an air-vapor barrier, preventing water 
vapor from penetrating to the dew point 
and condensing.) A 2-inch foam layer 
also was used in the roof, along with 
12-inch fiberglass batts. Total R-value of 
the wall insulation is R25. Roof R-value 
is about R52. Two-inch extruded 
polystyrene sheets were used to insulate 
the outside of the concrete foundation. 
With the insulation on the outside, the 8 
inches of concrete can function as 
thermal mass in the crawl space, heat- 
ing up when warm air is present, and 
returning this heat later when the crawl 
space air is cooler than the concrete. 

No insulation was placed in the bot- 
tom of the crawl space, although a 6-mil 
moisture barrier was installed, with 6 
inches of sand over that. (DNRC build- 
ing specialists suggested that the effi- 
ciency of the system could have been 
improved somewhat if the bottom of the 
crawl space had been insulated, and if 
more insulation had been applied to the 
concrete walls. Dave said the large 
number of floor vents he installed re- 
sults in heat being rapidly distributed to 
the living space, which he expects to 
minimize heat losses. He limited the 
insulation of the crawl space to keep 
costs down.) 

Double Pane Windows 

All windows are Pella double-pane. 
Windows on the west side of the ground 
floor are equipped with SlimShades, 
which are small Venetian blinds 
between the panes. These blinds can be 
used to shut out the late afternoon sun 
and prevent overheating. The Zions plan 
to design and build insulated covers for 
the greenhouse windows. Doors to the 
outside are insulated wood, manufac- 
tured by Nord. 

A Rugged Individual 

The inside of the house has a rugged, 
well-crafted character, resulting mainly 
from the skillful use of recycled ma- 
terials. Massive timbers reclaimed from 
an old bridge impart a hell-for-stout 
motif, particularly in the stairway struc- 
ture. All rafters and floor joists were 
salvaged from an old Ford garage. The 
recycled bricks used in the chimney 
were originally manufactured nearby 
and reclaimed from an abandoned bar 
and machinery store. Beveled decora- 
tive glass from an old storefront pro- 
vides a touch of delicate elegance in its 
new location above the main entrance of 
the Zion house. 

Dave Zion, owner of the Zion Con- 
struction Company in Choteau, said he 
built the house himself in his spare time 
over five years. He said the materials 
used would cost $ 100,000 if bought new 
at today's prices, but cost him much less 
because so many of them were recycled. 

Dave and Ardene said they are very 
pleased with their house, which is warm 
and comfortable. Dave said the highest 
heat bill during their first eight months 
in the house was about $45, for January, 
1988. a 

Corrugated concrete wall (at right] collects 
solar warmth in the Zion greenhouse. 


Solar House in a Wood Stove Neighborhood 

From fheir cozy house at 5,400 
feet elevation high up on the 
side of Clark Gulch outside 
Helena, Terry Brown and Gwen Knight 
keep an eye on their neighbors to see if 
winter is coming. "We noticed the other 
day that some of them had their wood 
stoves going, ' ' Terry said on a brisk day 
in late October. 

Long after the chills of autumn have 
set the wood stoves going for most 
people in conventional houses, Terry 
and Gwen stay warm with the sun that 
floods through the large south-facing 
windows of their modern, energy- 
efficient house. It is not good luck that 
brings bountiful sunlight into the house. 
The long axis was carefully positioned 
for maximum exposure to the winter 
sun, and the superinsulated walls and 
ceiling retain whatever heat is gained. 
On cloudy winter days, or at night when 
it's cold enough outside to freeze the 
ears off a brass monkey, the 14 feet of 
electric baseboard heaters turn on to 
chase the chill away. In the summer 
when the sun can be too much of a good 
thing, a 3-foot overhang on the south 
side keeps direct sunlight from coming 
in the south windows. 

The Case of the 
Disappearing Heat Bill 

The effects of the energy-efficient 
solar design are readily apparent. For 
example, records show that Terry and 
Gwen's total heating bill for the year 
from June 1, 1985, to June 1, 1986, was 
$60.24. Their monthly electric bill for 

The Brown-Knight house was sited to face precisely m the right direction to gel the most 
sun during the cold months of the year. The shadow on the end of the house shows sun 
angle at about noon, October 27, when photo was taken. 

uses other than heat during this period 
averaged $30.30, totaling $363.60 for 
the year. Terry and Gwen have precise 
records of their electricity use because 
the house was built in compliance with 
the Bonneville Power Administration's 
Residential Standards Demonstration 
Program, which requires that electricity 
used for space heating be metered separ- 
ately from that used for other purposes. 

State-of-the-art Heat-saving 

Energy-efficient features besides 
insulation include a continuous poly- 

ethylene air-vapor barrier, a heat recov- 
er)' ventilator, double-pane low-E glass 
in operable windows and triple pane in 
the others, and an air-lock entry. The 
north side has no windows. Penetra- 
tions of the ceiling air-vapor barrier 
were kept to a minimum, with only 
three overhead lighting fixtures. 

Intelligent Life Also 

Technology is the heart of energy 
conservation programs, but the success 
of such efforts also depends on a certain 
amount of caretaking by the people 
living in the houses. "You've got to be 


Terry Brown and Gwen Knight 





Buffalo Homes 
P.O. Box 4080 
Butte, MT 59702 


1 Story with Basement 


Ceiling ■ R60 
Walls - R41 
Basement Wall - R30 
Slab - RIO 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,176 
Basement - 1,134 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 

Owner-designed Pre-built Modular 


Electric Baseboard 


July 1984 



diligent when it comes to saving energy 
in these houses," Terry said. One aspect 
of home energy efficiency that requires 
care is operation of the heat recovery 
ventilator. Terry said that he and Gwen 
set their ventilator on "lovif" under 
normal conditions and manually turn it 
to high speed when necessary to elimin- 
ate excess humidity created by shower- 
ing or cooking. The ventilator froze 
twice, but this problem seems to have 
been eliminated by the installation of a 
defrost mechanism designed to prevent 
such freezing. "The Buffalo Homes 

people have been super about coming 
back under warranty to solve any 
problems we have had," Gwen said. 

The Capture of Fugitive 

A little heat goes a long way in a 
superinsulated house, Terry said, noting 
that the warmth generated by cooking 
or showering often is enough to raise the 
indoor temperature by several degrees. 
This ability to retain heat helps keep 
Gwen and Terry's electric baseboard 

heaters unemployed most of the time. 
"When we get home from work after a 
sunny day, it's normally 62 to 65 
degrees in the house, even if it's 20 
below outside," Gwen said, adding that 
they usually leave the electric heaters 
off during the day. 

Unmitigated Enthusiasm 
for Saving Energy 

After living in their new house for 
more than three years, Gwen and Terry 
are sold on energy efficiency as a way of 
life. "We sure don't miss the wood stove 
from our old house," Terry said. Gwen 
and Terry agree that they wouldn't 
change the design a bit if they were to 

buy another house, though they might 
go about some of the preparations a bit 
differently. For example, they said, they 
would try to be more diligent about 
getting subcontractors to do what they 
wanted them to do. As it was, they said, 
they had a hard time getting subcon- 
tractors to build the foundation and 
basement the way they wanted it. "I 
seriously considered a wood founda- 
tion," Terry said, "but decided against it 
because I couldn't find anybody who 
knew how to build one." 

All those decisions are past, and now 
Gwen and Terry bask in the warmth of 
the winter sun through the long months 
when their neighbors are wrestling half- 
frozen logs into their wood stoves. □ 

Superinsulated modular houses like the Brown-Knight Buffalo Home are the same inside 
as any modern house. The oak batten strip up the wall and along the ceiling covers the 
seam where the two halves of the structure join. 


The Need for a Warmer Place 

Starting as a young ranch wife 
living in drafty old ranch 
houses, raising a family and 
wondering what was going to happen to 
the price of calves, and later becoming a 
school teacher on the side, Jerry Arthun 
used some of her spare time to reflect on 
how a house might be built to keep frost 
off the inhabitants. 

Interviewed north of Clyde Park in 
the Arthuns' bright modern ranch house 
that incorporates many of her ideas, 
Jerry said. "For 30 or 40 years I told 
myself that if I ever built a house, I was 
going to use the sun to help keep it 

By 1983 when the Arthuns were ready 
to build a new house, a lot of people had 
come around to the idea that it was good 
to bring the sun into the house for 
warmth. Another of Jerry's ideas whose 
time had come was the use of earth- 
sheltering to protect houses from the 

Long before the Arthuns started build- 
ing their house, they selected a south- 
facing hill where they wanted to locate 
it, intending to sink it part way into the 
ground to escape the frigid winter 
breezes. This idea was encouraged by 
various publications regarding such 
strategies. The underground house book 
from Rodale Press was particularly use- 
ful, Jerry said. When the Arthuns took 
their ideas to an architect, he referred 
them to the same book, not realizing 
they practically had it memorized 

The Arthuns' long anticipation met 
temporary disappointment when no 

The Artimn house is warm m any weather. 

water could be found on the hill they 
had selected for their house. Their good 
ideas were portable, however, and they 
moved their proposed building site to a 
bench overlooking the Shields River. 
The house they built there is an impres- 
sive structure with an earth berm on the 
north to deflect the winds and plenty of 
windows on the south side to bring in 
the sun. Windows in the clerestory and 
small windows above the berm on the 
north side bring daylight into every part 
of the house. All windows are double 

The house is built on a single level, 
with a double garage on the west side to 
provide some additional buffering 
between the outdoor weather and the 
living space. Jerry said they didn't want 
a basement because "a basement only 
accumulates stuff." 

The Sun First, Then 
Electric Heat Mats, Wood 

Solar heat is supplemented with an 
electric heat mat under the gray tile 
floor at the front of the house, and with 
a Vermont Castings "Vigilant " wood- 
burning stove in the "ranch room" at 
the west end of the house. Jerry said Len 
likes to start a crackling fire to warm up 
after a chilly day of calving, feeding hay, 
or working cattle. A massive granite 
fireplace at the east end of the house 
provides the cozy feeling that comes 
with an open fire. Jerry said they use 
about 2 cords of wood each year. 

Heat absorbed by the mass of finely- 
crafted stonework around the fireplace 
and near the wood-burning stove helps 
keep the house warm long after the fires 
have gone out. Several ceiling fans keep 


Len and Jerry Arthun 


Clyde Park 


Owners and Architect 


Dick Prugh 

Mattson, Prugh & Lenon. 


27 East Main Street 

Bozeman, MT 59715 



Easton-Hiller Construction 
Livingston, MT 


1 Story, Bermed 


Ceiling • R38 
Stud Walls - R16 
Concrete Walls ■ R17 
Slab - R5 

Square Feet 


Special Features 

Electric Heat Mats Embedded in 

Concrete Floor 
Thermal Storage 


Solar, Wood, Electric Heat Mats, 
Baseboard Heaters 


April 1983 


Design for warmth: south-facing windows 
on main level and in the clerestory, ceiling 
fans, and radiant electric heat mats in the 
tile floor in the foreground. 


warm air circulating in the winter, and 
help with cooling in the summer. The 
earth berm also helps with the cooling 
by keeping summer heat away from the 
north wall. 

Insulation Keeps the Heat 

Footings for the house were placed a 
full 6 feet below grade, with 2 inches of 
extruded polystyrene foam board insu- 
lation on the outside of the foundation. 
Concrete walls also were insulated with 
2 inches of extruded polystyrene on the 
outside and 1 1/2 inches on the inside. 
The front stud wall is a standard 2x4 
construction, 16 inches on center with 
Rll fiberglass insulation. Insulation 
value was boosted with 1 inch of extrud- 
ed polystyrene installed under the 
siding on the outside of the wall. The 
floor slab is insulated with 1 inch of 
extruded polystyrene around the 
perimeter and under the heating mat. 
This heating mat is approximately 30 
feet long by 5 feet wide, and is located in 
the floor along the south side of the 
house. Dick Prugh, the architect for the 
house, said heating mats have approxi- 
mately the same efficiency as electric 
baseboard heaters. 

Modest Heat Bills 

Jerry said that the average monthly 
heating bill since they moved into the 
house in 1983 has been $46. Their 
highest bills were in January, 1984 
($130), and December, 1985 ($120). The 
Arthuns said these bills were for heat 
only, and they have their other electrical 
equipment on a separate meter so they 
can keep track of their heat costs. The 
heat bills probably could have been kept 
lower, Jerry said, "But we weren't 

trying to win any prizes. Besides, after 
working all day out in the cold, it's nice 
to come home to a WARM house." 

A Pleasant Blend With the 

Aesthetic considerations played a 
major role in the siting and design of the 
Arthun house. The first goal was to 
minimize the visual impact on the land- 
scape. Another goal was to provide a 
view of the Crazy Mountains to the east 
and the Absaroka Range to the south. 
These goals were handsomely met, with 
the house blending pleasantly into the 
natural surroundings, and a fine view of 
the splendid Montana mountain scenery 
through the extensive glazing that lets 
the sun in. 

The interior of the Arthun house is 
tastefully decorated with earth colors, 
and Jerry said that when they selected 
the colors they were mindful of what 
was likely to get tracked in by people 
who work around cattle all day. "Every- 
thing in this house matches the color of 
cow manure," she said. 

All's Well that Ends Well 

Given the evidence, it seems the 
Arthuns' 40-year daydreams of a new 
house warmed by the sun have been 
realized. Jerry said they wouldn't build 
their house any differently if they were 
to do it again. "We're loving every 
minute of it," she said. D 

Escape From a Drafty Trailer 


Don and Sandy Broesder 


West of Conrad 


A. Calvin Holland, Architect 
2826 Third Avenue South 
Great Falls, MT 59405 




1 Story, Bermed 


Ceiling - R44/R34 
Front Stud Wall - R19 
Concrete Walls - RIO 
Foundation - R4 

Square Feet 


Special Features 


Integral Greenhouse 


Solar, Wood, Electric Forced-air, 
Electric Baseboard 


November 1984 

Old-time Montana ranchers 
liked to hide their ranch 
buildings down in a coulee 
or drainage where they were out of the 
elements. Even at these relatively 
sheltered sites, however, the Montana 
weather can make life unpleasant for 
people whose dwellings are not right for 
the climate. Don and Sandy Broesder 
lived for years in a drafty trailer at the 
bottom of a draw on the family ranch 1 5 
miles west of Conrad. When they finally 
were in a position to build a new house, 
they knew they wanted a place that was 
sheltered from the wind and easy to 
keep warm. 

They considered various strategies to 
achieve these goals, and decided to use 
the earth to keep the wind off. They 
didn't want to go too far from home to 
build a house, so they built it a few feet 
west of their trailer. They hired an 
architect to do the design and they did 
most of the construction themselves, 
with a little help from hired labor and 

The house, completed in November 
1984, is built on a single level with 1,600 
square feet of floor space. It faces a few 
degrees west of true south. Large, low-E 
double-pane windows admit sunlight on 
the south side of the house. An attached 
greenhouse 7 feet x 18 feet is built into 
the southeast corner of the house, at a 
level 2 feet below the rest of the house. 
This greenhouse is used mostly to pro- 
vide heat for the living space, although 
the Broesders keep a few house plants in 
it and also use it for starting garden 

The greenhouse on the Broesder house has no shading and tends to overheat in summer. 

plants. The greenhouse contains several 
black-painted 55-gallon steel drums 
filled with water to store heat from the 
sun. Warm air from the greenhouse can 
be brought into the living space by 
opening the door or one of the two 
windows in the wall between them. 
Glazing in the greenhouse is Exolite, a 
double pane plastic material that 
Broesders say works well for green- 
house applications. 

Underground Shelter from 
the Storm 

The house is sunk part way into the 
ground to provide shelter from the 
storm, but the roof rises about 3 feet 

above ground level. As with most earth- 
sheltered structures, the rear wall and 
side walls of the Broesder house are 
8-inch thick concrete. The front wall is a 
single-thickness 2x6 studwall, insulat- 
ed with 6-inch , R 1 9 fiberglass batts. The 
floor in the front portion of the house is 
a 4-inch concrete slab poured over 6 
inches of compacted gravel. At the rear 
of the house, a conventional wood- 
frame floor covers a 3-foot deep crawl 
space. This space is 9 feet wide and runs 
the full 47-foot length of the house. The 
laundry room, bathrooms and kitchen 
are all over or near this crawl space to 
provide easy access and maintenance 
for water pipes and drainage lines. 


Various Insulation 

Various thicknesses of expanded 
polystyrene foam were used to insulate 
the concrete walls. An inch and a half of 
the foam was applied to the inside 
surface of these walls. One inch of foam 
with a troweled-on protective coating 
was applied to the outside of the sub- 
grade walls down to a depth about 3 feet 
below grade. It also was used to insulate 
the outside of the foundation walls. 

Half-inch drywall was placed over the 
foam to finish the inside walls. A 4-mil 
polyethylene air-vapor barrier was 
installed between the drywall and the 
insulating foam on the walls, and above 
the drywall in the ceilings. 

Holding up the Roof 

Roof structure for the longest spans 
(up to 33 feet) is supported by 20-inch 
TJI roof joists (see Glossaryl, 24-inches 
on center. Depending on their length, 
shorter spans are supported either by 

standard 2 x 10 joists on 16-inch centers, 
or by 14-inch TJI joists on 24-inch 
centers. The portions of the roof with 
the 24-inch or 14-inch TJI joists are 
insulated with two layers of 6-inch 
fiberglass batts, to an insulating value of 
R38. A single 9-inch layer of fiberglass 
batts with an R28 value was installed in 
the portion of the roof with 2 x 10 joists. 

The roof structure is built up with 
5/8-inch plywood nailed on top of the 
joists, and 1 inch of urethane foamed in 
place over the plywood. This foam adds 
about R6 to the insulating value of the 
roof. A Hypalon coating was applied 
over the foam. Five 20 x 20-inch triple- 
pane skylights bring light to the back 
portion of the house. 

Keeping Things Warmed 

Most of the heat for the house is 
provided by the sun flooding through 
the south windows into the greenhouse 
and living space. Supplementary heat is 
provided by two 1,500 watt fan-assisted 

Sunlight provides a major portion of the heat for the Broesder house. 


electric resistance heaters and two elec- 
tric baseboard heaters. One of these 
6-foot baseboard heaters is in the master 
bedroom and the other is in the 
bedroom shared by the Broesders' two 
young sons. Some additional heat is 
provided with a Buck wood-burning 
stove. Sandy said in the winter she starts 
a quick fire about every other morning 
and then lets it go out as the sun takes 
over to warm the house. About half the 
time she starts another in the evening. 
The supplementary heat needs of the 
house on a given day depend substanti- 

ally on how much sun is available that 
day, Sandy said. Don said the Buck 
stove runs through about a cord of old 
fence posts each winter. 

Heat Costs Not Known 

All appliances including the water 
heater are electrical, and various electri- 
cal equipment for the ranch operations 
is run off the same meter, which makes 
it impossible to know what portion of 
the total electric bill goes to heat the 
house. The Broesders are satisfied with 

their home and they don't think it costs 
much to heat. They have no major 
regrets about the house, but if they were 
to build it again, they would enlarge the 
master bedroom and the laundry room. 
They also would like some shades or 
shutters for the greenhouse, which over- 
heats in the summer. 

Total cost of the house was about 
$72,000, which amounts to $45 per 
square foot. The Broesders said the use 
of an unconventional design did not 
affect their ability to get financing for 
the house. O 

Don Broesder in his greenhouse. Oil drums are filled with water for heat storage. 


A Bevy of Energy-saving Ideas 

Dave Oien is one of those 
people who takes energy 
conservation seriously. 
Back in 1978 when he started building a 
new house on the family ranch near 
Conrad, energy conservation was one of 
his main considerations. The house that 
he and his family completed and moved 
into the next year embodies a wide 
variety of energ>'-saving strategies. These 
strategies include the use of vertical-wall 
solar collectors, a Russian furnace, 180 
square feet of south-facing glazing, a 
substantial volume of indoor masonry' to 
provide thermal mass, and an earth berm 
on the north side. Dave said he got many 
of his ideas from the Alternative Energy 
Research Organization (AERO), of which 
he claims to be a fanatical member. He 
had complete freedom to incorporate 
these energy-saving ideas, because he 
built the house himself with the help of 
family and friends. Total cost was about 
$49,000, or $22 per square foot. 

"When we were building our house," 
Dave said, "one of the neighbors said it 
looked Uke a chicken coop. We took it as 
a compliment. " Since then, at least two of 
the neighbors have threatened to build 
themselves a house just like Dave and 
Sharon's "chicken coop," Dave said. 

Sun and Insulation Save 

The reason Dave and Sharon's house 
impressed the neighbors is clear: it 
normally takes only 1 1/2 to 2 cords of 
firewood along with the solar heating to 
keep the 2,016 square feet of floor space 

The Oien-Eisenberg house is designed to take maximum advantage of solar power. Note 
the two-story flat-plale solar collectors on the outside south wall. 

at a comfortable temperature over a 
winter. Much of this wood is fuel for the 
wood-burning cookstove, which is used 
to do the cooking from October through 
April and provides a measure of space 
heat in the bargain. 

The exterior walls of Dave and Sharon's 
house are single 2x6 stud walls insulated 
with R19 fiberglass batts. Dave said if he 
were building today he would make the 
walls thicker and include more insula- 
tion. Ceiling insulation is a double layer of 
R19 batts, for a total value of R38. 
Extruded polystyrene foam under the 
floor slab has a value of R7, with foam on 

,n/i (^ ,"( the wall function as air mtakes and 
outlets for the solar collectors. 


Dave Oien and Sharon Eisenberg 


Northwest of Conrad 

Designer and Builder 



2 Stor^' 

Ceiling - R38 
Walls • R19 
Slab ■ R7 
Foundation - R22 

Square Feet 


Special Features 

Russian Fumace 
Wind-powered, Commercial 

Electric Water Heater 
Home-made Vertical Wall Solar 

Composting Toilet 


Solar, Wood 












the outside foundation walls to a value of 
R22. Windows are triple-pane glass. Dave 
and Sharon use "Warm Window" 
thermal curtains to insulate the windows 
on cold nights. Vertical, spring-loaded 
battens beside the windows are closed 
manually to clamp the curtains firmly to 
the framing around the window, pro- 
viding a dead-air space between curtain 
and window. Dave said the windows are 
the primary source of solar energy in the 

The homemade vertical wall solar 
collectors also work well and provide 
heat for the house, Dave said. Spring- 
loaded closures had to be installed on the 
collector vents to prevent back-drafting of 
cool air from upstairs to the ground floor. 

When Sun is Not Enough, 

The main backup heat source is the 
massive Russian fireplace. Centrally 
located on the ground floor, this fireplace 
is designed to bum wood quickly at high 
temperatures. The hot combustion gases 
pass through a long, winding flue where 
much of the heat is absorbed by the 
surrounding mass of brick masonry. This 
heat gradually warms the bricks, and 
eventually radiates into the Uving space 
over an extended period of time, usually 
about 16 hours. Dave said in cold weather 
he fires the fireplace in the evening, and 
heat is released little-by-little into the 
living space, with heating reaching its 
maximum at about 3 a.m. He normally 
does not make a fire in the fireplace in the 
morning unless it is colder than 20 
degrees outside wnth no hope of sun. 
Indoor temperatures rarely go below 58 
degrees, even when no one is home and 
outside temperatures are -25. Tempera- 
tures once dropped to 48 degrees in the 

house when no one was home for a 
2- week period in December. 

Thermal Mass Needs 

Dave said the house has more thermal 
mass than it needs downstairs, but not 
enough upstairs. Ground-floor thermal 
mass includes the concrete floor slab, the 
3-inch layer of bricks over the slab, and 
brick facing on interior walls. If he had it 
to do over, Dave said, he would pour a 
concrete floor for the second level, to 
provide additional mass upstairs. 

Greenhouse Does Not 

The attached greenhouse was designed 
for vegetable production in the winter, 
but proved too shady for this purpose. It 
now is used to overwinter "mother" 
plants that are used for commercial cut- 
tings. The greenhouse does not provide 
any heat for the house. 

Combustion air for the fireplace and 
cookstove comes from the outside 
through an 80-foot-long, 6-inch diameter 
plastic "earth tube," which is buried 
below frost level. In the summer this tube 
brings cool air into the house to replace 
warm air that leaves the house as a result 
of the "solar air conditioning" provided 
by the vertical solar collectors. The sun 
warms the air in collectors, Dave 
explained, causing it to rise in the collec- 
tors until it exits through upper vents to 
the outside. This effect causes room air to 
be pulled into the collectors at the 
bottom, and the room air is replaced by 
cool air drawn in through the earth tube. 
Cross ventilation is provided with east 
and west windows that can be opened to 
catch prevailing breezes. 


Windmill Tilts Energy Bills 

Further energy saving is provided by 
the use of a windmill to generate elec- 
tricity for water heating. The Jacobs 2,500 
Watt, 110-volt DC wind generator is a 
1930s veteran that Dave got in trade for a 
load of surplus bricks. The generator is 
connected to the lower coil of Dave and 
Sharon's water heater, with Montana 
Power Company utility service connected 
to the upper coil. If the wrtnd doesn't 

blow, MPC heats the water. If it does 
blow, the wind heats the water, and dries 
the clothes when they are hung out on the 
line. Dave estimated that his total expen- 
diture for the wind generator and its 
tower was about $1,000, supplemented 
with lots of donated labor and advice. All 
these strategies pay off: utility bills for 
Dave and Sharon's house ran between $5 
and $25 monthly until recent rate 
increases drove their bills up by 30 to 50 
percent, Dave said. 

Saving Water Too 

Responding to the scarcity of water on 
the family ranch, Dave installed a water- 
less composting type toilet made by 
Clivus Multrum. Two problems have 
attended the use of this toilet. The first 
problem is the buildup of moisture. 
Twice a year, Dave uses a sump pump 
and garden hose to pump "compost tea" 
out of the toilet. Dave said this tea is 
odorless compost which he uses to 
fertilize flowerbeds. 

The second problem with the Clivus 
system is the occasional backdraft that 
comes down the vent in calm weather. 
This has been remedied by installing a fan 
in the vent. 

Dave said the efforts needed to keep the 
Clivus in operation are worth it, because 
the alternatives aren't very workable 
either. Dave's mother lives nearby and 
uses a conventional septic system which - 
presents a different set of problems, 
mostly relating to the amount of water 
necessary to operate these systems, the 
expense of occasional pumping, and the 
nuisance of malfunctions. The waterless 
operation of the Clivus is particularly 
appreciated because water is scarce in the 
vicinity, and the Oiens must truck water 
and store it in cisterns. 

A Measure of Energy 

Dave and Sharon are well aware of the 
advantages of having a measure of 
independence from public energy 
utilities. "Every year the power gets 
knocked out for a day or two, but we can 
get by without it," Dave said. D 

Massive brick Russian Furnace at left provides heat when solar power is not enough. 


A Chilly Little House on the Prairie 


Chuck and Val Skorupa 


East of Conrad 


Owners and Fred Quivik 
Renewable Technologies Inc. 
P.O. Box 4113 
Butte, MT 59702 


Southwall Builders 

644 South Second Street West 

Missoula, MT 59801 



1 Story with Basement 


Ceiling ■ R60 

Double Walls • R40 

South Greenhouse Wall -Rig 

Basement Walls - R34, R27 

Slab ■ RIO 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,700 
Basement - 1,700 
Greenhouse - 450 

Special Features 

Earth Tube 
Retrofit Construction 


Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard 


June 1983 

Chuck and Val Skorupa had an 
OK little house on their 
farm near Conrad, and 
maybe it was typical of such houses 
built from the mid 1950s to mid 1960s: it 
got them by, but was not exactly com- 
fortable in all weathers. It was drafty in 
the winter and hot in the summer. It 
leaked heat like a sieve. Besides which, 
it was a bit small. Twenty-five or more 
years ago when the house was built, 
insulation was not a major considera- 
tion. The uninsulated exterior walls had 
an R value of about 7, and the attic was 
about Rll. 

A Cure for the Problem 

Chuck and Val are members of AERO, 
the Alternative Energy Resource 
Organization, and they knew that it 
wasn't necessary for people to alter- 
nately freeze and fry in the discomfort 
of their homes. Consequently, after con- 
sidering the options, they decided in 
1982 that they would hire a contractor 
to expand their old house and bring it up 
to modern energy-efficiency standards. 

They knew that Southwall Builders of 
Missoula had a good reputation for 
energy-efficiency retrofits, so they hired 
them to do the work. It was not a small 
job. First, the old house had to be moved 
off its foundation, which was deterior- 
ating and in need of replacement. The 
old foundation then was demolished, 
and a new one built to fit the dimensions 
of the new house. The exterior of the 
concrete basement walls was insulated 
with extruded polystyrene foam boards; 
3 inches of foam from the top of the 

Chuck and Val Skorupa's retrofitted house is proof against cold weather. 

concrete to a depth of 4 feet, and 2 
inches from there to the footings. The 
interior surface of the basement walls 
was furred out with 2 x 4s set out from 
the concrete to allow room for 6-inch 
R19 fiberglass batts. 

From the Ground Up 

After the new foundation was com- 
plete, the original house was reset and 
reconstruction began. The square foot- 
age of the house was increased by 
adding approximately 15 feet to the east 
side. This expansion was enclosed by 
double 2x4 exterior walls, with Rll 
batts in the stud-wall cavities and R19 in 
the space between the two stud walls. 
Siding was removed from the original 

house, and a new 2x4 stud wall was 
built 6 inches outside the original stud 
walls. The double walls thus created 
were insulated in the same manner as 
the new double wall on the east side. 
The builders built a new roof with a roof 
peak 5 feet higher than the original roof 
peak, and placed R60 fiberglass batt 
insulation on the old roof. 

A Thorough Modernization 

The new 18 x 26 greenhouse was 
added on a floor level midway between 
the basement and main floor. All old 
windows were replaced with Clawson 
double-pane with low-E film, and old 
doors were replaced with insulated steel 
thermal doors. A VanEE heat recovery 


ventilator was installed to control 
indoor air quality in the tight new 
structure. Intake air for the ventilator 
passes through a 6-inch plastic pipe, 
most of which is buried below frost 
level so that cold air from outside is 
tempered before it reaches the venti- 
lator. This reduces the amount of 
warming the ventilator has to do, and 
eliminates the freeze-up problem that 
sometimes is a problem with older heat 
recovery ventilators in cold weather. 

The Skorupas moved into the house in 
June, 1983, and have been enjoying it 
ever since. The greenhouse has turned 
out to be a major contributor to home 
heating, and it is only occasionally that 
the Skorupas have to turn on a short 
length of electric baseboard heater for 
supplemental heat. With superinsula- 
tion, an appreciable amount of warming 
can be noticed even from the heat given 
off by people and appliances, Val said. 








H 1 1 1 H 




The built-in greenhouse is a major heat contributor in the Skurupa house. 

An Occasional Nip in the 

Although the greenhouse is not 
equipped with a heater, it generally 
maintains a temperature level safe for 
plants, although some plants have been 
nipped at night when the outside tem- 
perature has dropped to 40 below or 
colder. During bright sunny winter 
days, greenhouse temperatures may 
range up to 100 degrees, even though 
outside temperatures are well below 
zero, Val said. She said that during the 
winter they close the greenhouse off 
from the living space at night, and open 
it during the day. This procedure is 
reversed during the summer. DNRC 
building specialists suggest that temper- 
atures in the greenhouse could be 

controlled to some degree if shades or 
curtains were installed. 

A Worthwhile Effort? 

Converting an existing farm house to a 
modern energy-efficient home was 
costly and time consuming. The 
Skorupas said it cost about $79,000 for 
the conversion. Would they do it again if 
they were faced with the same 

The answer. Chuck Skorupa said, is 
no. "If I had it to do over, I'd put some 
insulation into the old house and use it 
for a bunkhouse. Then I'd build myself 
a new house." Steve Loken of South wall 
Builders noted, however, that construc- 
tion of a house with the features present 
in the Skorupa house probably would 
cost between $135,000 and $150,000. 


Montana's First Super Good Cents Home 
Returns Investment 


John and Rita Johnson 




Owner and Builder 


Campbell Massey 
888 Coal Pit Road 
Corvallis, MT 59828 


1 Story 


Ceiling - R53 

2x6 Strapped Wall - R32 
Crawl Space Wall - R29 
Crawl Space Floor - RIO 

Special Features 

Super Good Cents Construction 
Water Heater Timer 

Square Feet 

Main - 2,030 


Electric Baseboard 


November 1985 

Rita and John R. Johnson's 
home north of Corvallis 
was the first in Montana 
to qualify for the Super Good Cents 
designation. Although the construction 
added $4,000 to the cost of the home to 
meet the energy-efficiency standards, it's 
already paying off in low heating bills and 
warm floors in the morning. 

"When we go to bed, we turn the heat 
down to 60 degrees," Rita said. "In the 
morning I get up and pad around in my 
bare feet. The house stays warm and the 
kitchen linoleum is never cold. If I open 
the draperies in the morning and the sun 
is shining, which it usually is, it heats up 
the house." 

Heating Cost A Third of 

The monetary return on investment 
began immediately. "From November of 
1985 to November of 1986, the house cost 
$338 to heat, or less than $ 1.00 per day," 
Rita said. A home of similar design built 
to HUD standards would cost an average 
of $1,088 a year to heat. The difference 
based on today's electric rates means the 
Johnsons will save the $4,000 additional 
construction cost in a little over 5 years— 
or less, if the electric rates increase. 

Heat Stays Put 

But the payback is more than dollars. 
"One of the nicest things about this 
house is no cold or hot spots, and no 
forced air heat," John said. Electric base- 
board heaters radiate even, quiet heat, 


^ ^ 



|^_||_^_ y 

-i*v ->~-*^^-*. . , -__; 


Practical features contribute to qualify John and Rita Johnson's home for the Super 
Good Cents award. North windows are restricted to one m each spare bedroom, one in 
the family room, andan entry sidelight. Placement of the insulated oversized garage and 
spare bedrooms on the north side reduces the need to heat these cooler areas. 

All major rooms take advantage of passive solar heating by facing nearly due south, and, 
incidentally, capturing views of the Bitterroot and Sapphire ranges. In the summer, the 
3-foot overhang keeps the high summer sunlight out of the living space and the sheltered 
patio on the southeast corner. 


and tight construction makes sure it stays 
put. Cavities in the 2 x 6 walls are filled 
with blown-in cellulose. Raised-heel 
trusses in the ceiling allow room for 15 
inches of cellulose. A continuous air- 
vapor barrier of 6- mil polyethylene sealed 
with Tremco keeps moisture out of the 
insulation and prevents warm air from 
traveling to the outside. To minimize 
holes in the air-vapor barrier for electrical 
outlets, 1 1/2-inches of furring was 
applied to leave a gap for wiring. Even 
this small cavity was filled with fiberglass 
insulation after the electricians were 
through. In the utility room, double walls 
frame the exterior wall. The 2x4 inside 
wall contains the service panel, wiring, 
and plumbing, which cuts down on the 
number of wires and pipes that penetrate 
the air-vapor barrier. 

A dropped ceiling in the kitchen con- 
tains efficient fluorescent lighting. "We 
installed very few overhead lights to 
avoid disturt3ing the ceiling air-vapor 
barrier," John said. 

Wall Section 


Vj" plywood 

2" rigid foam 

Ventilation Keeps House 
Clean and Dry 

A VanEE-2000 heat recovery ventilator 
brings in fresh air and exhausts stale air 
and moisture. It also minimizes dust. 
"This house is the cleanest we've ever 
lived in," Rita said. "The ventilator seems 
to filter the dust out of the incoming air." 

"We've never had any trouble with 
condensation, " John added. "We built 
during the summer, which meant less 
moisture in the framing. It rained just 
once before we got the house covered. 

"The type of soffit and ridge ventilation 
we have effectively moves moist air up 
and out of the attic," John said. He 
pointed to the 3-inch-diameter vents 
placed a foot apart along the soffit, and 
the continuous ridge vent. "I thought 
snow might get into the ridge vent, but 
we've had some heavy snowfalls and 
haven't had a problem " 

After the Johnsons moved in, they ran 
the ventilator continuously for three 
months on slow speed to remove any 
moisture emanating from the paint, 
drywall mud, and other construction 
materials in the house. Now they run the 
ventilator at night and shut it off during 
the day. If the indoor humidity should 
exceed 50 percent during the day, a 
dehumidistat automatically turns on the 
ventilator. When it's below 20 degrees, 
they run the ventilator continuously to 
prevent condensation from forming on 
the windows. 

John and Rita said they wish there was 
a way to prevent outside odors from 
entering the house through the ventilator. 
"We can smell wood smoke at times, and 
skunk odor is a periodic problem, " Rita 

The Johnsons have a couple of things 
they'd change. "We insisted on bathroom 
fans venting directly to the outside, in 

addition to the ventilator exhausts," John 
said. "They aren't necessary, and we 
have them covered with foil now. Some- 
times we can feel a draft in the family 
room from the fresh air vent in the 
hallway. I'd relocate that vent farther 
down the hall." 

Equipment Housed in 
Insulated Crawl Space 

The ventilator silently performs its 
duties in an unseen part of the house. A 
trap door in a hall closet opens to a 
stairway down to a "mechanical room" — 
actually an 8-foot x 16-foot area excavated 

somewhat deeper than the rest of the 
crawl space. "We put in the mechanical 
room so we could hang the ventilator 
from the floor joists and be able to get to it 
easily,"" John explained. He pointed out 
an insulated duct coming from the other 
end of the house. "That's the fresh air 
intake. The long run warms the air 
slightly before it enters the ventilator." 
The crawl space stays at an even 62 
degrees, regardless of the weather. An 
air-vapor barrier covers the crawl space 
ground and walls. Twelve inches of fiber- 
glass insulation was installed on the rim 
joists, with 6 inches on the inside walls. 


Two inches of extruded polystyrene 
covers the crawl space ground and its 
exterior walls. 

No Steps 

A novel approach to the crawl space 
construction resulted in airtight, mois- 
ture-proof, well-insulated walls and more. 
Two-inch-thick extruded polystyrene 
foam board insulation was installed on 
the outside from the bottom of the studs 
to the foundation footing. To line up the 

foam board with the studs, the builder 
used a 2 X 4 bottom plate which let the 2 x 
6 walls extend over the rim joist by 2 
inches. Insulguard, a fiberglass shield, 
protects the above-ground portion of the 
foam board. The shield is held in place by 
the 1/2-inch exterior plywood sheathing 
and steel siding that laps over the foam 
board-Insulguard shell by 1 1/2 inches. 

Embedding the crawl space in the 
ground almost to the siding minimized 
the amount of surface exposed. It also 

eliminated the need for steps to the front 
entry and lowered the profile of the 
house. Raised-heel trusses add several 
inches to the height of a house, but the 
profile of the Johnson's house is no higher 
than a conventional house. 

Water Heater Timer and 
Anti-siphon Loop 

In the mechanical room an energy- 
efficient 52-gallon State electric water 
heater sits in one corner, wrapped in a 
thick insulating blanket. Its central loca- 
tion allows short pipe runs to serve 
faucets and appliances in the living area 
above. To keep from heating water 
unnecessarily, a Paragon timer turns on 
the water heater for a set period each day. 
An anti-siphon loop on the top of the 
heater prevents hot water from being 
drawn back into the incoming cold water 
pipe. All hot water pipes and 5 feet of the 
incoming cold water pipe are wrapped 
with insulation. 

Seminar Leads to a Good 

John and Rita are extremely pleased 
with their house. "We feel fortunate to 
have contacted Campbell Massey about 
building our house, " Rita said. "He sug- 
gested we attend the Super Good Cents 
seminar at Ravalli County Electric Co-op. 

'"After the seminar, we put together a 
plan and Campbell and Rudy Kratofil 
(Conservation Supervisor at Ravalli Coun- 
ty Electric Cooperative) incorporated the 
energy efficiency into it. If we were to 
start thinking about another house 
tomorrow, the builder would be Camp- 
bell Massey, and it would be an energy- 
efficient home."' D 

Low winter sunlight creeping through south-facing windows will eventually reach the living room's back wall. In the dining room, large 
windows bring in east light. All windows are Andersen double-glazed with low-E film. 


A House for Cut Bank Weather 

Back in 1985. Lee McCauley 
decided to build a house 
in Cut Bank. The climate 
in Cut Bank being what it is, Lee knew 
he wanted a house that would keep the 
outdoors outdoors. A tight, energy- 
efficient house was what he needed. 
Specifically, he decided he wanted a 
particular design known as an envelope 

The Envelope House 
Design Idea 

Envelope houses use a fairly elaborate 
design to take advantage of passive solar 
energy. This design uses circulating, 
solar-heated air to warm the house and 
buffer the living space from outdoor 
temperatures. The front (south side] of 
these houses has large windows on both 
upper and lower levels. Sunlight enter- 
ing these windows heats the air in the 
sunspaces on both levels of the house. 
Air is free to rise from the lower level to 
the upper level sunspace through an 
opening in the floor between. Warmed 
air rises from the sunspaces to the top of 
the house. What the air does after it 
reaches the underside of the roof is 
uncertain. According to the envelope- 
house operating theory, the air should 
move northward through a passage pro- 
vided for it along the underside of the 
insulated roof until it reaches the north 
wall. Then, the air is supposed to move 
down through the space left for it in the 
north wall until it enters the basement 
or crawl space. Once in the crawl space, 
the air theoretically moves to the south 

Larry and Hiondte iVooisron s house in Cm Bank shows the style that characterizes 
envelope houses. 

side of the house where it completes the 
cycle by rising through slots in the floor 
to replace air that has risen after being 
warmed by sunlight entering the 

Some Envelopes Work, 
Some Don't 

Testing by Brookhaven National Lab- 
oratories, a federal energy research 
facility, indicates that the circulation 
cycle does not work in some envelope 

houses. When Lee McCauley was con- 
sidering building a house, he was 
acquainted with an envelope house near 
Ronan that did seem to work. He liked 
the modernistic looks of the envelope 
houses. "It was something different, 
and something we wanted to do," he 

An Envelope House Comes 
to Cut Bank 

And so an envelope house came to be 
built in Cut Bank. The house faces 

L.irry and Blondie Woolston 

Previous Owner 

Lee McCauley 


Cut Bank 


VogI Construction 
P.O. Box 1346 
Cut Bank, MT 59427 


2 Story Envelope Construction 


Roof - R40 
Stud Walls - R24 
Lower Level Floor - R30 
Crawl Space Floor • R5 

Square Feet 


Special Features 

RSDP Construction 
Envelope Construction 


Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard, 
Fan-forced Air 






southeast to catch the first rays of 
winter sun, and its distinctive shape 
stands out among the conventional 
houses on the north side of town. The 
McCauley house has never been tested 
to determine whether the design is 
functioning as intended, but both Lee 
McCauley and the present owners and 
occupants of the house, Larry and 
Blondie Woolston, are convinced that it 

There is no dispute that the McCauley 
house is highly energy-efficient. Re- 
cords show that the house needed only 

2,200 kilowatt-hours to heat it between 
May 3, 1985, and March 2, 1986. At this 
rate, it cost only about $ 110 to heat the 
house's 2, 176 square feet of floor space 
for 10 months. 

DNRC building specialists suggest 
that envelope houses are highly energy- 
efficient because the large expanse of 
south-facing windows allows the sun to 
provide a major contribution of warmth, 
and the thick, heavily insulated walls 
and ceiling keep the heat from escaping. 
In essence, they said, envelope houses 



Windows at the ends of the upstairs sunspace can be opened to provide cross ventilation. Opening in the floor lets warmed air rise from the 
lower level sunspace. 


The sunspace on the mam floor is a good place lor a hot tub. Doors at left can be opened for 

"operate just like big thermos bottles, " 
adding that a house of comparable ther- 
mal qualities could be built for less than 
required by the envelope style construc- 

Sparse Heating Equipment 
Worries Montana Native 

The only heat backup for the sun in 
the McCauley house is three short 
lengths of electric baseboard heater, and 
a small fan-forced-air heater in each of 
the three bathrooms. Each of the two 
bedrooms has a short baseboard, with 
one in the kitchen on the main level. 
' 'The one on the main level is the only 
one we really use, " Larry said. He said 
the sparse heating equipment in the 
house was worrisome to a Montana 

native' ' such as himself until he realized 
the solar heating potential of the house. 

The various electrical uses in the 
houses have separate meters, so it is 
possible to keep track of how much goes 
for what. In the mild winter month of 
February, 1988, for example, the Wool- 
stons' heat bill was $12.68, Larry said, 
adding however that monthly bills can 
reach $30 during particularly cool spells 
of invigorating Cut Bank winter. 

Strategies for Heating and 

On the other hand, the sun can almost 
be too much of a good thing. "Some- 
times on sunshiny days we have to open 
the windows, even in the winter," Larry 
said. He said the body heat from a few 

people can be enough to raise the 

"It's really more of a cooling problem 
than a heating problem, " Lee McCauley 
said. He said the summer sun shining in 
the windows tends to overheat the 
sunspaces, although this can be coun- 
tered by opening the upstairs windows 
and letting the hot air escape. Side 
windows at the ends of the sunspace 
provide cross ventilation, and the Cut 
Bank breeze passing through from side 
to side provides plenty of fresh air. Lee 

The house is equipped with a heat 
recovery ventilator, which the 
Woolstons operate manually when they 
shower or cook. Lee McCauley said he 
is convinced that the ventilator is not 
needed, and he would not put one in if 
he were building the house today. He 
contends that bathroom and kitchen 
vents would serve the ventilation needs 
of the house. 

Shades Might Help 

Lee said the overheating tendencies 
might be reduced by installing shades 
on the sunspace windows. At the time 
the house was built, he said, he couldn't 
find any shades he liked. The Window 
Quilt shades that were available took up 
too much space when they were rolled 
up, he said, noting that they required 
about 8 inches of space at the top of the 

Operating for Energy 

Lee and Larry agreed that the house 
must be consciously "operated" to 
achieve maximum energy efficiency. 
For example, Larry said, in cool 
weather, the Woolstons open the door 

between the living space and the sun- 
space in the morning as soon as the sun 
warms the air in the sunspace, and close 
it in the evening. Once warm, the living 
space stays warm because of the thick 
insulation surrounding it. In warm 
weather, they keep the living space 
closed off from the hot air outside, and 
they open the windows at the top of the 
sunspace to let out the hot air. 

"The Nicest House We've 
Ever Lived In" 

Larry said he and Blondie like the 
house very much, and wouldn't do 
much to change it, except possibly make 
it a little bigger. "We sure do enjoy it," 
Larry said. "It's the nicest house we've 
ever lived in." D 


Airtight Drywall Seals House 


Tom and Susie Bramlette 






Kim Baker 
RBJ Construction 
P.O. Box 427 
Dillon, MT 59725 


Split Level 


Ceiling - R60 
2x6 WaUs - R27 
Crawl Space Floor • RU 
Crawl Space Walls -Rig 
Basement Walls ■ R19 
Basement Slab ■ R5 

Square Feet 

Upper - 898 
Main - 1,189 
Basement ■ 889 

Special Features 

RCDP Construction 
Airtight Drywall Approach 


Electric Baseboard 


August 1986 

In their house, Tom and Susie 
Bramlette used the advanced 
diywall approach (ADA) instead 
of installing a separate air-vapor barrier. 
Although some houses had been built 
with ADA in Canada and on the West 
Coast, DNRC records show the 
Branilettes were one of the first to 
build a house in Montana using full ADA. 
Builder Kim Baker of RBJ Construction 
in Dillon received a Residential Conserva- 
tion Demonstration Program (RCDP) 
grant from DNRC and Botmeville Power 
Administration to cover the extra expense 
of building the Bramlettes' house to meet 
RCDP specifications, which included 
ADA as an innovative energy feature. 
Beginning in August 1986, DNRC began a 
year of electrical usage monitoring to see 
how ADA compares to other types of 
air-vapor barrier techniques. The results 
from monitoring of the Bramlette's house 
and other RCDP houses will be available 
in late spring of 1988. 

Air- Vapor Barrier Must be 

The air-vapor barrier is an essential part 
of any energy-efficient house. It prevents 
drafts by stopping air from leaving or 
entering the house; it protects insulation 
and framing by keeping moisture out of 
wall cavities, attics, basements, and crawl 

The airtight barrier most builders use is 
a continuous wrap of 6-mil polyethylene 
aroimd the house frame. Proper installa- 
tion requires careful attention to detail 
from nearly everyone on the work site, 

The combination of the airtight drywall approach with heavy insulation and southwest- 
facing windows is chopping Susie and Tom Bramlette's electric heating costs to an average 
of $52.00 a month. 

A step up, a bannister, and the meeting of vaulted ceiling with flat ceiling mark the 
transition from the one-level hving room to the split-level portion of the house. 


including carpenters, plumbers, electri- 
cians, and even the people who install the 
telephones and cable television lines. The 
sccims of the polyethylene must be care- 
fully overlapped and caulked, and any 
openings made in the film while installing 
windows, plumbing, and wiring must be 
sealed tightly. 

Airtight drywall eliminates the separate 
labor-intensive step of installing a plastic 
air-vapor barrier and uses materials that 
are readily available. Unlike the poly- 
ethylene barrier hidden in the walls, the 
drywall air-vapor barrier is visible and 
easily accessible if repairs need to be 

How It's Done 

Airtight drywall is installed in three 
steps. First, closed-cell foam gasketing or 
caulk is installed between the drywall 
and the framing members (studs, plates, 
and so forth). This stops infiltration. Then 
the drywall is taped at all joints to seal it, 
and drywall mud is applied. The last step 
is painting the drywall with a low per- 
meabihty paint to serve as the vapor 
barrier. Maintaining the integrity of the 
seal is easy. For example, should the 
house settle and a crack appear, it is a 
simple matter to caulk and repaint. 

Like any new technique. ADA installa- 
tion takes practice, but takes less time as 
builders become more experienced with 

Insulation and Ventilation 
Part of the Package 

The energy-efficient features of the 
Bramlette's house include more than 
tightly sealed drywall. however Insula- 
tion and ventilation are basic components 
of the RCDP package. Sijt-inch fiberglass 
batts were installed in the 2x6 wall 

cavities and the studs were sheathed on 
the exterior with 1-inch polyisocyan urate 
foam board. Raised-heel trusses in the 
ceiling allowed room for a thick layer of 
blown-in fiberglass insulation. The con- 
crete walls of the basement and crawl 
space were furred out with 2x6 studs 
and filled with fiberglass batts. Rll 
fiberglass batts were installed in the floor 
over the crawl space, and a 5-mil poly- 
ethylene moisture barrier was laid over 
crawl space ground. All windows are 
double glazed with low-E film. Cedar and 
brick provide a handsome finish to the 

A VanEE-2000 heat recovery ventilator 
is controlled by a dehumidistat that is set 
to operate the ventilator when humidity 
rises above 42 percent. "We have abso- 
lutely no trouble with condensation," 
Susie said. 

Congenial Comfort 

The attention to detail carried over to 
the finishing touches on the house. The 
hardwood foyer features two slender 
north-facing windows and a green Per- 
sian rug. From the west side of the foyer, 
French doors open to an office. Here solid 
green carpeting continues the foyer's 
color scheme. 

Plain white walls and oak paneling play 
up the living room's vaulted ceiling and 
brick fireplace on a raised hearth. A pipe 
brings fresh air from outside directly into 
the fireplace so the fireplace won't draw 
air from inside the house for combustion. 

A step up and a small railing separate 
the kitchen-dining room from the living 
area. Wainscotting and blue-print wall- 
paper establish a country motif. Floor-to- 
ceiling ash cupboards line the walls of the 
kitchen and dining area, providing plenty 
of storage space. 








More Room, Less Heat Costs 

Moving from a double-wide trailer to 
the 2,976-square-foot house was a big 
change for the Bramlettes and their three 
children, but the move has been worth it, 
both for low energy costs and comfort. 
"We're heating about 1,500 square feet 
more than before," Susie said, "and our 
highest heating costs are easily 60 percent 
less than they were in the trailer." 

Part of the RCDP agreement is that the 
Bramlettes will report their weekly heat 
usage. "We quickly see when we're being 
foolish with our electricity use," Tom 

The house performs year-round. "In 
the summer, the house's construction 
helps to keep it cool," Tom said. "We 
close the draperies and windows and the 
house stays comfortable even though it 
may be in the 80s or 90s outside. We also 
like the quiet afforded by the extra 
insulation. We can sit in the house and 
see the trees bending, but we can't hear 
the wind." D 

Late afternoon sunlight entering the south- 
west-facing windows warms the living area. 
The lighting design reduces the number of 
ceiling fixtures that might contribute to leaks 
through the air-vapor barrier. 


Lessons Learned 

Mediterranean design and 
rooftop solar panels 
hint that Roy Cornells 
house may be a bit out of the ordinary 
for a Montana farmhouse. It is. Roy, 
Dillon fire chief and a farmer, is well 
known for his interest in energy -saving 
techniques and his house and shop 
reflect that fascination. Over the years 
he's learned some lessons, which he's 
willing to pass along to others. 

Calculating Heat Loss 
Helps Design 

"First, figuring heat loss early in the 
design of the house made me think of 
each window and door as a hole in the 
wall and every outside wall as a heat 
sink to the outdoors. It influenced me to 
use more insulation, tight caulking, 
fewer skylights, thicker glazing, and 
even to modify the floor plan. 

"Although I measured every square 
foot of wall and window area and cracks 
to get the heat loss, a more streamlined 
method in the guides issued by the 
Hydronic Institute or a computer pro- 
gram by Montana Power will give about 
the same figure with less time- 
consuming detail. Under worst condi- 
tions—a minus thirty-degree outside 
temperature with a 15 mph wind— my 
heat loss calculation came to 51,800 Btu 
per hour. The other two methods 
showed 54,900 Btu per hour." 

Tight Construction 

From full basement to the red 
mission-tile roof, the house was built to 

The rooftop solar collector on Roy Cornells house delivers hot water to a radiant floor 
heating system. It is just one of Roy's techniques for saving energy. 

fend off nature's extremes. The exterior 
of the 6-inch-thick concrete basement 
walls was painted with a waterproof 
coating and sheathed with extruded 
polystyrene insulation (1 1/2-inch thick 
down to 4 feet, then 3/4-inch thick down 
to the 8-foot-deep footings). A water- 
proof plastic membrane was installed 
over the polystyrene. 

Backfilling of soil next to the founda- 
tion was done in 2-foot-deep incre- 
ments. After each layer was placed, it 
was soaked with water and allowed to 
settle thoroughly before the next layer 
was added. The finished grade slopes 
away from the foundation, and a 3-foot 
roof overhang drops rain and snow 

away from the house. The interior con- 
crete basement walls are furred with 2 x 
4 studs, then filled with foamed-in-place 
urethane. Drywall was installed on the 
interior. The concrete floor lies on a 
6-inch layer of gravel. 

The framed 2x6 walls on the main 
floor, from inside to out, consist of 
1/2-inch drywall. 6-mil polyethylene air- 
vapor barrier, 5 1/2-inch fiberglass batts, 
1-inch foamed-in-place urethane, 1/2- 
inch plywood, felt paper, and 3/4-inch 
concrete stucco. 

A foot of cellulose insulates the ceiling 
to R44. Windows are vinyl clad Ander- 
sen with triple glazing. Reflective Vero- 
sol shades help in controlling heat gain 
and loss through the windows. 


Roy Cornell 



Designer and Builder 



1 Story with Basement 


Ceiling - R44 
2x6 Wall ■ R27.5 
Basement Wall - R21 

Square Feel 

Main - 2,500 
Basement ■ 2,500 

Special Features 

Active Solar 
Hydronic Heating 


Gas. Solar. Wood 




Active Solar 

Roy chose to include active solar as 
part of his heating system because he 
likes to use renewable resources. "But," 
he said, "an active solar system for 
space heating shouldn't be a priority. 
Even if a person builds it himself, the 
system may never pay back at current 
utility rates. I put $10,000 into the 
materials for solar heating. If someone 
else had installed the system, the cost 
would have doubled. 1 did get a tax 
credit at the time, though." Besides the 
initial cost of the system, the total cost 
was increased by materials and labor 
needed to correct some malfunctions, 
which Roy said people should be aware 
of if they are contemplating an active 
solar system. 

Solar Heat 

The solar system incorporates a 600- 
square-foot site-built roof collector, 
glazed with twenty-seven 34- x 90-inch 
insulated patio door blanks. The collec- 
tor surface is 80 feet long, 8 feet wide, 
and slopes at a 55-degree angle on a 
modified roof truss designed and built 
on the site. The collector has approxi- 
mately 10,000 feet of tubing, 480 tubing 
connections, and over a ton of glass in it. 


Within the solar collector, a 50-50 
water-glycol solution circulates through 
black 1/4-inch neoprene-type tubing. 
The tubing is connected to vertical 
copper manifolds. 

Malfunction Corrections 

"Virtually all of the problems with the 
solar system relate to the tubing connec- 
tions and the weight of the glass, ' ' Roy 

The first problem in the system 
occurred in the "sleeves" which con- 
nect each tiny neoprene tube to a hole 
punched in the copper manifold. "The 
sleeves were supposed to be Teflon," 
Roy explained. "But to save money, the 
distributor made his own from tubing 
sold to him as Teflon, but which was 
plastic. One day the power went off. 

The liquid boiled out of the tubing, 
causing the collector to overheat and 
melt all of the plastic sleeves." 

The sleeve damage let the water- 
glycol mixture circulating through the 
tubing escape and vaporize, leaving a 
whitish dust on the black neoprene 
tubing. "I made sleeve replacements 
from copper tubing," Roy said. 
"Although it still works, the lighter 
color reduces the amount of heat 
absorbed by the collector," Roy said. 

A second problem occurred in the 
frame. "I underestimated and built the 
frame too light to support the weight of 
glass and the expansion and contraction 
movement from heating and cooling," 
Roy said. "This created air leaks and 
dust accumulation, which also reduced 
the efficiency of the collector." 

Solar Warms Basement 

Solar heat is delivered to the house by 
circulating the water-glycol solution 
from the collector through a heat 
exchanger to heat the water in a 4,000- 
gallon tank in the basement. Heated 
water from the tank circulates through 
radiant floor heating panels imbedded 
in the concrete basement floor. "Floor 
panels can use lower water tempera- 
tures (130 degrees compared to 190 

degrees) than either ceiling panels or 
baseboards can," Roy said. 

Remodeling the Heat 

Reading and research during design 
and construction led to some changes in 
all areas of the project. One change 
replaced the heat exchanger between 
the collector fluid and the storage tank 
water. The original plan used 320 feet of 
1/2-inch iron pipe welded inside the 
storage tank. The hot fluid from the 
collector was circulated through this 

Eight pumps circulate the fluid through the 
hydronic heating circuits. The heating 
system and solar collector each use 2 
pumps in parallel and will continue to 
operate if one pump fails. All components- 
pumps, valves, controls, thermometers, 
and so on — are labeled and their functions 
listed in an "owner's manual." 


Roy decided to build two tube-and- 
shell exchangers, both using copper pipe 
and fittings, to fit into the available 
space and the existing plumbing layout. 
"More heat is now being transferred in 
7 1/2 feet of tube-and-shell exchanger 
than ever was in 320 feet of interior 
pipe," he said. 

Hot Water Preheat Loop 

The storage tank also preheats the 
domestic hot water. A 160-foot loop of 
1/2-inch copper pipe and a manifold are 
mounted on plastic insulators in the top 
few inches of storage tank water. "All 
connections to the tank, inside and out, 
were made with insulated dielectric 

unions to avoid electrolysis resulting 
from dissimiliar metals' contact with 
one another, ' Roy said. "Water from 
the well flows through this loop on its 
way to an electric water heater." 

Hydronic Baseboard 

In addition to the solar space-heating 
system, Roy installed a gas-fired 
hydronic baseboard system with a fire- 
place water grate added. A Hydro-Pulse 
boiler is the heart of the hydronic 
system. "About 10 percent of the energy 
in natural gas goes out with the steam 
you see coming from the chimney when 
the outside temperature is below zero. 

The only way to salvage that heat is to 
condense the water vapor, which this 
boiler does," Roy said. Because most of 
the heat is removed from the exhaust 
gases, those gases are cool enough to be 
vented through a 1 1/2-inch plastic pipe. 
Spark plug ignition removes the need 
for a standing pilot light. 

Roy increased the length of the base- 
boards to compensate for a water tem- 
perature of about 135 degrees (com- 
pared to the usual 190-degree water in 
standard baseboard heater designs). 
"The system is about 94 percent effi- 
cient," Roy said. "My winter gas bills 
average between $20 and $35 a month. 

"In 1986 1 cleaned the spark plug and 
put in new valve reeds. The manufac- 
turer suggests this be done every 5 

The stone fireplace is an integral part of a 
hydronic baseboard system. At the left end 
of the fireplace, wood panel doors conceal 
a wood elevator. A cable and pulley 
complete with limit, derail, and door inter- 
lock safety switches lift the elevator from 
the basement to the fireplace. 

years; mine went 7. That's the only 
maintenance it has needed. " 

Zoned Heat 

The baseboard radiators in the house 
are divided into four heating zones, so 
heat is sent only to where it's needed. 
Each zone has a valve that controls the 
flow of hot water to that zone. A fifth 
zone valve delivers heat to a central 
humidifier to supply warm humid air 
during dry winter days. This unit is 
controlled by a humidistat. 

A sixth zone valve circulates hot water 
to a coil of copper pipe in the bottom of 
a domestic water heater. "This lets the 
high-efficiency boiler heat the water 
most of the time," Roy said. "The upper 
electric element is active only when we 
use a lot of hot water." 

Fireplace Plays a Part 

A 14-foot-long stone fireplace on the 
main floor is integrated into the heating 
system. The 40-inch fireplace combus- 
tion chamber features airtight glass 
doors, smoke damper, outside air for 
combustion, and fan circulation of 
warm air. Ashes can be dumped directly 
from the combustion chamber to a large 
ash bin in the basement which can hold 
several years' ashes. 

Roy placed the fireplace on an interior 
wall to reduce heat losses to the outside, 
and to accommodate other functions. In 


one side of the chimney is a large space 
that serves as a fresh air plenum from 
the attic to supply the combustion air for 
the boiler and fireplace. Furnace filters 
screen dust out of the air moving 
through this passage. 

A ladder in the opening gives access to 
a fan motor and water grate piping. To 
reduce the noise from the Hydro-Pulse 
boiler, the boiler's exhaust is imbedded 
in masonry all the way to the top of the 
large chimney. A 2-inch rigid conduit in 
the chimney provides a sturdy TV 
antenna mounting. The conduit also 
serves as a direct route for antenna 
wiring to a television signal distribution 
amplifier in the boiler room. Wiring 
from the amplifier leads to nearly every 

Wood-fired Heat 

Boiler water can also be heated by the 
fireplace. A circulation pump in the 
return line to the boiler circulates water 
to the water grate in the fireplace. The 
grate contains over 240 feet of 1/4-inch 

A bank of transluscent panels on the Muth side of Ihc shop acts as a solar collector to heat 
the shop. 

wrought iron pipe. The pump is control- 
led manually by a switch on the fire- 
place, or by a thermostat mounted in the 
fireplace hood. Since the fireplace is an 
uncontrolled heat source, a seventh 
zone valve feeds hot boiler water to a 
heat exchanger that dumps heat into the 
4,000-gallon solar storage tank if the 
other 6 zone valves are satisfied and 

Energy Savings at the Sliop 

Saving energy isn't confined to the 
house. An extension on the south side of 
Roy's shop made room for a second 
story attic solar collector. "It can be 
below zero at night. So long as the next 
morning is clear and sunny, the solar 
area will be warm enough to work in by 
8:00 or 9:00 a.m. By 10:00 I have to 
move to the main shop area to get out of 
the heat, " he said. 

Roy adapted the idea from an Exten- 
sion Service plan, "Solar House 
Design." The inexpensive double-layer 
solar glazing is made from corrugated 
fiberglass panels and Monsanto 602 
ultraviolet temporary greenhouse glaz- 
ing. "I stretched the 602 when it was 
warm and got it too tight. At minus 40 
last year it popped. But, it's easy to 
replace and the fiberglass didn't cost 
any more than the sheet metal siding I 
would have had to use," he said. 

A used washing machine motor and 
blower move heated air from the solar 
collector to the shop. "I turn the motor 
on at 9:00 as soon as the sun warms the 
collector. The shop is comfortable by 
10:00." To help retain the heat in the 
shop, Roy built the walls of 2 x 6 studs 
and packed them with fiberglass insula- 
tion and insulated the ceiling. The 
shop's concrete floor holds heat and lets 
the shop coast through the night without 

Other Useful Features 

Aside from the energy-saving aspects 
of his house and shop, Roy incorporated 
several features to save time and avoid 

— Certain electrical circuits are 
wired through a smaller load center and 
transfer switch so a standby generator 
can take over if power is interrupted. 

— Secondary drains under the wash- 
ing machine, dishwasher, and relief 
valves on the solar collector, solar stor- 
age tank, hot water heater, fireplace 
loop, boiler, and well water system 
drain to a visible drain in the basement, 
so Roy is aware if a problem is 

— An insulated domestic hot water 
circulation loop from the water heater 
keeps hot water at every faucet without 
large standby heat losses. 

— A 12-volt outdoor lighting system, 
run off a transformer, can be turned on 
from several inside switches. 

— Photoelectric cells control six 
nightlights throughout the house. 

— Heat cables on roof valleys keep 
ice from forming. 

— Sewer cleanouts are located out- 
side the basement wall and in strategic 
areas inside. No drain has more than 
one 45-degree horizontal bend to the 
septic tank. 

— Two septic drain fields were 
installed with a Hancor alternator valve 
that switches the effluent from one 
drain field leg to another, and with two 
air stacks which pull oxygen through 
the drain fields to hasten the aeration. 

It's impossible to detail all of Roy's 
energy-saving devices here, but he 
said he'd be willing for interested 
people to contact him. D 


"Little Tract House'' Saves Energy, 
Provides Comfort 

Living in a drafty trailer for 
two years persuaded 
Greg and Linda Hansen 
that they needed a comfortable, energy- 
efficient house. The Hansens are a 
working family with two school-age 
children, and funds for the new house 
were limited. They set about building a 
house they could afford on their wooded 
land northwest of Eureka, promising 
themselves that they would build for 
comfort and livability, but installing 
only the energy -efficiency features that 
could pay for themselves within five 

The result, according to Greg Hansen, 
was "a little tract house" that nicely 
meets the Hansens' goals for economy, 
comfort, and energy efficiency. The 
house is single-level, 28 x 36 (1,008 
square feet) on a concrete slab with no 
basement. Outer walls are single thick- 
ness, built with "advanced framing" 
(see Glossary) using 2x8 studs on 
24-inch centers. Only 87 studs were 

Insulation from Footings to 

The slab was poured in one piece with 
a 6-inch-thick concrete foundation 
extending 3 feet below grade. The foun- 
dation is insulated on the outside with 3 
inches of extruded polystyrene, and has 
a 6-mil polyethylene moisture barrier on 
the inside surface. The outer 4 feet 
around the perimeter of the slab are 
insulated with 1 inch of extruded poly- 
styrene placed under the concrete. The 

The Hansen house is a comfortable, modest family dwelling with low energy bills. 

ceiling is insulated to R55 with 15 inches 
of blown-in cellulose. The blocks 
between the studs in the exterior stud 
walls are nailed flat to the wall rather 
than completely blocking the space 
between the studs. This is called "lad- 
der blocking" (see Advanced Framing in 
Glossary). Ladder blocking leaves the 
wall cavity open so that insulation can 
be blown into the wall from the attic 
through holes in the upper plate. This 
construction provides continuous insu- 
lation from the bottom of the wall into 
the attic. The raised-heel rafter trusses 
leave room for this insulation over the 
exterior stud walls. The 7 1/2 inches of 
cellulose in the walls have an insulating 
value of about R28. Before the windows 

are installed, insulation is blown into 
the spaces above and below the window 
openings. This insulation enters the 
spaces through holes drilled for the 
purpose in the upper plate above the 
opening, and through the window sill 
plate. The walls and ceiling are finished 
with 5/8-inch gypsum board installed in 
an "advanced drywall" configuration 
(see Glossary). The walls are painted 
with vapor barrier paint. 

Argon Windows Beat 

The house has no really large win- 
dows, but four small-to-medium win- 
dows on the south side allow some 


Greg and Linda Hansen 


Northwest of Eureka 




Greg and Linda Hansen 

Box 1168 

Eureka, MT 59917 



1 Story on Slab 


Ceiling ■ R50 
Walls • R28 
Slab ■ R5 
Foundation - R15 

Square Feel 

1 008 

Special Features 
RCDP Construction 
Argon-filled Double-pane 

Advanced Drj'wall Approach 
Air-vapor Barrier 
Advanced Framing 


Passive Solar, Electric Fan-forced 
Heaters, Ventilator Duct 


October 1985 



passive solar heating of the living space. 
Solar heating during the "low sun" 
winter period is limited by the sur- 
rounding forest which is cut back 
enough on the south side of the house to 
allow sun to shine on the house for at 
least a little while during clear winter 
days. All the windows in the house are 
standard Crestline double pane, except 
the two windows on the north side, 
which have argon gas between the 
panes. The argon raises the R-value of 
the windows from about 2 to about 4.5. 
This makes the argon-filled windows 
better insulators than standard triple 
pane windows, which have an R-value 
of about 3. Double-pane argon windows 
cost less than standard triple pane win- 
dows of the same size. On the chilly 

winter day that DNRC visited the 
Hansen house, the Argon window was 
noticeably warmer to the touch than the 
standard double pane next to it. 

Electric Heaters 
Supplement Solar Warmth 

Heat sources in the house besides the 
sun include four electric fan-forced wall 
heaters and an electric resistance heater 
in the duct of the VanEE 2000 heat 
recovery ventilator that controls the 
indoor air quality. The total Btu capacity 
of the wall heaters is approximately 
19,000, with another 3,400 in the duct 
heater. When the temperature of out- 
side air drops to 40 degrees, the duct 
heater turns on to warm the incoming 

air. The water heater, cook stove, and 
all other appliances in the home are 
operated with electricity, but are 
metered separately from the heater. 
Greg said monthly winter electrical bills 
run about $85. The Hansens' metered 
heat bill from January 1, 1987, to 
January 1, 1988, was $165.56. 

Greg alternates working a night shift 
part of the time and is home during the 
day, so the indoor temperature is main- 
tained at a comfortable level during all 
hours. They do not set the thermostat 
back at any time of day. 

The Hansens did most of the construc- 
tion themselves, so cost was limited to 
about $30,000. Greg said a construction 
contractor probably would charge 
$38,000 to $40,000 to build a similar 
house in the same area. D 

The inside of the Hansen house is spacious 
and well-lighted. 


Roomy, With a Low Profile 

When Sam and Sherry 
Richardson were 
considering building 
an energy-efficient house, they decided 
to use the natural terrain to protect them 
from the northern Montana weather. 
With this in mind, they went just north 
of the town of Fort Peck and bought a lot 
that had what they needed: a high, 
south-facing slope to shelter them from 
the north wind. At the foot of this slope 
they dug a hole and began building their 
underground house. The Richardsons 
also built an attached, earth sheltered 24 
X 24 foot garage. Roomy at approxi- 
mately 2,000 square feet, the Richard- 
sons' single-level house blends nicely 
into the landscape. 

Sound and Underground 

As usual with earth-bermed 
dwellings, the outer structure of the 
Richardsons' house is mostly concrete. 
The rear wall and sidewalls are 8-inch 
reinforced concrete. The floor is 4-inch 
concrete over an 8-inch air space with 
another 4 inches of concrete below it. 
The air space between the slabs is 
designed to be used as a plenum in 
heating the house. Two inches of 
extruded polystyrene insulates the 
underside of the lower slab. 

A Roof of Wood and Dirt 

The roof structure is all wood, with no 
concrete. The structural strength of the 
roof is in the 6 x 10-inch rough-sawed 
pine timbers, placed 15 inches on 
centers and supported by inside bearing 
walls. Steel I-beams provide support 

A bench to the north helps shelter the Richardson house from northern storms. 

over doorways. The maximum span 
supported by the timbers is 13 feet 7 

The roof structure over the beams 
consists of 2 X 6 inch tongue-and-groove 
roof decking with a layer of Bituthene 
waterproof membrane over the decking, 
and then three 2-inch-thick sheets of 
extruded polystyrene. Eighteen inches 
of dirt over the polystyrene completes 
the roof. Inside the house, a suspended 
ceiling was installed below the support 

Double Walls, 


Sam Richardson on his roof with the shade 
he invented that can be tipped to keep 
direct light out of his skylight in the 
summer and admit it in winter. 

The above-grade exterior walls on the 
south and east are double walls, built 
with 2x6 studs on 12-inch centers in 
the inner wall component and 2x4 


Sam and Sherry Richardson 


Fort Peck 


Don Metz 
Lyme, NH 03768 



1 Level Underground 


Roof - R30 
Stud Walls • R38 
Concrete Walls • R20, RIO 
Slab - RIO 

Square Feet 


Special Features 

Plenum Between Two 
Concrete Floors 


Passive Solar, Wood, 
Electric Furnace 


October 1987 


studs in the outer component. A 1-inch 
space was left between the interior and 
exterior components to provide a 
thermal break and keep heat loss 

Internal bearing walls are built with 2 
X 6 studs on 12 inch centers, with 
blocking at the midpoint of the studs. 



through the walls at a minimum. The 
walls were insulated with two layers of 
R19 fiberglass batts. The upper 4 feet of 
the foundation under the exterior stud 
walls is insulated on the outside with 4 
inches of extruded polystyrene, with 2 
inches of the same material extending 
below that to the footings. Below-grade 
concrete walls also are insulated with 4 
inches of polystyrene on their top 4 feet 
and 2 inches from there on down. A 
4-mil polyethylene air-vapor barrier was 
installed under the drywall on all exter- 
ior walls. All edges and openings in the 
air-vapor barrier were sealed with 
caulk. Sam said he didn't think an 
air-vapor barrier was necessary in the 
ceiling because of the waterproofing in 
the roof immediately above the ceiling 
and the 6 inches of insulation and 18 
inches of dirt above the membrane. 


Warming With the Sun, 
and Electricity 

The large windows on the south side 
let in enough sunlight to keep the house 
warm in most weather, and a 63,000 Btu 
Sears electric furnace provides addition- 
al heat when needed. A "Vigilant" 
wood stove from Vermont Castings pro- 
vides a source of radiant heat. The wood 
stove is next to a decorative brickwork 
arch that provides a focal center for the 
living room and kitchen. Combustion 
air for this stove is piped in from 
outside. Sam said he fires up the wood 
stove for a couple hours in the evening 
when the weather is cool. 

The Richardsons moved into their 
house in October, and their electric bills 
in the following three months were: 
November, $45.36; December, $64.33; 
and January, $92.60. The house is all- 

electric with a single meter so the heat 
bill alone cannot be calculated, but, Sam 
said, "As you can tell, electric heat is not 
the cheapest energy source around." 
A VanEE heat recovery ventilator 
controls indoor air quality. For cooling, 
a thermostat operates the furnace fans 
without the heating element when in- 
door temperatures rise to a preset level. 
A 2 1/2-foot overhang keeps the summer 
sun from entering the windows and 
overheating the house. Drapes on the 
windows reduce heat loss during cloudy 
periods and at night. 

Double-pane Windows, 
Insulated Doors 

The windows are Andersen double 
panes. Outside doors are Therma-Tru 
foam-core metal with magnetic-seal 
weatherstripping. One feature unusual 
for an underground house is a skylight 
that brings natural light into the rear 
portion of the living space. Sam in- 
vented a louvred shade that can be 
tipped one way in winter to let light into 
the skylight, and tipped the other way in 
summer to keep direct light out. 

Did It Themselves 

The Richardsons cut their construc- 
tion costs by doing most of the work 
themselves over a six-year period. They 
estimate that a professional building 
contractor would require about $80,000 
to build a similar house in the Fort Peck 
vicinity. The most critical part of the 
structure, the roof, has been in place for 
three years and has not leaked. 

So far, the Richardsons are happy 
with their house, and wouldn't make 
any radical changes if they were build- 
ing it again. Although, Sam said, he 
would place the retaining wall next to 
the garage differently, because where it 
is now it stops snow in the driveway. 

Unfinished ceiling shows heavy beams in 
roof structure. Note steel I-beams extend- 
ing left and right from brickwork arch. 

Sun Tempered and Superinsulated 

Hugging the slopes of Edith 
Peak west of Missoula, 
Jerome and Yvonne 
Coopmans' 40 timbered acres will remain 
as shelter for deer and other wildlife. 
Jerome Coopmans isn't about to use the 
trees for firewood. "My friends say, You 
have all this wood, why don't you have a 
wood stove?'. Well, I don't like the mess 
and I can use my time in better ways than 
gathering fuel. " 

Instead of a home heated with a wood 
stove, Jerome and his wife, Yvonne, built 
an all-electric house that takes very little 
energy to heat. During the 1986-1987 
winter, their total electric bills ranged 
from a high of $ 124 during a particularly 
cold November to only $70 in March. 
Yvonne estimates they spend $25 a 
month for heating water, $8 for drying 
clothes, and $20 to $30 for cooking and 
operating other appliances and com- 
puters. "In our last house just 7 miles 
away, the electric bill averaged between 
$50 and $60 a month. We burned wood to 
heat the house so none of that money was 
for space heating. Of course, this house is 
so well insulated, the heat generated by 
our appliances reduces the need for space 
heat, " Yvonne said. 

Proportional Thermostats 
Promote Comfort 

A total of 5,500 watts of baseboard heat 
has kept the Coopmans warm even at 
minus 20 degrees. ' We keep the thermo- 
stats at 72 degrees and make no effort to 
lower them at night, " Jerome said. 

"We have small 350 to 650 watt electric 
heaters in nearly every room, with a 

Garden windows on the south and west of Jerome and Yvonne Coopmans' house bring 
plenty ofdayhght into the basement recreation room and den. Tall windows in the second 
floor living room and third floor office capture the view and the winter sun 's heat. A dining 
area on the sunny southeast comer of the house (rightl overlooks the Bitterroot Range and 
the Clark Fork. A door to the wrap-around deck encourages dining outside. 

1,000 watt heater in the recreation room 
on the ground floor, where the primary 
winter entrance is located. Each area has 
its own thermostat, most of which are 
Intertherm proportional line voltage 
thermostats. These thermostats have 
many advantages over the conventional 
bi-metallic ones. Since the thermostat 
kicks the heater on and off every few 
seconds, the heater doesn't cycle from 
cold to hot to cold: it's always at exactly 
the correct temperature to make up for 

the area's heat loss. The continuous 
pulsing on and off eliminates the crack- 
ling noise often made by baseboards, and 
the heaters seldom get very hot, so 
they're safer." 

Insulated Foundation and 

Jerome pointed out the construction 
that makes the house so efficient. The 
8-inch concrete foundation walls are 


Jerome and Yvonne Coopmans 




Owner, Builder, and 
Jonathan Qualben 
618 South Second West 
Missoula, MT 59807 


Owner and Southwall Builders 
644 South Second West 
Missoula, MT 59807 


3 Story 



Second Floor - R60 

Third Floor - R70 
Double Walls - R38 
2x6 Wall - R28 

North and West Walls - R16 

South and East Walls - R29 

Stem Walls - R27 

East and West Pony Walls - R36 

South Pony Wall R29 
Slab - R5 

Square Feet 

Loft - 635 
Main - 1.366 
Basement - 718 

Special Features 

Airtight Drywall 
Proportional Thermostats 


Electric Baseboard 


December 1986 


sheathed on the outside with 1-inch 
extruded polystyrene insulation. The 
north wall is embedded in the ground; the 
south, east, and west stem walls are 
bermed. All basement concrete walls are 
furred out and insulated with blown-in- 
blanket (BIBS) fiberglass insulation. The 
double-thickness pony walls are framed 
with two 2x4 stud walls with a 2-inch 
space between the inner and outer stud 
walls. BIBS insulates the cavities. 

Insulated overhead doors and 2x4 
outside walls with Rll fiberglass batts 
help moderate temperatures in the garage 
space on the northwest corner. "It was 6 
degrees here the other day; the tempera- 
ture in the garage didn't drop below 48 
degrees," Jerome said. 

The garage ceiling is insulated from the 
living area above by R38 BIBS. To stop air 
infiltration, rim joists in the garage are 
sprayed with BIBS using extra binder. 
"BIBS is fluffy hke cotton balls and has a 
lot of trapped air space which brings its 
Rvalue to 4 per inch," Jerome said. 

Heat is prevented from escaping to the 
ground by 1-inch extruded polystyrene 
foam board under the basement slab. A 
1-inch layer of sand lies between the foam 



board and the slab. The foam board was 
placed over a TuTuff polyethylene mois- 
ture barrier which lies over a 2-inch layer 
of sand. "I think many houses have 
moisture problems because the ground 
vapor wasn't sealed out properly," 
Jerome said. 

Double Versus Single Walls 

Jerome framed the south side of the 
second and third levels with a 2 x 6 single 
wall, sheathed with 1/2-inch waferboard 
and 3/4-inch polyisocyanurate foam 
board beneath the siding. The west, 
north, and south walls are double stud 
walls with waferboard installed as an air 
barrier beneath the siding. Seams 
between the waferboard sections were 
taped with mylar. 

"If I had it to do over, I'd use all double 
walls, ' ' Jerome said. ' The electric cooper- 
ative's computer said that the 2 x 6 wail 
on the south would be just as effective as 
the double stud walls, and it probably is. 
But I didn't save any money, and the 
framing would have been easier if the 
walls had been all the same. Besides, I 
hke the deeper window sills. I can set my 
coffee cup on them." 

Airtight Drywall 

Instead of using a polyethylene wrap, 
Jerome applied airtight drywall to form 
the air-vapor barrier on the interior of the 
house. Neoprene gasketing stops air and 
vapor movement between the framing 
and the drywall, between the top and 
bottom plates, and between the partition 
walls. "We used acoustical sealant in 
some places because we ran out of 
neoprene gasketing," Jerome said. "The 
drywall seams were sealed when they 
were taped and mudded by the dry- 
wallers. We applied one coat of low- 
permeability primer and one coat of 
low-permeabihty paint over the drywall 
to complete the air- vapor barrier." 
Jerome used 5/8-inch drywall for a 
sturdier mass against the knocks it can 
receive from children and to obtain 
greater thermal mass. 

Rim Joists 

The rim joists presented a particular 
problem and Jerome has some advice for 
others who are building. "Rim joists can 
be real leaky if you don't insulate pro- 
perly," he said. "Boards are not perfect; 

many have small warps or other irregu- 
larities. I used 1/4-inch Sill-Seal foam 
gasketing on the rim joists, but it didn't 
fill some of the gaps. Perhaps 1/2-inch 
would have worked. So, to stop air and 
vapor movement, we caulked the rim 
joist between each floor joist with silicone 
and closed the top opening between the 
two stud walls with a small piece of 
extruded polystyrene foam board and 
caulked it. This required a lot of extra 
work. I should have 'S'-wrapped TuTuff 
over the rim joists and around the sole 
plates." (See diagrams.) 

Tightening the House 

All rough wiring was installed before 
the walls were insulated with BIBS, 
Jerome used globs of silicone to caulk 
wire penetrations of the air-vapor bar- 
rier. The silicone remains flexible and 
will stay in place during wire movement 
when he finishes the outlet wiring. He 
chose plastic outlet boxes because they 
seem to have fewer leaks and holes than 
metal boxes. The boxes are caulked 
tightly to the drywall. Yvonne said that 
a good method to check caulking is to 
shine a flashlight from behind the 
caulking after dark. "You'd be amazed 
at how many pinholes show up," she 
said, adding, "of course, this doesn't 
work with clear caulk." 

All windows are double-glazed Claw- 
son windows with low-E film. Only three 
windows penetrate the cooler north side 
of the house. 

Lighting Saves Penetrations 

Lighting was planned to minimize the 
number of holes in the drywall air-vapor 
barrier, and the consequent need to caulk 
to maintain airtightness. The Coopmans 
have no recessed lights. Exterior can 
hghts, track hghting, and wall lighting 
predominate. In the kitchen, a large 

fluorescent fixture with "warm" tubes 
provides plenty of illumination. 

Air Quality Concerns 

The Coopmans' heat recovery venti- 
lator hasn't been installed yet. Its duct 
heater is being modified to work with an 
Intertherm proportional thermostat. 
Jerome also wanted to find out what the 
air quality would be without a ventilator. 
'We purposely provided several sources 
of air infiltration estimated at one-tenth of 
an air-exchange per hour. These sources, 
combined with the occasional use of a 
500 cubic-foot-per-minute range venti- 
lator in the Icitchen, did an adequate job 
of maintaining air quality, except for the 

bathrooms," he said. "The bathrooms 
were ducted to the ventilator and hence 
did not receive sufficient ventilation. 
When it was real cold, we got a tiny bit of 
condensation on window corners. 
"Although the ventilator will be 
installed soon, I believe we could have 
used exhaust fans with programmable 
timers to dump inside air, which would 
have been much simpler and less expen- 
sive," Jerome said. "Other factors such as 
building materials that give off formalde- 
hyde fumes, the presence of radon, the 
quantity and types of indoor plant life, are 
important in determining indoor air 
quality control. Hobbies that use noxious 
chemicals should be confined to the 
garage or outdoors." 

The plan for the air exchanger is to 
discharge one-third of the fresh heated air 
into the first floor and let it filter upstairs. 
The rest of the fresh air would go directly 
to the boys' bedrooms and play area on 
the second floor and to the master bed- 
room on the third floor. Stale air intakes 
are in the bathrooms, the utihty room, 
and above the cabinets in the kitchen. 

Insulated Water Heater and 

In their quest for energy savings, the 
Coopmans didn't overlook their water 
heater. They selected a Sta-Kleen 52- 
gallon heater with a tank insulated to R17 
and installed it on an R15 insulated pad. 

Sleek European kitchen cabinets offer a wealth of shelf and counter space, and their clean lines afford easy cleanup and maintenance. 
Airtight drywall with special paint prevents warm, moist air from migrating into wall cavities. 

'We also ran 3/4-inch pipe from the room 
containing the heater to the roof so solar 
water preheating could be easily added," 
Jerome said. 

In the main bath, Jerome installed R30 
insulation around the bathtub to make 
hot baths last longer. 

Extras About 10 Percent 

Jerome estimated the total cost of extras 
for energy features, such as the heat 
recovery ventilator and ducting, extra 
framing for double walls, extra insulation, 
and gasketing and caulking on the dry- 
wall, amounted to 10 percent of the total 
cost of the house. 

Computers Play Central 

Extensively wired for electronic gear, a 
media room full of equipment attests to 
Jerome Coopmans' job and hobby. 
Jerome writes software for Percon, Inc., a 
firm where he is also a partner. 

Computers, printers, disks, and piles of 
technical manuals occupy every inch. 
These computer activities spill over into 
Jerome's third-floor den adjacent to the 
master bedroom. Because the R70 insula- 
tion over the vaulted bedroom ceiling and 
the heavily insulated walls retain the heat 
generated by the computers and peripher- 
als, no auxiUary heat is required on the 
third floor. 

The distractions of his work added to 
the time it took Jerome to build his house. 
But his education and training contri- 
buted to the home's hvability and energy- 
efficiency. "We spent hundreds of hours 
figuring out rooms, the central air deli- 
very and pickup, windows, walls, and so 
forth, " Jerome said. "But it was worth it. 
The whole house works. We are very 
pleased with its thermal performance." 


Apart From the Crowd 


Jonathan Jennings 


Gallatin Gateway 

Designer and Builder 

Jonathan Jennings 
Mountain Home Builders 
185 Little Bear Road West 
Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730 


1 1/2 Story 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall ■ R40.5 
Stem Wall - R22.5 
Slab - R22.5 

Square Feet 

Upper ■ 600 
Main - 1,200 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 
Thermal Storage 
Advanced Framing 


Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard 


April 1985 

White stucco walls and 
ceiling, windows set in 
thick walls, and a tile 
floor give Jonathan Jenning's house 
the aura of a Spanish mission. Shafts of 
sunlight from the peaked 2-story high 
windows saturate the spacious interior 
with warmth and light. 

The plain white decor is embellished 
with colorful Tibetan carpets, and 
accented by comfortable rolled-arm 
couches and chairs upholstered in heavy 
fabric of blue and maroon. Ferns and 
ivies cascade from high window ledges, 
and numerous pots of tropical greenery 
lend their textures and tones to the airs' 
living space. 

Sunspace Part of Living 

The house's comfortable liveabiUty 
results in part from its carefully crafted 
energy efficiency. The sun is a full part- 
ner in the warmth of the Jetmings house. 
"I couldn't afford a simspace as a sepa- 
rate room, so I brought it into my Uving 
area," Jonathan said. A concrete slab 
beneath the living area soaks up heat 
from the sunUght pouring through the 
south-facing windows. The tile floor's 
dark gray color helps absorb the sun's 
heat. Two-inch polyisocyanurate foam 
board under the slab and 3 inches on the 
stem walls hold in the warmth. 

The Pella windows also are designed to 
hold in the heat. Double glazing and 
low-E film in the windows slow the 
passage of heat to the outside. Venetian- 
type Slimshade blinds between the two 

A traditional covered porch belies the high technology features of the house. To test new 
techniques for lowering energy use, Jonathan Jennings built his country house to meet the 
specifications of the Residential Standards Demonstration Program. 

panes of glass are coated with a film to 
reflect radiant heat indoors. Ceiling pad- 
dle fans circulate warm air back to the 
living space in winter, and in summer 
they exhaust warm air through opened 

The cooler rooms— airlock entry, 
utility, hall, baths, and bedrooms— are 
located on the north side. Glass blocks 
incorporated in the center wall separating 
the south-facing living space from the 
north rooms provide a pathway for light 
into the hall. "For me, natural dayUght is 

one of the most comfortable features in 
any house," Jonathan said. 

Jonathan pointed out the VanEE-R200 
heat recovery ventilator in the utility 
room. "Although I spend about 40 min- 
utes a week pouring 10 gallons of water 
into my plant collection," he said, "1 
really don't have any window condensa- 
tion problems." The ventilator runs for 
two minutes every half hour, bringing in 
fresh air and expelling moisture-ridden 
stale air. "Once in a while, on very cold 
days, I'll get a bit of moisture in the 
corner of one window," he said. 


Peaceful Warmth 

Jonathan depends on electric baseboard 
heat to supplement the sunlight. "In the 
three years I've lived here," Jonathan 
reflected, "'I've only used three of the 
baseboard heaters— the two 6-foot ones in 
the living room and the 5-foot one in the 
dining room. My utility bill averages $65 
a month through the winter and $25 to 
$30 in the summer. Even on the coldest 
mornings, the inside has never dropped 
below 63 degrees." 

The wall and ceiling construction helps 
maintain this even temperature. In the 
vaulted ceiling, 8 inches of foamed-in 
urethane insulation and a 6-mil polyethy- 
lene air-vapor barrier stop heated air from 
escaping through the ceiling. Double 
walls hold three layers of Rll fiberglass 
batts. An air-vapor barrier inside the wall, 
and 1-inch polyisocyanurate sheathing on 
the exterior further tighten the house. 

The house is just as comfortable in hot 
weather as cold. "It's incredible how an 

overhang keeps a house cool by keeping 
out the summer sun,"" Jonathan said. ""In 
the summer, the house stays 20 to 25 
degrees cooler than the outside." 

Jonathan is impressed by the home's 
quiet. ' The wind can be blowing a gale, 
but I almost have to see the trees bending 
to realize it. Energy -efficient construction 
provides not only a thermal barrier, but 
also a sound barrier. The house needs less 
cleaning than regular houses, perhaps 
because there's not as much dust blowing 

Living, dining, and kitchen area share space 
and a view of the Gallatin Canyon and the 
Madison Range. Plenty of windows and a 
tile-covered concrete floor combine the attri- 
butes of a sunspace with the living area in 
the Jennings house. 


New Techniques 

As one of the participants in the Resi- 
dential Standards Demonstration Pro- 
gram (RSDP), Jonathan built his house to 
save kilowatts. "I didn't use different 
materials than other houses on the mar- 
ket; I just used them in diferent ways," 
Jonathan said. "I tried new techniques 
and incorporated a lot of things I'd 
researched." Jonathan estimated it would 
cost around $50 a square foot to build a 
similar house today, not including land, 
septic system, and well. 

New Standards 

Jonathan sees new home owners drawn 
to energy-efficient building. "I designed 
an energy-efficient house for a client. 
Then he got wind of the real estate 
market being soft, so he decided to buy 
instead of build. After looking, he came 
back. Although many of the houses were 
going for very, very good prices, none had 
the features he wanted. 

"People interested in energy-efficient 
houses have done some research and 
know what construction details to look 
for. A house with energy-saving features 
is not often for sale," Jonathan said. "If 
people want a house of this type, they 
usually have to have it built." D 

Upstairs, an mset of light-diffusmg glass blocks admits light to the master bedroom while 
protecting privacy. An archway joins the master bedroom to the dressing area without the 
encumbrance of doors. Strategically placed dressing room mirrors reflect the bedroom area, 
visually extending the space. 


Wanted: Warm New House 

John Campbell and his mother, 
Monta, lived for many years 
in quarters above the grocery 
store they ran in Gildford. When it came 
lime for John to retire and turn the store 
over to younger people, he and his 
mother decided they wanted a new 

Hi-Line residents don t need to be 
reminded about the need to make their 
houses fit the weather. The Campbells 
decided their new house should be 
superinsulated to take maximum ad- 
vantage of the latest building technology 
for cold-weather climates. They got in 
touch with Mel Gomke, a builder in 
nearby Kremlin who specializes in 
superinsulated houses. Mel then 
designed and built a house to match the 
Campbells' needs. 

Appearances are Deceiving 

The Campbell house stands out as the 
only new house built in the Uttle com- 
munity of Gildford in quite a few years, 
but is otherwise modest and unimposing 
from the outside. To passers-by it 
appears to be a more-or-less ordinary 
single-level conventional home with 
daylight basement. Inside, however, it is 
a state-of-the-art superinsulated house. 
The result of superinsulation is clearly 
visible in the Campbells' heat bills. The 
bill for the first year the Campbells lived 
in the house, from March 1985 through 
February 1986, was $120.87. This total 
included $35.17 for November 1985, 
which the Campbells said was the 
second coldest November the Hi-Line 

The Campbell /imii.h- in G:U!ord lix<ks ordmary, but contains modem energy-saving 

has ever recorded. In the mild year 
1987, heat bills were even less, as 











June - September 









of At least one of the Campbells is 

normally home, so temperatures on the 
main level are kept around 72 degrees 
most of the time. The basement remains 
about 64 to 65 degrees, winter and 
summer, and requires very little heat 
beyond that absorbed through the west- 
facing windows and through the floor 
from upstairs. 

The Road To Low Heat 

The road to low energy bills is lined 
with insulation. The Campbell house is 


John and Monta Campbell 




Owners and Builder 


Mel Gomke 

Mel's Building Service 

Kremlin, MX 59523 



1 Story with Basement 


Ceiling • R70 
Double Stud Walls - R40 
Basement Walls - R32 
Slab - None 

Square Feet 

3,840, including Basement 

Special Features 

Wooden Basement Walls 
Painstaking Construction 


Passive Solar, Gas 


built with double 2x4 stud walls to 
make room for the large amounts of 
insulation that give superinsulated 
houses their name. The studs are on 
24-inch centers and offset from each 
other to minimize the opportunity for 
heat loss through the wall. The inner 
and outer stud walls are 4 inches apart. 
Batts of fiberglass insulation were 
placed vertically between studs in the 
stud walls and horizontally in the gap 
between. Once the walls were complete 
and the insulation was in place, a 6-mil 
polyethylene air-vapor barrier was 
installed on the interior surface of the 
inner stud wall. A 1-inch layer of 
urethane sheathing then was attached 
over the air-vapor barrier, and the dry- 
wall was placed over this. Silicone caulk 

was used to seal the edges of the 
urethane sheathing. Great care was 
taken to avoid puncturing the air-vapor 
barrier, and when it was necessary to 
penetrate the barrier for electrical out- 
lets or other fittings, the edges of the 
hole in the barrier were painstakingly 
sealed with Tremco to preserve the air 
tightness. Three-inch sheet rock screws 
were used to install the drywall. Total 
insulating value of the exterior walls is 
about R40, Mel said. 

Kraft reflective foil was installed on 
the ceiling joists, followed by the 6-mil 
polyethylene air-vapor barrier and dry- 
wall. The attic is insulated with 20 
inches of blown-in cellulose with an 
insulating value of about R60. 

Tyvek was used as an air barrier on 
the outside of the house, with Masonite 
Colorlok siding for the finishing touch. 

A Wooden Foundation 

The house has a finished, full-sized 
daylight basement. The foundation 
walls are made with pressure-treated 2 x 

8 studs on 12-inch centers, with con- 
crete footings. The basement is sheathed 
with pressure-treated 5/8-inch plywood. 
Estimated life of this type basement is 
70 to 100 years, Mel said. The walls are 
insulated with 8-inch fiberglass batts 
between the studs and 1 inch of 
urethane under the drywall. The joints 
between sheets of urethane were care- 
fully caulked. Total insulating value of 
the basement wall is about R35. The rim 
joist is insulated with 12-inch fiberglass 
batts and 1-inch urethane sheeting. 

A Little Gas and a Lot of 

To supplement their solar heating, the 
Campbells use a natural gas-burning 
Lennox 80,000 Btu pulse furnace. This 
furnace gets its combustion air through 
a pipe from outside, and vents by way of 
a PVC pipe through the wall. Mel said 
that during construction of the house, 
the townspeople kept wondering when 
the chimney was going to go in. 

"If there is any sun at all, the heat 
doesn't come on, " John Campbell said. 
All the windows are Andersen triple- 
pane low-E. The house is oriented north- 
south, with most of the windows on the 
west side. The large living room-dining 
room-kitchen area on the south end has 
windows on three sides which creates a 
well-lighted space with a pleasant warm 
feeling. The north side has no windows. 

Like any superinsulated house, the 
Campbell residence needs a heat recov- 
ery ventilator to maintain indoor air 
quality. A Bossaire brand ventilator 
suits the Campbells' needs. They have 
had no problems with the ventilator. In 
the summer, they use the ventilator to 
help cool the house. The house tends to 
trap some heat on hot summer days, but 
the Campbells counter this by turning 

on the ventilator fan after the outside 
temperatures drop. This quickly fills the 
house with cool air from outside. When 
cooling needs are less, the Campbells 
open windows in the evening, allowing 
the warm air to escape and drawing cool 
air from the basement up to the main 
level. Then they close the windows in 
the morning before it gets hot outside. If 
necessary, they also close the drapes to 
prevent the sun from overheating the 
living space. No other cooling facility 
was installed and the Campbells say 
none is needed. 

Taking Time to Save 

Only one electric light fixture pene- 
trates the ceiling air-vapor barrier. All 
other lights are either installed in the 
walls or are drop-in ceiling tile lights. 
Most of the electric outlets are on inside 
walls to eliminate the possibility of air 
leaks from outside. 

The treatment given to wall outlets 
was typical of the attention to detail that 
was applied in the construction. Tremco 
was used to seal the air-vapor barrier 
around the outlets, and pieces of 
urethane insulation were cut to size and 
glued to the outlet boxes. Mel said such 
care is essential to get the most energy 
efficiency from a superinsulated house. 
"You've got to take the time," he said. 

Spending Money to Save 

Besides time, superinsulation takes 
extra money. On the basis of careful 
records, Mel calculated the cost of the 
added insulation, materials and related 
equipment that was necessary to bring 
the house up to superinsulation stan- 
dards, compared to the usual HUD 


standards jsee Glossary). The extra costs 
were as follows. 

22 rolls 3 1/2x24 

fiberglass batts 


Additional 8 inches 

attic insulation 


Additional 2x4 stud wal 

(100 studs) 


Additional plates 


Additional headers 


High performance 

(low-E) windows 

(difference between 

double-pane and 



46 sheets of high-R 



Heat recover)' ventilator 



Heat recovery ventilator 


Additional labor 


Total Additional Cost 


These costs would be offset slightly by 
the savings from not having to purchase 
certain other materials and equipment. 
For example, if the single stud wall 
replaced by the double wall were assem 
bled with 2x6 studs as HUD requires, 
rather than 2 x 4s, $122 would be 
deducted from the costs above. The two 
good quality bathroom fans and a good 
kitchen vent that would have been 
needed if no heat recovery ventilator 
was used would reduce the costs by 
another S350. These savings would 
bring the additional cost of superinsula- 
tion down to about $4,800, which is 
approximately 5 percent of the total 
$103,496.64 construction cost of the 
Campbell house. Mel said this 5 percent 
additional cost for superinsulation is 
about normal. 

Construction costs could have been 
reduced by installing electric baseboard 
heaters rather than the Lennox pulse 

furnace. Mel said baseboard heaters for 
the house would have cost less than 
$1,000, compared to the approximate 
$5,000 cost of the pulse furnace and its 
required duct work. The difference 
between the cost of natural gas and 
electricity will at least slightly narrow 
the long-term cost between the two 
systems, Mel said. 

Mel said the Campbells wanted the 
gas system because they thought it 
might be necessary to install air condi- 
tioning to keep the house cool during 
the blazing hot summer days on the 
Hi-Line, and the gas system with its duct 
work was compatible with central air 
conditioning. Construction costs include 

the cost of building the redwood deck 
and finishing the basement. With the 
basement, the Campbell house has a 
total of 3,840 square feet of living space, 
which cost about $27 per square foot to 
build. Mel said he could build a smaller 
(32 x 44) house on a similar pattern for 
about $60,000. Including the basement 
space, this would result in a cost of less 
than $22 per square foot for approxi- 
mately 2,800 square feet. 

The Campbells are perfectly satisfied 
with their house, but Mel said if he were 
to build it over he would separate the 
inner and outer stud walls with 6 inches 
of space rather than 4, to make room for 
still more insulation. Mel said he did not 

encounter any abnormal problems in 
building the house, though he did have 
to fire an electrician who refused to take 
the measures that were called for in the 
superinsulated design. "He wanted to 
put outlets everywhere on my outside 
walls, and overhead lights in hallways 
and closets." 

Minor problems were encountered in 
obtaining materials. For example, the 
Tremco acoustical sealant needed for 
the air-vapor barrier was not available 
in Havre and Mel had to go to Great 
Falls to get it. Mel said he went to Havre 
and "did some talking at the lumber- 
yard" and now Tremco is available 
there. D 

Winter sun warms the living room of the Campbell house. 


Going Underground in Eastern Montana 


Bob and Phyllis Newton 




Jim Rahr and Bob Newton 


Jim Rahr and Bob Newton 
Bloomfield Route 
Glendive, MT 59330 


1 Story, Underground 


Roof - RIO 

Ceiling - R19 

Rear and Side Walls - R15 top. 

R5 below 
Front Wall • Rll 
Slab - None 

Square Feet 


Special Features 

Extra Heavy Duty Underground 


Passive Solar, Wood 


January 1980 

When Bob and Phyllis 
Newton were thinking 
of building a house, they 
decided to go underground. Not 
merely earth-sheltered or earth- 
bermed, but underground, down there 
with the moles. When they started 
building back in 1979, the Newtons said 
their friends "thought we were nuts." 
There was a lot of talk about old-timers 
who had gone crazy living in dugouts. 
Now that the Newtons have been living 
in their comfortable house for years, 
however, many of the scoffers are 

The Newton house is located off the 
road outside Glendive, and a stranger to 
the territory needs good instructions to 
to find it. A country road winds through 
the low hills characteristic of eastern 
Montana, and the visitor comes around 
a corner and unexpectedly finds the 
house embedded in the landscape. The 
sudden appearance of the house is a 
surprise because there is nothing to 
indicate that a house is in the vicinity 
Incoming utility lines are underground, 
and the house does not protrude above 
ground surface when viewed from the 
rear or sides. 

Rugged Crafting Sets a 

Students of architecture might refer to 
the Newton house as an example of the 
"Montana vernacular," meaning it 
looks native to its location. From out- 
side, the front of the house is dominated 
by massive, reclaimed bridge beams 

---r-~-i: '"-'*'*^ — ^ 



The Newtons' house fits nicely into the Montana scene. 

Except for vent pipes and chimneys, the Newton house is invisible from the back side. 


which are purely ornamental but give a 
feeling of log-cabin ruggedness. These 
beams form an apex over the entrance, 
and under this apex is a set of bleached 
elk antlers to complete the pioneer 
Montana motif. 

The "rough-out" theme is continued 
in the rugged stone facing on the con- 
crete retaining walls and outside of the 
front wall. All the stone used in the 
building was gathered within a mile or 
two of the building site. The outside 
stonework is matched inside the house 
by even more massive stone masonry 
that is pleasant to the eye and useful in 
maintaining uniform temperatures in 
the living space. The "roof" of the 
house has the appearance of average 
quality bunchgrass rangeland, with here 
and there a vent pipe coming out. The 
sloping roof overhang is shingled with 
thick cedar shakes that nicely match the 
external texture of the building and 
surrounding landscape. 

A Do-it-yourself Project 

Construction of the Newton house 
was an ambitious "do it yourself" 
project. In developing the design, the 
Newtons relied heavily on Phyllis' 
cousin, Jim Rahr, a retired builder. The 
only plan was one that Jim and Bob 
drew on the bottom of a Copenhagen 
box one day when they were sitting in a 
pickup talking about the project. This 
plan was accidentally thrown away 
when the box was empty. 

Jim and Bob knew the house was 
going to need plenty of structural 
strength to support several feet of dirt, 
so they used concrete, and lots of it, in 
the walls and roof. 

The first step in the construction was 
to dig a hole big enough to accommodate 
the planned 90 x 32 structure (including 
the attached double garage] in the south- 


facing hillside. Footings were put in, 
and the outside and interior divider 
walls formed and poured. The key 
element of the structural plan was the 
concrete ridgepole, which was to be 20 x 
20 inches square in cross section and 90 
feet long, poured in place as a single 
piece. A concrete form for the ridgepole 
was supported at the ends by the outside 
walls and in between by the divider 
walls and two 20 x 20 concrete pillars 
that were formed and poured in place. A 
dense mesh of reinforcing steel was 
used in the ridgepole. Six 90 foot lengths 
of 1-inch diameter reinforcing steel run 
the full length of the ridgepole, with 
shorter pieces of smaller diameter steel 
bar used to increase the strength. The 
network of reinforcing steel was so 
dense that one of the builders had 
difficulty retrieving his hammer after 
accidentally dropping it among the rods. 

230 Yards of Concrete 

Before they set about building the 
massive ridgepole, Jim and Bob investi- 
gated other options, such as the use of a 
prestressed concrete beam built off-site 
and then hauled in, or the use of a steel 

workshop <^ 

family room 


dining ^^ 




living room 

\r ' " ' 


I-beam, but the cost of these options was 
far above the cost of pouring the 
concrete beam in place themselves. The 
Newtons said that if they were building 
again, they would pour the floor slab 
before they built the roof, to provide a 
better surface for bracing the roof 

After the ridgepole was poured and 
forms removed, forms were built for the 
rest of the concrete roof structure. This 
structure consists mainly of a concrete 
slab slanting up 16 inches from the 
outside walls to an apex over the ridge- 
pole. Under this slab, and poured as one 
piece with it, are concrete reinforcing 
"rafters" 8 inches wide by 10 inches 
deep. These "rafters" were placed 4 feet 
apart so that standard-width sheets of 
plywood could be used to build the form 
sections between them. Each rafter con- 
tains four number 4 reinforcing rods. 

Starting from one end, the concrete 
for the roof was poured in three 
sections, with each piece extending the 
full 32 foot width of the house. Each 
joint between the sections was placed 
over an internal wall for support. For 
maximum strength, the thickness of the 
roof slab tapers from about 8 inches at 

the ridgepole to 6 inches at the outer 
walls. The roof slab is strengthened with 
a network of number 4 reinforcing rods 
formed into a 12-inch mesh. The outer 
walls, including the front wall, are 
8-inch reinforced concrete. The front 
wall extends 5 feet above the edge of the 
concrete roof structure, to provide a 
retaining wall for the dirt on the roof. 
Iron rods tie this wall back to the roof 
peak to strenghten the wall against the 
settling force of the dirt. This dirt is 
about 5 feet deep immediately behind 
the retaining wall, and about 4 feet deep 
over the peak of the concrete roof 
structure. The shake-surfaced portion of 
the roof that provides an overhang to 
limit the summer sun from the front 
windows is built with a standard 2x4 
wooden framework attached to the 
retaining wall. 

All the concrete used in the roof and 
walls of this structure was mixed with 6 
bags of Portland cement to the cubic 
yard of concrete, for extra strength. The 
concrete in the 5-inch floor slab was 
mixed with 5 bags cement to the cubic 
yard of concrete, because it didn't need 
as much strength as the walls and roof. 



Bob Newton wails for lunch as a snow squall rages soundlessly outside. Note massive stonework next to the wood stove 

The floor was poured on a layer of sand 
3 to 6 inches thick. The total amount of 
concrete used in the house was about 
230 cubic yards. 

One of the difficulties in the construc- 
tion was figuring out where the electri- 
cal outlets would go, because the 
owners weren't sure of the floor plan. 
They solved this by putting an outlet 
every 4 or 5 feet in the walls and then 
covering up the ones they didn't need. 

Insulating the Structure 

Once the concrete structure was in 
place, the builders sealed the outside 
with standard foundation sealer. They 
then placed a layer of 2-inch extruded 
polystyrene on the roof and along the 
top 2 feet of the outside walls. On the 
roof, they applied a continuous sheet of 
6-mil polyethylene membrane over the 
foam. Jim explained that the purpose of 
the foam on the roof was to prevent 
frost from penetrating down to the 
concrete roof structure and possibly 
causing moisture problems. 

When the concrete was cured suffi- 
ciently, dirt was backfilled around the 
walls. Eight inches of soil were applied 
over the foam on the roof, and a 1-inch 
layer of commercial bentonite was 
placed over the dirt. The intended 
purpose of the bentonite was to prevent 
water from percolating down to the 
concrete. There is no way of knowing if 
this was necessary, but so far the roof 
has not leaked. After the bentonite was 
in place, additional soil was placed on 
the roof to make it level from the top of 


the front retaining wall to the original 
ground surface behind the house. 

Drying the Concrete 

Canadian studies show that it can take 
several years for concrete to dry out 
completely, and this can cause moisture 
problems in houses such as the New- 
tons' that use large amounts of concrete. 
However, getting concrete to dry is no 
problem during a hot dry eastern Mon- 
tana summer, and the summer of 1979 
when the Newtons were pouring their 
concrete was about as hot and dry as 
they get in the Glendive vicinity. The 
Newtons said their concrete seemed to 
dry out completely that summer. 

Nothing Bizarre Inside 

Inside, the house has a standard 
suspended ceihng. The 18-inch space 
above the ceiling provides room for 
plumbing and wiring, and is insulated 
with 6-inch fiberglass batts. The space 
above the insulation is vented at both 
ends of the building by 12-inch pipes 
that penetrate the roof and prevent 
moisture build-up. The inner side of the 
rear and side concrete walls was insulat- 
ed with 1 inch of extruded polystyrene 
foam board. The foam was glued to the 
concrete wall surfaces with Number 1 1 
Styrofoam glue. The same type of glue 
was used to glue the drywall to the foam 

A standard 2x4 stud wall was built 
against the inner side of the front wall, 
and the spaces between studs were 
insulated with 3 I/2-inch fiberglass 

batts. All windows in the house are 
double pane. 

Home Owner Contentment 

The Newtons have been living in the 
house since January, 1980, and they are 
extremely pleased with it. The house is 
easy to keep warm with the large, 
blower-equipped wood-burning La 
Stove that produces whatever heat the 
sun doesn't provide. Once the massive 
stonework in the house is warm, it 
keeps the living space heated for hours 
with no need to keep the stove burning. 
A pipe was installed to provide the stove 
with combustion air from outside, 
which prevents the loss of heated inside 
air through the stove. The Newtons 
normally burn about 4 cords of wood 
per year. 

The Newtons have left the house for 
several days at a time in cold winter 
weather and returned to find the inside 
temperature had dropped only a few 
degrees. When inside temperatures do 
get down a few degrees, however, it 
takes some time to restore the heat lost 
from the rocks. The house is equipped 
with electric baseboard heaters, but 
these rarely come on. The garage has an 
electric heater that gets used occa- 
sionally, but for the most part the garage 
is unhealed. The 16-foot garage door is 
uninsulated, but water in an open sump 
a few feet inside the door has never 
frozen, even when outside temperatures 
were 30 below or colder and no heat 
was on in the garage. 

At least one of the Newtons is usually 
home, so inside temperatures are kept at 

the comfortable level. September tends 
to be the warmest month in the house, 
because the sun is low enough to pro- 
vide solar heating while the outside 
temperatures are still fairly high. The 
Newtons said 76 degrees was about the 
hottest the house has ever been, with 73 
the normal maximum. One of the unex- 
pected features of the house is the way 
heat tends to be uniformly distributed 
throughout the living space, with the 
farthest corner of the house being about 
as warm as areas near the centrally- 
located stove. 

Plenty of Windows 

All rooms except the bathroom have 
windows to the outside, and the interior 
is well-lit with natural light. The living 
space is comfortable and airy, with no 
"subterranean " feeling. The view from 
inside the house gives no indication that 
it is underground. The inside walls stay 
warm to the touch in winter, and the 
total lack of inside drafts helps make the 
house feel more comfortable than con- 
ventional houses. The thick soil cover 
deadens sounds from the outside, and 
even the eastern Montana blizzards are 
silent when viewed from inside the 
Newtons' house. 

Labor Costs Not Known 

The Newtons cannot estimate how 
much it would cost to have a contractor 
build a similar home, but they calculate 
it cost them about $65,000 to build their 
house themselves, including well and 
septic. D 


A Warm Perch on the Edge of Town 


Barry and JoAnn Nobel 


Great Falls 


Owners and Corbett-Hanson, 


P.O. Box 3706 

Butte, MT 59702 



Owners and Subcontractors 


2 Story With Loft and Basement 


Loft Ceiling - R50 
Vaulted CeiUng ■ R49 
Double Walls ■ R38 
Basement Wall ■ R19 
Slab Perimeter ■ RIO 

Square Feel 

Loft - 616 
Main • 1,384 
Basement - 1,384 

Special Features 

Sun Porch 
Vaulted Ceiling 
Pulse Furnace 


Passive Solar, Natural Gas Pulse 


November 1985 

Barry and JoAnn Nobel's new 
house in Great Falls has 
much that most Montanans 
would value. From its elevated hillside 
location on the north edge of town, the 
house provides a sweeping view of 
Charlie Russell country. At night, the 
city lights of Great Falls provide a 
friendly twinkle, and in the daytime, 
snow-capped mountains and hazy, 
distant plains rise in the background. 
Not content merely to look at their 
surroundings, the Nobels wanted to 
adapt their living to the location. They 
built their house to be comfortable and 
economical to heat, even in the most 
invigorating Montana winter weather. 
Toward these ends, the Nobels chose a 
design with superinsulated double 
walls, thick attic insulation, a sun porch, 
heat recovery ventilator, and triple-pane 
windows. The extensive glazing on the 
south side provides pleasant natural 
lighting and warmth, along with a good 
view of the landscape. A sliding glass 
door leads from the main living space 
into the sun porch, where a hot tub 
provides year-round enjoyment. 

Double Stud Walls 

The outer walls in the Nobel house are 
double 2x4 stud walls, except on the 
south side which has a single 2x6 stud 
wall. The two stud walls in the double 
wall are 4 inches apart. The outer of 
these two stud walls bears the structural 
weight, and is assembled with the studs 
on 16-inch centers. The inner wall has 
the studs on 24-inch centers. The double 

The Nobel house has a commanding view from its hillside location on the north side of 
Great Falls. 

walls are filled with two layers of R19 
fiberglass batts. The inner batt is foil- 
faced and the outer batt is unfaced. The 
2x6 studs in the south exterior wall are 
24 inches on centers, with foil-faced R 19 
fiberglass batts between studs. 

A Vaulted Ceiling 

The vaulted ceiling is insulated with a 
layer of 9 1/4-inch R30 fiberglass batts 
and a layer of 5 1/2-inch R 19 batts. The 
ceiling above the loft was insulated with 
18 inches of loose fill cellulose having an 
R-value of at least 50. A continuous 
6-mil polyethylene air-vapor barrier was 
applied under the drywall. All windows 
are Andersen triple pane. A VanEE heat 

recovery ventilator maintains air quality 
in the house. 

The Nobel house has 1,384 square feet 
of floor space on the main floor, another 
1,384 in the unfinished basement, and 
616 in the loft. A 40,000 Btu Lennox 
natural gas pulse furnace helps the 
incoming solar energy keep the upper 
two floors of this space heated to 70 
degrees all day. Intake air and exhaust 
gases from the furnace pass through 
separate PVC pipes that penetrate the 
rim joist about a foot apart. 

The Nobels reduce the thermostat 
setting to 65 degrees at night. The 
Montana Power Company at first esti- 
mated a ' budget billing " rate of $29 per 


month for the Nobels' natural gas bills, 
but this proved too high and the Nobels 
accumulated an increasing credit 
balance with the company. MPC then 
changed the Nobels' budget billing to 
$19 a month, which is plenty to cover 
their average monthly bill. These bills 
include gas used by the State brand hot 
water heater. This is a "sealed combus- 
tion " heater, with combustion air and 
exhaust entering and exiting through a 
common double-walled "pipe within a 


open to 
rooms below 

open to 
rooms below 

Solar Helps Keep Bills Low 

The passive solar design of the house 
helps keep heating bills low. JoAnne 
said that on the day they moved into the 
house, the temperature in the sun porch 
was 80 degrees, contrasted to the 22 
below reading outside. 

Low Construction Costs 

The Nobels kept construction costs low 
by doing much of the work themselves. 
They hired out the framing, drywall. and 
carpeting, but did all else themselves. 
Total cost came to $75,000. This brings 
the cost per square foot for the two upper 
floors to $37.50 per square foot. This 
could be reduced dramatically by finish- 
ing the basement for use as living space, 
at a relatively small additional cost. 

JoAnne said they are quite happy with 
their house, particularly with its energy 
efficiency and quietness. She said noise 
from outside does not penetrate the living 
space, "Even in a really bad windstorm." 
If they were building their house today, 
JoAnne said, they might do a few things 
differently. For example, they would put 
in skylights. Other than that, she said, the 
house is just about what they wanted. D 

The vaulted ceiling expands the spacious feeling of the Nobel living room. 


Living Beyond the Grid 



Brandborg, Gussa, and Thome 


Hamilton area 


Dan Brandborg 


Dan Brandborg 


920 Highway 93 South 

Hamilton, MT 59840 


Special Features 

Photovohaic Power 
Instant Water Heater 
Water Saver Toilet 
Gas Refrigerator 


Wood, Propane, Passive Solar 

West of Darby 5 miles into the 
Bitterroot Mountains and 3 
miles from the nearest 
utility pole, Dan and Becky Brandborg's 
log house reposes on 60 acres surround- 
ed by U.S. Forest Service land. Moun- 
tain goats and bald eagles are their 
nearest neighbors. A few drainages 
away, and a mile west of the power grid, 
construction progresses on John 
Thome's house on Fred Burr Creek. 
And across the valley atop a ridge in the 
Sapphire Range, Art and Betty Gussa 
live comfortably without a power Une. 
These home owners have a common 
bond— they all tap the sun for most of 
their electrical needs. Their power 
source not only frees them to live 
beyond the utility grid, it makes them 
some of the best energy managers 
around. By using alternate fuel sources 
and making every watt count, these 
modern Montana pioneers retain the 
conveniences of modern life in remote 

Squeezing Kilowatts 

The secret to living with sun- 
generated electricity is to select appli- 
ances that either use fuel other than 
electricity, or that use miserly amounts 
of electricity. Dan Brandborg, who 
owns and operates Sunelco, a business 
that designs and installs photovoltaic 
systems, said a strategy for using less 
electricity means shifting large users of 
electricity, such as the refrigerator, wat- 
er heater, cook stove, and space heater, 
to other fuels, and using energy-efficient 

Racks of photovoltaic modules rest on the south side of Dan and Becky Brandborg's house. 
From dawn to dusk the modules turn sunlight into electricity to supply the Brandborg's 

appliances and hghting. "In the winter 
we use approximately 1.6 kilowatt- 
hours per day, in the summer 1.3. The 
Gussas use around 2 kilowatt-hours, " 
Dan said. The impact of switching to 
other fuels is apparent, when you con- 
sider that the average American house 
consumes 25 kilowatt-hours per day, 
excluding heating. 

To reduce the electrical load, wood is 
used for space heating and propane is 
used for other heating tasks and for 
cooling. The Brandborg's propane re- 
frigerator uses just 1 pound of propane 
daily, or about 17 cents worth; an 
instantaneous water heater uses approx- 
imately 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of propane 

A bank of heavy-duty batteries stores the 
excess kilowatts for the Brandborg house. 


John Thome is constructing his house several miles away from the power grid. A small 
photovoltaic array is supplying the power for his saws, sanders, and other building tools. 
More PV modules will be added as the electrical demand increases. 

daily. The manually operated electronic 
igniter for the water heater pilot is 
accessible and easy to use, so the Brand- 
borgs make a habit of turning it off 
when they're leaving or after dinner 
dishes are done. Their clothes dryer and 
range are also propane. Propane freez- 
ers are also available. 

Where possible, direct current |DC) 
electricity should be chosen over alter- 
nating current (AC) for photovoltaic 
systems. "DC lighting and motors are 
generally more efficient," Dan said, 
"but most U.S. appliances run on AC. 
The disadvantage of low voltage DC is 
that it can't be carried long distances 
without high line loss." 

The Brandborg's house has two sets of 
wiring— one for DC and one for AC. DC 
powers the Brandborg's lights, radio, 
and well pump. The washing machine, 
household appliances, and power tools 
are powered by AC. 

"We suggest incandescent light bulbs 
for reading, and fluorescent or quartz 
halogen fixtures where larger areas need 
to be lighted," Dan said. 

Conserving water minimizes pump 
use so the Brandborgs installed an Ifo 
toilet that uses just 1 gallon of water per 
flush. Faucet flow restrictors save even 
more water. 

An AlI-AC House 

Although the Brandborg and Thorne 
houses operate on both direct and alter- 
nating current, Dan installed an all-AC 
system in the Gussas house. "It's not 
quite as efficient, but one wiring system 
is simpler and easier to use. The home 
owner doesn't have to remember 
whether an appliance plugs into an AC 
or DC outlet." The Gussas also have a 
microwave, dishwasher, and satellite 
television system. 

An Ifo 1-gallon toilet conserves water, 
which means less energy needed to pump 
water from the well. 

Turning Sunlight into 

Racks of photovoltaic (PV) modules 
are the heart of the electrical generating 
system. Usually mounted on the roof, 
these cells convert sunlight directly into 
electricity. "In full sun, our I3-moduIe 
PV array generates 500 watts, " Dan 
said. The Gussas have a peak capacity of 
650 watts, and the Thome system gener- 
ates 188 watts in full sun. For best 
exposure to the sun, the modules are 
oriented due south and tilted 65 degrees 
from horizontal during the winter and 
30 degrees in summer. "The greater tilt 
in the winter also helps the arrays shed 
snow easily," Dan said. 

"For PV panels to work well, they 
need a clear view of the sun between 
10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Even the shade 
from a deciduous tree limb will inter- 
fere. Of course, the longer the sun 
shines on the panels, the more power 
they'll produce. But if Becky and 1 can 
make PV work at our house in the 
Bitterroot valley,"" he said, ""it should 
work most anywhere in Montana. In 
this canyon, the south cliff cuts off the 
sun at 1:30 p.m. on December 21. We 
also have a lot of fog and bad weather."' 

PV panels are expected to last at least 
30 years, although they could last 50 to 
100. "There's nothing to wear out," Dan 
noted, "it's the environment that takes 
the toll." Tempered glass, like that in a 
windshield, reduces the likelihood of 
breakage, and hermetically sealed 
modules prevent the degrading effects 
of oxygen. "My panels are 5 years old 
and their performance is kind of hke the 
Model-T compared to today"s modules," 
Dan said. "But, like the Model-T, they 
probably will last for a good long time."" 


Hybrid DC/AC Photovoltaic System 

solar array 

and support 


or utility) 

battery charger 

battery bank 

Storing Kilowatts 

The electrical current from the PV 
panels flows through a set of wires to 
where it's needed— Ughting the house 
and running appliances and equipment, 
or into a bank of batteries to be stored. 
In the Brandborg basement, a 12-volt 
bank of 6 deep-cycle 2-volt batteries 
stores 1,200 ampere (amp) hours of 
electricity— approximately 13 to 14 kilo- 
watt-hours (volts X amps = watts). "We 
have between 7 and 10 days of storage 
with no input of power whatsoever," Dan 
said. "The batteries will last 15 to 20 
years. The secret to longevity in batteries 
is not discharging them too deeply. This 
means using large batteries and designing 
the system so a typical day of power 
usage will withdraw 10 to 30 percent of 
the stored power." 

Art and Betty Gussa's 48-volt photo- 
voltaic system stores 440 amp hours for 
a reserve of 21,000 kilowatts. The bat- 
teries are housed in a room which is 
insulated to R90. The Thornes' 12-volt 
bank of batteries has 1050 amp hours of 
storage. A built-in bench in the utility 
room harbors the battery bank in the 
Thorne house. Its central location reduc- 
es wiring runs and keeps the batteries 
warm. "Cold takes a toll on batteries," 
Dan noted. "Optimally, they should be 
kept around 60 to 70 degrees." All 
battery storage areas are vented to carry 
the potentially explosive hydrogen (gener- 
ated when the batteries are charging) to 
the outside. 

Controlling the Flow 

An inverter transforms the 12-volt DC 
electricity to 115-volt alternating cur- 
rent to power AC appliances. The inver- 
ter can also include a battery charging 
circuit to receive AC power from a 
back-up generator and convert it to DC 


to charge the batteries. "In earlier sys- 
tems, the inverters' inefficiencies were a 
weak link," Dan said. "Todays units 
operate in the 90 percent range; that is, 
only 10 percent of the incoming power 
is lost in converting the current to AC." 

A power controller or regulator moni- 
tors voltage. ' When the batteries reach 
about 85 percent full charge," Dan 
explained, "the regulator turns most of 
the solar power off. Once the batteries 
reach 100 percent, the regulator turns off 
£ill of the incoming power. To prevent 
batteries from being too deeply dis- 
charged, the regulator has a sensor that 
disconnects the load from the batteries 
when a low voltage is reached. "Say if 
we go away for several days and leave 
the water pump on," Dan said, "the 
regulator would sense the drop in vol- 
tage and turn off the pump circuit." 

Sophisticated controllers automatical- 
ly respond to low battery voltage. When 
the battery charge drops to a certain 
point, the controller automatically starts 
a generator to recharge the batteries. 

A Hybrid System 

The Brandborgs' system is designed to 
derive 95 percent of its annual electricity 
from solar, and the remaining 5 percent 
from a backup gasoline generator. "Sizing 
the system so the full output of the PV 
modules is used by the load most of the 
year, and using the generator for those 
few times when the modules fall short of 
meeting the load is the most cost-effective 
method," Dan said. 

The gasoline generator carries ex- 
treme loads or charges batteries during a 
long stretch of cloudy weather. "I call 
the system beauty and the beast,' Dan 
said. ' 'On the one hand is the beauty— 
the quiet, non-polluting, renewable PV 
system. On the other is the beast— the 
noisy, smelly gasoline generator with 

Planning a PV System 

Home owners considering a PV system should tabulate their energy needs, similar to the sample shown in the table. 

Daily Loads 


Load Description 


Kitchen Counter Light 



Kitchen Table Light 

Quartz Halogen 


Area Lighting-Kitchen 



Living Room Light 

Quartz Halogen 


Bedroom Light 


Sample Monthly Energy Budget 

Hrs/Day Watts 




Hrs/Day Walts 





lObviousfy, more than 6 lights will be in a home The power consumption of the additional lights is figured into the lightmg loads above.) 
1 TV 13" color 40 AC 4.0 160 2 80 

1 VCRVHS 30 AC 5.0 15 0.2 6 

1 Stereo/Cassette 



Auto type 
Well Pump 

Pressure Type 
Washing Machine* 
Toaster 2 slice 

Sewing Machine 
Hair Curler 
Carpentry tools 

Total Daily Loads 






















Battery inefficiency 15% 

Inverter and wire loss 10% 
Total unavoidable loss 25% 






























Multiply total wattage by 1.25 to compensate 

Solar Input; 500 watt-hours in full sun*' 
(3 hours in January/ S'/z hours in Julyl 
Net Energy |solar input minus total loads) 

•Three foods weekly at 30 mmutes per load Although loads are usually run once or tw,ce weekly. I,me .s divided into daily fraction of hours 
-The winter sun shines longer than 3 hours a day. fc., its intensity for whole day approximates 3 hours of full sun -Full sun^is >>^J^ °^<^'J^' 

line of flight and how clo^ the earth is to the sun. How much of the 'full sun" can be captured in watt-hours depends on how many solar cells 

are perched on the roof. 
Source: Suneico 


A small gasoline generator kicks on for 
heavy power loads or during long stretches 
of sunless days. 

hundreds of moving parts. The generator 
does, however, produce enormous quan- 
tities of electrical power in a short time." 
The Brandborgs' generator uses about 25 
gallons of gasoUne each winter. 

When A PV System Is A 

Dan said photovoltaic systems are 
cost-effective for houses more than 1/2 
to 3/4 of a mile away from a power grid. 
When the Brandborgs built their house 
five years ago, the power company 
quoted a price of $20,000 to extend a 
line from the utility grid 3 miles away. 
Today the powerline connection would 
cost even more while the cost of PV 
systems is dropping. "A residential 
state-of-the-art PV system costs between 
$7,000 and $12,000," Dan said. "Small 

systems for vacation homes or stock 
water pumping, of course, are consider- 
ably less." 

Dan suggested that home owners not 
wait until they build their house before 
instalUng a photovoltaic system. "Why 
constantly run a noisy generator to 
operate the saws, sanders, and other 
equipment needed to build a house 
when installing a PV system will let you 
work in peace and quiet," he said. 
"Some people even start with a portion 
of the complete system. Batteries, with 
the inverter/battery charger unit, can 
limit the generator's use to less than an 
hour a day. Solar modules can be added 
as the budget allows, replacing the 
generator's role until it is only a backup 

That's what the Thornes did. They 
sized and purchased the batteries, regu- 
lator, and inverter for their total antici- 
pated load, but installed just enough PV 
panels for the construction equipment 
Their PV modules currently generate 
188 peak watts per hour. They'll add 
more modules to bring their wattage up 
to meet the increased winter demands. 

More than Cost 

Prohibitive power Hne hookup charg- 
es are just one reason the Brandborgs, 
Thornes, and Gussas have photovoltaics 
over conventional electricity. "PV lets 
us be pretty much self sufficient, ' ' John 
Thorne said. "We don't have to worry 
about trees falling across power lines. 
And we like not getting a monthly bill 
from the utility company." O 

Direct current powers the lights in the 
Brandborg house. A quartz halogen over 
the kitchen table provides plenty of illumin- 
ation at a small cost in watts. 


One-level Plan Saves Steps and Energy 

Can heating with electricity in 
Montana cost less than heat- 
ing with natural gas in south- 
ern California? Yes, according to Cliff 
and Bennielee Horton. "In San Diego 
our December heating bills averaged 
$250. We heated this house last Decem- 
ber for considerably less than $200," 
Cliff said. "Our total electric bill for that 
month was $203. That was for every- 
thing, including Christmas lights. And I 
used my power tools in the shop a lot 
that month." A submeter which tracks 
electricity used for space heat was 
installed on January 7, 1987. From 
January 7, 1987, to October 4, 1987, the 
Hortons used a total of 5,022 kilowatt- 
hours (kWh) to heat their house. At a 
rate of .0485 per kWh, that amounts to 
$243 for the nine-month period. 

Hamilton isn't Montana's coldest spot 
by a long way, but it's certainly colder 
than San Diego. So what paves the way 
to lower bills? "Design and construc- 
tion," said Cliff. A look at the list of 
energy features in his house backs up 
his statement: 

• North and east 2x6 walls filled 
with blown-in-blanket fiber- 
glass insulation (BIBS) and 
sheathed with foil-faced polyi- 
socyanurate rigid foam board 
on the exterior 

• West double wall of 2 x 4 and 2 
6x6 studs with BIBS 

• South 2x6 wall with BIBS 

• Roof insulated with blown-in 
fiberglass to R49 

• 6-mil polyethylene air-vapor 
barrier in ceiling and walls, 
overlapped and caulked 

A sheltered entry m the northeast corner of the Horton house protects visitors from snow 
and rain, and the expansive deck offers room for lounging on sunny days. The house is 
one of 31 in Montana that vi/as built under the Residential Construction Demonstration 

• Crawl space insulated with 
fiberglass batts on walls and in 
floors, and a 6-mil polyethylene 
moisture barrier over the 

• VanEE-2000 heat recovery ven- 
tilator Insulated Stanley and 
Therma-Tru exterior doors 

• Clawson casement and awning 
windows with double-glazing 
and low-E film 

Part of RCDP 

The Hortons' home is one of 31 in 
Montana participating in the Residential 
Construction Demonstration Project 
(RCDP). When the Hortons' son, architect 

Dale Horton, drew up the house plans 
according to Cliff and Bennielee's specifi- 
cations, he realized how close it was to 
the RCDP specifications and suggested 
they apply for the program. 

As one method for checking the per- 
formance of houses in the program, the 
Montana Department of Natural Re- 
sources and Conservation (DNRC) con- 
ducts a blower-door test. The Hortons 
found the test particularly revealing. 
"The house is really tight," Cliff said. 
"The builder caulked everything— 
mudsills, windows, doors. But you just 
don't realize where air can get through a 
house. Would you believe we had air 
coming through the deadbolt lock— right 
around the pin?" 


Clifford and Bennielee Horton 




Dale Horton, Architect 
P.O. Box 7812 
Missoula, Ml 59807 


Martin Builders 
2540 Highway 93 North 
Victor, MX 59875 


1 Story 


Ceiling - R49 

Double Wall (West) - R40 

2x6 Wall (North and East| - R28 

2x6 Wall (South) - R22 

Crawl Space Walls - R17 

Floor - R19 

Square Feet 


Special Features 

RCDP Construction 
Outside Combustion Air 


Electric Forced Air 


October 1986 


Windows Fit Floor Space 

But energy savings come from more 
than insulation and an air-vapor barrier. 
"You have to design a house properly 
and face it in the right direction for solar 
gain," Cliff said, directing attention to 
the vaulted living area with its bank of 
south-facing windows and protective 
overhang. ' 'We get a lot of heat from the 
winter sun." The 326 square feet of 
windows represent a little less than 15 
percent of the total floor area, which 
RCDP standards describe as ideal. The 
glazing distribution shows the solar 

design, with 62 percent on the south, 25 
percent east, 8 percent west, and 5 
percent north. 

Heat Integrated with 

Most of the time, the Hortons depend 
on their electric forced-air furnace. 



family room 

Rated at 15,000 kilowatts, it's about 
one-third the size of the output of the 
gas furnace they had in San Diego. "Our 
son, who designed the house, had to 
convince the heating contractor to put in 
such a small one," Cliff said. "But, it 
certainly does the job. Because of the 
tight construction, we don't have any 
cold or hot spots." 

A single duct system delivers warmed 
air from the furnace and fresh air from 
the VanEE-2000 heat recovery venti- 
lator. Integrating the ventilator with the 
forced air heating system was one of the 
energy innovations sponsored by RCDP 
to reduce the amount of ductwork in the 

Out of the Weather 

The design of the house, with living 
space and shop and garage all con- 
nected, is a major advantage for energy 
saving, the Hortons said. "I can go to my 
shop or the garage without going out- 

living room 


side," Cliff said. Airlock entries at the 
front and back doors leading outside 
prevent cold air from rushing in. 

Cliff's second home is the shop on the 
north side; it is not heated by the 
furnace. Even with its two north-facing 
windows, the shop temperature has 
never dropped below 45 degrees and the 
adjoining bathroom doesn't get below 
54 degrees. Double doors connect the 
shop to the garage. Cliff can easily move 
large pieces of wood through the double 
doors. They also allow heat to flow into 
the garage from a wood stove in the 
shop. "When it's 30 degrees outside, I 
can fire up the stove in the shop and 
have the garage up to shirt-sleeve tem- 
perature in about an hour," Cliff said. 

Custom Kitchen and Utility 

Bennielee had the say on kitchen and 
utility room design. "I worked with 
James Vetter, the cabinet manufacturer 
here in Hamilton, to place every cabinet 
in the kitchen and utility room the way I 
wanted to use them, " she said. In the 
kitchen three lazy Susans make use of 
corner cupboard space. Roll-out shelves 
bring pans and cans into easy reach. In 
the utility room, Bennielee pointed out 
the features for convenience: a recess in 
the wall for the ironing board, a rod for 
hanging clothes and tablecloths, and 
laundry bins that slide on rollers out of 
sight under a counter. To minimize 
visual clutter, electrical outlets have 
been placed as close to the floor as code 

Both Cliff and Bennielee said they 
couldn't think of a thing they'd change. 
With one heating season behind them, 
they are pleased with their home's 
performance and feel energy-efficient 
housing was the right choice. O 


A handsome brown brick fireplace is the 
centerpiece for the Morton's living space. It 
. rarates the living room from the family 
nvm. The fireplace's mass soaks up the 
bountiful warmth pouring in from the low- 
lying winter sun, and slowly releases it 
during the cooler evening hours. When the 
Mortons use the fireplace, which isn't often, 
combustion air is drawn through a pipe from 
outside to the Meatform firebox. 


Low Income Can Buy Energy- efficient House 


Cynthia Taylor 




David Lilyquist 

N.W 660 Park View Drive 

Hamilton, iVIT 59840 



Campbell Massey 
888 Coal Pit Road 
Corvallis, MT 59828 


1 Story 


Ceiling • R60 

2x6 Strapped WaU - R25 

Floors ■ R30 

Crawl Space • Rll 

Square Feet 

IVlain - 862 

Special Features 

RCDP Construction 
Airtight Drywall 


Electric Baseboard 


August 1986 

Caught between exorbitant 
heating bills and a lean 
income, Cynthia Taylor 
resolved to do something about the 
squeeze. Her efforts resulted in one of the 
first low-income, superinsulated houses 
in Montana. 

Cindy got the idea for building an 
energy-efficient house while working at 
the Ravalli County Electric Cooperative. 
"I had funds approved from the Farmers 
Home Administration," Cindy said. 
"Rudy Kratofil, Conservation Supervisor 
at the Co-op, works with customers on 
weatherizing their houses and building 
energy-efficient houses, and he encour- 
aged me to build an energy-efficient 
home. So the energy-saving features were 
designed into the house, and my builder 
submitted the house plans to the Residen- 
tial Construction Demonstration Project." 

Local Utility Can Help 

"Anyone who is thinking about build- 
ing a house should stop by their local 
utility and let them know they're in the 
market for a house," Rudy Kratofil said. 
"When Ravalli County Electric Coopera- 
tive holds a builder's workshop, we call 
all the people we know who are thinking 
about building. One individual went to a 
builder's seminar to meet and hire a 
builder. He said he didn't want anybody 
building his house who hadn't attended 
one of the workshops." 

The workshops, sponsored by the elec- 
tric cooperative and DNRC, show 
builders new energy-efficiency techni- 
ques. Attendance is required for those 
builders who want to take part in building 

Gndy Taylor's house is proof that those with low incomes can own an energy-efficient 
house. The house affords comfortable and economical living quarters for those on a tight 

The house makes the best use of space, with little area wasted in hallways. South-facing 
windows in the living room and master bedroom bring in free heat from the sun. 


programs sponsored by Bonneville Power 
Administration, such as RSDP, RCDP, 
and Super Good Cents. 

Cindy's builder, Campbell Massey, was 
one of the builders who had attended a 
workshop and was familiar with the 
RCDP. He helped quahfy Cindy's house 
for RCDP funding. These funds paid for 
the energy-saving features, such as extra 
insulation, a heat recovery ventilator, and 
the extra cost for gasketing and vapor 
barrier paint for the drywall. 

Built on A Budget 

Simplicity and efficiency kept the cost 
of Cindy's house under her budget. The 
walls are constructed to get maximum 
R-value without the expense of double 
wall construction. By furring the 2x6 
studs with 1 X Is, extra space was built 
into the walls to accommodate 6 1/4 
inches of Insulsafe-III blown-in-blanket 

insulation |BIBS). In the ceiling, raised 
heel trusses allow room for 12 inches of 
fiberglass insulation. Airtight drywall acts 
as the air-vapor barrier. 

Total window area is about 10 percent 
of the house's square footage. All win- 
dows are double glazed with low-E film. 
To keep drafts out, the framing around 
the windows was insulated with polyure- 
thane foam. Before foaming around the 
windows and framing, the builder braced 
the studs to counteract the pressure of the 
expanding foam, and left the braces in 
place for a week before he trimmed the 

Although just half the windows face 
south, plenty of free heat comes pouring 
in, "When the sun is out, even though it's 
only 20 degrees outside, 1 don't have to 
turn on my heat until seven or eight at 
night," Cindy said. "I rarely turn on the 
heat in my bedroom. " 

Although the kitchen and dining room have north-facing windows, the double-glazing and 
low-E film keeps heat loss to a minimum. 

Ventilator Cleans Air 

A Van-EE 2000 heat recovery ventilator 
runs continuously on low to bring fresh 
air into the house and remove odors. "I 
used to smoke a lot, and I found out how 
tight this house was when I shut off the 
ventilator one night, " Cindy said. "The 
next morning the air in the living room, 
full of my stale cigarette smoke, looked 
like a fire was smoldering in there." 

One minor problem with the ventilator 
occurred when Cindy first moved in. 
"Something built up in the filter and 
spread a light, fine dust on everything. 
After I took out the filter and cleaned it, 
the dust cleared up, " she said. She has no 
trouble with condensation forming on the 

Construction Keeps Electric 
Bill Down 

So far, the home's energy performance 
is better than Cindy hoped for. Between 
September 1, 1986, and June 1, 1987, her 
electricity use averaged 3,526 kilowatt- 
hours (kWh) for space heating, 1,830 
kWh for water heating, and 3,294 kWh 
for other uses, such as lights and cooking. 
At 4 1/2 cents a kilowatt-hour, that adds 
up to $158 for heating and $82 for hot 
water during the heating season. "I'm 
really pleased," Cindy said. "I hadn't 
wanted electric heat. I like a warm house 
and the electric bill for the heat in my 
rented place had been terribly high. But 
Rudy encouraged me to try electric heat 
in a well-insulated house." 

"Think about the low usage of Cindy's 
house," Rudy said. "There'll be enough 
energy saved to provide another house 
with power. These well designed and 
properly insulated houses are 50 to 60 
percent more efficient than houses built 
to HUD standards. " 

Making Space Work 

The streamlined two-bedroom house 
affords plenty of room for Cindy, her 
Doberman pinscher, a poodle, and one 
bird. The dining area and kitchen share 
space for ease of food preparation and 
serving. A convenient back door lets the 
garage double as an airlock entry, which 
keeps mud and dirt from being tracked 
through the living room. To leave more 
space in the utility room, an energy- 
efficient hot water heater was installed in 
the crawl space. Its location just below 
the big hot water users— washing 
machine and sink— shortens the waiting 
time for hot water at the faucet and 
reduces the amount of heat lost in pipes. 
The heater is insulated on the inside and 
has an insulating jacket on its exterior. 

"Single income and low-income 
families shouldn't give up on owning a 
house," Cindy said. "They can afford to 
build and maintain their houses through 
low-income funding and by designing 
their houses to meet Montana's Super 
Good Cents program. And why anyone, 
low income or not, would want to build 
anything but an energy-efficient house is 
beyond me. The comfort and money 
saved are unbeUevable. " D 


Solarcrete Walls Defy Elements 


Gary and June Hartze 



Designer and Builder 

Hartze Construction, Inc. 
6154 Highway 12 West 
Helena, MT 59601 


Raised Rancii 


Ceiling - R60 blown-in cellulose 
Walls - R37 expanded polystyrene 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,600 
Basement - 1,500 

Special Features 

Solarcrete Construction 


Electric Air-Air Heat Pump 



Partly hidden in the pines and sage 
on the rolling hills just west of 
Helena is a house that looks 
ordinary but isn't. Like many houses in 
Montana, its long side faces south to 
capture winter sunlight, and its lower 
level is partially embedded in the earth's 
buffering warmth. But under the warm, 
brown stucco exterior is a construction 
style that makes this house a miser in 
energy consumption. 

The miserly aspect starts with the walls 
of the house— inner and outer shells of 
2-inch reinforced concrete sandwiching 8 
inches of expanded polystyrene insula- 
tion through a technique known as the 
"Solarcrete" Building System. 

Superior insiUating quaUties 1R37 in the 
walls) and no maintenance are just two of 
the reasons Gary and June Hartze used 
Solarcrete when they built their house in 
1983. "Solarcrete walls have continuous 
insulation, so the heat doesn't have a 
direct path to the outside. The house also 
has above-standard ratings for resistance 
to earthquakes and fire," Gary said. 

Gary Hartze, a building contractor in 
Montana for 15 years, said that the 
Solarcrete method has been used widely 
in the Midwest and Southeast, and is just 
now making its way to Montana. He's the 
authorized Solarcrete builder in Montana 
east of the Rockies. In addition to the 
Hartze's house, Helena's Tire-Rama store 
also was built with Solarcrete. 

Special Wall Treatment 

Frames for the Solarcrete walls were 
assembled on the ground. First, a rigid 
framework was constructed from steel 

Timbered hills and a large garage buffer the Hartze house from cold north winds. Most 
windows face south, gathering considerable heat from the winter sun. No windows face 
north. The exterior Solarcrete walls of the house are finished with maintenance-free, 
pre-colored stucco and trimmed with oiled tongue-and-groove cedar trim. The deck across 
the east and south side is also cedar. 

rebar connected with heavy-duty web 
ties and bar clips. Then 8 inches of 
expanded polystyrene insulation was 
inserted into the framework. Wire mesh 
was stretched over the framework to 
reinforce the structure and serve as an 
attachment for the concrete. 

The wall frames were tipped into place 
by hand and secured to the footings. Gary 
said even the biggest section, 26 feet long 
and 18 feet high, required only four men 
to tip it into place. Once the wail frames 
were in place, workmen used a large hose 
to spray a 2-inch-thick layer of high-stress 
concrete on each side of the wall panels. 
This concrete adheres to the wall frame 
without slumping or sagging. 

House Requires Little 
Heating or Cooling 

"This house is tight, ' ' Gary said. ' 'Often 
our internal heat sources— us, the appU- 
ances, and so forth— give us enough heat. 
When we have 8 to 10 people in here, 
their body heat will keep the place warm, 
even at zero degrees." 

The Hartzes use a Coleman air-to-air 
heat pump to heat the 3, 100 square feet of 
their house. The heat pump also serves as 
an air conditioner. "On 100-degree sum- 
mer days, I can cool the house for less 
than a dollar a day," Gary said. The 
pump costs about $ 150 a year to operate. 
"My heat pump is metered separately, 
and I have good records of heating bills, 
Gary said. 


Solarcrete walls can be finished in a variety of ways. In their living room. Gary and June 
Hartze glued tongue-and-groove cedar paneling on one wall, and textured and painted 
another. Wallpaper covers hallway and bathroom walls. Underneath the wall coverings, 
the concrete wall absorbs the warmth from the low winter sun, then releases that warmth as 
the rooms cool in the evening. 

In the downstairs recreation room, country-patterned wallpaper above cedar wainscoting 
provides a cheery setting for a pool table. Garden-level windows on the south admit plentiful 


Solarcrete Wall Section 

Controlling the Ventilation 

A VanEE-200 heat recovery ventilator 
freshens the air inside the house. Exhaust 
air from the house, the dryer, and Jenn- 
Air range is vented out the east side of the 
house. Fresh air is ducted in from the 
west side. 

Gary has some advice on heat recovery 
ventilators. "I tell people to clean the 
filters, then leave the ventilator alone. It 
doesn't take much fiddling to get a 
ventilator out of balance. People twist 
knobs and they don't know what they're 
doing. The ventilator should be controlled 
by the dehumidistat in the Uving area or 
by the manual timers in the kitchen and 
bathrooms. The dehumidistat should be 
set according to the outside temperature 
and humidity." 

Cost Varies With Price of 

As far as cost for a comparable home. 
Gary said there is no "average" cost per 
square foot for a Solarcrete house because 
the price of concrete varies from town to 
town. The price also depends on whether 
the house is located in town or the 
country. Gary has a 15-minute movie 
about Solarcrete construction and is 
wUhng to show his house to anyone 
interested in this method. D 

An insulated stee! front door opens to an 
airlock entry from which French doors 
provide an inviting view into the home. 


Wood Underpinnings Support Energy- 
saving House 

Although wood foundations have 
been in use for several years 
now, they are still something 
of a novelty. However. Judy and Hal Hay 
decided a wood foundation would be just 
the ticket. "I had absolutely no qualms 
about installing this type of foundation," 
Hal said. "Our site is on porous rock and 
we have no drainage problems 
whatsoever. 1 wouldn't install one on clay 
soil, though. Drainage and frost heave 
could put substantial pressure on the 

Hal is manager of Intermountain 
Lumber in Helena and is familiar with 
wood foundations and their benefits. A 
dry, warm basement that would make a 
comfortable living space was the impetus 
for selecting the wood foundation. "I 
think it's easier to insulate a wood 
foundation, and to run pipes and wires 
through a 2 X 6 stud wall than it is 
concrete, " Hal said. 

No Room for Mistakes 

Hal cautioned that going by the book is 
important. "The wood used for the foun- 
dation has to be specially treated. The 
nails have to be corrosion-resistant. The 
plywood seams have to be sealed with 
moisture-proof caulk. "You don't cut 
comers when you put in a wood founda- 
tion, especially when it's holding up three 
stories, " he said. 

The Hays started with a leveled site 
over which 6-mil polyethylene was 
placed as a moisture barrier. A continu- 
ous 8- X 16-inch concrete footing was 
poured around the perimeter of the 

Sequestered in the pines south of Helena, Judy and Hal Hay's house balances 
energy-efficient construction with economical gas heat and some passive solar gain. A wood 
foundation supports the three-story house. The west overhang protects a bank of windows 
from the hot afternoon summer sun. 

house, and a 4-inch concrete slab was 
poured over gravel. Treated 2 x 10 fir 
studs, installed on a wide mudsill 
anchored to the footings, frame the foun- 
dation walls. Blown cellulose fills the stud 
cavities of the foundation for an R-value 
of 30. Treated 5/8-inch plywood sheathes 
the exterior. After caulking the exterior 
plywood seams, the plywood was painted 
with two coats of a fibred-asphalt founda- 

tion coating. A 6-inil polyethylene mois- 
ture barrier was applied as the final 
exterior layer before backfilling. 

The basement was backfilled to the 
second floor on the entire east side, and 
the east half of the north and south. 
Double swinging patio doors on the south 
side and a bank of west windows bring 
sunlight into the downstairs bedrooms. 
An insulated steel door on the north 
provides access to the outside. 


Hal and Judy Hay 




Mike Stevenson, Architect 
Stevenson Design and Associates 
Bimey, MT 59012 


Jim Bentley 
910 Park Drive 
Helena, MT 59601 


2 Story with Basement 


Ceiling - R60 
2x6 Walls - R30 
Basement Wall - R30 

Square Feet 

Upper - 556 
Main - 1,096 
Basement - 1,096 

Special Features 

Wood Foundation 

Airlock Entry 

Outside Combustion Air 


Natural Gas Hydronic 


December 1985 


Foam Board Sheathes 
Interior Walls 

On the upper two floors, a combination 
of heavy insulation with good ventilation 
prevents condensation problems and 
keeps the house warm. The 2x6 walls 
are filled with blown cellulose and 
sheathed vrith 1-inch tongue-and-groove 
extruded polystyrene on the inside. To 
cut down air infiltration, Tyvelt was 
appUed over the exterior oriented strand 
board |OSB). 

Instead of a whole-house heat recovery 
ventilator, fans in the bathroom and over 
the electric range ventilate those areas 
that produce most of the moisture and 
odors in the house. 

Free Heat with a View 

Although the house is surrounded by 
tall pine trees and neighboring houses, 
careful design and placement opened it 
up to the sun and a view. A 6 x 12 
extension on the south side affords room 
for an airlock entry on the main level and 


An insulated glass exterior door and adjacent window (concealed by wall on the right j and 
double glass interior doors admit plenty of southern sun to the living area. Rust-colored 
quarry tile provides storage for the sun's warmth. 

a small sunspace on the top floor. Sun- 
light streams through an insulated glass 
entry door and window and into the main 
living area through double glass doors. 
Quarry tile absorbs some of the solar 
heat. Windows along the south, west, and 
north sides of the large living space afford 
a view to the garden, timbered hills, and 
Helena valley. Adjacent to the master 
bedroom, a small sunspace collects free 
heat for the upstairs. Windows are all 
double glazed with low-E coating. 

Verosol medium-weight shades temper 
the flux of heat and cold through the 
windows. Judy had her doubts about the 
efficiency of the shades. But when she 
opens them in the morning after a cold 
night, she says she can feel the rush of 
cold. In the summer, of course, they work 
very well to turn away the sun's heat. 

Economical Gas Hydronic 

The Hays chose gas-fired hot water for 
an even, quiet heat. A 90 percent-efficient 

Amtrol natural gas boiler heats the water 
which is piped to the baseboard heaters. 
To provide the combustion air needed by 
the gas boiler, outside air is ducted 
through the side of the house to the 
mechanical room in the basement. The 
plastic ducting bringing in the air ends in 
a bucket where the heavier cold air pools 
in the bottom. "The air in the bucket 
stays around 30 degrees in the winter 
while the rest of the room is around 68 
degrees, " Hal said. 

The daytime temperature is kept at 68 
for the comfort of Judy and their three 
young children who are at home during 
the day. The thermostat Is set back to 60 
at night. 

The gas heat is economical as well as 
comfortable. "Before we built the house, 
we ran the building specifications 
through a computer program to project 
the heating bill," Hal said. "We're doing 
much better than what we anticipated. 
Our monthly utility bill averages $46.00. 
This includes all gas and electricity." O 

y.^^ ^j^S^^V 

The Hay's large open living space promotes 
circulation of air warmed by hydronic base- 
board heaters or south-facing windows. 
Creamy white walls and light carpeting 
diffuse light and enhance the rich grains of 
the wood beams and tongue-and-groove fir 


A Warm Place With A View 


Greg Jahn and Christine Torgrimson 




Owners and Various Consultants 


Owners and Larry Jahn 


2 Story 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R40 
Slab - R7 

Square Feet 

Upper - 784 
Studio - 528 
Main • 1,524 

Special Features 

Attached Greenhouse 
Direct Vent Gas Appliances 


Natural Gas 


June 1985 

A bay window that grew until it 
became a bow wall with five 
windows reveals the desire 
of Greg Jahn and Christine Torgrimson to 
fully enjoy their view of Helena and to 
have a house fUled with natural Ught. 
"We're both Montana natives and we 
want to stay here," Greg said. "But to 
keep from migrating south in winter, we 
have to have sufficient daylight. And, we 
have to be warm. After living in an 
extremely drafty farmhouse, neither of us 
ever wanted to be cold again." 

Class Plants Idea 

A college community class in Bozeman 
convinced Greg and Christine to build an 
earth-sheltered, superinsulated house 
with maximum glass on the south side. 
They also wanted a greenhouse. To get 
started, Greg and Christine each designed 
the house of their dreams, then put their 
two plans together. Over the next year 
they often consulted with Russ Heliker, 
builder, and his wife, Linda Brock, an 
architect. (See related article on page 25.) 
After building a cardboard model, they 
embarked upon construction. 

Double 2x4 walls frame the second 
level and three sides of the first level. The 
fourth wall at the rear of the first level is 
concrete, set below ground level. This 
wall is insulated with 1-inch extruded 
polystyrene on the outside and a 2 x 6 
insulated wall on its interior. Above the 
ceiling, raised heel trusses provide plenty 
of room for insulation. Rows of soffit 

Triple-glazed windows minimize heat loss while providing plenty of light and a 
commanding view of the Helena valley. 

vents and a continuous ridge vent pro- 
mote air circulation in the attic. Tyvek 
beneath the redwood siding tightens the 
house against air infiltration. 

A heat recovery ventilator brings in 
fresh air and exhausts stale air from the 
house. "We turn it on when the house is 
stuffy, when we burn something, or 
when we leave," Christine said. "It really 
does the job, but because the house is so 
quiet, the noise of the ventilator's fan is 
quite noticeable to us." 

Just two plumbing vents penetrate the 
ceiling vapor barrier. A State gas hot 
water heater brings combustion air in 
and vents out through the side wall, as 
does a natural gas space heater in the 
living room. Greg's pottery studio. 

above the garage, has its own vapor 
barrier separate from that of the main 
house to keep moisture from migrating 
out of the more humid studio into the 
living space. The studio also has its own 
electric hot water baseboard heating 
system and a dehumidifier. 

Artistic Touch on Finishing 

The interior finishing exemplifies Greg 
and Christine's artistic capabiUties. 
Cream-colored walls and oatmeal-toned 
carpeting in the living room complement 
the dining room's poUshed hardwood 
floor and the tongue-and-groove fir and 
larch covering the vaulted ceiling. Thick 
rust-hued tiles handcrafted by Greg pave 


the entryway. The double-wall construc- 
tion that keeps heat in also provides deep 
sills for the triple-glazed windows- 
opportune display space for Greg's 
pottery and a mix of plants, as well as a 
favored resting spot for two friendly cats. 
Tongue-and-groove fir and larch accents 
one wall of the guest bedroom. Cherry- 

wood cabinets enhanced with a pottery 
basin highlight the main bathroom. 

Small Space Heater Warms 
Tight House 

The house performs as Greg and 
Christine anticipated. "We leave the tem- 
perature at 70 degrees and our gas bills 







WKi" ^'iJ 



A natural gas heater occupies a small area of the living room (located between the lamp 
stand and the window on the left). Combustion air is channeled directly to the heater 
through an outside vent. 


total less than $200 a year, " Christine 
said. A Perfection direct vent natural gas 
heater rated at 20,000 Btu keeps the 
entire house toasty warm. This heater is 
small, only 2 feet x 3 feet x 1 foot, and is 
installed on the north wall of the hving 
room. The open floor plan and wall vents 
to the upstairs rooms promote air circula- 
tion. "Heat diffuses thoroughly when it 
isn't being lost through walls and win- 
dows," Greg said. 

Cold No More 

Asked if they would do anything differ- 
ent, Greg said they might think twice 
before again taking on the monumental 
task of building a house themselves. "We 
had a dream to design and build and 
understand our house. We spent months 
researching and a year building and we 
have all this knowledge. I'm not sure 
we'll really use this knowledge again, but 
we're truly satisfied with the home we've 
created. And, we aren't cold any more." 

Rock from the Blackfoot River and the 
Helena valley forms a wall joining the 
kitchen and greenhouse. The rock provides 
heat storage, soaking up warmth and releas- 
ing it when indoor temperatures cool. 


Buffeted by Winds 

Near an aspen grove on a slope 
in Tucker Gulch outside 
Helena sits the house of Dan 
and Cheryl McCauley. The site would 
be less than ideal for a house built with 
conventional construction. The house is 
on an open slope, and there is nothing to 
stop the persistent wind that whistles up 
Tucker Gulch from the southwest and 
whips the bunchgrass on the open 
ridges. Many Montanans are familiar 
with the feel of a cold draft that some- 
how comes through the walls of old 
houses and sends a chill up the spine. 
There is none of this in the McCauley 
house. Walls 13 inches thick and full of 
fiberglass insulation, triple-pane win- 
dows, a polyethylene air-vapor barrier 
inside the walls, a Tyvek air barrier 
under the siding and careful caulking of 
all seams and joints keep the outside 
weather outside. Even the sound is 
excluded. "If we don't look out the 
window, we don't know the wind is 
blowing, " Dan Said. 

Efficiency and Livability 

Energ)' efficiency and overall livabil- 
ity were on the McCauleys' minds when 
they had their house built in 1984. 
Livability was enhanced by cedar 
siding, cathedral ceilings, a deck around 
two sides of the house, and big windows 
looking out over vast expanses of blue 
sky and native forest. 

An EMR 250 heat recovery ventilator 
controls indoor air quality. The 
McCauleys run the ventilator manually 

Taking a bite out o/ energy biiis the McCauley house is impennous to wind and cold 
Note roof overhang letting the sun in on the day the photo was taken, October 26. 

when needed to ventilate the bathroom 
or kitchen, and they set their dehumid- 
istat between 35 and 55, depending on 
the outside temperature. The long axis 
of the house faces slightly west of due 
south, and the glazing on the southwest 
side helps heat the house. When the sun 
is not enough, the McCauleys can turn 
on their electric baseboard heaters. "We 
don't turn on the baseboards at all for 
five or six months of the year," Dan 
said. A 38-inch overhang keeps the sun 
out of the windows during the warm 
months when it is not needed. 

Heating on Less than $200 
per Year 

The McCauley house is built to the 
energy-efficiency standards of the Resi- 
dential Standards Demonstration 
Program, sponsored by the Bonneville 
Power Administration and the Montana 
Department of Natural Resources and 
Conservation. This program reimbursed 
homebuilders for the cost of energy effic- 
iency measures above those required by 
HUD standards (see Glossary], and moni- 
tored energy consumption to see how it 


Dan and Cheryl McCauley 


South of Helena 




Glen Voelkel 
7535 York Road 
Helena, MX 59601 


1 Story. Full Dayhght Basement 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Walls ■ R41 
Basement - R41 
Slab ■ R5 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,620 
Basement - 1,620 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 
Triple-pane Windows 
Cathedral Ceiling 
Raised-heel Scissors Trusses 


Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard 


September 1984 



compared with that of HUD houses. The 
McCauley house used 3,380 kWh of 
electricity for heating during the year 
from April 1985 to April 1986. The 
Montana Power Company electricity rate 
of approximately $.05 per kWh brought 
the McCauleys' heating bill for that year 
to about $169. Houses built to HUD 
standards tend to require about 3 times as 
much heat per square foot as RSDP 
houses. At this rate it would have cost 
about $533 to heat the McCauley house 
for a year if it had been insulated only up 
to HUD standards. P 

Scissors trusses make room for a cathedral ceiling. Note mid-day sun through south 
window at right. 


Superinsulation Keeps House Cozy 

For Dave and Mary Lynn Ramsey, 
the Sunhaven subdivison 
where they hve on the west 
side of Helena is appropriately named. 
Snow might be a foot deep and the 
outdoor temperature registering a chilly 
10 degrees, but the visitor passing 
through the wooden front door and the 
airlock entry of the Ramseys' house 
leaves street noise and cold behind. 
Warmth and quiet take over. From the 
entryway, a short flight of stairs leads 
up to the main floor or down to the 
walk-out basement. 

Sun Keeps House 

Upstairs in the main living area, 
MaryLynn gestured to the south-facing 
windows. "We turn the heat down 
during the day when we're gone. But 
the sun coming in through those win- 
dows keeps the house at a comfortable 
temperature. When I come home for 
lunch, I usually don't have to turn up 
the heat if the sun has been shining." 
MaryLynn also noted that they were 
just a few hundred feet from the Bur- 
lington Northern tracks. "We don't hear 
the trains go by except in the summer. 
When we open windows, we really hear 
the outside noise." 

Rooftop solar collectors on a Helena 
house the Ramseys lived in previously 
convinced them of the sun's effective- 
ness as a heat source in the area. They 
weren't about to own a house that didn't 
take advantage of it. "We left Helena for 
awhile," MaryLynn said. "We returned 

Four large south-facing windows admit free heat from the winter sun to Dave and 
MaryLynn Ramsey's house in Helena. Slatted wooden awnings above each window turn 
away hot summer sun. 

and were shopping for another house, 
and had just about given up finding 
what we wanted. Then Dave stopped to 
visit a carpenter friend who was work- 
ing for a contractor on a house-building 
crew." The Ramseys liked this house 
their friend was working on. They liked 
the style, and the construction quality, 
and they liked Bill Pierce, the contrac- 

Quality Construction 

For the Ramseys, the building con- 
tractor was an important element. "We 
didn't want a builder who would just 

throw a house together," MaryLynn 
said. "This house proved Bill does a 
good job, and we were pleased when he 
was voted 'Builder of the Year' in 

After living in the house for over three 
years, the Ramseys are still enthusiastic 
about it. Double walls with three fiber- 
glass batts, a 6-mil polyethylene contin- 
uous air-vapor barrier, and a thick layer 
of cellulose ceiling insulation team up to 
trap the heat from the sun streaming in 
through the south-facing windows. 
Three inches of compacted gravel form 
the base of the basement slab. A 6-mil 
polyethylene moisture barrier was 


David and MaryLynn Ramsey 




MASEC Center 

8140 Twenty-sixth Avenue South 

Minneapolis, MN 55420 


William Pierce 
Pierce and Associates 
1424 Dodge Avenue 
Helena, MT 59601 


Split Entry 


Ceiling • R69 
Double Wall - R41 
Basement Wall - R26 
Slab • R7 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,146 
Basement - 988 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 


Electric Baseboard 




placed over the gravel. The basement 
slab was installed on 1 1/2-inch extruded 
polystyrene laid over the poly. Three 
inches of extruded polystyrene was in- 
stalled on the exterior of the concrete 
basement walls. 

Of the 154 square feet of windows, 84 
square feet face south. All windows are 
triple-glazed Pella with wood case- 
ments. The airlock entry is a real treat 
for the Ramseys. "It certainly stops the 
winter cold or summer heat from blow- 
ing into the house when we open the 
front door," MaryLyrm said. "It helps 
make living here very comfortable." 

Solar Gain Needs Open 

MaryLynn pointed out the house's 
location. "We didn't think about the 
setting when we bought the house, but 
we're fortunate that it happened to face 
an open area that won't be built on. This 
is something people building in sub- 
divisions need to consider if they are 
facing their house for solar gain." 

Working With the 

Living in a tight house has taken some 
adjustment, primarily with the heat 
recovery ventilator. One of the first on 
the market, the ventilator didn't have a 
defroster. "And," MaryLynn said, "its 
intake was installed just above the outlet 
of the dryer, so the ventilator was picking 
up moisture and bringing it back inside." 
These drawbacks were aggravated by the 
house being finished in the fall with no 
time for the construction materials to dry 
before winter set in. "The condensation 
ran off the windows and puddled on the 
sills, and the ventilator froze up that first 
winter," MaryLynn said. "The installer 
came back and switched the ventilator's 
exhaust with its intake. They also stream- 
lined the ventilator ducts and balanced 
the air intake and exhaust. It helped a 

Time has also helped. "We've had 
much less moisture this winter than we 
had theprevious three winters," Mary- 
Lynn said. "Tell people, these houses do 
dry out. We watch the weather and 
humidity closely. When it's bitter cold, 
we try not to run the ventilator in the 
evening. Seems hke when we're bring- 
ing in such cold air from the outside that 
we're defeating our heating system. We 
try instead to run it during the night, or 
on days when we're not home. " 

Heating Considerations 

The Ramseys' 20,000 Btu heating sys- 
tem consists of 36 feet of electric base- 
boards for a total of 9,000 watts. A 
thermostat in each room tailors the heat 
for what's needed. "We're experiment- 
ing in the two downstairs bedrooms," 
MaryLynn said. "The rooms seem to 
stay warm without much aid from the 

baseboard heaters but it may be from 
heat in the waterbeds. I'm thinking it 
may be cheaper to keep the room 
warmer using the baseboard heaters 
rather than heating the rooms with the 

RSDP Program Provides 

The house was part of the Residential 
Standards Demonstration Program, so 
the Ramseys have precise records of 
utility bills. The first year they used 
16,076 kilowatt-hours. Space heating 
took 2,960 kWh, 6,080 went for water 
heating, and 7,036 was for lighting, 
cooking, and refrigeration. "Our hot 
water use seems high, but we do have 
three children," MaryLynn said. 

At an average rate of 5 cents per 
kilowatt-hour, however, the annual bill 
for everything amounts to $803 or about 
$67 per month. 

Low Power Bills Initiate 

It's taking time, but energy-efficient 
construction is becoming more of a topic 
of conversation among the Ramseys' 
acquaintances. "People aren't especially 
interested in our 12-inch-thick walls 
until they find out what our power bills 
are. Then they become very interested, 
MaryLynn said with a laugh. "We think 
our bills are high until we start compar- 
ing with others who don't have energy- 
efficient houses. 

"We love this house. It's a lot more 
comfortable than any house we've ever 
lived in. We don't get the terrible cold 
drafts. We'd be glad to share infor- 
mation with others interested in buying 
or building an energy-efficient house." 


Window openings clearly show the thick- 
ness of the walls. Three layers of fiberglass 
halts between the 12-inch double walls are 
part of the superinsulation package pro- 
tecting this house from the ups and downs 
of Montana's weather. 


Finnish Fireplace Backs Up Solar 


Tom Ryan and Heidi Goldman 




Tom Ryan and Heidi Goldman 
Ryngold Enterprises 
Helena, MT 59601 

Rick Schlenker, Architect 
46 South Last Chance Gulch 
Helena, MT 59601 


Owners (Ryngold Enterprises] 


2 Story 


Ceiling - R45 
2x6 Wall - R25 
Lower Wall - R8,7 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,300 
Lower - 1,300 

Special Features 

Post-and-Beam Construction 
Thermal Storage 
Active Solar Water Heating 
Finnish Fireplace 
Outside Combustion Air 


Passive Solar, Wood, Electric 


May 1985 

West of Helena where the 
county road ends in 
Colorado Gulch, a private 
road continues, climbing a steep 
hill. It stops at a distinctive house that 
overlooks a deep forested ravine. Here, 
Tom Ryan, his wife Heidi Goldman, and 
their young son, Sean, hve with nature 
and quantities of quiet. "Deer bed down 
in the yard," Tom said, "and in the spring 
—bear come around practically knocking 
to get in." 

House Uses Local Materials 

In this idyllic setting, Heidi and Tom 
have built a house that expresses their 
ingenuity and self-sufficiency. Tom and 
Heidi, who own the construction firm of 
Ryngold Enterprises in Helena, built the 
house over 3 1/2 years, using Montana 
materials and employing local craftsmen. 
Native pine, Douglas fir, and aspen cut 
from the surrounding forest provide 
framing, paneling, doors, and trim for the 
house. Brick rescued from the 
demolished railroad roundhouse in 
Helena lends its pinkish-gray tones to an 
arched enclosure for a wood stove in the 
daylight basement. A Finnish fireplace on 
the main level was built with sandstone 
hauled from the Monarch Mines near 
Great Falls. 

Sawmills at Canyon Creek and at Lin- 
coln cut native logs into framing pieces 
and paneling. Chris Yahvah in Colorado 
Gulch built the oak kitchen cabinets, and 
Joyce Davis of Helena crafted the leaded 
glass cabinet doors. Ron Pihl of Pray, 
Montana, built the Finnish fireplace. 

Large south-facing windows allow the sun to reach across the open rooms of both floors. 
The 5-foot overhang and deck keep the summer sun out. Solar panels on the roof (top 
left) heat domestic and space-heating water. 

Post-and-beam Shoulders 

Drain tile surrounding the house carries 
water away from the foundation. On the 
exterior of the concrete basement walls, 
two coats of fibrous asphalt, 2-inch 
extruded polystyrene, and a 6-mil poly- 
ethylene vapor barrier keep heat in and 
water out. 

Tom ran his hand over the post in the 
center of the daylight basement. "We 
combined post-and-beam and conven- 
tional 2x6 framing," he said. "This post 
stands 22 feet high from here to the 
rooftop. The base is 14 inches across." He 
pointed out the exposed girders and joists 
supporting the second level floor. "Those 

are full rough-cut 2 x 10s. Notice that the 
entire frame is notched and pegged. We 
did it all by hand— drilling, sawing, and 

Balusters and hand rails of peeled logs 
follow the spiral staircase connecting the 
two levels. Above the main living area, 
sLx heavy log beams radiate from the 
center post to support the 14-foot-high 
sloped ceiUng. 

Walls are framed with full rough-cut 2 x 
6 studs and insulated with 5 1/2-inch 
fiberglass batts. An airvapor barrier of 
1/2-inch polyisocyanurate board and 6- 
mil polyethylene was installed on the 
interior under the drywall. On the exter- 
ior, a Tyvek air barrier was placed 
between the 3/4-inch plywood sheathing 
and 3/4-inch cedar siding. 


South-facing windows afford a dramatic view of forested canyons and mountains, and 
admit heat from the sun. 

Two fans in the archway enclosing the basement stove push heated air into the room 
through openings in the brick. A paddle fan over the stairwell pulls the healed air 
upstairs. The stove's brick enclosure absorbs heat and radiates it as the room cools. 

The ceiling comprises several different 
materials. An air-vapor barrier of 1/2-inch 
polyisocyanurate foam board and 6-mil 
polyethylene was installed between the 
ceiling gypsum board and the rafters. The 
seams of the foam board were taped. The 
2x12 rafters provide room for 9 inches of 
fiberglass and an airspace. A 4-layer roof 
was installed over the rafters: 5/8-inch 

plywood sheathing, 2-inch extruded 
polystyrene, 3/8-inch plywood, and felt- 
asphalt seal-down shingles. Seams 
between the plywood sheets were sealed 
with fibrous asphalt. 

The subfloor consists of 1 x 6 tongue- 
and-groove pine installed over 2 x 10 floor 


joists with l/2mcti plywood laid over the 
pine. Both pine and plywood were glued 
and nailed with ring-shanked nails. 
Thirty-pound asphalt felt was stapled to 
the plywood. For the kitchen floor, 
expanded metal lath was tacked to the 
plywood and filled with thin set mortar. 
Once the mortar hardened, Mexican blue 
ceramic tile was set into a second adhe- 
sive layer of mortar. Tom explained that 
. the sturdy base allowed the wood floor to 
expand without cracking the mortar. The 
rest of the main level floor is tongue-and- 
groove oak, except the bedrooms, which 
are carpeted. 

Thermal Mass Stores Solar 

An integrated system using solar, wood, 
and electricity heats the house. "We use 
three cords of wood annually, and our 

maximum monthly electric bill has been 
$30," Tom said. 

The first line of defense against win- 
ter's cold is the large bank of south- 
facing windows on both upper and 
lower levels. The basement's thick con- 
crete walls and floor soak up the heat 
from the sun streaming through the 
double-glazed windows. 

"We get a tremendous amount of solar 
gain in the winter," Tom said. "The 
temperature can be twenty below out- 
side, but as long as the sun is shining, the 
house will warm to 85 degrees just from 
the heat coming through the windows. If 
the sun shines for several days, we don't 
need any other heat, even at night. We've 
had bright, sunny days with temperatures 
in the minus twenties, and the house gets 
so hot, we have to open windows and 

Post-and-beam construction minimizes interior supporting walls. The open space offers 
good air circulation. 

A tile-lined sill separates the sink from an east-facing window box planter. The sill frame 
is rough-cut 4 x 6s, notched and pegged. The bottom of the plant box is a stainless steel 
pan with a copper drain. Because the window box extends outside the house, the pan is 
insulated underneath to prevent heat loss. 

Wood Stove Provides Quick 

On cloudy days or cold nights, quick 
heat comes from the wood stove in the 
basement. The back of the brick enclo- 
sure around the stove forms one wall of 
Heidi's office. "That room gets so much 
heat from the sun and from what the 
brick radiates that I've never had to use 
the baseboard heaters," Heidi said. 

Finnish Fireplace for Steady 

"When we expect a cold spell, we 
crank up the Finnish fireplace in the 
living room," Tom said. "It takes a couple 
of days and some attention to gel maxi- 
mum heat from it, but after that we need 
only a small fire just once or twice a day, 
and we don't stoke it at night." 

He opened the cast iron doors of the 
fireplace. "The first fire is small. We start 
with some kindling, paper, and a few 
sticks of 4-inch diameter wood. The 
second, built about 6 hours after the first, 
is somewhat larger. The third fire consists 
of about 30 pounds or a good armload of 
wood. It really rips." Building the fire in 
stages warms the mass of brick and stone 
slowly which prevents cracking from 
sudden expansion. 

' Once the third fire is blazing, we close 
the main outlet draft, forcing the exhaust 
gases into two 3-inch-viride channels 
down the sides of the fireplace to the 
chimney. As the hot exhaust gases pass 
through the channel, the stone absorbs a 
lot of heat which radiates slowly into the 
living space. If we want direct heat, we 
can always damper the fire and open the 
fireplace doors." Combustion air from 
outside enters the fireplace through a 


Fans Distribute Heat 

A plenum with two fans over the 
hallway does double duty. In the winter, 
one fan draws hot air from the ceiling to 
the basement. "When the temperature 
rises above 75 degrees," Tom said, "the 
fan kicks on." 

In the summer, the other fan pushes 
the hot air out through a ceiling exhaust. 
"We can open upstairs windows to let the 
hot air out, and open downstairs win- 
dows on the shaded side of the house to 
bring in cool air," Tom said. "We have no 
dead air spaces: the fans keep it moving. 

The Finnish fireplace was the first in Lewis 
and Clark County and only the fifth in 
Montana. Except for the upper and lower 
flue connections, the fireplace is separate 
from the chimney (righlj and the wall behind, 
which lets the fireplace expand and contract 
fireely. It takes just 3 cords of wood a year to 
heat the 2,600-square-foot house. 

We use rheostats to regulate the fan 

Small fans over the doors pull air into 
the bedrooms. 

Solar-powered Hot Water 

Solar collectors on the roof provide 
most of the heat for the hot water. The 
system pumps water from a well to a 

holding tank in the basement mechanical 
room, and then to the roof panels and 
back. The water passes through glass 
tubes in the solar collectors, soaking up 
heat from the sun, and then moves 
through a heat exchanger in a 120-gallon 
tank. Water from this tank flows to a 
55-gallon electric water heater, which 
kicks on during long periods of overcast 

weather. "Even on overcast days, we get 
some solar preheat, ' Tom said. 

Sensors and a digital readout in the 
mechanical room track the waters tem- 
perature from well to roof, from roof to 
tank, and in the 120-gallon storage tank. 
When the sun goes down, or if power 
fails, all water automatically drains from 
the glass tubes into a third tank in the 

The Finnish fireplace has a main chamber where burning occurs; a second chamber above where additional heat is 
absorbed into the masonry. The top of the main chamber narrows to a small passage connecting the main chamber to the 
chamber above. The chambers are built without square corners so the hot gases roll and tumble, getting as hot as 1 ,600 
degrees. Hot gas leaves the second chamber through a pair of narrow channels that lead down the sides of the structure, and 
then rise to join the flue. As the superheated gases move through the channels, the brick and sandstone shell absorbs the 
heat. The absorbed heat is radiated gradually from the brick and sandstone to the hving area. 


iincral I ^* s 1 iw ) ' ^^' ! 

wool "~-i:— — I S— K „/^;^,j , J *— — ' 

lulalioi. jf^^ ' ^ ; fi llll M I { ' — I 




mechanical room. To prevent breakage of 
the tubes after a power failure, a sensor 
measures the difference in the tempera- 
ture of the glass tubes and the tempera- 
ture of the water in the holding tanli. If 
the empty tubes have become too hot 
from the sun beating down on them, and 
the water has cooled substantially, the 
sensor prevents the system from pump- 
ing the cooler water to the hot tubes once 
power is restored. 

Water also can be heated by the fire- 
place. A pipe-looped heat exchanger in 
the back corner of the Finnish fireplace 
connects to the water circulation system. 
"This is convenient on cloudy days when 
the fireplace is roaring and there isn't 
much sun," Tom said. 

Hot Water Heats House 

The solar panels also play a role in 
space heating. "With the flip of a switch, I 
can use the system to heat the water 
circulating through a register," Tom said. 
"If we're gone during cold spells, we're 
not using hot water for showers or dishes, 
so we use it to keep the house warm." 

Installed by Suncraft of Bozeman, the 
solar water heating system has been 
virtually trouble free since its installation 
in October of 1984. "We replaced a relay 
that went out," Tom explained. "Then 
later that year I was clearing snow from 
the roof and broke a tube. The distributor 
sent a new tube immediately." 

Many Cultures Meet in 

The house is as pleasing to the eye as it 
is efficient. Richly colored furnishings 
from other cultures accent the warm 
patina of the timbers and paneling. In the 
airlock entry, large bronze floor tiles from 
Mexico harmonize with the pine walls. 
The white walls and ceiUng of the living 

area dramatize the heavy timber con- 
struction and diffuse the hght streaming 
through the ceiling-to-floor windows. 

A large woven rug from Nepal hangs on 
the stairway wall. Its blue tones echo the 
blue of the Uving room's peach and blue 
couch and pillows. The foyer is accented 
with delicate oriental vases of blue and 
ivory. Smoky-blue tiles from Brazil gleam 
cooly on the kitchen countertops and 
backsplash. Intricate dark-blue patterns 
etch the tile faces, the result of leaves and 
petals pressed into the wet clay, then 
burned out when the tiles were fired. 

Plants spill over the head-high wall 
between kitchen and dining area. 
Beneath the oak dining table, hand- 
crafted in France, a rug from India adds to 
the charm of the house. 

Heidi said many of the pieces came 
from tours she and Tom conducted for 
clients of the Feathered Pipe Ranch, a 
center for workshops and retreats that 
promote mental and emotional harmony 
and health. Journeys have taken Tom and 
Heidi to Central America, India, Nepal, 
Russia, the West Indies, Mexico, and 

Setting an Example 

The payoff from Tom and Heidi's 
house is more than simply saving money 
on fuel. They have the satisfaction of 
living in a home designed to use renew- 
able resources. "People who attend the 
seminars at the Feathered Pipe Ranch 
visit our house and remark on its beauty 
and efficiency," Tom said. "These people 
come from all over the world. It's nice to 
show others what can be done." D 

The center of a steel spider-like brace is 
anchored to the support post. Pegs fasten a 
steel leg into each of the six beams. 


Sim, Fans, and Superinsulation Keep 
House Warm 

A striking, new three-story house 
perches on the flank of a hill 
amid the vintage residences 
on Helena's south side. Although the 
house is obviously new, its blue-trimmed 
bay windows, cupolas, and many roof 
peaks fit the Victorian character of its 
older neighbors. What sets it apart is 
hidden from outside view. 

From footings to roof, the house was 
planned for energy conservation. Owners 
Frank DiNerma and his wife, Julie Wulf , 
heat and cool the houses 4,500 square 
feet for less than $300 a year without 
sacrificing comfort or view. "Even with 
the many north-facing windows, our 
house keeps an average temperature of 
65 degrees during the winter with little 
help from the furnace or wood stove," 
Frank said. 

Geared for Comfort 

The house is an integrated package of 
energy efficiency, comfort, and aesthe- 
tics. An insulated 1 3/4-inch steel Peach- 
tree door opens into an airlock entry. The 
clean scent from tongue-and-groove cedar 
panehng and the warm sheen of the 
bronze-toned tile floor welcome the 
visitor. The entry opens to a daylight 
basement and to polished stairs ascending 
to the main living areas above. 

Bay windows on the north wall of the 
first and second stairway landings afford 
expansive views of the mountains and 
Lake Helena across the valley. The 
natural light falls on colorful batik hang- 
ings decorating the walls. 

All windows are double-glazed Pella. 
The large windows have a 1-inch air 

In spite of the many north- facing windows, the 4, 500 square foot house is heated and 
cooled for less than $300 a year. 

space between panes, the smaller case- 
ments a 3/4-inch space. The operable 
windows are hinged at the center so the 
exterior surface can be rotated and 
cleaned from inside the house. The 
spaces in the rough openings around the 
windows and doors were caulked with 

Frank pointed to a cat sleeping on a 
pillow in the window seat of a north- 
facing bay window, and to the Golden 
retriever on the blue carpet below. "If 
there were any drafts, those animals 
wouldn't be there; they'd be warming 
themselves by the wood stove. " 

Rooms Share Light, Heat 

On the second floor, the use of lamin- 
ated beams kept interior support struc- 
tures to a minimum. The living room, 
kitchen, and dining area share a large 
open space. Across the south side, French 
doors provide access to the outdoor patio 
and deck, and admit light and the sun's 
heat. A Kent tile wood stove occupies a 
small cubicle at the west end of the living 
room. Combustion air for the stove is 
piped directly from the outside to the 
firebox. "We use the stove on cloudy or 
cold days, but we burn less than a cord of 
wood a year, " Frank said. 


Julie Wulf and Frank DiNenna 




Frank Cikan 

205 West Main Street 

East Helena, MT 59635 



Frank DiNenna 
Box 1251 

Helena, MT 59624 
Bradley Chase 
Boulder, MT 59632 
Lanny Stubson 
Coram, MT 59913 


3 Story 


Ceiling - R38 
Double Walls - R33 
Basement Walls • R21 

Square Feet 


Special Features 


Fan-assisted Air Circulation 
On-demand Hot Water Heater 
97% Efficient Furnace 
Outside Combustion Air 


Passive Solar, Natural Gas, Wood 


December 1985 


A sliding door from the dining area 
leads to a sunspace. The terra-cotta tile 
floor of the sunspace soaks up heat from 
the winter sun and releases it when the 
sun goes down and temperatures drop. 

In Julie's batik studio adjacent to the 
sunspace and kitchen, a vaulted 16-foot 
ceiling and banks of windows admit 
abundant east and south light. The 
bronze-colored tile floor collects the 
sun's warmth. 

The master suite on the third floor 
includes a spacious bedroom, large bath- 
room, an oversized shower, Jacuzzi, and 
laundry facilities. "Even with the plants, 
the shower, and the Jacuzzi, we have 

A lot of moisture is generated by the dyeing 
of materials in Julie's batik work. The large 
volume of space enclosed by the high 
ceiling promotes good air circulation and 
prevents condensation on the windows. 

absolutely no condensation on the 
windows," Frank said. He indicated the 
chest-high wall and the sunspace below. 
"Leaving the third level open to the 
sunspace provides excellent air 

The utility room is next to the master 
bedroom and bath. "Most of the laundry 
comes from these rooms, so I put the 
washer and dryer here instead of in the 
basement," Frank said. 

Construction Traps Heat 

Beyond the surface of the house's ivory 
walls and ceiling lies the secret to the low 
heating bills. The basement walls are 
furred out with 2x4 studs and insulated 
with foil-backed fiberglass. The exteriors 
of the concrete basement walls are 
sheathed with 2-inch extruded poly- 
styrene foam board to the footings. "I 
inserted 10-inch L-shaped flashing under- 
neath the siding and slanted it over the 
top of the foam board to prevent water 
from flowing down behind the insulation 
and freezing," Frank said. 

The second and third stories are 
framed with double stud walls— a 2x6 
wall on the outside and a 2 x 4 wall on 
the inside— which provide room for 10 
inches of fiberglass insulation. The two- 
wall construction provides a thermal 
break, stopping conductive heat loss. 
The attic is insulated with 12 inches of 
unfaced fiberglass batts. A continuous 
air-vapor barrier of 6-mil polyethylene 
minimizes the movement of air and 
moisture from the house. 

Hot Water and Ventilation 
Integrated With Furnace 

Frank called attention to the 97- 
percent-efficient condensing Amana gas 
furnace. "It vents through a plastic pipe 
out the side of the house, and the 

Ferns, philodendrons, and ivy flourish in the natural light streaming into the sunspace. 
Heat from the sunspace circulates to the adjacent living area, and to the third floor. 


7^/e lining the walls of the wood stove enclosure reflects the stove's heat to the living 
area. When the temperature of the enclosure reaches 98 degrees, a small fan above the 
stove, concealed behind wooden louvers, turns on to push the heated air into the living 
room. The louvers direct the warmed air to the lower, cooler areas of the room. 

In the dressing room-bath area, a half-wall (center ofphotoj encloses the opemng to the 
sunspace below. The angled ceiling and fans concealed above doors direct warmed air 
from the sunspace into the third level master suite. On the east wall of the bathroom, a 
stained glass window and a small fan bring in light and heat from the studio. 

condensation runs through a small pipe 
into the sewer drain. No chimney meant 
one less hole in the roof that heal could 
escape through." 

Next to the furnace a small tank brings 
water to room temperature for the on- 
demand hot water heater. When a hot 
water tap is opened, the furnace burner 
kicks on to heat the water flowing 
through a pipe in the furnace. The flow 
rate controls the size of the burner flame. 
"We can have three showers going at 
once without running out of hot water, 
Frank said. Both the furnace and gas 
kitchen range have electronic ignitions 
rather than pilot lights. 

The air supply for a heat recovery 
ventilator is integrated into the furnace 
ducting. As the ventilator draws in air 
from outside, the air mixes with warmed 
air in the ducts before being distributed to 
the rooms. 

A small computer controls the inte- 
grated system. When the temperature in 
the house drops below the thermostat 
setting of 65 degrees, a sensor triggers the 
computer to turn on the furnace. 

Most of the time, the ventilator is 
controlled by the dehumidistat, but the 
computer can be programmed to turn on 
the ventilator at any hour of the day for 
any length of time. Timers in the kitchen 
and bathrooms can override either the 
dehumidistat or computer-programmed 
setting on the ventilator. "If we're cook- 
ing or having a party and want to freshen 
the air," Frank said, "we simply turn on 
the kitchen timer. It takes about 5 min- 
utes to get rid of the odors, including all 
the cigarette smoke. And it's whisper 
quiet. On sunny days, when there is more 
coming and going of pets and people, we 
often shut off the ventilator completely," 
Frank said. 

Rheostats Contribute to 
Quiet Fans 

Frank had other ideas for better energy 
management. Installing rheostats on the 
wall fans, which provide infinite control 
of their motor speed, reduced fan noise to 
a whisper. "At slow fan speeds, the air 
circulates better and the fans are much 
quieter," Frank said. 

Saving steps was another goal. Switches 
in the kitchen and studio open the garage 
door to admit visitors. Intercom speakers 
throughout the house, including one by 
the first floor entry, keep family members 
in touch or let them talk to visitors before 
opening the door. 

Energy Savings Extend to 

Future plans call for adding to the 
natural beauty of the wild roses and other 
native flowers and shrubs around the 
house. Frank said landscaping will be 
low-maintenance. Spruce trees will 
deflect winter winds; deciduous trees will 
shade the house, although the roof over- 
hang shields the house from most of the 
hot summer sun. 

"I positioned the house for the very 
best view, probably the best in Helena," 
Frank said, "and I designed the house 
around Juhe and her art. But, I also 
designed it to be totally efficient and 
hassle-free. Considering the $180,000 
value of the house, the extra $3,500 in 
materials for the energy-saving features 
was a bargain." D 


A Dome in the Woods 


Jim and Janet Livingston 




Cathedralite Domes, Exterior 
George Paul Swanson, Interior 
P.O. Box 6548 
Bellevue, WA 98007 
|206| 643-0100 


Cathedralite Domes (Pre-fab| 
(Address not available) 


Dome with Loft 


Dome - RU 

Vertical Wall Segments - R15 

Square Feet 

Loft - 700 
Main • 1,650 

Special Features 

Dome Design 
Wood-Electric Furnace 
Crawl Space Plenum 


Passive Solar, Wood, Electric 




hen Jim and Janet Livingston 
decided they needed a new 
house, they knew they 
weren't going to be limited by conven- 
tional notions of what a house ought to 
look lilte. A display they saw at a home 
show in Portland, Oregon, convinced 
them that a geodesic dome was just what 
they needed. The kit they ordered for a 
45-foot diameter dome consisted of 60 
pre-built triangles designed to be bolted 
together to form the shell of the structure. 
Jim said it took only one day for a crew of 
amateurs to assemble the shell, but 
another two years to complete the inter- 
ior. Today, the house looks right at home 
in its location in a forest clearing, just on 
the Montana side of the Montana-Idaho 
border near Heron. 

"I'd never build another home myself," 
Jim said, recalling the time and effort 
required. Nevertheless, the Livingstons 
said, it was worth the effort, and their 
dome house provides them a bright and 
comfortable living space. 

Construction methods for building 
energy-efficient houses have changed 
substantially since the Livingstons began 
assembling their geodesic dome in 1979. 
Even then, techniques were changing so 
rapidly they knew they couldn't keep up. 
Consequently, the Livingstons' house is 
not as energy efficient as it could be if it 
were built today. As an example of 
changed practices, Jim recalled that 10 
years ago, continuous air-vapor barriers 
were not commonly installed, and the 
Livingstons did not put one in. 

The Livingston house sits just inside the Montana border near Heron. Woods at le/t are 
in Idaho. 

Large Windows Brighten, 
Warm Interior 

The inside of the house is brightened 
primarily by the large windows on the 
south and west sides. These help warm 
the house by admitting sunlight, but also 
cause a heat loss to the outside in cold 
weather when there is little or no sun. 
The Livingstons are reluctant to add 
curtains or other equipment to reduce 
heat loss because they don't want to 
detract from the windows' attractive 
appearance. Jim said that even in winter, 
the sun provides heat. "We often manage 
two or three days in dead winter without 

any heat, if we have clear days and a 
snow pack for the sun to bounce off," he 
said. "It may be 60 degrees inside in the 
morning, but it will get to 80 degrees by 4 
in the afternoon." All the windows are 
standard double pane. 

The inside of the house is mostly open 
space, with bedrooms and bathrooms 
arranged around the perimeter. The main 
floor has 1,650 square feet, with an 
additional 700 in the loft. AH this space is 
heated with an ELF wood-and-electric 
furnace from Traeger Heating of Mt. 
Angel, Oregon. This forced-air, zero- 
clearance furnace blows hot air into the 
crawl space. Warm air rises from the 


crawl space through vents in the floor 
into the living space. The walls of the 
crawl space are insulated with R19 fiber- 
glass batts. The floor of the space is a 
6mil black polyethylene moisture barrier 
over pea gravel. In the winter the Living- 
stons cool their house by reversing the 
furnace fan and drawing cool air from the 
ground. Jim noted they did not have a 
high groundwater table. (DNRC building 
specialists suggest that the energy effic- 
iency of this type of system can be 
improved by insulating the ground in the 
crawl space to prevent heat loss to the 
soil. Also, heating systems using unsealed 
crawl space plenums are not appropriate 
where soils release radon gas or in areas 
with high groundwater. Groundwater is 
an effective heat conductor and can steal 
heat if it is within 10 feet beneath an 
uninsulated crawl space plenum.) 




/ \ 

\ 1 

< \ 














South windows in the Livingston house collect both warmth and light, and provide a 
bright and comfortable interior environment. 

Wood Furnace Supplements 

Jim Livingston said wood provides 98 
percent of the space heat not provided by 
the sun. He said they only use the electric 
furnace when they are gone for several 
days in cold weather. They normally 
stoke the wood furnace in the morning 
before they go to work, and once warm, 
the house holds heat well. Inside temper- 
atures have never dropped below 60 
degrees while the Livingstons are gone 
during the day, Jim said. Besides the 
furnace, the Livingstons also operate an 
antique wood-burning cookstove "to take 
the chill off." Jim said they use about 4 
cords of wood per year in the two 

The lack of corners in the house helps 
distribute the heat evenly and prevent 
cold spots. The openness of the Uving 
space allows much of the warm air to rise 

to the top of the dome, where a ceiling fan 
directs it back down. A turbine vent near 
the apex of the dome makes it easy to let 
warm air out of the house when nec- 
essary. The reversible ceiling fan is near 
this vent, and can be operated either to 
blow warm air back down or to help pull 
it up so it can escape through the vent. 

A Pleasing and Efficient 

Wall framing in the house is single 2x4 
stud wall. The vertical wall sections are 
insulated with 3 1/2-inch, RU fiberglass 
batts, with half-inch, |R3.65| polyi- 
socyanurate boards under the drywall. 
Insulation in the curved dome section is 
standard Rl 1 fiberglass batts. The interior 
of the dome is beautifully decorated with 
artworks, and a fine oak parquet floor 
imparts a feeling of warmth and quality. 
The many angles in the dome structure 


provide a pleasing variety of visual 
aspects on the interior. A spiral staircase 
rising from the center of the lower floor to 
the loft also pleases the eye. 

The dome shape is by its nature more 
energy-efficient than rectangular struc- 
tures. The geometry of curved surfaces 
provides less external surface for a given 
amount of floor space than a rectangle 
does, so there is less area to radiate heat to 
the outside. Literature from the Cathe- 
draUte Domes manufacturer says that a 
dome has 38 percent less exterior surface 
than a rectangle with the same floor 

Pond Provides Cooling, but 
Requires Debugging 

The Livingstons obtain a measure of 
summer cooling from a pond just west of 
their house. This pond also generates a 
good crop of mosquitos, but the Living- 
stons eliminated the bug problem by 
installing numerous bird houses. The 
many martins, sparrows, and bluebirds 
that nest in the houses take care of the 
bugs, Jim said. 

Some Minor Improvements 

Jim said that he and his wife Uke the 
dome configuration of their home. If they 

were to build it again, he said, they would 
put in an operable skyUght so a roof 
repairman could get out on the dome roof 
from inside the building. This would 
make it much easier if roof repairs were 
needed, Jim said, recalling how difficult it 
was to get on top of his dome to repair a 
small leak near the apex. 

Construction of the shell, along with 
the excavation and concrete necessary for 
the construction, cost about $60,000, Jim 
said, with another $20,000 needed to 
finish the house. 

Domes Still Available 

Although the dome building enthusi- 
asm of a few years back has waned, 
pre-built dome shells are still available 
from various manufacturers. Some of 
these can be obtained with optional 2x6 
framing and rigid insulation up to current 
standards for energy efficiency. Anyone 
interested in domes should check the 
advertisements in national magazines that 
have to do with nonconventional 
housing, such as Mother Earth News. The 
Cathedralite line of domes is either out of 
business or operating under a different 
name, and could not be located by 

The interior geometry of dome houses 
presents many odd angles and surfaces that 
lend themselves to creative decorating. 


Elegant Design Accommodates People and 
Energy Savings 

With eight grown children 
and numerous grand- 
children descending upon 
them periodically, Gregg and Doris 
Johnson had some priorities. "We wanted 
a big house comfortable for two or twenty 
and, having lived with those eight kids, 
we knew we needed a sanctuary for 
ourselves," Doris said. "We also had to 
do something to keep the heating costs 
down since we were going to be all 
electric," Gregg added. 

"After seeing many houses and study- 
ing many plans, we had my nephew, who 
is a designer, pull our ideas together," 
Doris said. Then Gene Clawson Jr of 
Clawson Windows in Missoula referred 
us to Steve Loken and John Lentz of 
Southwall Builders who were experi- 
enced in building energy-saving houses. 
Steve and John got the house accepted 
into Montana's Residential Standards 
Demonstration Program." 

While the house was being designed, 
Gregg, a scientist with the U.S. Forest 
Service's Intermountain Fire Sciences 
Laboratory in Missoula, was in Australia 
on special assignment. "1 didn't have any 
materials there, so when Doris would 
send me the plans, I would construct 
cardboard models using beer cases. ' 
Emerging from these primitive begin- 
nings, the house is an impressive cedar 
beauty sitting on the banks of the Clark 

Main Rooms Face Sun 

The house is designed and placed for 
optimal solar gain, as evidenced by 

Multiple roof lines, two octagonal windows, and a sheltered corner entry create an 
appealing welcome for the visitor to Doris and Greggjohnson's house. A two-car garage 
buffers the east wing from cold north winds, and provides access to the kitchen through 
the utility room. 

sun-splashed rooms across the full 
width of the house's south side. 

The kitchen, a streamlined command 
post, is the center of activity. Within 
visiting range of the dining room and 
earshot of the upstairs lounge, Doris can 
work in the kitchen and track the 
comings and goings of big and little 
people. European cabinets, expansive 
counterspace, and lots of storage 
remove clutter and simplify cleanup. 
The kitchen is handy to the foyer, 
utility, and garage so groceries or 
garbage needn't be toted far. 

Hand-carved balusters of fir and larch 
follow the steps leading to the balcony- 
lounge which overlooks the airy dining 
space below. "When we overflow, I can 
stick kids up there," Doris said. 

Around the corner from the kitchen, 
and a step down from the dining area, the 
living room is a comfortable retreat from 
the busier areas of the house. Its location 
past the dining room buffers the room 
from the chatter and bustle of the kitchen 
and loft, but without isolation. 

Down the hall at the west end of the 
house, the Johnson's luxurious in-house 
getaway includes a large bedroom- 


Gregg and Doris Johnson 




Scott Diettert 
Drafting and Design, Inc. 
North 8605 Division 
PC. Box 18867 
Spokane, WA 99208 


Southwall Builders 
644 South Second West 
Missoula, MX 59807 


1 1/2 Story with Partial Basement 


Ceiling - R60 
2x6 Walls - R30 
Crawlspace - R19 
Basement Walls - R19 
Slab - R5 

Square Feet 

Loft - 266 
Main - 1,758 
Basement - 1,146 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 


Electric Baseboard 


November 1984 


sitting room, bath, and oversized dress- 
ing room with its own sink and vanity. 
Cream-colored carpeting runs from 
master bedroom to the roomy bath- 
room. Here muted ivory- and red- 
striped wallpaper is a soft backdrop to 
the cheery red of the soaking tub and 
basin. Linking the master suite to a 
deck, French patio doors provide a view 
of the Clark Fork. A telescope stands 
ready to spot bighorn sheep as they 
scramble up and down the craggy cliffs 
on the far side of the river. 

At the opposite end of the house, guest 
bedrooms and a full bath afford privacy 
to visitors. Two skylights in the north 
foyer shed abundant hght on greenery in 
the hall planter. "However," Gregg 
noted, "the melting snow around those 
skyhghts shows we are losing some heat 

Heat Averages Half That of 
a HUD House 

The house's aesthetic performance is 
impressive, but how about its heating 
performance for 3,000 square feet? ' Our 
highest monthly bill was $165," Gregg 
said, "and that included everything— 
cooking, Ughts, water pumping, hot 
water, and heat." According to the 
records he was required to keep for the 
RSDP program, space heating averaged 
3.25 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per square foot 
annually, about half the average 6.58 
kWh expected for a house built to HUD 

Construction Makes the 

The reasons for these low heating bills 
are hidden behind the home's tasteful 
decor. Blown-in cellulose insulates the 

Double-pane Clawson windows with low-E coating admit heat from the winter sun, and 
slow its exit after night falls. 

The main living space is arranged across the south side of the house for optimum solar 
gain. On warm days, outdoor living is encouraged by French patio doors that connect 
dining room, balcony-lounge, and master suite to expansive decks. 

spaces between the 2x6 studs framing 
the walls, and 1-inch Thermax sheathes 
the exterior beneath the siding. A thick 
layer of Silvawool insulates the ceiling. 
A 6-mil polyethylene air-vapor barrier 
was installed beneath the drywall and 
paneling in walls and ceiUng. Fiberglass 
batts were applied to the inside of the 
basement and crawl space walls. On the 
outside of the walls and under the base- 
ment slab, 1-inch extruded polystyrene 
completes the thermal barrier. 

Fit Overhang to Height 

"We made one mistake when we 
redid the initial design of the house to 
incorporate raised-heel trusses," Gregg 
said. "We forgot to recalculate for their 
increased height, so the overhang isn't as 
long as it should be for the added roof 
height. The house tends to overheat in the 

summer, although if we cool it off at 
night, then close it up tight during the 
day, it rarely gets above 70 degrees in 

Heat Recovery Ventilator 

The heat recovery ventilator has given 
the Johnsons some minor problems. "It 
freezes up when the temperature drops 
to around minus 10 outside," Gregg 
said. ' 'When this happens, I have to take 
a section of the ductwork off and let it 
thaw— newer models have an automatic 
defrost." They turn the ventilator on 
manually for two to three hours a day. It 
turns on automatically when the 
humidity inside exceeds 40 percent. 
Gregg said sometimes in cold weather 
when the draperies have been shut 
overnight, their bedroom patio doors 
will have condensation in the corners. 


Payback More Than Low 
Heat Bills 

The costs for the energy -efficient con- 
struction added about $3.00 a square 
foot to the cost of the house. At the 
current rate of $0.05 per kWh, it will 
take about 15 years for the savings in 
heat to pay for the extra framing, insula- 
tion, glazing, air-vapor barrier, caulking, 
and heat recover^' ventilator. But the 
Johnsons find the payback is more than 
a reduced heat bill. "It is comfort, clean 
air, and quality construction," Gregg 
said with a contented grin. D 

North-facing glazing is limited to two 
octagonal windows, one in the loft (shown 
here}, and one in the hallway, two 
skylights, and the narrow panes in the 
entry doors. 


Hidden Quality Makes the Difference 


Jim and Judy Andler 




Design Alliance 
East 12504 Main 
Spokane, WA 99216 


Jim Andler 

480 Batavia Lane 

Kalispell, MT 59901 



1 Story 


Ceiling - R65 
Double Walls • R44 
Floors • R30 

Square Feet 


Special Features 


Window Treatment 
Water Heater Timer 


Electric Forced Air 


June 1986 

Outside, it was a cool 20 degrees. 
Inside, the unhealed recrea- 
tion room was too warm for a 
jacket. Jim Andler gestured to the cedar- 
paneled room. "My wife, Judy, and I 
opted for a rec room instead of a garage; I 
play drums with a local jazz band and 
needed somewhere to practice." Jim is 
also a builder and a crusader for energy- 
efficient houses. "Builders used to con- 
centrate on finish carpentry for the 
aesthetic value; now what's hidden from 
view is just as important for the energy 
savings," Jim said. 

Building Out Tlie Cold 

Jim explained the construction starting 
with the 14 1/2-inch-thick double walls 
which contain three layers of fiberglass 
batts. "I put in two RU battsandone R19 
batt. Behind the inner 2x4 wall stud wall 
component of the double wall, a 6-mil 
polyethylene air-vapor barrier stops air 
and moisture from moving into the walls 
from the Uving space. We caulked the 
poly at every seam, where wires pene- 
trated, where plumbing entered, with 
Tremco acoustical sealant. We foamed 
the cracks between windows and 
frames," Jim said. Drywall covers all the 
walls, even under the wood paneling. 
"When you add the insulating value of 
the wood paneUng, drywall, polyethy- 
lene, sheathing, Tyvek, and siding, the 
total R-value is around 44," he said. "The 
drywall under the paneling is for extra 
fire protection and to back the paneUng." 

Raised heel trusses provide room in the 
attic for a 24-inch layer of Insulsafe-lII 

A sunspace provides a cozy retreat winter or summer for Jim and Judy Andler Drnwie-wali 
construction in the all-electric house keeps temperature extremes at bay and heating bills low. 

fiberglass insulation to the outside edge of 
each exterior wall. The floor over the 
crawl space is insulated with fiberglass 
batts. Latex paint seals the subflooring to 
minimize the amount of formaldehyde 
entering the air from the glue in the 
particle board. Jim said he was careful to 
use water-base paints, which don't con- 
tain formaldehyde, and was careful to 
select clear finishes with low formalde- 
hyde content. 

The wiring for each overhead light is 
contained in a shallow "pancake" box 
which fits snugly against the room side of 
the drywall and is more airtight than 
other electrical boxes. Only one double 
wire from the fixture penetrates the 
air-vapor barrier. 

To prevent freezing of pipes, Jim 
isolated the plumbing from the exterior 
walls and crawl space. 

Water Heater Setback Saves 

In a closet in the airlock entry, Jim 
pointed out a blanketed electric hot water 
heater. "That heater is one of the most 
energy efficient, but what has really 
saved money is the Paragon setback 
timer. It comes on at 4:00 a.m. for 4 
hours, then back on at 4:00 p.m. for 
another 4 hours. I really believe in having 
a timer on the water heater. It cost me 
$25 at the time and paid for itself in a 
matter of weeks." Kohler water-saving 
fixtures in the kitchen and bathrooms 
support the energy conservation effort. 


Plenums Circulate Air 

A heat recovery ventilator is mounted 
above the washer and dryer— out of the 
way, but easily accessible for filter 
changing. The ducts delivering fresh air 
to the house are encased in plenums. 

The incoming fresh air flows free 
through the plenums while the outgoing 
exhaust air flows inside a 6-inch gal- 
vanized sheet metal duct in the center of 
the plenum. Every joint of the duct is 
taped to avoid mixing. 

The Andlers run the ventilator contin- 
uously. At slow speed they get a complete 
air change every 2 1/2 hours. A defroster 
cycles periodically when the outside tem- 
perature drops below freezing. 

"My wife has extreme sinus problems 
and the ventilator helps keep the dust and 

pollen out of the house," Jim said. "It also 
sucks up every bit of moisture. Steam 
doesn't even collect on the bathroom 

Window Treatments 

Jim wrapped the window jambs with 
white formica and lined the siU with 
white ceramic tile. "The white reflects 
more light into the rooms, and the tile 
provides a wonderful base for plants," 
Jim said. "If condensation on the win- 
dows was a problem, the tile would 
prevent the moisture from damaging the 
sills. And the formica and tile weren't any 
more expensive than if I'd trimmed it 
with a veneer oak." 

A Warm Window shade on the dining 
room window is the first of the set of 

Light streaming through the sunspace s window wall highlights the nch knotty pine paneling 
of the living room. The warm ambience contrasts with the snow-covered fields outside. 

insulated shades that Judy is making for 
all the windows. "We have double-glazed 
low-E windows," Jim said. "When this 
shade is pulled, the combined R- value of 
its fabric and the glazing is R11.6. The 
valance is backed with Velcro so it's easy 
to pull off and clean." Velcro at the 
shade's edges hooks to Velcro at the sides 
of the window casing to make a tight seal. 

Bringing in Light 

The sunspace is accessible from the 
living room, master bedroom, or outside. 
Its tiled floor soaks up heat from sunlight 
entering through the tall south-facing 
windows. A window in the kitchen looks 
into the sunspace and a glass wall trans- 
mits light from the sunspace to the living 
room. Frosted glass in the door to the 
bedroom from the sunspace protects pri- 
vacy while letting in light. Cozy and 
warm on sunny winter days, the sun- 

space is comfortable in warm weather, 
too. "The doors, window, and skylights 
give us excellent ventilation, " Jim said. 

Tlie Bottom Line 

Before building, the Andlers took their 
plan to the Flathead Electric Cooperative. 
"Their computer projected average heat- 
ing costs of $24 a month," Jim said. "We 
keep the house at 65 degrees during the 
day when Judy is teaching and I'm out 
building. In the evening we turn it up to 
75 degrees, then set it back to 65 degrees 
when we go to bed. Their bills for the past 
year averaged $70 a month for cooking, 
hot water, lighting, and heating. Jim 
estimates that $30 of the $70 is for 


A Practical Design 

' 'This is one of the most practical house 
plans I've ever seen, and it's affordable," 
Jim said. "Everything is on one level. My 
father-in-law recently told us we'd appre- 
ciate that more as we get older. In 1987 
dollars I probably could build this house 
for $40 to $42 a square foot. 

"In a real energy crunch, a person 
could easily install doors to close off 
different areas of the house. Since each 
room has its own heater and thermostat, 
you'd have the heat only where you 
needed it." He pointed out unobtrusive 
louvers covering a small heater in the 
wall. "These fan-forced electric heaters fit 
between the wall studs so you can put 
them anywhere, even in existing con- 
struction. I built this house with an eye to 
when we have real energy problems— 
when gasoline is $10 a gallon." D 

Aesthetics blend with energy-efficient features in the Andler house. Fabric covering the 
Warm Window shades harmonizes with the rose-beige carpeting. White formica 
protects the window jambs and reflects hght into the dining room. The soffit running 
across the ceihng contains the duct for the heat recovery ventilator. 


Quiet Comfort From Sunshine and 
Russian Furnace 

Bruce and Yvonne McCallum's 
home outside Kalispell is testi- 
mony to their belief that 
energy-efficient housing is the only way 
to buUd. Its envelope design, solar heat, 
and Russian furnace keep it toasty warm 
on approximately 2 cords of wood per 
heating season. "It varies by only a few 
sticks of wood one way or the other each 
year," Bruce said. 

In summer, the home cools itself. 
"When it's 100 degrees outside, the most 
it wall get in the living room is 80 
degrees, ' Bruce said. "Actually it's a 
combination superinsulated and buffered 
house. But the real beauty is that it has no 
fans, so it's quiet and peaceful. " 

Envelope Plan Channels 

The home's envelope construction in- 
cludes double walls on the north and 
south and a double ceiling, with space 
inside the walls and ceiling for air move- 
ment. The outer components of the north 
and south walls and the single thickness 
east and west walls are 2 x 6 studs with 5 
1/2 inches of fiberglass insulation. The 
iimer components of the north and south 
walls are 2 X 4 studs with 3 1/2 inches of 
fiberglass. The ceiling and roof insulation 
includes 12-inch fiberglass batts above 
the ceiling in the living space and 3-inch 
polyurethane beneath the shake roof 
above the air space for a total Rvalue of 
50. All exterior windows are double 

The concept of the envelope's function 
is that air warmed in the sunspace rises to 

Passive solar heating through the sunspace and envelope of Bruce and Yvonne McCallum's 
house means quiet comfort. The house faces 15 degrees west of south which is optimal for 
solar gain in Kalispell. 

the attic plenum, and then moves down 
through the inner wall space on the north 
side of the house, into the crawl space, 
and back up to the sunspace. The floor of 
the sunspace is made of 2 x 6 redwood 
boards spaced 1/4 inch apart, allowing air 
to enter from the 5-foot-deep crawl space 
below. In the summer, the house is 
cooled by a combination of vents on the 
north side and in the sunspace. Vents at 
the top of the sunspace allow hot air to 
escape, while ground-level vents on the 
north side of the house admit cool air to 
replace the escaping hot air. The draw- 
ings on the next page illustrate the airflow 

Because the house is buffered from 
outside temperatures by the envelope of 
warm air, it takes Uttle heat to maintain a 
comfortable inside temperature. Much of 
the heat for the interior is gained through 
the door and single-pane windows 
separating the living area from the sun- 
space. Some heat from the warm air in 
the envelope is transmitted into the living 
space through the inner walls and floor. 

Even though the Flathead Valley is 
overcast during much of the winter, the 
house receives solar gain on all but the 
most overcast days. "It'samazing to walk 
into the sunspace area on a grey day and 
feel the warmth through the windows, " 
Bruce said. "If solar construction works 


Bruce and Yvonne McCallum 




Positive Technologies 

Box 2356 

Olympic Valley, CA 95730 


Al Hayner, Ron Rasmussen 
Box 1657 

KalispeU. MX 59901 




Ceiling - R50 
Double Walls - R39 
Single Walls - R19 
Crawl Space - R19 

Square Feet 

Upper ■ 766 
Main - 1,184 

Special Features 

Envelope Construction 
Russian Furnace 
Earth Tube 


Passive Solar, Wood, Electric 


November 1981 


Heat Gain Cycle 

Cooling Cycle and Ventilation 

in the Flathead Valley, think how well it 
will work in the more sunny areas of 

Sunspace More Than Heat 

The sunspace does more than just 
harvest heat. "To us the sunspace is 
aesthetics, a hobby, and living space," 
Bruce said. "We love plants and spend a 
lot of time caring for them. Did you know 
that research shows plants reduce the 
amount of pollutants in homes?" 

Sloped overhead glazing and big picture 
windows in the sunspace throw light to 
the farthest reaches of the home. Bruce 
said they don't use any artificial light 
during daylight hours. "If I had it to do 
over, I would make the south wall 
entirely vertical rather than sloping the 
second story," he said. "It would give us 
more space and the windows wouldn't 
drip. Until the wood surrounding the 
sloping windows swells and tightens, it 
leaks when it rains. But the drips don't 
cause any damage to the sunspace, so 
they're more annoying than a problem. 
One of these days rU caulk them again." 

Brick Furnace Stores Heat 

The McCallums augment the sun's heat 
with their Russian furnace. "Anyone can 
build a Grubka, which is what this 
Russian furnace is called, if they have the 
time and are willing to read the instruc- 
tions on how to do it," Bruce said. "I built 
mine for about $1,500 in materials, and 
estimate it has a 7- to 10-year payback. I 
also expect that the Grubka will far 
outlast energy-efficient gas or oil furnaces 
that cost about the same." 

The McCallums bum one wheelbarrow 
load of wood every three days during the 
winter. They fire up the furnace in the 
morning before going to work and again 
in the evening. "Each time I put in a good 

armload and touch it off. It burns hot for 
about 45 minutes, then I shut it up tight," 
Bruce explained. "A sinuous flue carries 
the hot exhaust gas through the Grubka 
so that most of the heat is absorbed by the 
brick, later radiating into the living area 
and the sunspace. It's about 90 percent 

"My wife was concerned about creo- 
sote buildup in the Grubka," he said. 
"But when we cleaned the 40-foot length 
of flue for the first time in five years, we 
got just about 3 quarts of soot from all the 
nooks and crannies. There was absolutely 
no creosote." The McCallums installed 
electric baseboard heaters as backup heat 
to comply with codes, but they never use 

The McCallums also looped a water 
pipe through the furnace to preheat their 
domestic hot water. When the furnace is 
burning, water in the pipe is heated to 80 
degrees before passing to the water 
heater, where it's heated to 120 degrees. 

Earth Tube Brings in Fresh 

Fresh air enters the house through an 
earth tube that warms the cold air from 
outside. The intake end of the tube rises a 
foot above ground level east of the house, 
then extends 6 feet straight down. The 
tube bends several times for a total length 
of 85 feet at the 6-foot depth then rises 6 
feet vertically to where it discharges in 
front of the air intake to the Grubka. 
"The air maintains a constant tempera- 
ture of 53 degrees summer and winter, ' ' 
Bruce said. 

Magazine Article Triggered 
Home Plan 

How did they happen to build an 
envelope house? As Extension Agent for 
Flathead County, Bruce was well aware 


Russian Furnace Cross-section 

The key to the Russian furnace's efficiency is its long serpentine flue. The bnck absorbs heat 
as the hot air is forced to circulate through the furnace before exiting the chimney. In the 
McCallum house, the front of the furnace protrudes a foot into the living room and its back 
protrudes two feet into the sunspace to help keep plants warm on cold days when the sun 
doesn 't shine. Bruce noted that for maximum efficiency, the furnace should be placed in the 
center of a house. 

cut side of flue liner 
away to fit top flue opening 


clean out port on opposite side 

that the future holds energy supply pro- 
blems, and had been studying energy- 
efficient house design. "I built this home 
after seeing an article in the Co-Evolution 
Quarterly in 1978. The title was Don't 
Build a House Till You've Looked at 
This.' Later I saw an article in a popular 
magazine that showed the sunspace area 
in color. We fell in love with it, and 
ordered a copy of the plans. Although we 
moved the floor plan around while we 
were waiting for our other house to sell, 
we stayed with the original plan except 
for expanding in both directions," he 
said. "There were a lot of doubting 
Thomases when we began this home," 
Bruce mused. ' The builder was skeptical 

because of the amount of material that 
went into the house. But it works; the 
whole principle works." 

Plan Allows Flexibility 

Bruce emphasized that envelope houses 
are just one type of conservation housing. 
"This is the best design for us, but people 
should be creative in designing a home 
for their needs. Other houses in the 
Flathead Valley have been based on this 
house but with changes. In Great Falls, 
my brother-in-law and sister built a modi- 
fied envelope house that is earth 
sheltered. What is important is that 
people build conservation housing," he 
said. D 


Affordable, Enjoyable, and Energy- efficient 


Dixon and Mitzi Rice 




John Constenius 
251 E\k Trail 
Whitefish, MT 59937 


Piiil Berger 

319 Fourth Avenue East 

Kalispell, MT 59901 



1 1/2 Story with Basement 


Ceihng - R38 
2x6 Walls - R19 
Basement Walls ■ R19 
Slab Perimeter - R15 

Square Feet 

Upper ■ 448 
Main - 1,176 
Basement ■ 1,176 

Special Features 

RSDP ConstrucUon 
Outside Combustion 


Air-to-air Electric Heat Pump 


October 1984 

Dixon and Mitzi Rice didn't think 
they could afford to build the 
energy-efficient house they 
wanted, so they took a long time looking 
at existing houses. "Finally we sat down 
and put all of our ideas from different 
houses into a plan and talked to Phil 
Berger who had been building energy- 
saving houses for years, ' ' Dixon said. "He 
worked with the architect to make our 
plan conform to RSDP standards and got 
us into the program. We have the house 
we want and it's fun to live in." 

The handsome house looks out over the 
Flathead Valley from Summit Ridge sub- 
division, just north of KaUspell. Because 
of Kalispell's characteristically overcast 
winter days, the house wasn't designed 
for passive solar gain, though the builder 
oriented the living area with its large 
window wall to the south to capture any 
available rays. "It surprised us," Dixon 
said. "When the sun shines, the house 
really warms up. On Christmas Day, it 
got to 80 degrees in here. We had to open 
windows to get a cross-breeze to cool it 
off." The windows are Clawson Pine 
Craft double-glazed with low-E film. 
Dixon said they are effective heat traps. 
At night, insulated draperies help reduce 
heat flow to the outside. In summer, the 
roof overhang shields the interior from 
the hot sun. 

Efficient Heating 

Heating and cooling is provided by a 
40,000 Btu Carrier 38QF high efficiency 
air-to-air heat pump. The thermostat is 
left at a constant temperature. With an 

From Summit Ridge subdivision in Kalispell, Dixon and Mitzi Rice's house looks south out 
over the Flathead Valley. The house is one of 67 built in Montana through Bonneville Power 
Administration's Residential Standards Demonstration Program. 

infant at home, the Rices keep the house 
at 72 degrees. 

For the 1985-1986 heating season, the 
Rices used 12,652 kilowatt-hours (kWh| 
of electricity for space heating, approxi- 
mately 5,800 kWh less than what a 
similar house built to HUD standards 
would use. The Rices attribute the 
savings to the extra-thick insulation and 
airtight envelope of the house. 

Smart Construction 

All walls in the house use 2x6 studs 
and 5 1/2 -inch fiberglass batts, including 

the stud walls along the interior side of 
the 8-inch concrete basement walls. Two 
layers of 5 1/2-inch fiberglass batts insu- 
late the ceiling. A continuous air-vapor 
barrier of 6-mil polyethylene restricts air 
and moisture movement from the inside. 
A rock base supports the foundation slab. 
The slab was installed over a 6-mil 
polyethylene moisture barrier. Between 
the moisture barrier and the rock, a 
continuous 2-foot-wide strip of 3-inch 
extruded polystyrene foam board insu- 
lates the perimeter of the slab. Foam 
inserts between the slab and the base- 
ment wall prevent thermal bridging. 





rec room 


Dormer windows and a cathedral ceiling 
create an airy openness in the living room 
and bring in plenty of natural light. 

^ V f breokfast 

^=^?1 nook 

I 1 nursery Li^-^.^^— —. 

Go ^ t— 1 _\ "'"">' 4"" T' 

l± "V Epy™ 

^Z^TTjI 'T^ a kitchen 

dining room 

living room 


Spun-bonded polyolefin seals the rim 
joists from air leaks. 

An E-Z-Vent heat recovery ventilator 
brings fresh air to the dining area and 
nursery, and exhausts stale air from the 
two bathrooms and the kitchen. ' 'We are 
very satisfied with the ventilator. It is so 
quiet, we rarely hear it running," Dixon 

A raised hearth fireplace, paddle fan, 
and mahogany staircase accent the archi- 
tectural elegance of the living room. The 
fireplace, Dixon said, is for atmosphere 
only. "We don't heat with it. The glass 
doors stop any heat from leaving the 
room by way of the chimney." Combus- 
tion air for the fireplace is piped directly 
from the outside into the firebox. 

A dormer window brings Ught into the 
living room and master suite situated in 
the loft. A bay window on the bedroom's 
west wall lends its roomy sill to a 
collection of African violets. The deep 
color of the plants' tiny blossoms is 
repeated in the rose tones of the room's 
furnishings. Across the hall, a Velux 

skylight brings outdoor light into the 
spacious master bath and dressing room 
area, illuminating a cascading fern. Blue 
porcelain basins and rose-hued curtains 
further accent the color scheme of the 

In the dining room tucked beneath the 
loft, wall mirrors visually extend the 
room's size and enhance its formal ambi- 
ance, making the room a fitting setting for 
candleUght dinners. Just steps away from 
the dining room, oak cabinets and al- 
mond-colored appliances impart a warm, 
cheery feeUng to an L-shaped kitchen. 

The tall windows of the surmy break- 
fast nook adjoining the kitchen provide a 
view to the patio and lawn. Besides being 
a bright spot for a morning cup of coffee, 
the breakfast nook affords entrance to 
other areas of the house. SUding doors 
open into the nursery of the Rice's young 
son. From the nursery, a second door 
leads to the central hall. "This bedroom 
will become a den when our son is old 
enough for his own room in the base- 
ment," Dixon said. "That's why we 


planned for the circular traffic pattern." 

The breakfast nook is also linked by 
French doors to a spacious outdoor deck a 
few steps up from the back yard. 
Insulated vertical shades and a valance 
stop convection currents from carrying 
heat out through the windows and patio 

The basement is unfinished except for 
the laundry and mechanical room. Dixon 
said eventually the basement will accom- 
modate two bedrooms, a recreation room 
and a hobby room. 

The house was built for less than 
$70,000, excluding the lot. Approximately 
$5,000 of its cost can be attributed to 
energy-saving features such as the heat 
exchanger, air-vapor barrier, and extra 
framing, insulation, and caulking. This 
amount does not include the cost of the 
heat pump. For the Rices, however, 
energy savings is just a fraction of the 
picture. Dixon said an energy-efficient 
house is naturally well constructed and 
durable. D 


Combustion air for the fireplace is piped 
directly from the outside into the firebox. 
Cinnamon-hued carpeting adds warmth to 
the traditionally styled furnishings in 
fabrics of cool blues and tawny beiges. 


Practical House Uses Multiple Heat Sources 

With four young children, 
Bob and Marria Ross set out 
to mesh practical living 
quarters with energ\' efficiency and 
affordability. "An earth- sheltered 
house seemed the way to go, ' Bob said 
"but I wanted to be able to look out my 
windows without an earth berm 
in the way " 

From experience. Bob knew how to 
build the house he wanted. He and his 
father have been constructing commer- 
cial and residential buildings in the Flat- 
head Valley for more than 30 years. He 
put his experience to work, building his 
house in a meadow among timbered foot- 
hills south of Kalispell. Although he did 
most of the work himself in his spare 
time. Bob kept track of his materials and 
labor. He calculates that a similar house, 
not including the land or utility improve- 
ments, would cost about $100,000. 

Building for Northwest 

Bob tailored the home's shell for the 
reasonably mild winters of northwestern 
Montana and for wood and propane gas 
heat. The basement's concrete walls are 
insulated with 1 1/2-inch extruded 
polystyrene on the exterior down to 4 
feet, with a 1-inch thickness continuing to 
the footings. The slab is not insulated. 

Earth berming shelters the east side to 
just beneath the sills of the windows on 
the main floor, and shelters the west side 
to the second story. An insulated garage 
buffers the north side and acts as a 
vestibule entry. 


Earth bermed to the top of the shed roof shelters the west side of Bob and Marria Ross's 
house. The outside shed roof translates to an interior vaulted master bedroom ceiling. 
Sliding doors admit abundant light and provide a private route to the deck and a view of 
the surrounding meadows and woods. 

Beneath the cedar siding, Tyvek covers 
1/2-inch plywood sheathing over 2x6 
insulated walls. Six-mil polyethylene, 
overlapped but not caulked, was installed 
beneath the drywall and paneling in the 
walls and ceiling. Above the areas with a 
flat ceiling, conventional trusses accom- 
modate blown-in R38 fiberglass insula- 
tion. In the vaulted ceilings, 2 x 12 
framing makes room for R38 fiberglass 
batts for insulation, and air baffles of 
extruded polystyrene for ventilation. 

"The continuous soffit vents and a 
continuous ridge vent carry moisture out 
of the attic so the insulation can do its 
job, " Bob said. Because the house is not 
airtight, the Rosses say they haven't 
needed a mechanical ventilator to control 
condensation or air quality. 

Heating Takes Advantage of 
Trees and Sun 

The Rosses were mindful of north- 
west Montana's plentiful stands of tall 


Bob and Marria Ross 




John D. Bloodgood, AlA 
2923 S.W. 30th Street 
Des Moines, lA 


Robert W. Ross Construction, Inc. 
P.O. Box 1121 
Kalispell, MT 59901 


1 3/4 Story with Basement 


Ceiling - R38 
2x6 Wall - R19 
Basement Wall - R8 

Square Feet 

Loft - 1,200 
Main - 1.400 
Basement - 1,400 

Special Features 

Earth Berming 
Thermal Storage 
Outside Combustion Air 


Propane, Passive Solar, Wood 


January 1986 



Berming to the underside of the windows protects the east (left} side of the house. The 
garage on the north shelters the entryway. 

trees when designing their heating 
system. They chose wood as their main 
heating source, augmented with passive 
solar and propane. 

A floor-to-ceiling fireplace with a 
Wood-Aire firebox was installed as part of 
the inside wall of the family room. "By 
putting the fireplace in the center of the 
house," Bob pointed out, "any heat 
absorbed by the rock is radiated to the 
rooms, not lost to the outside." Another 
source of wood heat is a large double- 
barrel wood stove in the basement. 

Although cloudy skies predominate at 
Kalispell in the winter, the Rosses knew 
they could capture some heat from the 
sun on all but the darkest days. The 
fireplace stone absorbs heat from the 
sunlight entering the south-facing win- 
dows across the room. 

For more thermal storage. Bob installed 
a reinforced concrete floor in the family 
room. The concrete absorbs heat from the 
sun and from the double-barrel stove in 
the basement below. Heat then radiates 
from the slab into the main floor living 

The fireplace 's central position provides even 
heat to the room and prevents heat from 
being lost through the rock to the outside. 
Thick, handsome quarry tile absorbs sun- 
light and stores heat. 


area. "About the only thing I'd do differ- 
ently, " Bob said, "is to add more concrete 
for thermal storage." 

When the Rosses don't feel hke using 
wood, they can use their Heil propane gas 
furnace. The condensing furnace is rated 
at 95-percent efficiency. "It was one of 
the earlier furnaces and didn't have a 
stainless steel heat exchanger," Bob said. 
'Propane gas has a lot of water in it, and 
the water and other byproducts in the 
condensation eventually corroded the 
unit. The manufacturer is replacing the 
heat exchanger." 

To prevent the heating systems from 
consuming room air for combustion, out- 
side air is piped directly to the firebox of 
the fireplace, and to the basement for the 
wood stove and propane furnace. 

The Rosses keep their house at 64 
degrees. "Because we have no drafts, 
we're comfortable with a cooler house, " 
Bob said. For 1985, before the fireplace 
or wood stove were hooked up, the total 
heating expense for the Rosses was $300 
for propane. In 1986, they burned four 
cords of wood they cut themselves, and 
about 25 gallons of propane. With four 
kids running in and out of the house all 
day and 4,000 square feet of heated 
space. Bob feels his heating bill is 
quite reasonable. 

Practical Plan 

Good planning is evident in the house's 
floor plan. The center hall creates a 
free-flowing traffic pattern from garage or 
entry to all areas of the house. A wash- 
room off the garage keeps little or big 
people from tracking in mud or snow. In 
the living room, the two-story-high ceiling 
forms a friendly, airy connection with the 
children's rooms and loft upstairs. "The 
kids can play in their rooms without 
feeling isolated from what's going on 
downstairs," Bob remarked. 

All drywall is 5/8 inch. The paneling 
and wainscoting are tongue-and-groove 
fir and larch which is harder than cedar. 
"When you have four kids, you have to 
consider the beating the walls will take," 
Bob said. 

All in all, the Rosses think their bermed 
design worked. "If I brought someone in 
here blindfolded, when the blindfold was 
removed, they wouldn't be able to tell 
this was a bermed house," Bob said. 
"We're also very pleased with the low 
heating bills and minimal maintenance." 

An earth berm on the east side of the house 
rises to a level just beneath the dining room 
window. The two-story-high ceiling opens 
the children's play area in the loft to the 
living room below. 


A Family Dream 


Henry and Leona Barta 




Owners and Builders 


Bud Barta 

Route 2 

Lewistown, MT 59457 


Rick Barta 

5720 Homer Davis 

Shepard, MT 59709 



1 Story with Basement 


Ceiling • R60 

Walls • R40 

Basement Walls - R20 at lop 

reducing in steps to R5 at bottom 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,250 
Basement - 1,250 

Special Features 

Clerestory Windows 
Helical Staircase 
Triple-pane Windows 


Passive Solar, Natural Gas 


June 1984 

The new house of Henry and 
Leona Barta in Lewistown 
is based on "an idea dreamed 
up by the family," according to the 
Bartas' son Bud, who built the house 
along with his brother Rick. A large part 
of the planning had to do with energy 
efficiency. The idea seems to have been a 
good one. So far, the biggest annual heat 
bill for the 2,500 square feet of living 
space (including the finished basement) 
has been $260. For February 1987, for 
example, the bill was $25. 

Superinsulation Makes it 

Bud and Rick made low energy bills 
possible by using superinsulation con- 
struction methods. Both Barta brothers 
are house building contractors, special- 
izing in superinsulation. On their parents' 
house, they used double 2x4 walls with 
R40 fiberglass insulation. They installed a 
6-mil polyethylene air-vapor barrier on 
the back side of the innermost stud wall. 
All windows are Pella triple pane. 

The Barta house is not only energy 
efficient but also a highly liveable and 
painstakingly individualized residence. 
Bud has shown the house as an example 
to clients who said they didn't want 
superinsulation in their houses, and after 
a tour, they changed their minds. "Every- 
body just loves it," said Leona Barta. 

Scissors Trusses Enlarge 

The use of scissors trusses produced a 
living room ceiling with a cathedral effect 

The Barta house in Lewistown is cheap to heat and never needs painting. 

that adds to the feeling of spaciousness. 
Fifteen inches of blown-in fiberglass 
brings insulation value in the ceiling to 
R60. Bud Barta likes to design houses 
with clerestory windows and skylights to 
bring natural light to the interior, and this 
house is generously equipped with these 
features. A 5-foot-square, triple-thickness 
skylight floods Ught into the stairwell 
where the hand-made heUcal staircase 
descends to the basement. This staircase 
turns around an atriimi on the basement 
level, where tall plants get the benefit of 
light from the skyUght. Large, south- 
facing windows on the main floor let 
sunlight in to brighten the interior and 
provide passive solar heating. 

The ceiling in the master bedroom and 
bathroom sweeps up to 17 feet on the 
south side, and four clerestory windows 
along the top of the south wall bring a 

pleasant level of natural light to this part 
of the house. The only source of heat 
other than the sun for this house is a 
Dyna-Fine 30,000 Btu natural gas furnace 
that fits between two joists in the floor of 
the main level. Bud said this system is 
slightly undersized for the house, and if 
he had it to do over he would use a 
hydronic coil connected to a natural 
gas-fired hot water heater to heat the 
house. The existing furnace can be used 
to cool the house on hot summer days 
simply by starting up the furnace fan 
which brings cool air from the basement 
up to the main floor. 

A Buried Ventilator Pipe 

As usual with superinsulated houses, a 
heat recovery ventilator is necessary to 
maintain indoor air quality. Intake air for 


A custom touch is provided by the helical staircase and basement-level atrium with 
overhead skylight. 


living room 


kitcnen K 
I y\ sunspace 


Scissors trusses make the spacious living 
room seem larger. 

the ventilator is brought through a pipe 
buried below the frost level, which tem- 
pers inflow air year-round. This reduces 
the amount of heating the air needs in the 

Nothing to Paint 

The Bartas chose steel siding for their 
house, which leaves them to decide what 
to do with the time and money they 
otherwise might have spent painting. 
"There's nothing on the outside that's 

ever going to need painting," Bud said. 
The Barta's used steel roofing of an 
unconventional type designed to look like 
red Spanish roof tiles. This illusion is 
maintained even upon examination from 
a few feet away. "That was the most 
expensive steel roofing available," Bud 

Bud said this house required about 
$65,000 in material, and he estimated that 
he would charge about $90,000 ($36 per 
square foot) to build a similar place for a 
client. D 


A Well-lighted House 

Winter gloom is not likely to 
visit the new house built 
for Charles and Sally 
Karinen on their sheep ranch east of 
Lewistown. Besides the extensive array 
of glass on the main level south side of 
this superinsulated structure, a row of 
clerestory windows brings natural light 
to the upper level of the house. This 
brightens the upstairs loft, including a 
bathroom on the north side. The bath- 
room has a translucent ceiling to admit 
the light that comes through the clere- 
story windows and reflects down from 
the ceiling. A roof overhang above the 
clerestory windows serves the double 
purpose of keeping direct sunlight out in 
the summer and reflecting low-angle 
sunlight into the windows in winter. A 
built-in greenhouse provides heat for 
the living space on sunny days. All 
windows are Pella triple pane. 

The Karinen house has three levels, 
with 1,208 square feet on the main floor, 
900 square feet upstairs, and 672 in the 
half basement. The greenhouse is 22 x 8 

Native Montana Wood 

The builder of the house. Bud Barta of 
Lewistown, said he used native 
Montana wood products in the house 
when they were available. The main 
level is floored with fir, except the 
kitchen. The vaulted ceiling is tongue- 
and-groove pine. 

Exterior walls, made with two 2x4 
stud walls set 5 1/2 inches apart, are 






i^ b iiSiu 




w J 



^ ---^^ 




The Karinen house is designed to let in the sun. 

more than a foot thick, and filled with 
insulation. Each component stud wall is 
insulated with 3 1/2-inch fiberglass batts 
between studs, and the space between 
the two wall components is filled with 
horizontal 5 1/2-inch fiberglass batts. 
The three thicknesses of batts in the 
walls have a combined value of about 
R41 . The 14.5 inches of fiberglass batts 
in the vaulted ceiling insulate to about 
R49. The continuous air-vapor barrier is 
provided with the advanced drywall 
approach (see Glossary). 

Electric Furnace for Heat 

The Karinens use an air-tight wood- 
burning Kozy-Heat circulating fireplace 

as their main source of heat beyond 
what they get from the sun. On cool 
mornings, the Karinens build a fire first 
thing, which quickly heats the house. 
On sunny days when it is not extremely 
cold outside, the sun takes over the 
heating load as the day warms. The 
greenhouse space sometimes drops 
below freezing on cold nights, so the 
door between the greenhouse and the 
living room is kept closed except during 
cool, sunny days, when it is opened to 
let sun-warmed air into the house. 

Solar and wood heat are backed up 
with an 11 kW electric furnace that 
operates in series with the Vent-Aire 
heat-recovery ventilator, and uses the 


Charles and Sally Karinen 


East of Lewistown 


Owners and Builder 


Bud Barta 

Barta Construction 

Route 2 

Lewistown, MX 59457 



2 Story with Partial Basement 


Ceiling - R49 
Walls • R41 

Square Feet 

Loft - 900 
Main - 1.208 
Basement - 672 

Special Features 

Heat Recovery Ventilator with 

Buried Intake Pipe 
Clerestory Windows 


Passive Solar, Wood, Electric 


April 1987 


Clerestory windows bring light to the upper level. 


same ducting. Barta said that if natural 
gas had been available, a hydronic coil 
from the domestic hot water heater 
could have been installed in place of the 
electric furnace, and that this would 
have provided more economical heat. 
The furnace operates in conjunction 
with an electrostatic air filter that cleans 
smoke, pollen, and dust from the air 
before the furnace fan blows it back into 
the living space. 

Charles Karinen said he and Sally do 
not particularly like the furnace because 
of its noise. "Just when you're trying to 
get to sleep, the furnace blower comes 
on," he said, adding that the furnace is 
good for keeping the house from freez- 
ing up when they are gone. Otherwise, 
they don't use it much, relying on the 
wood instead. Charles estimated that 
they burned 2 cords of wood to heat the 
house over the winter. 

An Underground Air Pipe 

Intake air for the ventilator is drawn 
through an 8-inch corrugated pipe that 
is buried below the frost line with an 
intake above ground level. (DNRC 
building specialists suggest that a 
smooth pipe is better for this purpose. 
Corrugations hinder the flow of air 
through the pipe.) The earth warms the 
intake air to well above freezing year- 
round. The bottom of the pipe is perfor- 
ated to drain condensation into the 
gravel bed under the pipe. 

A Testimonial for 

Charles said his family's first winter 
in his new house had made him a 
believer in superinsulation. "I wasn't 
sure about superinsulation at first," he 
said. "I saw some superinsulated houses 
with little windows, and I thought, 'Boy, 

this is going to be like living in a 
breadbox.' " The Karinens wanted their 
house to resemble a breadbox as little as 
possible, so they had Bud put in more 
windows than he wanted to, Charles 
said, adding, "We like a little light." 
Now they have both light and warmth, 
proving that superinsulated houses need 
not be breadboxes with tiny windows. 
Part of the Karinens' satisfaction with 
their new house stems from the contrast 
with their old house, which Charles said 
was drafty as an old barn. "You could 
see the curtains move when the wind 
was blowing, " he said. Although the 
Karinens are pleased with their new 
house, they have a few thoughts about 
possible improvements. For example, 
Charles said, it might be nice to have 
more ceihng fans than the one they have 
at present to recirculate heat from the 
ceiling back down to the main level. The 
open design with a loft leaves the warm 
air free to rise to the cathedral ceiling. 
Also, Charles said, if he had it to do 
over, he would investigate the eco- 
nomics of installing a propane heating 
system rather than the electric furnace. 

Custom Features Raise 

Bud said the cost to build the house 
was between $90,000 and $95,000, or 
about $42 per square foot. He said costs 
were driven up in part by the substan- 
tial amount of custom work the owners 
wanted. For example, considerable time 
was spent building a hand-made railing 
for the stairs and along the edge of the 
loft floor. This railing has 15 layers of 
contrasting wood laminated into a single 
eye-catching piece. Such custom details, 
along with the modern energy- 
efficiency design and construction, 
ensure that the Karinen house will 
never be mistaken for a breadbox. D 


Tricks for Saving Energy 


Douglas and Cindy Hardy 






Albert Osen and Sons 
Big Timber, MT 59047 


1 Story 


Ceiling - R45 
Double Walls ■ R38 
Crawl Space Walls ■ R19 
Floor - R19 

Square Feet 


Special Features 

Brick Walls 

Triple-glaze Low-E Windows 
Heat Recovery Ventilator 
Heating Coil Off Water Heater 


Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard 
Heating Coil in Ventilator 


June 1985 

Through his job as an energy 
auditor for the Park Electric 
Cooperative in Livingston, 
Douglas Hardy has learned all the 
tricks for conserving energy in houses, 
and he used most of them when he 
had his own house built on the bank of 
the Yellowstone River just east of town. 
Even with a new baby requiring 75 
degree temperatures, it only cost Douglas 
and his wife $324.50 to heat the house's 
2,800 square feet during their first year of 
residence, from June, 1985, through June, 

Starting with Basics 

To get his bills this low, Douglas started 
out with a basic superinsulation design 
and modified it to provide greater energy 
savings. The thick exterior walls are built 
with two 2x4 stud walls set 2 inches 
apart. Spaces between studs are filled 
with 3 1/2-inch Rl 1 fiberglass batts. The 
2-inch space between the stud-wall com- 
ponents is filled with an R16 thickness of 
polyisocyanurate foam board. A polye- 
thylene air-vapor barrier was placed 
between the foam board and the inner 
stud wall. (DNRC building specialists 
suggest that the polyethylene air-vapor 
barrier probably was not necessary, 
because polyisocyanurate boards make 
an adequate air-vapor barrier when the 
seams between them are taped together.) 
R-value of insulation in the exterior walls 
is about R38. The ceiling is insulated with 
1 inch of sprayed-in-place urethane foam 
(R7| above the drywall, with 12 inches 
(R38) of blown-in wood-fiber ceUulose 
above that. 

The garage at the southwest corner of the Hardy house helps detlect prevailing winds. 

Bricks Instead of Cedar 

Perhaps the major deviation from the 
usual practice with superinsulated houses 
was the use of brick walls rather than 
conventional siding on the outside of the 
house. Douglas said the cost of pur- 
chasing and installing the brick was only 
about $ 1,500 more than the cedar siding 
he originally intended to use. The durabil- 
ity and low maintenance of brick give it a 
decided advantage over most types of 
siding. A ventilation air space of about 1/2 
inch was left between the brick wall and 
the outer stud wall. This space is open to 
the soffit vents. Owing to the imperme- 
ability of the air-vapor barrier, no con- 
densation is expected to occur inside the 
exterior walls, and no weep holes were 
installed in the brick walls. There are no 
utility penetrations of the brick wall. 
Windows are triple pane, low-E Weather 
Shield casement. 

Crawl Space Saves Money 

This house has a 4-foot crawl space 
rather than a basement. The crawl space 
walls are insulated with 2-inch expanded 
polystyrene boards sealed to the concrete 
with foamed-in urethane. The seams 
where the polystyrene boards join are 
covered with spray-on urethane foam. 
Over this polystyrene, 3 1/2-inch fiber- 
glass batts were installed. Two inches of 
urethane insulates the rim joist. The floor 
above the crawl space is insulated with 
R19 fiberglass batts. A polyethylene mois- 
ture barrier on the ground at the bottom 
of the crawl space prevents entry of 
dampness from the earth below. 

Indoor air quality is maintained with a 
VanEE heat recovery ventilator. Coils 
added to this system provide heating and 
cooling. In winter, a small pump circu- 
lates 140-degree water from the water 
heater through the heating coil in the 


ventilator. This coil warms the air coming 
in through the ventilator. On one occa- 
sion when it was 20 below outside, 
Douglas measured the temperature of the 
air warmed by this coil and found it to be 
85 degrees. A second coil is equipped 
with a fan to provide heat directly to the 
living space. Douglas said these two coils 
produce about 5,000 Btu each. In the mild 
winter of 1987-88, the two coils produced 
all the heat necessary to warm the house, 
Douglas said. Electric baseboard heaters 
are in place to provide additional heat if 

In hot weather, a valve is opened to run 
water from the well through the cooling 
coil in the ventilator. This cools the 
incoming fresh air. The water is then 
pumped outside to water the lawn. 

Innovative Design Deflects 

The Hardy house is configured in two 
rectangles, one 52 x 40 feet, and the other 
26 X 56. The smaller rectangle contains 

the two-car garage and is on the upwind 
side of the structure where it helps deflect 
the wind from the living space. Orienta- 
tion in relation to the wind is especially 
important in the Livingston area because 
of the unusually powerful and persistent 
winds. Entrances to the house are placed 
in the sheltered areas around the corners 
of the garage, which prevents the wind 
from entering when doors are opened. 

Economy Measures Pay Off 

Douglas designed his house to save 
money not only on energy use, but also in 
construction costs. One part of his 
money-saving strategy was the use of a 
crawl space rather than a basement, 
which would have cost substantially 
more. Another economy measure was the 
use of Optimal Value Engineering (OVE]. 
OVE includes the practice of designing 
structures with dimensions in multiples 
of 4 feet. This makes it possible to use 
building materials that come in 4 foot 
sheets (such as drywall and plywood 

The crawl space in the Hardy house is insulated with expanded polystyrene on the 
concrete walls, with fiberglass batts over the polystyrene. A moisture barrier keeps 
dampness out. Floor overhead is insulated to R19. 

sheathing) with little need for wasteful 
trimming. Doug said only about one 
pickup truck load of waste was generated 
during installation of his drywall, com- 
pared to the three loads that normally 
result from a project this size. 

The Hardys kept the price of their 
house to about $84,000 ($30 per square 
foot), partly by doing some work, such as 
wiring, insulating and plumbing, them- 
selves. Doug said most of the energy- 
efficiency measures should pay back in 
five years or less. He estimated it would 
cost about $35 per square foot ($98,000 
total) to have a contractor build a similar 

Some Modest Improvements 

The Hardys are pleased with their new 
house, but said if they had it to do over, 
they would make some rooms larger. The 
laundry room, for example, they would 
make 12 x 5 rather than 9x5. They 
would enlarge their present 7 x 13 
bathroom to 8 x 14. Also, they would 
consider insulating the baby's bedroom 
so it could be kept warmer than the rest 
of the house. Otherwise, the tendency of 
superinsulated houses to stay at a uni- 
form temperature throughout makes it 
necessary to heat the whole house to the 
temperature the baby needs. D 


Workshop Points the Way 


Calvin and Donna Stenseth 






Roger Fangsrud 
706 Gary Drive 
Missoula, MT 59801 


1 Story 


Ceiling ■ R40 
Double Wall - R41 
Crawl Space - R19 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,478 

Special Features 

RSDP Construction 


Electric Baseboard 


October 1984 

Donna and Calvin Stenseth 
had been living in a 
trailer for 20 years when 
they decided it was time to change living 
quarters. "In the winter, the baseboards 
of the trailer would frost over and some- 
times the walls. Then black mold would 
form. If we laid something against the 
wall, it would stick to it," Donna said 
"We wanted something warm." 

Looking for A Builder 

The Stenseths had their house plans 
picked out and were looking for a builder 
when they attended a workshop for new 
home buyers. The workshop, sponsored 
by the Montana DNRC and Missoula 
Electric Cooperative, explained the bene- 
fits and construction of an energy- 
efficient house. "That seemed to be the 
ticket," Donna said. 

"After the workshop, we talked to four 
or five different contractors who were 
plainly not interested in building an 
energy-efficient house. Then we met 
Roger Fangsrud. He was building energy- 
efficient houses, and knew about the 
Residential Standards Demonstration 
Program and submitted our house for it. 
We can't say enough nice things about 

RSDP Extras 

The Stenseth house sits part way up a 
hill in the Lolo Pass, a little more than 3 
1/2 miles from the town of Lolo. A sign in 
front identifies it as an RSDP house. 

A minor problem for Calvin and Donna 
has been the public's misconception of 

Calvin and Donna Stenseth's house has a 5-foot overhang to shield the living room 
window and the porch from the hot rays of summer sun. 

the RSDP. 'People are under the impres- 
sion that we haven't paid a nickel for this 
house," Donna said. "We have to contin- 
ually explain that the RSDP only paid for 
certain items that exceeded HUD build- 
ing standards, to find out how cost- 
effective they are." 

Some of these items are extra framing 
and insulation, a continuous air-vapor 
barrier, and a heat recovery ventilator. 
The Stenseth house has double 2x4 walls 
with a 6 1/2-inch space between inner 
and outer walls. The deep walls allow 
room for three layers of fiberglass batts. 
In the space between the walls, the 
fiberglass batts are placed horizontally 

and supported by twine ties to keep them 
from sagging. The walls are insulated to a 
total R- value of 41. The ceiling holds 24 
inches of blown-in cellulose. A contin- 
uous 6-mil polyethylene air-vapor barrier 
was installed behind the interior 2x4 
wall and in the ceiUng. Every seam was 
caulked with Tremco sealant. The crawl 
space walls are insulated with fiberglass 
batts, and a 6-mil polyethylene moisture 
barrier was placed over its dirt floor. 
Tyvek wraps the rim joists and is sealed 
to the air-vapor barrier. A heat reflective 
low-E film coats the double-glazed Claw- 
son windows and sliding patio door. 

"A lot of people have asked us if we 
feel closed in because of our deep 


walls," Donna said. "I point out that it's 
no different than a log house. Besides, " 
she added, "it gives us a sense of 
security— there's more between us and 
the elements." 

Resolving Ventilator 

The Stenseths had some trouble with 
their heat recovery ventilator. Air 
whistled through it so fast that the draft 
blew out candles, and the speed didn't 
allow much heat to be exchanged 
between outgoing and incoming air. "For 
months we had 42 degree air coming in," 
Donna said. "We were wearing long 
underwear and were still freezing." The 
house was full of dust and there was 
condensation on the windows. 

Calvin said that Bob Touse at Missoula 
Electric Cooperative worked closely with 
them, as did Heber Miller, the electrician. 

who discovered the problem was a faulty 
dehumidistat that read 15 degrees high. 
This meant the ventilator worked at high 
speed any time the inside humidity 
exceeded 30 percent— which was all the 
time. As soon as the faulty control was 
replaced, the ventilator worked fine. 
Calvin laughed. ""The reason we had such 
a warm winter that year was because 1 
was heating the outdoors. " 

Now the exchanger runs for 15 minutes 
every 2 hours, and the temperature of the 
incoming fresh air is between 52 and 55 
degrees. The inside humidity level stays 
at 45 percent. The dust has disappeared 
and the windows have no condensation. 
Maintenance of the ventilator consists of 
balancing the dehumidistat with the 
weather and cleaning the filters. 

About the only changes the Stenseths 
would make is to add another air distribu- 
tion vent in a front bedroom. If the door is 
closed, the room gets quite stuffy. 

Deep windowsills on the living room window evidence the thick insulated walls that 
buffer the Stenseths living quarters from weather extremes. 

Construction Paying Off 

The Stenseths discovered that the 
added insulation and air-vapor barrier are 
indeed cost-effective. They averaged 
5,700 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually for 
space heating ($257 at 4 1/2 cents per 
kWh) compared to the average 13,300 
kWh ($599) used by a house of the same 
size built to HUD standards. "When I talk 
to people who don't have energy-efficient 
houses, " Calvin said, "I realize our total 
electric bill is terribly cheap. They can't 
believe we're getting off so light. " 

They certainly get off lighter than they 
did in their old mobile home where the 
annual electricity bill averaged $1,080, 
besides the cost and mess of operating 
their wood stove, which they are glad not 
to have in the new house. "Can you 
imagine what a wood stove would do to 
these light colored walls?"' Donna said. 

Td be washing them all the time." 
Calvin said that although they periodical- 
ly miss the hot spot of a wood stove, it's 
nice not to have the stress and strain of 
gathering their winter's wood supply. 

Although their living room faces south, 
solar gain is limited because of the high 
cliffs surrounding them. '"We don"t get 
much direct sun until about March,"" 
Calvin said. 

Squeezing Pennies 

Cost was a major consideration for the 
Stenseths, which meant careful place- 
ment of rooms in the limited floor space. 
The master bedroom is sequestered from 
the teen bedrooms and the inherently 
active kitchen-dining area. Minimal floor 
space has been allocated to hallways. On 
the north side of the house, an entrance 
from the covered patio to the kitchen cuts 
down on dirt and snow tracked onto 

"We worked hard to keep the cost of 
the house down, " Donna said. "We 
managed to find quality oak cabinets on 
sale. We used hemlock molding and 
stained it to match the oak " 

Calvin said that the house fulfills their 
dream of a warm place to live. "It has 
absolutely no drafts and no air stratifica- 
tion. It"s a very even heat, very com- 
fortable, and very clean. " O 


Architectural Elegance Meshes with 
Energy Savings 


Bob and Ferna Geer 



Designer and Builder 

David Andreassi 
P.O Box 372 
Manhattan, MT 59741 


1 3/4 Story 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R45 
Crawl Space - R19 

Square Feet 

Upper - 650 
Main - 1,600 

Special Features 



Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard 


November 1986 

Anyone shopping for a house 
knows there are plenty to 
choose from. However, as 
Ferna and Bob Geer found, quahty isn't 
always part of the package. "We looked 
at a lot of houses," Ferna said. "There 
were just too many construction shortcuts 
in most of them, and the amount of repair 
needed was atrocious." The house the 
Geers finally chose was head and 
shoulders above most of the others they 
examined. "This house had it all— a floor 
plan we liked, a builder with a reputation 
for backing up his work, and energy 
efficiency. We especially Uked the use of 
river rock and redwood on the exterior," 
she said. 

An antique crank door ringer at the 
front door hints at the builder's attention 
to detail. The inside radiates a country 
charm with its print wallpaper, wains- 
coting, and natural wood flooring in the 
front hall, guest bath, dining room, and 
kitchen. One step up from the dining 
room a landing leads to the back door and 
provides a parking spot for snow boots 
and overshoes, wool jackets, snowsuits, 
and mittens. In the living room, cinna- 
mon-toned carpeting and ivory walls 
enhance the rich grain of mahogany and 
oak in cabinets, woodwork, and flooring. 
A six-sided tower dominates the north 
side of the house. The tower houses the 
nursery upstairs and a utility room below. 
Across from the nursery, south-facing 
dormer windows channel heat and Ught 
into the master bedroom. "We haven't 
had the heaters on upstairs since we 
moved in," Ferna said, "plenty of heat 

The open setting of Bob and Ferna Geer's house in the quiet village of Manhattan allows for 
significant solar heating in the winter. 

rises from downstairs to the kids' room 
and the bath. 

"This house is so different from the 
mobile home we lived in for twelve years. 
There I had to get up and turn on the heat 
in the morning before anyone would get 
out of bed. Here the temperature stays 
pretty constant— not much change from 
evening to morning. And in the summer 
this house is cool during a hot day, yet 
retains warmth on cool, rainy days." 

Windows Trap Heat 

The triangular and trapezoidal win- 
dows in the Uving room are triple-glazed 
with low-E fUm to trap heat indoors. Heat 

loss through the rectangular windows is 
slowed by double glazing augmented by 
insulated Window Quilt shades. Ferna 
said she is careful to use the shades 
correctly, rolling them down on chilly 
winter nights and hot summer days. 

Just off the living room, a long, narrow, 
glassed-in alcove acts as a mini-sunspace, 
collecting heat and serving as a cozy play 
spot for the Geer's two young children. 

Electricity Augments Solar 

Although Bob is a logging contractor, 
the Geers chose not to have a wood stove. 
"Bob Uves in the woods for a good part of 
the year and gets enough of chopping and 


hauling wood there. He doesn't want to 
mess with it when he's home," Ferna 

Electric baseboards augment the solar 
heat. During the day, the house is kept at 
a comfortable 69 degrees for the children, 
and is turned down to 60 degrees at 

Two submeters let the Geers track the 
kilowatts used for hot water and space 
heat. "Our electrical usage since we've 
moved in has been about one-third heat 
and one-sixth hot water," Ferna said. 
"Our January bill of 5145. 50 was the 
highest. This included everything, even a 
hot tub and heat for a weight-lifting room 
in the garage. Our monthly electric bills 
during the summer have been a little over 
S50. " She added that their teenager's long 
showers and an old refrigerator drive up 
the bill. 




"^'--.■iiLliiii ■■"■^•i—i 

P*:-: — pp 


— ■■^=-- i^B^ 


A large deck at the back of the house provides a spot for fair weather relaxing. The small 
windows in the tower on the north minimize heat loss- 

Keeping Humidity in 

The Geers normally keep the inside 
humidity at 60 percent. "Because of aU 
the wood in this house, we need some 
humidity," Ferna said. But, to prevent 
condensation on the windows in winter, 
when the outside temperature drops 
below zero, the Geers adjust the dehu- 
midistat so the heat recovery ventilator 
will turn on when the inside humidity 
rises to 40 percent. But just in case, the 
windowsills have a water sealer coating 
on them to prevent staining of the wood- 
work. Ferna said that during the summer 
they often shut off the ventilator and 
open the windows. ""Except when it's 
windy," she added, "then I close the 
windows and use the ventilator: it really 
keeps out the dust. It also gets rid of 
cooking odors." 

A Satisfying House 

Would they do anything different? 
"No!" repUed Ferna. The house is so 
self-sufficient, we can't think of a thing 
that would improve it." 

David Andreassi, the builder, said the 
extras for energy efficiency cost about 
$7,500. These extras include the Window 
Quilts, extra lumber and insulation in the 
walls and ceihng, the air-vapor barrier, 
window glazing, and the heat recovery 
ventilator. Dave said building a similar 
house in 1987 would cost approximately 
$45 per square foot, not including the lot 
and improvements. "As far as payback on 
the energy costs, its fairly long term, 
unless we have an increase in utility 
rates. But, there's more to it than that, " 
he added. "These houses keep their value 
because of their quality, and they are 
comfortable." He said that hed been 


building houses for over 10 years, and 
was convinced a number of years ago that 
energy-efficient houses were the way of 
the future. 

Careful construction helps maintain the 
low bills and even temperature in the 
Geer house. 

• double 2x4 walls filled with 
fiberglass blown-in batts 

• a ceiling packed with BIBS 
in the flat portion and 
urethane foam in the vault- 
ed portion 

• a 6-mil polyethylene air- 
vapor barrier tightly caulked 
at all seams 

• fiberglass 6-inch batts in the 
floor joists 

• 2-inch foam board on the 
exterior of the crawl space 

• insulated 1 3/4-inch-thick 
steel exterior doors 

• urethane foam sealing win- 
dows, doors, rim joists and 
box joists, and where all 
electrical and plumbing con- 
nections penetrate to outside 

• minimum number of ceiling 
fixtures penetrating the air- 
vapor barrier 

• a ceiling fan which continu- 
ously circulates the air 

• a VanEE-2000 heat recovery 
ventilator. n 

A window over the kitchen sink provides a view into the sunspace and to the outside. The 
countertop divides the kitchen from the dining room, offering space for food preparation and 
quick meals. 

Windows open the living room to sunlight and emphasize the sweep ul the vaulted ceiling. 
The open staircase leads to a loft overlooking the living room, a bonus space for children's 
play activities near the bedrooms. 


A Little House and a Big Idea 


' hen Mark and Barbara Cole 
set about building a new 
house in July of 1983, they 
started with a small SOyearold farm- 
house and a big idea. Essentially, they 
were going to build an addition and 
modify the little old house to make a big 
new house. The Coles never lived in the 
little house: they just bought it and the 
land it sat on for their building project. By 
the time the Coles moved into the new 
building in September of 1987, some 
people were asking them if they wouldn't 
have been better off to demoUsh the old 
house and start building with a flat spot 
on the ground. Mark Cole says no. 

"The existing dwelling had an excellent 
floorplan, was extremely well built and 
integrated well with our plans to add an 
extensive addition. I very much doubt 
that it would have been easier to start 

A Place to Start 

One of the first operations was digging 
down next to the foundation of the 
existing house and knocking a big hole 
through the concrete so a front-end loader 
could get in to remove the deteriorated 
floor of the basement. The old siding was 
removed, as were the old shingles on the 
roof. New basement foundation walls 
were poured to accommodate the new 
portion of the structure. Double 2x4 stud 
walls were built on the new foundation 
On the old part of the house, Larsen 
trusses (see Glossary) were installed on 
the outside of the walls to allow room for 
insulation. In the new walls, both the 

Before: The 50-year-old farmhuuse that the Culei btarled with. 

After. The Coles new house, built around the old house. 


Mark and Barbara Cole 


East of Miles City 




Bryce H. Richards 

1020 South Cottage Grove 

Miles City. MT 59301 




Roof - R35 Added to Pre-existing 

R57 in Addition 
Double WaUs - R36 
Larsen Truss Walls - R41 
Basement Walls and Slab - RIO 

Square Feet 

Upper - 1,182 
Main - 2,386 
Basement - 2,834 
Sun Porch - 112 
Screened Porch - 44S 

Special Features 

Major Addition to Existing House 
Larsen Trusses 
Four Pulse Furnaces 
Triple Pane Windows 
Recirculating Water Heaters 


Passive Solar, Propane Pulse 


September 1987 


shading indicates 

extents of 

original house 

inner and outer stud walls were sheathed 
with 1/2-inch plywood on the sides facing 
to the outside of the house. Although it is 
not customary to sheath the inner wall, 
Mark explained that it was necessary in 
this case because the inner wall is the 
bearing wall. Besides, he said, it only 
required about $200 worth of plywood. 
A 9-mil cross-woven polyethylene air- 
vapor barrier was appUed over the 
sheathing on the inner wall. The air- vapor 
barrier is continuous, and was installed 
under the drywall on the ceilings. A 
14-mil cross- woven polyethylene mois- 
ture barrier was applied to the exterior of 
the basement walls, with 2-inch boards of 
extruded polystyrene insulation installed 
over the barrier. 

Modern Technology for Old 
and New 

Both the new walls and the retrofitted 
walls were insulated with 3 1/2 inches of 
fiberglass batt insulation in the spaces of 
the inner stud wall, with 9-inch batts 
appUed to the spaces of the exterior wall 
and extending into the space between 
inner and outer walls. A Tyvek air barrier 
was appUed between the outside sheath- 
ing and the Masonite siding. 

A steep new roof was built over the 
joined old and new structures, using 
18-inch TJI rafters (see Glossary) as sup- 
port members. The new roof was insulat- 
ed with two layers of fiberglass batts, one 
12-inch and one 6-inch, for an R-value of 
57. The old portion of the roof was 
insulated with 7 inches of extruded poly- 
styrene, with an R35 value. 

The main difficulty in joining the old 
and new structures was getting the floor 
levels and eave hnes of the old structure 
to match those of the addition. Installa- 
tion of Larsen trusses compUcated the 
construction by changing the roof-wall 

junction, making it necessary to extend 
the rafter tails to provide the desired roof 

Little House Disappears 

As construction proceeded, the original 
Utile farmhouse with its Dutch hip roof 
graduaUy disappeared into the 7,000 
square feet of floor space in the new 
house. A visitor to the new house finds it 
difficult to see any remnant of the old 
house. The only visible remainders are 
the oak floors in two rooms and a built-in 
china cabinet in the dining area. All the 
old windows were removed and replaced 
with the same type of triple-pane glazing 
used in the addition. The cathedral ceiUng 
in the addition rises 23 feet, 6 inches from 
the Uving room floor. Exposed roof- 
support beams form eye-catching geo- 
metric patterns as they criss-cross the 
space near the ceiUng apex. 

Approximately 4,500 square feet of the 
Cole house are heated Uving space. To 
heat this space most efficiently, the Coles 
installed four Lennox pulse furnaces. 
Two of these furnaces heat the 2,386 
square feet of the main floor. Mark said 
two furnaces were needed for the main 
level because it is divided into two areas, 
one for daytime living and the other for 
sleeping. These two areas have different 
heating and cooling requirements. The 
use of multiple furnaces simplifies the 
duct work, Mark said, and makes the 
heating much more uniform than it 
would be if a single furnace had to 
provide aU the output. Three of the 
furnaces are rated at 60,000 Btu, and the 
one that heats the basement is rated at 
40,000 Btu. 

No Moisture Problems 

Mark said he had duct work installed to 
accommodate two heat recovery ventila- 
tors to ventilate the house if necessary. 


Exposed beams are an eye-catching element of the Cole house. 

Two of the four propane-fired Pulse furnaces 
used to heal the Cole house. PVC pipes vent 
all these furnaces through walls to the 

but the ventilators themselves have not 
been installed yet. "I wanted to live in it 
for a season to see if we developed 
moisture problems," he said. So far, no 
such problems have occurred. The house 
is ventilated by the fans in the four 
furnaces, which are kept running all the 
time. Mark said the sheer volume of 
space in the house probably is a factor in 
the lack of moisture problems. "If we 
took showers and cooked in a house with 
800 square feet the way we do in this 
house, I'm sure we would have 
problems, "he said. 

Plenty of Hot Water 

A direct vent (see Glossary) propane- 
fired water heater with 50 gallon storage 
provides domestic hot water, and an extra 
50-gallon tank stores additional hot water. 
Both the water tanks and all hot water 
pipes are insulated to minimize heat 
losses. The hot water system is designed 

to keep the heated water circulating so 
hot water is immediately available when 
a tap is opened. Hot water also passes 
through an array of plastic tubing that 
heats the tile floors in the master bed- 
room and bathroom. Mark said that 
although it is pleasant to put his feet on a 
warm floor on a cold morning, the floor- 
heating system is somewhat complicated 
and he's not sure he'd put one in if he had 
it to do over. 

The Joy of Energy Efficiency 

After spending a fall, winter, and spring 
in their new house, the Coles have 
established the energy efficiency of the 
building. Review of their heat bills for 
this period reveals that less than $500 
worth of propane was needed to heat the 
house in 1987. Propane is 43 cents a 
gallon in Miles City, much cheaper than 
in some other areas of Montana, and 
cheaper to heat with than electricity in 
the Miles City area. 

Mark said the house normally is kept at 
70 degrees while the Coles are home. 
When they are not home, and at night, 
the programmable thermostats are turned 
to the lowest setting, which keeps the 
furnaces from coming on under normal 
circumstances. "When it is 15 to 18 
degrees outside, " Mark said, "the house 
usually loses about 2 degrees overnight, 
dropping from 70 to 68." Despite the 
house's thermal efficiency, some design 
variations could have improved the 
energy efficiency. For example, Mark 
said, there is more glass than there should 
be for maximum energy savings. The 
glazing is nearly 20 percent of the total 
area of the south wall, he said, adding, "I 
am sure that my large windows create 
more heat loss than I gain from most of 
the superinsulation features." Energy 

bills are not a large part of the Coles' 
budget, Mark said, and although insu- 
lated window coverings would save some 
energy, these are not being actively con- 
sidered at the moment. "Any window 
treatments we do are likely to be aimed 
more at aesthetics than energy efficien- 
cy," he said 

Payback Not Immediately 
in View 

Mark said his records show that the 
energy efficiency features accounted for 
about 10 percent of the $63 per square 
foot construction cost. "Assuming current 
energy costs and interest rates," he said, 
"I doubt that I would see any savings in 
my lifetime, though I may be too pessi- 
mistic about that. We need to live in the 
house several more years before we 
know for sure." 

Just What They Wanted 

The Coles can't think of much they 
would do differently if they were building 
again. "Maybe line up my financing 
ahead of time, and do a httle more 
planning," Mark said. Other than that, 
the place turned out just as they wanted 
it. "When you've got what you want, 
why try to improve upon it? " Mark said. 

Surprisingly, he said, the construction 
was completed without any major gaffes. 
He credited the house's builder, Bryce 
Richards, with the problem-free con- 
struction. He said Richards is a craftsman 
""from the old school" of custom house 
building. Richards was the only carpenter 
on the job, taking four years to build the 
house. Nearly all of the construction 
other than carpentry was subcontracted. 
Mark and Barbara did the design 
themselves. D 


Radiant Floors Offer Even Heat 


Bill and Joyce Carr 



Designer and Builder 



2 Story with Daylight Basement 


Ceiling • R55 
2x6 Wall - R19 
Basement Wall - R29 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,360 
Basement • 1,360 

Special Features 

Heating System 


Wood, Natural Gas Hydronic 


December 1985 

A cheery fire burning in the fire- 
place warms the floors 
throughout Joyce and Bill 
Carr's house. An Ultrafire custom- 
designed fireplace crafted of Feather 
River travertine rock serves as one heat 
source for the Carrs' radiant floor heating 

When Bill, a forester with the U.S. 
Forest Service in Missoula, and his wife 
built their new house, they wanted a 
heating system that would use both wood 
and natural gas. But they didn't want to 
huddle in front of a fireplace while the 
rest of the house stayed cold. So, Bill 
contacted Frank Pawarski, who is an 
expert at designing custom hydronic heat- 
ing systems. 

Circulating Liquid 
Distributes Heat 

Frank designed a radiant floor system 
using more than 1,000 feet of 1/2-inch 
polybutylene tubing. The tubing was 
installed in the concrete slab of the 
basement and among the joists beneath 
the subfloor of the upper level. When a 
fire burns in the fireplace, it heats a 
water-antifreeze mixture which circulates 
through a heat exchanger in the fireplace 
and through the tubing, radiating an even 
heat imderfoot. 

A 200,000 Btu gas-fired Thermar 
instant hot water heater takes over to heat 
the water-antifreeze solution on days 
when the fireplace isn't in use. Direct 
vents feed outside air to the fireplace and 
Thermar heater. 


Sunshine adds its warmth to Bill and Joyce Carr's home through large west- and 
south-facing windows. The roof overhang, deck, and insulated shades prevent overheating 
in the summer. 

Segregating the tubing grid into four 
zones ensures that heat travels only to 
where it's needed. On the main floor, the 
area comprising Uving room, dining area, 
and kitchen is one zone, the bedrooms 
another, and the baths a third. The 
basement represents a fourth zone. When 
a zone's thermostat calls for heat, the 
valve serving the tubing in that zone 
opens and the heated solution circulates 
through the tubing, warming the floor. If 
none of the upper level zones are calling 
for heat and the temperature of the 
circulating solution exceeds 160 degrees, 
the valve to the basement zone automati- 
cally opens so the slab acts as a "dump" 

for excess heat. A manually operated 
valve controls a 500-foot loop of 3/4-inch 
polybutylene which heats the garage slab 
and acts as an additional heat dump. 

Besides the comfort the radiant floors 
provide. Bill noted that the cost of the 
system, excluding the fireplace, was less 
than half what an energy-efficient 
furnace would cost, and that it's virtually 
maintenance-free. "A sight-glass shows 
when the antifreeze mixture is getting 
low. So far, I haven't had to add any. A 
plastic drain tube is a precaution for too 
much moisture building up in the system, 
although that hasn't happened either," he 


The CaiTS heat 3,360 square feet of 
space. Bill's records show their gas bill is 
averaging less than $5.00 a month for 
space and hot water heating, but they are 
burning approximately 6 cords of wood 
during the heating season. 

They Did It Themselves 

The Carrs prepared themselves for the 
task of designing and building their home. 
"Joyce and 1 read everything we could 
find on energy-efficient homes. We 
gathered information from the Canadian 
energy studies, and attended several of 
the DNRC builder and owner training 

From the mechanical room, polybutylene 
tubing runs into the basement slab and 
overhead through the floor joists to distri- 
bute heat to the Carr's floors. When the 
fireplace is not in use, a Thermar instant 
water heater takes over to heat the liquid in 
the tubing. 



workshops. We learned about overhangs, 
orienting the house for solar gain, win- 
dow insulation, and more," Bill said. 
Then they spent five months in an 
1 1-foot pickup camper while they super- 
vised the house construction and went to 
their daily jobs. "One thing about con- 
tracting your own house and living on 
site, is that you can make a lot of 
decisions on the fly. For instance, we 
designed the fireplace so the rock would 
extend to the outside. Advice from con- 
tractors was that the rock would leak heat 
like an open window, so we put insulated 
2x6 walls between the fireplace and the 
outside. We made that change when the 
workmen were putting forms in for the 
basement which meant they had to 
extend the forming to acconunodate the 
2x6 framing around the fireplace." 

Energy-Saving Construction 

The sloping hillside shelters the entire 
east wall and about half of both ends of 
the daylight basement from brisk wintry 
weather. Two-inch extruded polystyrene 
was installed on the outside of the base- 
ment walls down to the frost line and 
2x4 walls with 3 1/2-inch fiberglass batts 
were built on the interior side of the 
basement walls. 

Fiberglass in the 2 x 6 walls and 16 
inches of fiberglass and a 6-mil air-vapor 
barrier in the scissors-truss vaulted ceiling 
keep a Ud on the heating bill. The Carrs 
did not install an air-vapor barrier in the 
walls or insulation under the slab. "We 
didn't want an airtight house with wood 
and gas heat, " Bill said. Although they 
don't have a heat recovery ventilator. Bill 

said condensation hasn't been a problem. 
Fans in the kitchen and bath carry off 
excess moisture. 

Passive solar gain, though not a major 
source of heat, does help to some degree. 
Double-glazed Clawson windows with 
low-E film trap the sun's heat on clear 
winter days. Most of the windows are on 
the south and west. "We have only two 
small windows on the north, " Bill said, 
"one in the master bedroom and one in 
the adjoining bath. Insulated shades add 
extra Rvalue to the windows when 


One thing that concerns Bill is the 
amount of heat trapped between the 
insulated shades and the windows in the 
summer. "The reflective window film 
keeps the heat in, " he explained. "So, 
when we close the shades, we open the 
windows just a bit to let some of the heat 

All in all, the house satisfies the Carrs. 
"I haven't thought of ways to improve on 
it yet," Bill said. "It'sa very comfortable 
home, no cold or hot spots, and very 
quiet. It stays cool in the summer if we 
draw the shades." D 

A specially designed fireplace serves as one heat source for the Carrs radiant floor heating system. Insulated shades, shown stacked at 
the tops of the adjacent windows, pull down to restrict heat loss on chilly nights. 


Blizzards Seen But Not Heard 

In the Rattlesnake area north of 
Missoula, Mike and Mabelle 
Hardy's house stands sturdy 
against the winds that rake the ridge. Its 
triple-shed roofline sweeps the cold win- 
ter blasts up and over the house, and 
earth-berm protection of the lower 
portions gives further shelter. Sunlight 
pours into the sunspace where its free 
heat is captured and circulated through- 
out the house. 

These design features do not exist by 
accident. Mostly, they were the ideas of 
the Hardys, who gave them to Missoula 
architect Jay Kirby with instructions to 
give them substance. "Vd figured and 
figured trying to fit the rooms we wanted 
into this site. Jay managed to accomplish 
our goals and save us energy too, " Mike 

A "great room" met one of those goals. 
' We wanted our living and dining activi- 
ties in one room, " Mabelle said. "We 
needed space for my piano and for the 
harpsichord that Mike built for me, and 
we had many antiques to find room for. ' 
Up a half flight of stairs from the front 
airlock entry, the room looks out on a 
panorama of the Missoula valley and the 
Rattlesnake Wilderness Area. Natural 
light streams through ceiling-high win- 
dows to the farthest reaches of the room. 
Insulated French doors lead to the deck 
across the front of the house. 

Sunspace for Coffee and 

From the dining area of the great room, 
a glass door opens into the sunspace on 

A triple-shed roofline, earth sheltering, and plenty of south-facing windows buffer Mike and 
Mabelle Hardy's home against the elements. 

the south side of the house. Mike Hardy 
ran his hand over the red brick Trombe 
wall separating the sunspace from the 
great room, kitchen, and master bed- 
room. "This is actually a concrete wall 
poured in forms that make it look like 
brick. The brick pattern was also used for 
the inside walls of the basement." He 
pointed out the textured brushed- 
concrete floor. "Both the wall and the 
floor store tremendous amounts of heat 
through the day. At night the heat 
radiates to the sunspace and the living 
areas. It's stiU a surprise to find warm 
dishes in the cupboards. " 

Window Quilt shades slip snugly 
through side casings to seal the double- 
glazed windows against heat loss at night. 

"Although we have only the sun for 
warmth in the sunspace, during the three 
winters we've been in the house, this 
room has never dropped below 50 
degrees, even when it was 30 degrees 
below zero outside," Mike said. 

A lawn and terraced garden are acces- 
sible from the sunspace. The sunspace 
also has doors into the kitchen and master 
bedroom. Mabelle said that she tried to 
talk the architect into leaving out the door 
to the kitchen so she'd have more wall 
space. "I'm so glad Jay didn't let me. We 
like to take our morning coffee in the 
sunspace, and 1 love to have the door 
open into the sunspace while I'm working 
here in the kitchen." 


Mike and Mabelle Hardy 




Jay Kirby. Architect 
2011 South Fourth Street 
Missoula, MX 59821 


South Wall Builders 

644 South Second Street West 

Missoula, MT 59807 



1 Story with Finished Basement 


Ceiling ■ R54 

2x6 Walls - R35 

Basement Walls ■ R23/12 
R23 to 4 feet below ground 
R12 from 4 feet below ground to 

Slab - R12 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,334 
Basement - 1,101 

Special Features 


Thermal Storage 

Earth Tube Integrated with AAHX 

Earth Sheltered 


Passive Solar, Electric, Wood 


January 1984 






J mechanical 
j room 


storoge ^/ 




U u 

^ _ 



office 1 





Kitchen Accommodates 

"Everything I need for cooking or 
sewing is in this kitchen," Mabelle said. 
"On this island I can cut out dough or 
fabric. The built-in marble slab is perfect 
for rolling out pie crust or cooling candy. 
In this comer is my sevring machine; over 
here is my office and cookbook center," 
Mabelle said, gesturing to the built-in 
desk and bookshelves. Violets thrive 
under a Gro-lite on a shelf above the 
sewing center. Oak cabinets line the 
walls; glass cupboard doors show off the 
Hardy's pottery collection. Almond- 
colored appliances, a cleaning supplies 
closet, and pantry complete the tidy 

Fresh Air in the Bedroom 

"Because this door doesn't open direct- 
ly to the outside. Jay recommended a 
sliding glass door," Mabelle said, sliding 
open the door from the sunspace into the 
master bedroom. "I'm also somewhat 
claustrophobic and have always slept 
with a window open. Well, 1 couldn't do 
that and save energy, too, so to compen- 
sate, the vent for the fresh air from the air 
exchanger is behind the head of the bed. 
Feeling that slight current of air helps put 
my anxieties to rest." 

A ceiling fan in the master bedroom 
circulates the warmth pouring in from the 
sunspace. High above the bed, a window 
brings in light. "Up to that shelf mounted 
just below the window, the wall is shel- 
tered by the ground," Mike said. "South 
Wall Builders designed the shelf to 
obscure the seam where concrete meets 
wood. It has really come in handy for 
displaying some of our treasures." 

Sea-green carpeting and green pat- 
terned wallpaper in the bedroom and 
dressing area continue the cheerful colors 

of the sunspace plants. In the master 
bath, a whirlpool bath waits to soothe 
sore muscles. 

Mike pointed out the three small win- 
dows on the north side of the home in the 
two bathrooms and the laundry. "We had 
to persuade Jay and Steve (Steve Loken, 
partner in South Wall Builders) to put 
them in. They were both reluctant to 
poke any holes through the north walls. 
Every time we drive a picture hook into 
an external wall, we can just see Steve 
cringe. But, I cut the nails short so they 
don't penetrate the vapor barrier." 

The laundry room doubles as a mud 
room and leads to a small deck. "This 
deck is nice in the summer since it's 
shielded from the hot afternoon sun," 
MabeUe said. 

Window Wells Bring in 

Window weUs cut into the sunspace 
floor and Trombe wall serve as safety 
exits and bring daylight into Mike's office 
and a spare bedroom downstairs. Remov- 
able grills in the sunspace floor prevent 
people from stepping into the window 
wells. "The window wells were Jay's 
idea, too. It's encouraging to be able to see 
the sun when I'm down here writing," 
Mike said. After a career with the U.S. 
Forest Service, Mike has just spent the 
past year preparing a book on agricultural 

Beneath the Surface 

Many of the energy-efficient features in 
the house are not readily visible. Four- 
inch-thick extruded polystyrene was 
installed on the exterior of the concrete 
walls from the top to 4 feet below ground, 
with 2 inches of the same material down 
to the footings and under the slab. Insu- 
lating the foundation on the exterior left 


the interior concrete free to soak up heat. 
The concrete walls, the slab, and the 
interior of the house beneath the drywall 
are wrapped with a 6mil TuTuff air- 
vapor barrier that has been caulked at 
every seam and penetration. Beneath the 
cedar siding, 1-inch urethane sheathing 
forms an air barrier. 

Blown-in-cellulose insulates the cavities 
of the framed 2x6 walls. Just after the 
contractor blew in the insulation, a cold 
snap (-20 degrees! descended on the area. 
It took the cellulose a month to dry. The 
architect said in future construction he'd 
prefer to use blown-in-batts of fiberglass, 
which dries faster than cellulose. The 
ceiling has two layers of fiberglass batts 
(10 inches and 6 inches thick). 

Earth Tube-Coupled 

A Memphremagog Echo Changer heat 
recovery ventilator runs continuously at 
the low speed of 120 cubic feet per 
minute. This rate can be increased to 180 
cubic feet per minute by manually turn- 
ing on the kitchen or bathroom fans 
which are part of the system. "On the 
slow speed, we get a complete air 
exchange about every 2 1/2 hours," Mike 
said. "We've never had any trouble with 
condensation. In fact this home is 
moisture-poor, and I've been working on 
a way to introduce more moisture." 

An earth tube tempers air coming into 
the air exchanger. Outside air enters the 
tube at the northeast comer of the home 
and travels down 1 8 feet to a bend in the 
tube. The air then travels horizontally 
through 40 feet of buried tube to the 
"mechanical " room where it enters the 
air exchanger. The ground temperature 
boosts the outside winter air to 40 de- 
grees. After passing through the air 
exchanger, the air enters the rooms at 60 

degrees. Mike said the 20-degree increase 
in air temperature is gained through heat 
exchange between the air being exhaust- 
ed from the house and the incoming air. 
The temperature of the air being removed 
from the house is reduced from 75 
degrees to 55 degrees. 

Tracking the Heating Costs 

A Kent tile wood stove near the great 
room entry, two 6-foot electric baseboard 
heaters, and an electric fan-assisted heat- 
er in the toe space beneath the kitchen 
island aid the sun in heating the great 
room and kitchen. Small zoned baseboard 
heaters assist in the bedroom and baths. 
Mike knows exactly how much heat they 
use. A separate meter tracks the electrici- 
ty for heating, and he weighs the wood 
used. "1 know the Btu of each species and 
know what the moisture content is. I 
convert the Btus to kilowatt-hours. My 
records for the past three years show that 
wood (1.1 cord a year) accounts for 40 
percent of the total kilowatts used, but 
only 14 percent of the total annual cost of 
$484. Excluding the garage and shop, 

The great room wall provides ample space 
for a large quilt made by Mabelle 's grand- 
mother and a number of watercolor paint- 
ings. Honey-colored carpeting harmonizes 
with the muted hues of the paintings and 
the soft patina of antique chairs and tables. 
A step down from the dining area is a 
cheery sunspace. 


On clear winter days, sunlight fills the 
Hardy's south-facing sunspace. Double 
glazing and Window Quilts trap the heat 
soaked up by the concrete. 

Track lighting in the great room provides 
illumination with minimal penetrations 
through the ceiling air-vapor barrier. 

which are rarely heated, we average 8.11 
kilowatt-hours per square foot. But 
high ceilings in the main hving areas add 
a lot of space to our rooms so 1 figured the 
usage based on the volume of the house; 
it comes out to 0,78 kilowatt-hours per 
cubic foot. I believe anything less than 
2.00 kilowatt-hours per cubic foot is 
considered good." 

The Hardys are currently in the process 
of making some small improvements in 
their house. Adding a skylight in the 
kitchen will admit extra natural light to 
make food preparation, sewing, and read- 
ing more pleasant on dull days. Replacing 
a conventional window in the great room 
with a bay window will make it easier to 
see the elk which often roam the hills to 
the north. 

Calculating Building Costs 

Mike said about 15 percent of the $51 
per square foot construction cost can be 
attributed to installing the extra insulation 
and passive solar beyond what normally 
would be included in a conventional 
house with 2x4 walls. "It may never be 
cost effective, although power rates have 
increased about twenty percent since we 
moved in," Mike said. "We used 100 
cubic yards of concrete in the house, a lot 
cif which was for the thermal mass in the 
sunspace. But we would have had a 
sunspace in any plan, and we wouldn't 
have built a home without 2x6 walls. At 
any rate, we are snug, pleased, and 

"This home is truly part of us," 
Mabelle said. "We love watching the sun- 
rises and sunsets and the changing colors 
in the clouds as they move over the 
Bitterroot Range into the valley. And we 
enjoy the quiet. Although the wind blows 
hard up here most of the time, we simply 
don't hear it. We have to look outside to 
know that we're having a blizzard." D 


Quality Tells the Tale 

Experience shows that state-of-the 
art design and painstaking con- 
struction are two of the keys to 
new houses with low energy consump- 
tion. Both these strategies were employed 
in the 3,000 square foot house built for 
Charles and Boimee Mekeal, with the 
result that it costs less than $250 per year 
to heat the li\Tng space and water in this 
sizable and attractive structure. Natural 
gas bills in the winter average about $ 1 
per day for both heat and water. 

The Mekeal house, located on a hillside 
subdivision lot in the Grant Creek drain- 
age north of Missoula, is superinsulated, 
with thick exterior walls incorporating 
double 2x4 stud wall construction (see 
Glossary). The outer stud wall in the 
exterior wall is built of 2 x 4s on 16-inch 
centers, and the inner stud wall is built on 
24-inch centers, with a 4-inch space 
between the walls. Both the irmer and 
outer stud wall components of the exteri- 
or wall are insulated with Rl 1 fiberglass 
batts, and a layer of Rll batts was placed 
horizontally in the space between them. 
R4 polyisocyanurate sheathing was 
appUed to outside walls under the siding. 
Total insulating value of the fiberglass 
batts and polyisocyanurate sheathing 
is R37. 

Tremco an Essential 

The air-vapor barrier is sealed with 
Tremco acoustical sealant wherever it 
overlaps or where plumbing, vriring, or 
other equipment penetrates it. Tremco 
does not dry out, crack, or lose its 

The Mekeal house demonstrates that superinsulated houses need not be boxes with tiny 

Solar warmth and natural light help make the Mekeals' living room invitmg. 


Charles and Bonnee Mekeal 


North of Missoula 


James Hoffman 
315 South Fourth East 
Missoula, MT 59801 


Strate Builders 
330 South California 
Missoula, MT 59801 


2 Story with Daylight Basement 


Ceiling • R60 
Double Walls • R37 
Basement Walls - R19 
Under Slab - R7.5 

Square Feet 

Upper - 593 
Main - 1,284 
Basement - 1.284 

Special Features 

Low-E Glass 


High-efficiency Gas Furnace 


December 1985 




adhesive abilities with age, and so is 
highly effective in sealing leaks and 
preserving the air-vapor barrier over the 
long term. 

The ceiling air-vapor barrier is 6-mil 
polyethylene, also sealed writh Tremco. 
The ceiling insulation is blown-in fiber- 
glass with an R-value of 60. The basement 
is finished with a 2 x 4 stud wall on 
24-inch centers, set out 2 inches from the 
concrete wall and insulated with 6-inch 
R19 fiberglass batts. The basement stud 
wall has a 4-mil polyethylene air-vapor 
barrier and 5/8-inch drywall. An inch and 
a half of extruded polystyrene foam board 
insulation (R7.5) was placed under the 
4-inch basement floor slab. 

Cool House Preferred 

The Mekeals like a relatively cool 
house, and keep the living space at about 
62 degrees. Heat is provided with a 
Coleman 43,000 Btu 94-percent-efficient 
gas-fired condensing furnace. This fur- 

nace is vented through an outside wall. 

Large windows on the south side take 
advantage of any sun that is available, but 
nearby hills limit the amount of sunlight 
available in the winter months. All win- 
dows are Clawson double-pane with low- 
E glass. Exterior doors are foam-core steel 
with an R-value of 13. 

Indoor air quality is controlled with an 
E-Z Vent heat recovery ventilator. 
Charles said the ventilator is set to run 
automatically in the afternoon. The 
Mekeals also operate the exchanger in 
manual mode to clear out the humidity 
when they take showers. 

The Small Cost of 

The total construction cost of the 
Mekeal house was $97,000. Dave Strate 
of Strate Builders said it cost about $4,000 
more to build the house to superinsula- 
tion standards than it would have cost to 
build it to present HUD standards. D 


Historic Retrofit Builds in Comfort and 
Energy Savings 

Missoula's university district 
offers big trees, wide 
streets, and handsome 
homes within walking distance of down- 
town, schools, and parks. Its residents are 
reluctant to move away. So when Lindsay 
Richards and her husband, Tom Roberts, 
were caught in a space crunch, they chose 
to expand their house and stay put. Part 
of the expansion was also an energy 

"It was a unique retrofit," commented 
John Lentz, a partner in Southwall 
Builders, which did the reworking. "The 
owners wanted to keep as much of the 
existing house as possible and wanted the 
new to match the old." Over a period of 
four months, John and his partner, Steve 
Loken, skillfully tightened and expanded 
the 55-year-old house. The result is a 
seamless blending of new and old. 

Tightening the First Floor 

Like many older houses, the house was 
short on insulation, but it did have some 
intrinsic advantages. John remarked that 
the long axis of the house faced south, 
which gave it modest solar gain, and that 
its taupe-brown stucco exterior absorbed 
and held warmth from the sun. John and 
Steve's job was to tighten the house so it 
retained the heat. From the interior side, 
the 2x4 walls were drilled and filled with 
blown-in-blanket insulation (BIBS|. "It 
was easier to drill lath and plaster than 
stucco, so we did the retrofit from the 
interior side," John explained. John and 
Steve left the period windows in place 
and installed exterior storm windows. 

Carefully matched and applied stucco blends the addition (right and second storyj with the 
original structure of this Missoula house. A new exterior acrylic-based material coats the 
stucco to help stop air infiltration. 

They also added interior plexiglass storm 
windows to the two windows on the 
north side. 

One of the additions is a new entry that 
brings visitors into a foyer instead of 
directly into the living room. The foyer's 
specially crafted molding and arched 
ceiling echo the distinctive molding and 
arches found in the original house. Newly 
sanded and varnished oak floors provide 
a pleasant continuity between the living 
room, dining room, and playroom. Plaster 
walls painted off-white complement the 
natural finish of the wide baseboard 

Adding the Second Story 

Space for the new second story was 
gained by tearing off the old roof and 
raising the sidewalls 6 feet. "We put up 
new rafters and built dormers," John 
said. "We insulated with BIBS in the 
ceiling and in the 2x6 walls, and used the 
airtight drywall technique for the air- 
vapor barrier." Natural daylight filters 
into the upstairs hallway through a deep 
skylight. Just below the skyhght, John 
pointed out the cold air return vent that 
keeps the air circulating and prevents 


Lindsay Richards and Tom Roberts 




James Hoffman 
315 South Fourth East 
Missoula, MT 59807 


Southwall Builders 
644 South Second West 
Missoula, MT 59807 




Ceiling - R50 
2x4 WaU - R15 
2x6 Walls - R29 
Basement WaU - R19 
Slab • R5 

Square Feet 

Upper - 896 
Main - L128 
Basement - L128 

Special Features 

Blend of Old and New 
Airtight Drywall 
Earth Tube 


Natural Gas 


November 1986 



Arched doorways and chenywood staircase connect the new family room and upstairs 
addition to the original portion of the house. Airtight drywall restricts the escape of wanned 
air to the outside. 

A small skylight brings natural light 
into the large bath serving the three 
upstairs bedrooms. The rich hues of the 
cherrywood vanities contrast pleasantly 
with the light almond-colored tile and 
tub. A walk-through dressing room con- 
veniently links master bedroom to bath. 

Quiet fans were installed in both 
bathrooms and the kitchen to exhaust 
moisture and odors. The fans are con- 
trolled by a dehumidistat or can be 
operated manually. Quality back-draft 
dampers prevent outside air from enter- 
ing the house through the fan ductwork. 

New Family Room-Kitchen 

An airy 18 x 36-foot addition houses a 
spacious family room and kitchen. The 
new walls and celling are filled with 
BIBS, and the vaulted part of the ceiling is 
sheathed with 1 inch of polyisocyanurate. 
Several pairs of double-glazed windows 
admit natural light. 

A peninsula with Jenn-Air set-in range 
diNides the family room from the kitchen. 
Its expansive surface offers plenty of 
room for informal meals or food prepara- 
tion. The rich grain of cherrywood with 
inlaid walnut is continued in the 
strikingly handsome kitchen cabinets and 
in the balusters and handrail of the stairs 
leading upstairs from the family room. 

Basement Retrofit 

Basement walls are insulated with a 2 x 
4 stud wall and finished with airtight 
drywall. "We also placed fiberglass 
between the floor joists next to the rim 
joists. We put 1-inch Thermax over the 
fiberglass, glued the ends to the floor 
joists, then sealed all edges with caulk," 
John said. An earth tube brings fresh air 
into the basement. This air warms and 
slowly filters to the rest of the house. The 
earth tube extends straight down approxi- 
mately 5 feet from ground surface to the 

foundation, passes under the foundation 
and comes up through the basement slab. 

The existing gas furnace was fairly 
new, so it was not replaced. A thorough 
tune-up boosted its efficiency to approxi- 
mately 75 percent. 

The retrofit gained more than space for 
Lindsay and Tom and their two young 
children. "Although we more than 
doubled our primary Uving space, we've 
had only a slight increase in our heating 
bill," Lindsay said. "It's much more 
comfortable now, especially during the 
colder months of the year. The house 
keeps a uniform temperature throughout, 
without any of the cold spots or drafts 
that we had before." By remodehng 
instead of moving, Lindsay and Tom 
were able to continue Uving close to their 
offices and their children could remain in 
the same school. D 

When cutting the opening (far archway) to give access to the new kitchen, the builders 
meticulously copied the existing archway between living room and dining room. To match 
the older windows, triple panes decorate the top panel of new double-glazed windows in the 
kitchen and family room. 


Reluctant Yankees Spurn Superinsulation 


Harley and Jean Hankins 




Owners and Builder 


D & D Construction Company 
P.O. Box 101 
Sutherland Sub P.O. 
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 
Canada S7N 2HO 


1 Story with Basement 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Walls - R40 
Basement Walls - RU 

Square Feet 

Main • 1,028 
Basement • 1,028 

Special Features 

Pre-built Construction 


Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard 



The winter weather in Opheim, 
Montana, is like the winter 
weather in the rest of 
Montana, except more so. Opheim is 
located north of Glasgow and about 10 
miles south of the Canadian border. It is 
on the main track of the rambunctious 
winter storms that roar down from the 
north. Opheim residents Harley and Jean 
Hankins were thinking about these 
storms when they decided to buy a new 
house. They knew about superinsulation 
and other methods of reducing energy 
costs, but nearby builders were not inter- 
ested in building such a house, Harley 
said. Builders told the Hankins that 
insulation above R21 in the walls was not 
cost effective. "The Yankee builders I 
talked to were barely polite in turning 
down my proposal to build this house," 
Harley said. 

Disgusted with this attitude, the 
Hankins decided to look north of the 
border for a more agreeable point of 
view. Their research told them that there 
were Canadian pre-built homes manufac- 
tured the way the Hankins wanted them. 
Looking into this further, they found a 
Canadian firm, D&D Construction of 
Saskatoon, which had a house model that 
the Hankins thought would fill the bill in 
Opheim. They found out about the Cana- 
dian firm through an article in Mother 
Earth News, Number 75. 

Canadians Provide Portable 

The Canadian house the Hankins foimd 
has a double outer wall built with two 2 x 

^^m' ' "^ ^'i^^ 

Superinsulation and energy-efficient building practices make the Hankins house largely 
immune to winter. Note the tree which helps shade the south windows in summer, but 
admits sun in winter. 

4 stud walls separated by a 4-inch space. 
The studs in these walls are 16 inches on 
center. The spaces between studs were 
insulated with vertical fiberglass batts, 
and the space between the walls was 
filled with similar batts running horizon- 
tally. Three layers of Rll batts brought 
the wall insulation up to R33. Fiberglass 
insulation was blown into the attic to a 
value of R60. A continuous 6-mil polye- 
thylene air-vapor barrier was installed on 
the back of the irmer stud wall. All 
windows are triple pane, and doors are 
insulated steel. 

The house is equipped with electric 
baseboard heaters and a VanEE heat 
recovery ventilator. Cost of the basic 
two-bedroom house was $37.30 Canadian 
($26.86 U.S.) per square foot. The choice 

of several more expensive options drove 
this up to $39.50 ($28.47 U.S.) per square 
foot. Total cost of the 1,028 square foot 
house was $40,650 ($29,268). The charge 
to haul it the 240 miles from Saskatoon 
and install it on the Hankins' foundation 
came to another $1,000 U.S., and U.S. 
Customs required $2,321 to allow it 
across the border. This brought the total 
cost of the house in U.S. dollars to about 
$32,500, or $31.68 per square foot. 

House Delivered in One 

The house was delivered in one piece, 
complete with all fixtures including lights 
and carpeting, ready to be occupied. The 
delivery crew placed the house on 
Hankins' basement with no problem. 


Soffits on the Hankms house have 
continuous vents. 

That was in 1983. and the Hankins have 
been living in the house ever since. 
Was it worth all the trouble? The 
Hankins say yes. They knew what they 
wanted, and now they have it. "I 
wouldn't change a damned thing, " 
Harley said. "Except I guess I'd use 
quadruple-pane glass instead of the triple 
panes " Even with electric heat, which 
tends to be more expensive than most 
other heating systems, heating bills run 
less than $200 per year. Harley said that 
even though electricity is more costly per 
Btu, the use of electric heat eliminates 
penetrations to the outside, which saves 
heat, and may make up the difference. "I 
don't lose em [Btu] up a chimney, " he 

Tips for House Importers 

Harley has some tips for anyone wish- 
ing to import a pre-built house from 
Canada. For one thing, anyone bringing a 
house across the border should hire a 
broker ahead of time to take care of the 
import formalities. Harley said the broker 
he hired was from Plentywood, cost $20, 
and saved him no end of headaches. The 
Customs agents can tell you who the 
brokers are. 

Once the house is across the border, 
Montana laws pertaining to oversize loads 
come into play. Permits for wide loads are 
issued by the Collections and Licensing 
Bureau in the Montana Department of 
Highways. Harley said the state author- 
ities at first told him there was no way he 
could be allowed to haul his 26-foot-wide 
house on the highway, but, being a 
retired Master Sergeant, he "argued a 
bit," and a way was found. Anyone 
considering moving a house should check 
state regulations early in the game. 

Canadian Builders Strongly 

Harley strongly recommended D&D 
Construction for anyone in his vicinity 
wanting a pre-built, energy -efficient 
house. He said the Canadians were 
knowlegeable and went to great lengths 
to be accommodating, calling several 
times to update him on construction 
progress, and even taking Harley and 
Jean to dinner in a nice restaurant. D 

The Hankins' living room is uniformly warm and draft free in any weather. 


That "Made in Montana" Feeling 


Ron Trosper 


West of Ronan 


Owner and Jay Kirby, Architect 
2011 South Fourth West 
Missoula, MT 59801 


Peter Rohfleisch 

St. Ignatius, MT 59865 


Single Level, Underground 


Roof • R28 

Rear Wall • R14 

Front and Side Walls • R19 

Under Slab • RIO 

Square Feet 


Special Features 

Earth Sheltering 

Trombe Wall 

Post and Beam Construction 

Outside Combustion Air 


Passive Solar, Wood, Electric 


August 1984 

When Ron Trosper looked at 
Jay Kirby's unique poly- 
gonal house in Arlee (see 
write-up on Kirby's house under ' 'Arlee' ' 
in this book), he saw much that he 
wanted to incorporate in the new house 
he was planning to have built for himself 
near Ronan. Logically, he hired Kirby to 
draw the plans. Among the features that 
Trosper wanted were the heavy log 
ceiling beams, earth-sheltered design, 
extensive stonework, Trombe wall, and 
post-and-beam construction. 

In its sparsely populated rural location, 
this individualistic dwelling makes good 
use of all the elements borrowed from the 
Kirby house, and adds a few more. 
Backed into the south-facing edge of a 
ravine with a sweeping view of the 
Mission Mountains to the southeast, the 
Trosper house has a ' 'made in Montana' ' 

Convex and Underground 

A wedge-shaped section in the 
middle of the house gives the structure a 
convex shape. This design reduces the 
length of the rear wall, which is costly to 
build because of the strength needed to 
retain the earth behind it, but still leaves 
plenty of front wall for windows. The 
wedge-shaped section is occupied by a 
Uving room/dining room with floor-to- 
ceiling windows across its entire front. 
Just inside the mid-portion of this win- 
dow expanse is a ceiUng-height stone wall 
that acts as a solar collector and also 
contains a wood-burning fireplace. Solar 
heat is captured both by the massive 

The Trijspcr house has that "Made m Montana" look. Nule intake pipe fur uul^iide 
combustion air. 

stone masonry in the Trombe wall (see 
Glossary) and by the dark reddish brown 
tile on the hving room floor. Heat stored 
in the masonry radiates back into the 
room when temperatures drop. 

Rectangular spaces flank the wedge- 
shaped section on the east and west. The 
rectangular section on the east contains 
the kitchen, root cellar, utility and storage 
areas. The single bedroom and bath 
occupy the west rectangle. Total floor 
space is 1,140 square feet. 

Roof with Grass 

The log roof beams in the Trosper 
house are 16 inches in diameter at the 

small end. These larch beams are prom- 
inently visible from inside and provide a 
feeling of massive strength as they rise 
with the slope of the ceihng from 9 feet in 
the front to 10 feet 6 inches at the rear of 
the Uving room. The strength of these 
beams is needed to hold up the 4x6 inch 
roof decking, the 2 inches of gravel and 
12 inches of dirt that make up the roof. 
Crested wheat grass on the roof requires 
Uttle watering. 

Insulation, and a Cozy Fire 

Four inches of polyurethane foam 
board Insulation was applied over the 
4x6 roof decking. A continuous layer of 


Massive roof beams and fine stone masonry 
characterize the inside of the Trosper house. 

polyurethane was sprayed as water- 
proofing over the polyurethane foam 
boards. The outside of the rear wall is 
insulated with 2 inches of the same type 
polyurethane foam boards apphed to the 
roof. A Tu-Tuf moisture barrier was 
installed over this insulation. Under the 
floor slab, 2 inches of extruded poly- 
styrene foam board and a polyethylene 
moisture barrier exclude moisture and 
prevent heat loss. The front and side 
walls are single-thickness 2x5 stud walls 
insulated with R19 fiberglass batts. These 
walls include a 6-mil polyethylene air- 
vapor barrier under the drywall. All 
glazing is double pane. 

The main weather-protection strategy 
for the house is the earth-sheltered 
design. The house is sunk to a level below 
the top of the hill behind it, so the north 
wind sweeps over without resistance. 

The wood-burning fireplace provides 
heat on winter evenings. The efficiency of 
the fireplace was improved by piping 
combustion air from outside, so warm 
room air is not sucked up the chimney. 

Visiting salesmen have tmuhie finding the Trosper house, which shows only its chimney 
and vent pipes from the back side (at right of photo). 

Two 225 cubic feet-per-minute fans puU 
air into vents in the fireplace masonry 
near the ceihng, draw it down through an 
air passage surrounding the flue and the 
hot metal firebox, and then discharge it 
through vents into the living space. 
Electric baseboard heaters maintain tem- 
peratures during the day. 

An 80-degree Man 

Although the house is occupied only 
part of each day, the heat bills may be 
higher than they normally would be 
because Ron Ukes to keep the tempera- 
ture above what most people would 
prefer. "I'm an 80-degree man," he said. 
During exceptionally cold winter 
weather, Ron's monthly electric bills run 
as high as $60, compared to about $20 in 
summer and $30 in spring and fall. These 
bills include all electrical use in the 

Ron has used 2 cords or less of firewood 
during each of the four years he has lived 

in the house. A paddle fan on the ceiling 
near the fireplace helps circulate warm 
air in the house. Ron said the large 
south-facing windows and Trombe wall 
help heat the house in fall and spring, but 
the cloudy Mission valley winters largely 
prevent solar heating during December, 
January, and February. 

Rugged Individualism Can 

Cost appears to be one drawback of 
rugged-individual type houses such as 
Ron's. The 1,140 square feet of floor 
space in Ron's house cost $60,000, or 
about $53 per square foot. Nevertheless, 
Ron is happy with his house, and has not 
had any structural problems. The struc- 
ture is adequate to support the heavy 
roof, and the problems most common 
with underground houses, roof and wall 
leaks, have never occurred. Q 


Tropical Montana Discovered 


Hazel and Martin Wersland 


South of Sidney 


Owners and Builder 


Ken Wersland 
Wersland Construction 
1205 14th Street S.W. 
Sidney MT 59270 


1 Level 


Ceiling ■ R95 
Double Walls ■ R40 
Floor -Rig 

Square Feet 


Special Features 

Triple-pane Windows 
Root Cellar 
Earth Berm 


Passive Solar, Electric Baseboard 


September 1982 

Bitter winter weather is no 
stranger to the exposed 
slope just south of Sidney 
where Hazel and Martin Wersland 
live. Despite the needle-like fangs of 
the cold season, the Werslands have a 
sort of "tropical Montana" inside their 
house, even in the worst weather. 

The key to comfort in the Wersland 
house is insulation, and lots of it. The 
exterior walls are more than a foot thick, 
built with two 2x4 stud walls separated 
by a 6-inch space. The cavities in the 
stud walls are insulated with 3 1/2-inch 
fiberglass batts, with a layer of 6-inch 
batts installed in the space between the 
stud walls. The house is built over a 
crawl space, with 6-inch, foil-backed 
fiberglass batt insulation between the 
joists under the floor. The ceiling is 
insulated with 30 inches of blown-in 
fiberglass with an R-value of about 95. 
(DNRC building specialists suggest that 
the Werslands' ceiling probably has 
more insulation than it needs. At some 
point extra insulation stops being cost 
effective. R60 in the ceiling of a superin- 
sulated house normally is considered 

R-value of insulation in the outside 
walls is about 41. All windows are 
triple-glazed. A continuous poly- 
ethylene air-vapor barrier on the back of 
the inner stud wall and in the ceiling 
prevents movement of moisture. 

Berm Turns Weather 

The house is sheltered on the north 
side by an earth berm that deflects north 

From the front, the Wersland house looks conventional. 

An earth berm protects the north side of the Wersland house. 


winds up and over the house. The living 
space is isolated from the berm by a 
2-foot-wide passageway between the 
concrete retaining wall and the superin- 
sulated rear wall. The house roof 
extends over this passageway, which 
runs the full length of the house. A door 
opens to the outside from each end of 
the passage. An 8 x 12 foot root cellar in 
the earth berm is reached from inside 
the house. 

Ventilator Provides Good 

A VanEE 200 heat recovery ventilator 
provides easy control of indoor air quality 
in the house. The Werslands said the 
ventilator ran much more the first year 
they were in the house than it has since, 
because the building materials were in 
the process of drying out, which in- 
creased the humidity. The installed cost 

of the ventilator, including ducting, was 
about $1,200. The Werslands keep their 
humidistat set on 60 percent. If tobacco 
smoke or odors become a problem, the 
Werslands can freshen their air by man- 
ually turning on the ventilator fan. 

Big Windows Welcome Sun 

Large, south-facing windows let the 
winter sun in to provide solar heating, 
and also give the occupants a sweeping 
view up the Yellowstone valley to the 
southwest. The only heat the house needs 
to supplement the sun is provided by 
electric baseboard heaters that the 
Werslands bought for $83. 

Jack Frost Gets Turned 

Martin said that in the nearly six years 
they have lived in the house, the outdoor 

Sources of heat for the Wersland house: the sun, entering window at right, and $83 
worth of electric baseboard heaters, one of which is at the far end of the room. 

chill factor has dropped close to 50 below 
zero without creating any discomfort 
inside the house. On one occasion, the 
power went off for six hours when the 
outside temperature was 18 below, and 
the inside temperature of the house only 
dropped 4 degrees. The Werslands were 
gratified when their first-year heat bill 
was only $ 156, and they remain pleased 
that their bills have stayed in that range. 

An Extra $2.50 Per Square 

The floor plan of the Wersland house is 
a standard, single-level design with 
approximately 1,480 square feet of floor 
space. Construction cost for a profess- 
ional contractor to build a similar house 
would be about $62,000, or $42 per 
square foot, according to the builder. Ken 

Wersland, who operates Wersland Con- 
struction of Sidney and is the son of Hazel 
and Martin Wersland. Ken said the use of 
superinsulation construction methods 
adds approximately $2.50 per square foot 
to the cost of a house such as this one. 

After nearly six years in their house, the 
Werslands have no fault to find with it. 
They can watch the blizzards roll by with 
never a draft nor a sound in the house. 
"We like it and our neighbors like it," 
Martin said. D 


Berming Fends Off Wind, Preserves View 


Richard and Irene Bottomly 


Sun River 


Stephen L'Heureux, Architect 
Bibler/L'Heureux Architects 
320 1/2 Central Avenue, No. 17 
Great Falls, MT 59401 


Gene Daniels 

4017 Fifth Avenue South 

Great Falls, MT 59401 



1 Story 


Ceiling - R40 
2x4 Wall - R25 
Crawl Space Wall - RIO 

Square Feet 

Main - 3,500 

Special Features 

Earth Sheltered 

Clerestory Windows 


Outside Combustion Air 


Natural Gas, Wood 


December 1985 

Home builders along the Rocky 
Mountain Front face a major 
challenge in dealing with the 
rambimctious winds that roll down from 
the mountains. The blowing snow and 
bitter temperatures of winter and boiling 
dust of summer made Dick and Irene 
Bottomly consider building an under- 
ground house. Ultimately, however, they 
decided the costs of going underground 
were too great for the benefits. Their new 
house, just west of Sun River, meets the 
wind halfway, built as it is with earth 
berms up to the windowsills. 

Out of the Wind 

On the south side of the house, brick 
pillars distinguish a handsome portico 
which invites visitors out of harsh 
westerly winds and prevents snow and 
dust from blowing into the house with 
each opening of the door. "I was out here 
when we were plarming the house, ' ' Dick 
said. "It was blowing like hell— dust 
everywhere. 1 decided right then to have 
a sheltered entryway." 

Soil is banked 4 feet up the walls on 
each side of the entryway and around 
the ends of the house. The berming 
deflects the wind's force, directing it 
around and over the house, and the 
soil's tempering qualities buffer the 
house from cold and heat. 

For structural stability, the lower 4 feet 
of the bermed walls are concrete. The 
concrete was waterproofed and drains 
were placed near the footings before the 
area next to the foundation was backfilled 
with soil. Inside the crawl space, the 

A handiume entry with earth berming un each side shelters visitors Ironi blowing snow 
or dust at Irene and Dick Bottomly's house. Clerestory windows and sunspace capture 
heat and light. 

Berming on the west of the house deflects the winds rolling off the Rocky Mountain 
Front and buffers the house from cold and heat. 


concrete walls are insulated with 2-inch 
extruded polystyrene down to the foot- 
ings. A 6-mil polyethylene moisture bar- 
rier covers the ground in the crawl space. 

The walls rising from the concrete are 
framed with 2x4 studs. The stud cavities 
are filled with foamedin-place urethane 
insulation, which also serves as an air- 
vapor barrier. The ceiling is insulated 
with a 13-inch layer of fiberglass, and 
has a 6-mil polyethylene air-vapor 
barrier. Continuous soffit vents and a 
continuous ridge vent provide ventila- 
tion for the attic. Brick veneer, cedar 
trim, and vinyl-clad windows make the 
exterior easy to maintain. 

Insulated walls and overhead doors 
help keep the temperature in the attached 
garage above freezing. "We have a small 
heat vent in the garage which keeps it 
around 35 degrees even when its minus 
30 degrees outside," Dick said. 

Light and Airy Rooms 

Inside, plenty of windows open the 
spacious living area to panoramic views 
and ever-changing natural light. All win- 
dows are double-glazed Rockwell with 
low-E coating except the sloped windows 
in the sunspace. 

Adjacent to the foyer and kitchen, the 
sunspace offers a cozy retreat for morning 
coffee as the sun pours through its 
windows. On the sloped glazing of the 
sunspace, the windows, from P.P.G. In- 
dustries, are made with solar bronze 
tinted glass, the same type used in cars. 
"They cut down on the light and really 
work well to keep the sunspace from 
overheating," Dick said. Levolor shades 
on all windows turn away excessive 

The abundance of light extends to the 
galley kitchen, where cutouts high on the 
interior south wall admit light and 
warmth from the adjacent sunspace. 
Lustrous cherrywood cabinets line the 

dining room 


living room 

kitchen walls. A pantry can be reached 
from either the kitchen or hallway, 
making it handy for groceries coming in 
from the car. "The pantry is wonderful." 
Irene said. "Besides being cheaper, it's 
more efficient than cabinetry. Everything 
is open so I can see it and get to it." 

Down the hall in the spacious master 
bedroom, Irene pointed out the roomy 
walk-in closet with fluorescent lighting. 
The open shelves and clothing rods at 
different heights make it easy to get to 
clothing without the encumbrance of 
closet doors. Passing by the utility area 
adjacent to the bedrooms, Irene said, 
"the location is marvelous for saving me 
steps. Most of the laundry is generated 
back here." 

Insulated French doors open to patios at 
each end of the house. "Those doors are 

good and tight," Irene said. "We don't 
have the drafts we did with the sliding 
doors in our other house." 

Farm Life Considerations 

Although Dick has a law practice in 
Great Falls, he also spends time tending 
cattle and crops near his Sun River 
house. The arrangement of the house 
accommodates the bulky clothes and 
dirt that go along with farming opera- 
tions. An insulated door opens from the 
garage to a spacious hallway, which 
offers plenty of room for hanging work 
coveralls and wool jackets. A few steps 

a 3! 

utility -^ 

away from the back door, a bath and 
mudroom keep dirt and mud from being 
tracked through the house. 

Air Quality Influences Stove 

The living room's center of interest is 
the wood stove sitting on a raised hearth 
and flanked by richly grained oak 
shelves. The Bottomlys chose a wood 
stove over a fireplace because of concerns 
over indoor air quaUty. The airtight stove 
uses outside air for combustion, thus 
limiting any backdrafting problems in the 
tight house. Soapstone on the stove's 
sides and top adds mass for heat storage, 
with the warmed stone radiating heat 
several hours after the fire dies. Dick said 
the stove is big enough to completely heat 


A south-facing sunspace and clerestory 
windows harvest the warmth of winter sun. 

the house, but that they use gas heat as 
their main source. "I'm too lazy to go get 
our wood," he said with a laugh. 

Gas Forced Air Furnace 
Heats House 

The high-efficiency Amana gas furnace 
doubles as an on-demand hot water 
heater. For the coldest months last year, 
the gas bill averaged $55. Dick said that 
when they were building, they should 
have paid more attention to the operating 
principles of the furnace. "We designed a 
closet in the garage for it, then found the 

furnace had the heat discharge through its 
top. So we had to dig a 5-foot x 12-foot x 
8-foot hole beneath the sunroom and put 
concrete in the bottom to hold the 
furnace. For the time and effort, we 
could have put in a small basement." 
Combustion air for the furnace is piped 
from the outside into the furnace. 
Returns in the ceiling draw the hot air 
from the top of the room through ducts 
back into the furnace to be recirculated 
through the house, thus reducing the 
heat stratification found in many high- 
ceiling houses. 

Planning Pays Off 

The Bottomlys are pleased with their 
house's layout and energy efficiency. 
"When you plan a house, you think and 
think about it, but you don't know if it 
will work until you live in it," Irene said. 
"We designed it with an eye for having a 
view in every direction and for every 
room to be light and airy, and we've 
accomplished that. Dick designed it to 
save energy and we are very happy with 
our low gas bills." D 

White textured walls and a vaulted ceiling diffuse natural light evenly throughout the 
house. A pass-through window from kitchen to living room is convenient for serving and 
lets the cook visit with family or guests in the living room. 


Bermed and Bright 

At the end of a narrow road wind- 
ing back into the pine-timbered 
hills near Superior, a small 
house uses the earth to help fend off 
winter's chill. 

Juanita Cutler, the home's owner, said 
she had long been interested in bermed 
houses, but had a hard time finding one 
that suited her pocltetbook and require- 
ment for light. This one did. Constructed 
for approximately $25 per square foot, 
the house was easily affordable. And it is 
bright. Berming extends 2/3 up the north 
wall which allows room for a small 
window in each of the three bedrooms at 
the back of the house. "The windows 
eliminate the cave feeling I had when I 
was in other bermed houses, " Juanita 
said. "Here, I can see dayUght when I 
wake up in the morning." 

The berming extends about a third of 
the way around the sides of the house, 
leaving space for an entry on the west 
side and a stairway down to the fruit 
room on the east side. On the upper roof, 
grass grows in 8 inches of soil. "I have to 
mow and water my roof periodically,'" 
Juanita said. "Thats about the only up- 
keep I have " The lower front roof is 

Eclectic Blend of Energy 

John Torma, the builder and first oc- 
cupant of the house described the con- 
struction. The post-and-beam framing 
technique eliminated the need for interior 

Cedar siding and a sod roof, along with unobtrusive earth berming, clerestory windows 
tucked into a two-level roof, and big south-facing windows contribute to the comfort and 
rustic charm of Juanita Cutler's house. 

supporting walls, so bathroom and kit- 
chen walls stop 1 foot short of the ceiling. 
This foot-high space provides pathways 
for heat circulation. Heat circulation is 
also promoted by rectangular openings 
cut high on the wall between the bed- 
rooms and the living area. 

The large bank of double-glazed clere- 
story and picture windows on the south is 
framed into 2x6 walls insulated with 
fiberglass. Although northwestern Mon- 
tana doesn"t get a lot of winter sunshine, 
Juanita said the solar gain is still consider- 
able. "My floors and walls are never cold 
and I rarely shut my curtains. There just 

aren't any leaks from the windows. Of 
course, this is a sheltered site, with 
virtually no wind.'" An expansive over- 
hang on the home's south side keeps hot 
summer sunshine out of the house and 
protects the deck rtmning the length of 
the windows, a convenient perch for 
Juanita's Irish setter to keep an eye on the 

Thick expanded polystyrene foam 
board insulation on the exterior of the 
concrete walls prevents loss of heat 
soaked up from the days sunlight or from 
the circulating wood heater. At night, the 
walls radiate warmth back into the house. 

Juajiita Cutler 



Designer and Builder 

John Torma 

413 North Avenue East 

Missoula, MX 59801 



1 Story 


Ceiling ■ R24 

2x6 WaU • R19 

Crawl Space Walls • R20 

Square Feet 

1 000 

Special Features 

Earth Sheltered 
Sod Roof 
Post and Beam 
Composting Toilet 


Solar, Wood, Electric Baseboard 





I bedroor 

,» 1 

°''t-/) I bedroom < 

■ ■ ■ • 

living room [Joj dining room 

/ utility/icund 

T . 

Roof Detail 

17" cedar fascia v 

2x6 pine 

fiberglass insulation 

Vi" sheathing 

30 lb. felt 

roof cement topped with 
6-mil polyetnylene 

roof cement topped with 
6-mil polyethylene 

A multi-layered roof (see diagram| 
keeps moisture and cold from descending 
into the house. The chimney is 6-inch 
Metal-bestos with aluminum roofjack for 
flashing. The vent for the CUvus Multrum 
toilet is 12-inch Metal-bestos with fiber- 
glass roofjack for flashing. The vents are 
sealed with multiple layers of roofing 
cement and 6-mil black plastic. John said 
one small leak around the toilet vent 
caused some water spots on the bathroom 
ceiling. The leak has been repaired. 
"Over the years I lived in the house, I 
used between 3 and 5 cords of wood a 
year," John said. "The more snow, the 
less wood because of the snow's tremen- 
dous insulating qualities on the sod roof." 

The current owner echoed John's satis- 
faction. "I have no cold or drafty areas in 

the house," Juanita said. "During the day 
I let the fire in the wood heater burn 
down by 10 a.m. and don't start it again 
until 4 p.m. I shut it down at night when 1 
go to bed. So far, there has never been a 
drop of more than 10 degrees overnight." 
Two small electric baseboard heaters are 
used only in the winter when she is going 
to be away for more than a couple of 

Clivus for Composting 

Downstairs, Juanita opened the door to 
the room containing a large holding tank 
for the waterless Clivus Multrum toilet. 
John and Juanita said the toilet, which 
turns wastes into compost, is one of the 
best conservation features of the house. 
"It really works," Juanita emphasized. 
There's never a problem with odors, and 
it's free of harmful bacteria. I pump out 
the hquids periodically and shovel the 
resulting compost out once a year and 
spread it around my ornamental shrubs." 

Juanita pointed out that the composting 
process must be kept active; that's why 
the garbage disposal, which contributes 
organic material, is an important com- 
ponent of the system. A whisper-quiet fan 
in the Clivus Multrum continually aerates 
the waste. The residue in the tank looks 
Uke the dried compost available at the 
local garden store. Used water from the 
washer, shower, and sinks runs out to a 
seepage pit where it soaks into the 

John is happy with the performance of 
the house. The only design problem was 
an attached greenhouse, which John said 
caused high humidity and drastic temper- 
ature fluctuations from day to night. He 
turned the greenhouse into a utility area 
by replacing the glazing with insulation 
and siding. Q 

Clerestory windows invite the winter sun to 
warm and brighten the house. 


The kitchen echoes the rustic theme, with 
handcrafted cabinets of pine and cedar, 
butcher-board countertops, and open 
shelves. The cabinet on the left contains the 
garbage disposal which empties into the tank 
serving the Clivus Multrum toilet. 


Living in an Envelope of Air 


Roger and Juanita Hearst 




Positive Technologies 

P.O Box 2356 

Olympic Valley, CA 95730 


LaVeme Schwartz 
5821 Kerr Drive 
Missoula, MT 59801 




Ceiling - R50 above sunspace 

R30 above bedrooms 
Single Walls - R19 
Double Wall - R39 
Basement Wall - R14 
Slab - R14 

Square Feet 

Upper • 766 
Main - 1,184 
Basement - 1,088 

Special Features 

Envelope Construction 


Passive Solar, Wood, Electric 


November 1981 

Lying in bed watching the moonlit 
clouds drift across the sky, or 
sitting at the dining table 
watching elk meander through their yard 
are just two of the pleasures Roger and 
Juanita Hearst enjoy in their house near 
Superior. "The large windows let us 
watch the wildlife from our living area, ' ' 
Roger said. "During himting season last 
year we had five cow elk in our yard. We 
see deer and coyote all the time." 

In the timbered hills west of Superior, 
Roger and Juanita's house is an adapta- 
tion of Bruce McCallum's envelope plan. 
(For construction details, see the related 
article on page 147.) "We wanted an 
energy-efficient house," Roger said, "so 
we talked to the Mineral County exten- 
sion agent about it. He put us in touch 
with Bruce." 

The Hearsts modified McCallum's floor 
plan to include a basement under the 
main living space and a crawl space 
beneath the simspace. They installed a 
Montana-made Arlee wood stove in the 
basement instead of a Russian furnace. 

Metal Roof 

To minimize maintenance and leaks, 
Roger installed a metal roof on the house. 
Its construction from the inside out is 
3/8-inch plywood, covered with 2 inches 
of rigid foam insulation. Tiiis is overlaid 
with 1/2-inch plywood, then a framework 
of 1 X 4s to maintain a 1-inch airspace 
under the metal roofing. The strips of 
ASC Pacific Zincalume roofing are 30 feet 
long and each extends without a break 
from top to bottom of the roof. 

The sunspace on the south side of Roger and Juanita Hearst's house is an important 
component in their heating system. 

Sunspace Harvests Heat 

Like McCallum's house, the south side 
of the Hearst house is given over to a 
two-story sunspace. The sunspace opens 
to the living room on the first floor and 
the master bedroom on the second floor. 

The second-story windows are set at a 
slight angle. 

"I like the slanted windows," Roger 
said. "I don't think we'd have the view 
with vertical windows. Those five win- 
dows were a chore to install, though; 


they re double glazed and weigh 300 
pounds apiece." Juanita remarked that 
rain and snow do a surprisingly good job 
of keeping the windows clean. "I wash 
them just once a year in the spring, " she 

The sunspace is also an integral part of 
the home's solar heating system, warm- 
ing air which rises to the attic plenum, 
and then moves down through the inner 
wall space on the north side of the house, 
into the basement, through the crawl 
space, and back up to the sunspace. 

Heat from the air entering the base- 
ment is absorbed by the 8-inch concrete 
walls. Two inches of extruded polysty- 
rene on the outside of the concrete 
prevent the heat from escaping. Roger 
placed his hand against the wall. "Once 
these walls are warm, it's easy to keep the 
house at a comfortable temperature. " 

Vents Allow Natural 

In the summer the home is cooled by a 
combination of vents on the north side 
and in the sunspace. Roger said that when 
it's 85 to 90 degrees outside, the inside 
can be cooled to the point that a long- 
sleeved shirt or sweater is called for. 

Wood and Electricity 
Augment Solar 

When the stove is in use, a fan above it 
circulates warm air in the basement. Fans 
at each end of the sunspace draw air from 
the basement through the crawlspace and 
into the sunspace. "This is the fifth 
heating season, " Roger said, "and we 
bum a maximum of three cords of wood a 

Besides heat from the sun and the wood 
stove, electric baseboard heaters kick in 
for about four hours a day, mostly when 





Besides collecting the sun's heal, the 
sunspace allows room for growing plants. 
A sliding door links the master bedroom on 
the second floor to a comer of the deck 
overlooking the sunspace. 


1^'^ ^ / office 1 
/ 1 






the Hearsts leave for periods of a few 
days during the winter. Roger said they 
use between 17,500 and 19,000 kilowatt- 
hours annually. At a rate of $0.0485 per 
kWh, that translates to between $848 and 
$92 1 a year. He attributes about a third of 
the cost to heating, the rest for pumping 
water from the well, cooking, lighting, 
and heating water. A water heater insulat- 
ing blanket minimizes heat loss from the 

The Hearsts are kept home most of the 
time by their business of operating a 
nursery of shade and fruit trees. They 
keep the house comfortable at 68 degrees. 
"When the sun shines, we don't even 
have to fire up the stove," Roger said. 

To reduce heat loss to the outside, 
Juanita made insulated curtains to keep 
warmth in on the coldest nights. Roger 
said that in January 1986 when it was -10 
degrees outside, it was 90 degrees in the 
sunspace. During the coldest night at -20 
degrees, the sunspace temperature only 
dropped to 47 degrees without auxiliary 
wood or electric heat. 

open to 
sunspace below 

House Pleases 

The Hearsts did most of the construc- 
tion themselves, and don't know how 
much it would cost to have a contractor 
build a similar house from scratch. Roger 
said the tax assessor appraised it at 

Is there anything the Hearsts would do 
differently? "Yes. I wouldn't put wall- 
paper over oil-based paint; it'll peel off," 
Juanita said, chuckling. ""As far as the 
construction of the house, no."" 

Rogers enthusiasm is contagious. "We 
enjoy this house, " he exclaimed, taking in 
the room with a wave of his arm. "It 
looks different as you drive up to it, but 
on the inside, it's just an ordinary house. 
An extremely comfortable one though." 


Superinsulation with a Difference 


David and Kay Nelson 






Roger Fangsrud 
706 Gary Drive 
Missoula, MT 59801 


1 Story with Basement 


Ceiling • R60 
Double Walls ■ R45 
Under Slab Perimeter - R15 
Under Remainder of Slab - R7.5 

Square Feet 

Main • 1 ,408 
Basement - 1,408 

Special Features 

RCDP Construction 
Blown-in-blanket Insulation 
Advanced Drywall Approach 


Passive Solar. Electric Baseboard 


September 1986 

People interested in energy- 
efficient housing generally 
agree that superinsulation 
is a good idea, but not everybody agrees 
on how to best apply this technology. The 
double stud wall with three layers of 
fiberglass batts is common enough to 
almost be considered standard super- 
insulation practice, but some builders 
prefer other methods. Roger Fangsrud of 
Missoula is one builder who does things a 
little differently. One example of his work 
is the house he built for David and Kay 
Nelson in the pines east of Missoula near 

Nothing Different on the 

The outward appearance of the Nelson 
house is not substantially different from 
many other single-level houses with 
daylight basement. Inside the walls, how- 
ever, things are not the same. The differ- 
ence is not with the double 2x4 stud wall 
construction style; this is the usual confi- 
guration with studs on 16-inch centers, 
offset so most of the studs in the two 
walls are not directly opposite each other. 
The main variation is the insulation in the 
outer stud wall, which is blown-in fiber- 
glass to which resin has been added. The 
resin makes the fiberglass sticky and 
keeps it from settling in the walls. Netting 
is used to hold the blown-in insulation 
inside the stud wall cavities. Insulation of 
this type (referred to as "blown-in blan- 
ket" or "BIBS") is denser than standard 
fiberglass batts and has a higher R-value, 

Kay and David Nelson 's supermsulated house sits among the pines near i urah, eai,i i >/ 

about R4 per inch, contrasted to a maxi- 
mum of approximately R3.6 per inch for 
standard fiberglass batts. 

A Thorough Insulation 

Standard fiberglass batts were placed 
horizontally to fill the 6-inch space 
between the two stud walls. Ordinary 3 
1/2-inch batts were installed in the inner 
stud wall. The above-grade portion of the 
basement wall is slightly different than 
the outer wall on the main floor. This 
portion of the basement wall also is a 
double stud wall, but the outer stud wall 
is 2 X 6s on 16-inch centers. The inner 

stud wall on the basement level is 2 x 4s 
on 16-inch centers, with a 3 1/2-inch 
space between the inner and outer walls. 

The cavities in the 2x6 portion of the 
wall are insulated with the blown-in 
fiberglass blanket. The inner wall and the 
cavity between the inner and outer walls 
are insulated with 3 1/2-inch fiberglass 
batts. Both the above-grade basement 
walls and the main floor walls are in- 
sulated to R-45. The inner 2x4 stud wall 
in the basement extends below grade to 
the footing. The concrete portion of the 
basement wall is insulated on the interior 
with 1-inch extruded polystyrene foam 
boards next to the concrete, and with 3 
1/2 inch fiberglass batts in the stud wall 


over the foam. Total R-value in this part 
of the basement wall is 16. The ceiling is 
insulated with 21 inches of blown-in 
fiberglass with an Rvalue of 60. 

The outer 2 feet of the basement floor 
slab is insulated with a 3-inch layer of 
extruded polystyrene foam board over 4 
inches of sand. Inward from this 3-inch 
insulation, the slab is insulated with 1 1/2 
inches of the foam board. A Tu-Tuff 
moisture barrier was placed between the 
foam and the 4-inch slab. 

Advanced Drywall 

One other variation from standard 
practice is the use of vapor-barrier paint 
as the air-vapor barrier, rather than the 
usual polyethylene sheet. This paint is 
used in conjunction with advanced dry- 
wall construction techniques (see 

Windows are Clawsen low-E double 
pane. Outside doors are Acorn metal 
doors with foam core, R-15. Except for 







Thick, heavily insulated walls and multi- 
pane south-facing windows are keys to 
energy efficiency. 

some solar gain through south-facing win- 
dows, the only source of heat for the 
Nelson house is electric baseboard heat- 
ers. "Id use gas if I could get it," David 
said, noting the lower price of gas heat. 
The Nelsons have lived in their house 
since September, 1986, and the highest 
monthly heat bill in their first year was 

The Owners' Own Design 

David said he designed the house him- 
self, with some inspiration from Buffalo 
Homes and Better Homes and Gardens 
Magazine, and got an architect to draw 
the plans. Cost to build the house was 
$57,000. Floor space is 1,408 on the main 
floor with an equal space in the finished 
basement. The Nelson house thus cost 
about $20 per square foot. Costs were 
driven up to some extent by the need for a 
heat recovery ventilator to maintain air 
quality in the house. The VanEE ven- 
tilator and duct work cost about $2,500 to 
purchase and install, David said. 

Bonuses, Expected and 

So far, the Nelsons say they are happy 
with their house, and can't think of 
anything they would do differently if they 
were building again. One bonus in the 
house has been its cleanliness, Kay said. 
In the house they lived in before, they 
used wood for heating, which made it 
hard to keep the house clean. In the new 
house, Kay said, "I only need to do a little 
dusting about every three months." 
'We're glad to be off wood," David said. 

Conventional Thinking 
Hinders Energy Efficiency 

The Nelsons said the main obstacle in 
building a superinsulated house was find- 



ing a builder who was interested in 
building a house that required any devi- 
ation from the old standard construction 
practices. Superinsulation, though 
gradually becoming more popular, is still 
far from routine. 

Except for Roger Fangsrud, David said, 
"We couldn't find anyone who was 
interested in building a custom, energy - 
efficient house." □ 


No Shortage of Plans 


Fred and Dana Beyer 




Owners and Builder 


Larry Berg 
Rural Route 1206 
102 Windsor Lane 
Great FaUs, MT 59401 


Split Level with Basement 


Ceiling - R52 
Walls - R24 
Foundation Walls - R16 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,550 
Basement - 1,425 

Special Features 



Electric Baseboard 


November 1986 

People considering building an 
energy-efficient house will 
discover no shiortage of arcii- 
itectural plans for such structures. Fred 
and Dana Beyer of Ulm looked at 400 
plans when they were deciding on the 
features they wanted in the new house 
they were planning to build. Rather than 
adopt any of these designs outright, they 
took the features they liked and com- 
bined them into a whole new plan of their 
own. The Beyers are a young family writh 
two children under 12, and they knew 
they wanted a spacious house that would 
be easy to keep warm. 

One Story, Full Basement 

The house the Beyers built is one story 
with a full daylight basement. The main 
floor has 1 ,550 square feet of floor space, 
with another 1,425 in the basement. The 
outside walls are single 2x6 stud walls 
with the studs on 16-inch centers, braced 
with diagonal metal wind braces rather 
than the standard plywood sheathing. 
Insulation in the walls is 6-inch, imfaced 
fiberglass batts, with 1-inch tongue-and- 
groove extruded polystyrene boards 
attached directly to the outside of the 
studs u di the 1-inch cedar-channel 
siding. A 4-mil Visqueen air-vapor barrier 
was installed under the half-inch drywall. 
R- Value of the insulation in the exterior 
walls is about R24. The concrete base- 
ment walls are insulated on the outside 
with an inch of extruded polystyrene, and 
on the inner side with 3 1/2 inches of 
faced fiberglass batts in a 2 x 4 stud wall 
next to the concrete. 

The Beyer house is handsome and economical to heat. Note solarium at right. 

The ceiling is insulated to about R-52 
with 20 inches of blown-in fiberglass over 
5/8-inch drywall. The Beyers did not 
install an air- vapor barrier in the ceiling. 
Fred said they wanted to keep their costs 
down by not instaUing a heat recovery 
ventilator, and he feared the lack of a 
ventilator would cause moisture 
problems if the ceiling had an air-vapor 
barrier. He said a heat recovery ventilator 
would have added as much as $2,000 to 
the cost of the house. (DNRC building 
specialists suggest that it is often unwise 
to eliminate the air-vapor barrier in the 
ceiling. The absence of the barrier can 
cause moisture problems that may not be 
readily seen, and the house still needs to 
be ventilated in one way or another. See 

the section on "Controlled Ventilation" in 
the Introduction.) 

Solarium Brightens, Warms 

One of the main features of the house is 
the 10 x 12 solarium. This solarium 
collects sunhght to help warm the house 
and provides a comfortable, well-lit addi- 
tion to the main floor. This solarium was 
at ground level in the original plan, but 
the Beyers decided to elevate it to the 
level of the main floor. The additional 
elevation gives a more commanding view 
of the surroundings, which include 
Square Butte to the west and the Missouri 
River and Big Belt Mountains to the east 
and south. 


Minding tiie Thermostats 

Solar energy collected by the solarium 
heats the whole main floor on sunny 
days, even when outside temperatures 
are low. Electric baseboard heaters sup- 
plement the solar gain. The Beyers keep 
their heat bills to a minimum by heating 
individual rooms only as needed. For 
example, Fred and Dana like their 
bedroom cool, so they never turn on the 
baseboard heaters there. "The master 
bedroom is heated with our electric blan- 
ket," Fred said. The kids' two bedrooms 
are heated only about eight hours a day. 
The living area is kept about 72 degrees 
during the day, and reduced to 68 degrees 
at night. All this caretaking with the 
thermostats pays off: the Beyers' monthly 
heating bills for the first four months of 
1987, for example, averaged approxi- 
mately $30. The highest bill in that period 
was $38, for January. 

Attention to Detail Saves 
Energy Too 

As part of their overall energy- 
conservation effort, the Beyers paid atten- 
tion to small details along with the major 
considerations. For example, they instal- 
led foam gaskets behind all outlets and 
light switches, to eliminate possible air 
leaks. All hot water pipes are insulated, 
and the water heater has an R7 blanket 
wrap. Most lighting is fluorescent. 

Long Side to the South 

The long axis of the house runs east and 
west. This presents a long side to the 
south which maximizes the opportunity 
for passive solar heating through win- 
dows. The house has sizable windows for 
solar collection on the south side, and 
only small v\rindows to minimize heat loss 
on the north side. All windows are Pozzi 
double pane, with low-E glass. South-side 


The solanum is a bright, warm place on the main floor of the Beyer house. 


windows have pleated, metallic-backed 
shades that can be drawn to keep out 
excessive sunlight. Outside entry doors 
are Stanley insulated metal. 

Energy Efficiency Boosts the 

Fred said the addition of extra insula- 
tion and other energy-efficient features 
probably increased the price of the house 
about 10 percent above what it would 
have been for a similar house built to 
outdated standards, such as single 2x4 
walls and single-pane windows. The 
Beyers did much of the work on the 

house themselves, which allowed them to 
keep the price to about $70,000. 

They Would Not do a Thing 

Dana said, "We are extremely happy 
with our house and wouldn't do a thing 
differently if we were building it over." 
Fred works for the Montana Power Com- 
pany where he does residential and 
commercial energy audits for MPC 
customers. "I recommend what energy- 
efficiency measures MPC customers 
should use, so when we built our house, 
we decided to practice what I preach," he 
said. D 


Sim-splashed Living 


Jerry and Shirley Hayes 




Owners and Builder 

Heating System Retrofit 

Frank Pawarski 
Pyro Tech 
P.O. Box 8236 
Missoula, MT 59807 


Roger King 

2060 M. Bear Creek Road 

Victor, MT 59875 



1 1/2 Story 


Ceiling - R44 

North and West Walls ■ R44 
South and East Walls ■ R22 
Crawl Space • R14 

Square Feet 

Loft - 600 
Main ■ 1,900 

Special Features 

Heating System 
Insulated Blinds 


Passive Solar, Wood, Electric 


1981; Heat Retrofit- 


After living in a bam without 
running water for a year 
while they built their house, 
Jerry and Shirley Hayes appreciate 
the amenities afforded by their energy- 
efficient home. "We live in every part of 
it," Shirley said. 

The focus of the home is the two-story 
living room. Its south-facing window wall 
welcomes in the sunlight. Insulated verti- 
cal shades cover the double-glazed win- 
dows to control the amount of light 
entering or to reduce heat loss at night. 
"The shades work tremendously well and 
hang beautifully within the sills and 
window casings," Shirley said. "The 
house stays warm in the winter and cool 
in the summer." 

Paddle fans in the living room, kitchen, 
and master bedroom circulate warm air 
from the high ceiling in the winter and 
waft cool breezes through the house in 
the summer. "If we had it to do over, we 
would install a second living room ceiling 
fan," Jerry said. 

A loft provides space for a library, 
sewing nook, and office. Beneath the loft, 
a stone fireplace forms part of the living 
room's back wall, its beauty outweighed 
only by its utility. 

"VJe were using the fireplace to preheat 
our hot water," Shirley said. "The tem- 
perature of the water often got high 
enough to trigger the pressure relief valve 
on the hot water tank, so in 1986 we 
decided to tap into the extra heat for the 
sunspace and the hot tub that sits in the 

On the southwest end of the Hayes house, a wall slopes from ground to roof harboring a 
sunny plant-filled space. The slanted windows and orientation of the house at 10 degrees 
east of south afford optimum solar heating of the sunspace and hot tub water. When clouds 
obscure the sun or night falls, the specially designed fireplace heating system takes over the 
heating job. 

Wood-fired Hot Water Heat 

Here's how it works. When a fire is 
burning, pumps continually circulate 
water from the hot water tank through 
steel box tubing at the top of the fireplace 
near the flue. The heated water travels 
from the fireplace through a heat ex- 
changer. As the heated water winds its 
way through the heat exchanger, it gives 
up some heat to a glycol-water solution 
circulating through polybutylene pipes. 
The pipes run through the floor of the 

simspace, and through a second heat 
exchanger located beneath the hot tub, 
delivering heat both to the sunspace floor 
and to the hot tub. The water travels from 
the heat exchanger to the hot water tank. 
A valve prevents the reverse flow of 
water from the hot water tank to the 
exchanger when no fire is burning. 

Foam Panels for Sunspace 

When the fireplace isn't being used, an 
electric spa heater keeps the hot tub 



Behind the hot tub ishown just below the small window j, a sliding glass door opens to admit 
heat to the master bedroom. A door at the other end of the sunspace allows heat to (low into 
the living area. 


bedroom ' 





tub ) py su"sp°ce i-M y y \\\ 

■ ' ■ ■ ■ • • m 

warm. The cost of operating this backup 
last year was $53. To prevent precious 
heat from escaping through windows on 
chilly nights, 2-inch foam panels are 
pressed tightly into the window openings. 
"The room stays a constant 60 degrees 
even on the coldest nights," Shirley 
noted, "and we keep the tub at a 
minimum 84 degrees." 

For others contemplating a sunspace, 
Shirley suggested they might want to use 
vertical instead of slanted windows. "The 
slanted windows let in too much heat at 

certain times of the year," she said. 'And 
we had trouble finding covers for them. 
Although the foam panels are easy to pop 
in, they do take some time." 

Energy-saving Construction 

Heavy insulation and an air-vapor bar- 
rier preserve warmth and stop drafts. 
Double walls on the north and west are 
packed with a 12-inch layer of blown-in 
cellulose. Walls on the south and east are 
built of 2 X 6 studs with cellulose in the 
stud cavity. The ceiling has 12 inches of 
cellulose insulation. To insulate the crawl 
space, a thick mixture of cellulose and 


glue was sprayed over the inside founda- 
tion walls. The house is further protected 
by 6-mil polyethylene in the walls and 

"Last year we burned 3 1/2 cords of 
slabwood and 3 cords of lodgepole and fir 
for a total cost of about $200," Jerry 
noted. Electric baseboards serve as back- 
up heat, but they aren't used much. Their 
annual electricity bUl for everything, 
including the hot tub, nms around $450. 

Other Options On Hold 

Options for other energy-efficient fea- 
tures are in place but not in use as yet. 
"We put in a foundation footing for a 
Trombe wall, but decided the wall would 
block the view," Jerry said. "So far we 
feel we can do without it." During 
construction, the exterior sunspace wall 
was plumbed to accommodate solar 
panels on the roof. They figure they'll add 
the panels someday. 

A Philosophy of Living 

Jerry and Shirley designed their house 
around their philosophy of using renew- 
able energy to save resources. "I've 
always studied alternative energy," 
Shirley said. "My brother in Helena heats 
his water and house partially with solar. 
So does my brother in Denver. In fact," 
she said, "we have all the DNRC energy 
books and we used them in building this 

They are both retired now and have 
time to enjoy their home and the acreage 
they share writh moose, deer, elk, coyotes, 
and a host of feathered friends. Their 
concern for the resources extends to not 
using chemicals on the lawn and garden. 
We want to protect the wildlife from 
contamination," Jerry said. D 

Sunlight streams into the living room and 
loft through two-story high windows. The 
open floor plan promotes circulation of the 
warmed air. 


Super Good Cents Log House 

Nothing seems more Montanan 
than a sturdy log house 
against a snowy field, blue 
sky, and tall mountains. Solid as log 
homes are, many wouldn't win awards 
for energy efficiency. Nevertheless, Scott 
Wurster's log house in the Bitterroot 
overcame the inherent insulating ineffic- 
iency of log walls to qualify for the Super 
Good Cents award from Ravalli County 
Electric Cooperative. 

Breezes Don't Penetrate 

To meet Super Good Cents standards 
for Montana's climate, a house must be 
heated for less than 3.2 kilowatt-hours 
(kWh) per square foot per year. For 
Scott's 2,000-square-foot house, this 
means an annual space heating of no 
more than 6,400 kWh. Several steps were 
taken to meet this criterion. One step was 
achieving a low air change per hour to 
stop heat loss. "Air changes per hour" is 
the number of times the air inside a house 
is replaced by air from the outside 
through natural air leakage. 

Finding the best way to stop the drafts 
took some research by Scott, builder 
Wendell Kermey, and personnel at the 
electric cooperative. A combination of a 
heavily insulated ceiling, tightly insulated 
crawl space, insulated windows, top 
quality logs, and an innovative chinking 
product did the job. A recent blower door 
test estimated the air change at one-tenth 
per hour. 

A heat recovery ventilator brings in 
fresh air and exhausts the stale. 

Heavy insulation in the ceiling, air-tightness, and a water-coupled heat pump combined 
to qualify this log house for the Super Good Cents award from Bormeville Power 

Heat Pump Recovers More 
Heat Than it Uses 

Another big step towards meeting the 
Super Good Cents standard was the use 
of highly efficient heating equipment. 
Scott chose a water-coupled heat pump. 
The tmit extracts heat from 52 -degree 
well water to provide radiant floor heat- 
ing, to heat domestic water, and 
periodically to fill a hot tub. "The co- 
efficient of performance (COP) for the 
Tetco heat pump is 3.50," Scott said. This 
means that for every kilowatt of electrici- 
ty the heat pump uses to operate, it 
recovers energy eqiuil to 3.5 kilowatts. 

From a well, 52-degree water is 
pumped through a heat exchanger called 

an evaporator. The "warmth" from the 
water is absorbed by a liquid with a low 
boiling point flowing in the opposite 
direction. The heat causes the liquid to 
boil and change to vapor. The vapor 
travels to a compressor which squeezes 
the vapor, raising its temperature. The 
hot pressurized vapor is pumped to a 
second heat exchanger called a condenser 
where the vapor gives up heat to water 
circulating through pipes in the floor of 
the house, or to water for domestic use. 
Upon cooling, the vapor changes back 
into a liquid, is depressurized, and flows 
back to the evaporator to pick up more 
heat from incoming well water. The 
cooled well water flows to a drain field. 


Scott Wurster 




Owner and Alpine Log Homes 
118 Main Street 
Victor, MT 59875 


Bear Construction 
Box 48 

Hamilton, MT 59840 


Log 1 1/2-Story 


Ceiling - R58 
Walls ■ R8-9 
Crawl Space ■ R20 
Slab - R20 

Square Feet 

Loft ■ 240 
Main - 864 
Guest - 240 

Special Feattires 

Super Good Cents Construction 


Electric Groundwater Heat Ptunp 


November 1986 


Groundwater Heat Pump 

expansion valve 

to house 

from house 

space-heat condensor 

reversing valve 





power source 

:=^ <^ZZ] water flow 
= CZ^ water flow 



Water and refrigerant pass in 
opposite directions through 

the evaporator coil. Heat 
present in the water causes 
the refrigerant to evaporate. 

"The water is returned to the ground at 
32 degrees, so 20 degrees of heat have 
been extracted from it by the heat 
pump," Scott said. 

The heat pump and hot water tank are 
installed in the 4-foot-high insulated 
crawl space so any heat lost from them 
helps to heat the house. 

Rudy Kratofil, Conservation Supervisor 
at Ravalli County Electric Cooperative, 
said the projected heating load for the log 
house is 12,376 kilowatt-hours annually. 
Because the groundwater heat pump is so 
efficient, however, it requires only 3,536 
kWh of electricity to produce the 12,376 
kWh needed for heating, or about 2 kWh 
per square foot per year— less than the 
Super Good Cents standard of 3.2. At 4 
1/2 cents per kWh, the annual heat bill 
should run around $160. 

The heat pump has also eliminated the 
need for filters or chemicals to keep clean 

water in the hot tub. "It costs 50 cents to 
fill the 130-gallon tub with 105-degree 
water from the heat pump, and maintain 
that temperature for an hour, ' ' Scott said. 
"I simply fill the tub with fresh, clean 
water each time I use it. When the tub 
drains, the pipes do too so there's no 
danger of freezing." 

The efficiency advantage of a ground- 
water heat pump comes at a higher inifial 
cost than many heating systems. The heat 
ptmip unit itself is considerably more 
expensive than a furnace, baseboard heat- 
ers, or ceiling panels. A groundwater heat 
ptomp also requires a large volume of 
water that has a stable temperattire year- 

A Matter of Quality 

"Meeting the Super Good Cents criteria 
was a matter of quality construction— no 
magic tricks,"Scott said. "The house took 

Quality craftsmanship is evident m the hand-pegged wood floors, cherry-wood cabinets, 
and brass fixtures throughout the house. 


longer to build than the 'average' log 
house, and was about twice as expen- 
sive. " Scott enumerated the components 
which resulted in the house's energy 

— 10-inch-thick lodgepole pine logs 
—insulated backer rod of closed 

cell foam under chinking 

— polybutyl-based chinking 
between logs and in the gaps 
around door and window fram- 

—ceiling insulated with 4-inch 
Thermax and 8-inch blown-in 

—good ventilation from Insultray 
vents above the insulation, soffit 
vents 2 feet on center, and a 
continuous ridge vent 

—a 10- mil polyethylene vapor 
barrier in the ceiling 

— 4-inch-thick extruded polysty- 
rene foam board insulation on 
crawl space walls and under the 
crawl space slab 

— 10-mil polyethylene moisture 
barrier under the crawlspace 
slab insulation 

— Insul-Sun double-glazed win- 
dows with low-E film, plus ex- 
terior storm windows and doors 

—a VanEE-2000 heat recovery 

Wall Section and Crawlspace Detail 

Above the vaulted ceiling, thick 
insulation and good ventilation 
contribute to the house's energy 

insulated and 
sealed for 
a heat sink 


^iil = llis:ill = iil=^lils 



— sealed 

2-2" layers 

. rigid foam 


- 8' wall 

,,. . .. ,^.mir=iiisii\siri 



A major factor in reducing drafts was 
the chinldiig material. "Polybutyl-based 
chinking is flexible and doesn't pull away 
when the logs expand and contract," 
Scott said. "I also took particular care to 
minimize formaldehyde problems by not 
using any particleboard or plywood on 
the interior. 1 can't over emphasize the 
importance of quahty materials and 
workmanship to produce a house like 
mine," Scott said. 

Built for Convenience 

The house is as convenient as it is 
energy saving. Visitors have their own 
private quarters nestled between the 
garage and house. An adjacent utihty area 
is out of sight around a comer, and a loft 
over the utility area adds extra sleeping 

A large entry hall leads from the deck to 
the kitchen or the central hall. "I wanted 
to remove clutter from the kitchen, "Scott 
said, "so I put the refrigerator, trash 
compactor, extra microwave oven, and 
cleaning closets in the entry." A spacious 
countertop in the entry offers a resting 
stop for groceries or an out-of-the-way 
place for food preparation. 

In the large room containing the 
kitchen, dining, and Uving areas, big 
windows supply an abundance of natural 
Ught. A vaulted ceiling makes the area 
seem larger and affords space for a loft. 

Craftsmanship Adds to 

Meticulous craftsmanship is visible 
throughout the house. Fir paneling on the 
partition walls is precisely cut to fit 
snugly against the log walls. In the galley 
kitchen, a floor of oak planks, hand laid 
and fastened with walnut pegs under- 
scores lustrous cherry-wood cabinets. A 
wood-burning range lends its tum-of-the- 
century charm to the decor. The range 
sits on a blue-gray stone base that 
harmonizes with the dark steel-blue 
carpeting of the adjacent living area. 
Gleaming brass fixtures throughout the 
house add elegance to the warm wood 

The main bath is decorated with soUd 
cherry-wood cabinets and dark blue tile 
mounted in gray-blue grouting. A large 
walk-in closet off the master bedroom is 
paneled with aromatic cedar. Rods instal- 
led at different heights provide compact 
storage for clothing of different lengths. 
Dirty clothes can be pushed through a 

small opening in the closet wall to the 
utihty room on the other side. Antique 
brass mail boxes built into the bedroom 
wall for storage add a touch of whimsy. 
Expansive decks on the east and west 
side of the house offer a choice of sunny 
or shaded lounging. A miniature log 
house perched on the rear deck railing is 
home for wrens. In the yard, three small 
log houses protect two wells and a septic 
tank. "The roofs can be lifted off and the 
walls removed to gain access for cleaning 
or maintenance," Scott said. 

An Idyllic Retreat 

The house sits in the middle of 153 
acres containing a channel of the Bitter- 
root River. Flocks of geese and ducks take 
advantage of a network of ponds and 
dikes. Pheasants and grouse are common, 
and the streams are full of brown and 
rainbow trout. "This is a mini-reserve," 
Scott said, "a place where the wild 
creatures can have their young without 
being molested." He prohibits hunting 
and fishing, and raises wheat to supple- 
ment the animals' diet of native plants. 

Motivation for Award 

Why did Scott take the extra steps to 
qualify for the Super Good Cents award? 
' 'I wanted to build a log house second to 
none in terms of quaUty— a home that 
would be practical and comfortable for 
years to come," Scott said. "Also, the 
challenge of being the first to build a 
log house that would meet Super Good 
Cents criteria was a prime reason. And 
home values and marketability are 
becoming ever more related to their 
energy efficiency." O 


Solar Log Home for Snowy Winters 

Near the old gold mining town of 
Virginia City, Montana's 
winter sun provides most of 
the heat for Stephanie Wood's log house. 
"Even when it's 30 below outside, if the 
sun's shining, if'Ube too warmforafire," 
Stephanie said. "I bum about 1 cord of 
wood a year. 

"The only back-up heat is in my bath- 
room ceilings. I have two radiant heat- 
ing panels— one upstairs and one down- 
stairs, but I don't use them very often— 
usually only when I leave for several days 
or more. Then I set the thermostat to 
operate the downstairs bathroom ceiling 
panel to keep the bathroom above freez- 
ing. My electric bill runs between $ 15 and 
$20 a month which includes everything— 
refrigerator, range, washer, dryer, the 
heating panels, and lights. And I use lots 
of lights during the winter." 

Not By Sun Alone 

But there's more to harnessing free heat 
than just inviting the sim inside. It has to 
stay put. Thick insulation, double-glazed 
windows, concrete thermal storage, and 
over a mile of chinking trap heat in the 
24-foot X 32-foot house. In the attic, 
fiberglass and Thermax insulation stop 
heat from drifting out the top of the 

Each pine log, 10 to 12 inches in 
diameter, was carefully shaped with a 
chainsaw to fit down tightly on the one 
beneath. Sill Seal between logs and 
acrylic caulk chinking in the joints inside 
and out reduce infiltration. Stephanie 
noted it took her one full year to chink the 
logs, one of the jobs she'd delegate to 
someone else if she had it to do over. 

At 5,700 feet elevation, cold winters are the norm for Virginia City, but that doesn't 
bother Stephanie Wood. She gets most of her space heat from the almost-daily sunshine 
coming through her large south-facing windows. 

A concrete floor in the front half of the 
living area soaks up heat from the sun 
and wood stove and releases it as the 
house cools. "The sunspace is actually 
part of my living area," Stephanie said. 
"It would be nice if it were separate, but I 
couldn't afford the extra square footage." 
An insulated rock bin beneath the con- 
crete floor was constructed to provide 
more thermal storage. A wooden 1-foot x 
2-foot ' 'chimney' ' will run from the bin to 
the upper reaches of the large open living 
space. The plans call for a fan to pull hot 
air dovtm from the ceiling through the box 
to the rock storage. A plenum and fan on 
the west side of the concrete floor will 

chaimel warm air back into the room. 

At winter solstice the sun's rays creep 
18 inches up the back of the living room 
wall, but overhangs on the front of the 
house keep the sun out during the simi- 
mer. "The house overheats sometimes in 
fall and spring," Stephanie said. "Draper- 
ies would help that." 

Under the back half of the living area, a 
walk-out basement provides space for 
washer and dryer, cross-coimtry skis, 
saddles, and other necessities. Fiberglass 
batts were installed between the floor 
joists above the basement. One-inch ex- 
truded polystyrene was installed on the 
outside of the basement walls. The 6-inch 


Stephanie Wood 


Virginia City 




Pat Sandon and Bob Erhdall 
103 West Jefferson 
Virginia City, MT 59755 


Log 2 Story 


Ceiling • R40 
10- to 12-inch Log Walls - 
Approx. R8 
Basement Wall - R5 
Basement Slab - R5 

Square Feet 

Upper - 768 
Main • 768 

Special Featiu-es 

Thermal Storage 
Economical Construction 


Passive Solar, Wood, Electric Panels 


March 1984 


Combining living space into one large room 
allows for good air circulation. A concrete 
floor stores heat from the sun and wood 

basement slab rests on a moisture barrier 
of 6-mil polyethylene over a layer of 
gravel. "I've never had anything freeze in 
the basement," Stephanie said. 

If she were building again, Stephanie 
would do a few things differently. She 
would provide better ventilation for the 
downstairs and more heat for the up- 
stairs, for example. Only two windows 
open on the main level— one in the 
bathroom and the other on the west of the 
living room. "I really need one on the east 
wall of the kitchen to get a good cross 
breeze," Stephanie said. "And I thought 
the upstairs would overheat in winter, 
but sometimes it's too chilly. Eventually 
I'll put a ceiling fan above the stairway to 
pull heat upstairs." 

A Shoestring House Budget 

Scrounging, salvaging, and buying used 
material enabled Stephanie to build the 
house. "It's amazing what can be done on 
a shoestring," she said with a laugh. 
"Every time I saw a bargain, I took 
advantage of it. " She pointed out the 


windows. "All those are patio door 
blanks. The dealer wanted to get rid of 
them so I bought them at half-price two 
years before I started building. I bought 
all the logs peeled and delivered for 

Built to Leave 

The house reflects more than tight- 
fisted cost control, however. It was built 
to take care of itself when its owner is 
away. Stephanie, a range technician v«th 
the U.S. Forest Service, is gone periodical- 
ly. "When I built this place, I would 
literally stand here and wonder what 
problems could arise during my ab- 
sence,"" she said. "'I wanted to be able to 
leave and be gone for periods up to 
several months and not have to worry 
about a thing. One of the strategies I used 
was to put all the plumbing on the inside 
wall between the kitchen and bathroom 
to prevent any frozen pipes." 

The house passed the test. ""I was 
heading for New Zealand for a month one 
winter,"' Stephanie said, ""I put the house 
plants in the bathroom, set the electric 
ceiling panels in that room for 50 degrees, 
and closed the door. My friend who 
looked after things checked the thermo- 
meters I had around the house. It never 
dropped below freezing in any part of the 
house although it got down to minus 30 
outside. My electric biU for that period 
was $27."" 

Sunsets Balance Lightning 

Because her house is perched on a 
mountaintop overlooking Virginia City, 
Stephanie had to think of other natural 
elements besides cold and vrind. A length 
of thick copper cable nms from rooftop to 
ground, fending off any effects from 
lightning strikes. "The storms get a bit 

close at times,"" she said, ""but the view, before building, including the ones 

the space, and the incredible sunsets are 
worth it. And, Tm totally sold on solar, 
and anyone who doesn't take advantage 
of it is crazy. I read books for two years 

DNRC published on active and passive 
solar heating. That's where I learned to 
turn the house 7 degrees west of south for 
the best solar gain in this area." n 

The house reflects the owner's likmg for curved structures. A curving log staircase leads 
to the spacious bedroom and bath occupying the second floor. Crooked Douglas fir log 
uprights support the main beams. Outside, curved railings surround the deck wrapping 
the south and west sides of the house. 

Heating a House in Snow Country for Less Than 
$ 100 A Year 

West Yellowstone, as the nation 
knows, has winter, winter, 
and more winter. So it isn't 
exactly the town you'd think would be at 
the top of the list for a retirement choice. 
Common sense says if the cold doesn't get 
you, the heating bill will. 

"On the contrary, " said Bill Colman. "I 
use about two thousand kilowatt-hours 
annually to heat my house. At four cents 
per kilowatt-hour, that's less than a 
hundred dollars a year. And why do I 
live here? Look at the opportunities; 
cross-country skiing out the front door, 
snowmobiling in the Park (Yellow- 
stonel, hunting, and wildlife watching." 
Recently retired from crop-dusting in 
the Fort Benton area, Bill moved to West 
Yellowstone a few years ago. His sturdy 
redwood-sided house stands among tall 
pines on the west side of town. Although 
the house came down the road 150 miles 
from Butte in two sections, it looks just 
like its "site-built " neighbors. A product 
of Buffalo Homes, the factory-built 
modular house has a full basement. "We 
dug the hole and put in the foundation 
before it got real cold. The house arrived 
in January, " Bill reflected. After the two 
sections of the house were set onto the 
basement, they were joined at the center, 
and the staircases— half in the basement 
and half in the modular— were 

Tight Seal Stops Heat Leaks 

The house has a tough hide. Double 2 x 
4 walls and raised-heel trusses filled with 
insulation serve to buffer the house from 

Heavy insulation in Bill Colman's modular house located in West Yellowstone keeps 
electric heating bills under $100 a year. 

whatever the weather hands out. All 
exterior doors are tight-fitting insulated 
steel. Penetrations through the air- vapor 
barrier are kept to a minimum. For 
instance, there are no recessed lights and 
no stove chimney. 

Having few windows and facing the 
house 17 degrees east of true south also 
help keep heat bills low. "I have one 
square window on the north side, over 
the sink, two tall, skinny windows in the 
dining room on the west, and a reason- 
ably sized window on the east wall of my 
office; the rest face south. My aunt was 
visiting and complained that the bath- 
room lacked a window. I told her, "just 
look at the electric bill and you"ll feel 
better." At night I turn the heat back 10 
degrees. Even on chilly mornings, the sun 

will heat the house about as fast as 
turning up the heat. 

"Contrary to what people might think, 
though, 1 am not living like a mole " Bill 
ran his hand over the deep windowsills 
framing the double-glazed low-E win- 
dows on the south side of the living room. 
"Notice how the window jambs are 
mitered at 45 degrees. It opens them 
up— similar to bay windows."" The off- 
white vaulted ceilings and walls effec- 
tively diffuse the natural light. 

Neither the split entry nor the side door 
near the dining room lent themselves to 
airlock vestibules, so Bill didnt try to fit 
them in. "Of course, there"s only the cat 
and me. If you had four more pairs of 
boots clustered around that front door 


Bill Colman 


West Yellowstone 


Owner and Buffalo Homes, Inc. 


Buffalo Homes, Inc. 

185 S. Parkmont Industrial Park 

Butte, MT 59702 



Split Entry 


Ceiling - R60 
Double Wall - R41 
Basement Wall - R30 
Slab ■ RIO 

Square Feet 

Main - 1,372 
Basement - 1,372 

Special Features 

Modular Construction 
Splayed Windows 


Electric Baseboard 


April 1985 


and as many people running in and out, 
an airlock entry would probably pay for 

Double walls, an insulated slab, and 
south-facing garden windows all work to 
keep the basement at an even tempera- 
ture. "I think I've had the heat on down 
here maybe twice. It stays about 60 to 65 
degrees year around." 

A heat recovery ventilator nms con- 
tinuously on low. A preheater keeps it 
from icing up on really cold days. "I 
haven't shut it off since I moved in and 
I've had absolutely no trouble with it. It 
seems to keep the dust out of the house, 
too. That's pretty important to a guy who 
doesn't spend a lot of time with house- 
keeping chores." 

Why electric heat when a forest of 
firewood siuroimds him? "I don't mind 
looking at a fire, but fooling with it is 

something else. I know everyone around 
here bums wood. I just tell them, 'Sure 
would like to chop wood today, but I 
have to go snowmobiling." 

But electricity doesn't come free. "We 
pay $15 a month for the privilege of 
having a line to our house. None of that 
goes towards kilowatts used. On top of 
that, our electricity costs us four cents per 
kilowatt-hour in the winter and eight 
cents in the summer." 

Bill used 760 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 
January and 750 in February. Usage 
dropped to 480 in March then 360 in 
April of 1987. "I haven't turned the heat 
on since April, so 360 kilowatt-hours at $9 
is my average monthly use for Ughts and 
hot water from April to October. In the 
summer I close the windows during the 
day and open them at night to cool off. It 
stays quite comfortable year around." 




Living in Snow Country 

Bill has some advice for living in a cold 
and snowy clime such as West Yellow- 
stone. The attic must be well ventilated to 
carry off the moisture. "A continuous 
ridge vent with continuous soffit vents is 
the best way," he emphasized. "Many 
builders feel that snow will blow into the 
ridge; but that just isn't so." 

And the soffit vents have to be clear. "I 
had my heat exchanger exhaust at the 
side of the house just under the soffit. The 
outgoing moist air was freezing on contact 
with the soffit, plugging the vents 10 feet 
in both directions. As soon as I extended 
the exhaust to the edge of the roof, that 

Designing a Modular House 

Bill chose the Buffalo Home because it 
seemed to be the most cost-effective 
house for the climate. He said additional 
benefits have turned out to be its almost 
sound-proof interior and overall low main- 

"The basic floor plan was my idea. 
Buffalo Homes helped put it into a logical 
design for building. About the oiJy thing I 
had to remember was to keep the two 
sections of the house narrow enough to 
carry down the highway, and to keep the 
plumbing on one side so it didn't cross 
from one section to another." □ 

Splayed window jambs open up the 13 1/2-inch-deep walls to admit more light. Octagon 
window and glazing in the front door (left) bring light into entry and basement. 


Earth Berming, No Concrete 

Earth-sheltered and underground 
houses are popular in eastern 
Montana, but the home of Ron 
and Mary Pipal outside Wolf Point is an 
earth-sheltered house with a difference. 
The main difference is the lack of 
concrete. Ron Pipal, a professional 
builder, said he doesn't particularly hke 
concrete. Therefore, the 2,500 square 
foot, two-story earth-sheltered house he 
built for his family has no concrete in it 
or under it. 

Instead of a concrete slab, the house 
sits on a 12-inch pad of gravel. Floor 
joists on the ground floor are 2 x 6s on 
12-inch centers. These joists rest on 2 x 
10s that lie flat on the surface of the 
gravel at right angles to the joists. The 2 
X 10s are on 7 foot centers. Besides 
supporting the floor joists, the 2 x 10s 
provide a 1.5 inch space that allows the 
passage of air under the joists. In the 
winter, heated air from the Pipals' 96- 
percent-efficient Amana 120,000 Btu 
natural gas furnace is blown into the 
plenum under the floor, and is then 
vented back into the living space. 
(DNRC building speciaUsts suggest that 
the energy efficiency of the under-floor 
plenum might be improved by insulat- 
ing the bottom and sides to prevent the 
escape of heat.) 

Coolness of the Earth in 

In summer, coohng is provided by 
using the furnace fan to blow air from 
the living space into the plenum under 
the floor where it is cooled by the gravel 

The Pipal house is a rare Hem: a two-story earth-sheltered house without an ounce of 

before returning to the interior of the 
house. Another difference between the 
Pipal house and most other modem 
houses is the use of vapor-barrier paint 
rather than the commonly used poly- 
ethylene film air-vapor barrier. (DNRC 
building speciahsts note that an air- 
vapor barrier consisting of vapor-barrier 
paint is not continuous unless gaskets 
are used between the studs and the 
drywall to prevent the movement of air 
through small passages such as cracks 
where the drywall joins the floor. The 
use of vapor-barrier paint and gaskets 
behind the drywall to create an air- 
vapor barrier is called the Advanced 
Drywall Approach, or ADA.) 

Pressure-treated Wood 

Exterior walls are 2x6 studs on 
12-inch centers, sheathed with 1/2-inch 
pressure-treated plywood. All wood 
below grade is pressure treated and the 
manufacturer guarantees it for 100 
years if it is properly installed. For 
additional strength in the below-grade 
portion of the outside stud wall, every 
fourth stud was doubled. The Pipals 
have lived in the house since 1984, and 
no significant problems have been noted 
so far. The only caution about using stud 
walls in place of concrete below grade, 
Ron said, is that great care must be 


Ron and Mary Pipal 


Wolf Point 




Pipal Construction 
P.O. Box 1148 
Wolf Point, MT 59201 

2 Story, Earth-bermed 


Upstairs Ceiling - R44 
Outside WaUs - R19 

Square Feet 

Upper ■ 1,056 
Main - 1,536 

Special Features 

No Concrete Used 
Earth Berming 
Under-floor Heat Plenum 
Thermal Window Quilts 


Passive Solar, Natural Gas 


July 1984 


taken in backfilling to avoid placing too 
much strain on the walls. "You've got to 
know what you're doing," he said. 

Sun is There When Needed 

The house faces due south to take 
maximum advantage of the sun. The 
roof overhang is designed to keep direct 
sunlight from entering on summer days 
when heat is not needed. The sun makes 
its welcome return to the inside of the 
house during the last part of October, 
and stays for about six months, Ron 
said. The direct sun that enters in winter 
warms the brown quarry tile floors both 
upstairs and down, and the floors then 
radiate heat long after the sun is gone 
each day. Ron said the house stays cool 
in the summer, and if the inside temper- 
ature rises above 70 degrees they can 
turn on the furnace fan and cool it off in 
a few minutes. The Pipals have never 
experienced a summer temperature 
above 78 degrees on the main floor of 
the house, even when outside tempera- 
tures reach 110 degrees. 

Thermal Quilts Help Hold 

Thermal quilts on the upstairs win- 
dows help prevent heat loss through the 
glass, Ron said, adding that the quilts 
reduce heating requirements by about 
20 percent on some winter days. The 
quilts in combination with the window 
glass have a rated insulating value of 
R6, Ron said. These quilts are made by 
Appropriate Technology, Inc., in Brat- 
tleboro, Vermont. 

Insulation in the outside walls is R19 
6-inch foil-backed fiberglass batts. The 
roof is insulated with 12 inches of 
cellulose to an R-value of 44. Two-inch 
extruded polystyrene boards were used 

to insulate below-grade across the front 
of the house, extending down 2 feet 
below floor level. 

The combination of insulation and 
solar heating appears to be effective in 
keeping energy use down. Examination 
of the Pipal's bills for 1987 shows that 
43.3 thousand cubic feet of natural gas 
were used to heat the house that year, 
bringing the year's total space-heating 
bill to $208.53. Gas consumption for 
heat was highest during January of that 
year, when the bill was $38.05. Ron said 
daily gas consumption stays below 0.30 
thousand cubic feet per day (about $ 1 .50 
worth) when the house is held at a 
constant 70 degrees, even in the coldest 

Triple-pane Windows 
Another Good Idea 

All windows in the house are triple 
pane. The operable windows are 
Weathershield casement type, with a 
home-made insulated wooden door to 
the outside. Ron said that materials for 
the house cost about $40,000. He did the 
work himself, so there was no substan- 
tial labor cost in the building. However, 
he said it would cost about $27 a square 
foot to hire a contractor to build a 
similar house, for a total of about 
$69,000. The appraised value of the 
Pipal house is $86,000. 

No Underground Feeling 

The interior of the house is bright and 
airy with no "underground" feeling. 
The banks of south-facing windows on 
both levels make the inside of the house 
brighter than most conventional houses. 
The light-brown quarry tile used on the 
floors of both levels contributes to the 
warm feeling. Ron said he and Mary 


Plants thrive in the sunspace that extends the full length of the house's upper level. Note 
thermal quilts rolled at top of windows. 

selected this particular tile because it 
felt warmer to the touch than others 
they looked at. It is made in Italy of 
volcanic ash and sold in Montana by 
Color Tile. 

Ron said if he were building his house 
today, the only thing he would do 
differently would be to design it in a 
concave shape with the concavity facing 
south so it could collect sun over a 
longer period each day. The Pipals 
based the design of the house on plans 
in Earth Shelter magazine, and Ron said 
he welcomed the opportunity to try 
many ideas he had developed in his 
years of building. It all adds up to a 
comfortable house with a difference. 

A graceful curving staircase connects the two levels in the Pipat house. 



acoustical sealant: A non-hardening, 
gummy material that adheres well to 
polyethylene air-vapor barriers and plas- 
tic electrical boxes. It comes in a quart 
tube similar to caulking material. Many 
Montana builders are using the black 
acoustical sealant manufactured by 
Tremco. Tremco does not dry out, crack, 
or lose its adhesive abilities over time. 

advanced drywall approach (ADA): A 

continuous air-vapor barrier consisting of 

advanced drywall approach (ADAj 

drywall system 


closea-cell foam 

gasketing or 


batt or rigid 

insulation inside 

rim joist 

sill sealer 

I compressible 

closecf-cell foam 

gasketing or 


drywall system 

interior side concrete 

- damp-proofmg 

(bituminous or building 

paper or polyethylene) 

compressed-foam gaskets or caulk used to 
seal critical joints between the drywall 
and the framing members, and vapor- 
retarder paint on or plastic sheeting under 
the drywall surface to keep warm, moist 
air inside the Uving space and out of wall 
and ceiling cavities. 

advanced framing, (also called 
Optimum Value Engineering, or 
OVE): Construction methods that reduce 
the amount of non-structural wood in a 
building. Eliminating these framing mem- 
bers decreases conductive heat loss 
through the wood, and increases the 
amount of insulation that can be placed in 
walls and ceiUngs. The term also refers to 
working in standard (4-foot x 8-foot) 
increments to reduce waste. 

air barrier: A material or combination of 
materials used on the exterior of a build- 
ing to block the flow of air while letting 
moisture vapor pass through to the out- 
side. Materials commonly used in Mon- 
tana are spun-bonded polyolefin such as 
Tyvek, and cross-laminated high-density 
polyethylene with tiny holes, such as 
Rufco-Wrap and TuTuf Air Seal. (See 
illustration under double wall.] 

advanced framing 


at intersecting 


framing placed at 24 
inches on center 

standard framing 

framing placed at 16 
inches on center 


air change per hour (ach): The number 
of times in an hour that enough outside 
air filters into a building to completely 
replace the interior air. In the winter, heat 
rides out with the displaced air; in the 
summer, cool air is usually the traveler. 

air-vapor barrier: A material or combin- 
ation of materials installed in ceilings and 
exterior walls to prevent passage of mois- 
ture and heated air from the living space. 
The air-vapor barrier must be located 
inward from the point in the wall where 
condensation otherwise would occur. The 
exact point depends on temperature and 
humidity inside and out, on R-values, and 
permeability of various materials in the 
wall. (See dew point.) 

A handy rule of thumb is that one-third 
of the wall's R-value should be inward 
from the air-vapor barrier. This especially 
applies to double wall construction with 
three layers of fiberglass batt insulation. 
In this configuration, the only acceptable 
choices for placement of a polyethylene 
air-vapor barrier are under the drywall, 
or between the innermost and middle 
sections of insulation (about one-third 
from the warm side). In other types of 
insulation configurations, however, it is 
permissible for the dew point to fall at 
different spots and the one-third/two- 
thirds rule is oversimpUstic. With a con- 
tinuous layer of insulation such as 

urethane, for example, the location of the 
dew point will vary with the thickness of 
the insulation. Prospective home builders 
should contact DNRC or a qualified 
urethane installer to determine the 
appropriate air-vapor barrier placement 
in a specific situation. 

The one-third/two-thirds rule does not 
work well for walls of Rll or less, 
because the lesser amount of insulation 
results in a cold wall where water may 
condense at any point, depending on 
indoor and outdoor temperatures and 
other contributing influences. 

Polyethylene sheets from 4 to 10 mils 
thick commonly are used as an air-vapor 
barrier. (See continuous air-vapor barrier 
and the illustration under double wall] 

airlock: An enclosed entry with one door 
to the outside and one or more to the 
living space. The airlock entry Umits the 
exchange of inside air and outside air 
when a person enters or exits. 

airlock entry 

airtight drywall approach: See 

advanced drywall approach. 

attic ventilation: Providing for the 
natural flow of air through the attic or 
roof of a building. 

back drafting: The unintentional draw- 
ing of air into a house through chinmeys, 
stove pipes, or furnace flues to replace the 
inside air removed by stoves, appliances 
or vents. As air is drawn through these 
openings, noxious gases and particulates 
of the combustion process ride along. The 
gases and particles can irritate the lungs, 
eyes, nose, and heart, and some, such as 
carbon monoxide, can cause death. 

berming: Piling earth against one or 
more sides of a house. Berming protects 
the house against the extremes of hot and 
cold weather and wind. 

attic ventilation 

continuous soffit vent 


soffit vent 

wall vent 


wood or metal 



BIBS: Abbreviation for blown-in- 
blankets. See insulating materials. 

Bituthene: A plasticized asphalt product 
used primarily for waterproofing con- 
crete. Commonly applied to the roofs of 
underground houses. Comes in a roll with 
plastic backing. 

blower door test: Use of a door- or 
window-mounted, variable high-speed 
fan to blow air into or out of a house to 
simulate the effects of pressure changes 
that cause air infiltration or exfiltration to 
occur. By simulating the different 
pressure changes, the overall air change 
rate of the house can be calculated with 
the aid of a computer program. 

The test also aids in finding air leaks 
around windows, doors, baseboards, wall 
and ceiling joints, wall and floor joints, 
plumbing openings, and electrical boxes. 
(See infiltration.) 

Btu: Stands for "British thermal unit," 
and represents the amount of heat needed 
to raise the temperature of 1 pound of 
water by 1 degree F. One Btu is about 
equal to the heat given off by one kitchen 
match. Heat requirements of houses and 
the amount of heat derived from various 
heating systems commonly are expressed 
in Btus. 

clerestory: A vertical wall incorporated 
into a roof, and containing windows. 

combustion air: The air needed by 
stoves and furnaces for the combustion 
process. (See sealed combustion.! 

clerestory windows 

continuous air-vapor barrier 

conductive heat loss: Movement of heat 
through a solid material, such as heat 
moving from a house's warm interior 
through studs to the outside. (See illustra- 
tion under thermal bridging.} 

continuous air-vapor barrier: An 

impermeable membrane or surface 
enclosing all portions of the living space. 
An alternative is the noncontinuous air- 
vapor barrier. For example, some houses 
have an air-vapor barrier in the walls but 
not in the ceiling. In other cases, the 
barrier is left unsealed at seams or joints. 
Read the "Introduction" section for 
cautions on non-continuous air-vapor 

convective heat loss: Refers to the 
movement of heat through a fluid such as 
air or water. For example, the loss of heat 
that results when a cold window pane 
cools air in a room, causing the cooled air 
to sink and warm air to rise to replace it, 
and be cooled in turn. Or when wind 
blows against a warm window carrying 
heat away from the glass surface. 


wrap around . 

rim joists 


convective heat loss 

DNRC:The Montana Department of 

Natural Resources and Conservation. As 
the name implies, DNRC is concerned 
with the wise use of natural resources, 
including energy. The saving of energy 
through construction of energy-efficient 
houses is a major department priority. 


dew point: The temperature at which dew point 

water vapor in the air changes to Hquid. 
As air cools, it loses its capacity to hold 
water vapor. 

direct vent: See sealed combustion. 

dormer: A framed structure projecting 
from a sloped roof, normally containing 
one or more vertical windows. 

with air- 
vapor barrier 
on inside 
of wall 

dew point 

where condensation 

will occur) 


alternate 1 
placement of / 



water vapor 


from reaching 

the dew point 

air-vapor barrier S 



(as in Canadian / 


double wall) [ 





double wall 

double-wall: An exterior wall com- 
prising two stud walls, often with space 
between, which provides room for more 
insulation than possible in a single wall. 

drywall: The finish portion of the in- 
terior side of walls, usually consisting of 
gypsum board, taping, and textured 
surface. May also be used to refer to 
gypsum board, wallboard, plasterboard, 
or Sheetrock. 


Typical double wall 
Structural details, 
such as stud 
dimensions and 
spacing, will 
vary from house 
to house. 



stud wall 

earth tube: A tube buried below the 
frostUne, usually 4 to 6 inches in diameter 
and often plastic, that brings outside 
make-up air into a house. The earth 
warms or cools the air, to what tempera- 
ture depends on the length of the tube, 
outside air temperature, and soil tempera- 
ture. Air enters the tube through a 
screened gooseneck rising above the 
ground surface. The horizontal portion of 
the tube is buried from 4 to 8 feet deep, 
depending on how deep the frost 
normally penetrates. 

earth tube 


envelope house: Envelope construction 
includes a double wall on the north side 
of the house and a double ceiling, with 
space inside the walls and ceiling for air 
movement. East and west walls are not 
designed with space for air passage. 
Envelope houses are usually two story, 
with sunspaces occupying the entire front 
of the house on both levels. Single-pane 
windows and a standard interior stud 
wall separate the sunspaces from the 
living space. A portion of the sunspace 
floor is made of 2 x 6 boards spaced an 
inch apart to allow air passage. Exterior 
windows are double or triple glazed. 

The sunspaces are central to the enve- 
lope concept. Theoretically, air warmed 
by the sun in the sunspaces rises to the 
ceiling and enters the space left for it in 
the double ceiling, moves down to the 
north wall and descends through the 
hollow wall into the crawl space, and 
back up to the sunspace. In the summer, 
vents at the top of the sunspace allow hot 
air to escape, while ground-level vents on 
the north side of the house admit cool air 
to replace the escaping hot air. 

Research has shown that the envelope 
principle does not always function as 
proponents would like to believe it does. 
The envelope house is energy efficient 
due to solar design features and a well 
insulated building shell. Most builders 
and other authorities agree that envelope 
houses are less cost-effective than super- 
insulated houses. 

European cabinets: Cabinets made of 
high-gloss man-made laminate materials 
such as Formica, often with wood trim, 
and without protruding door or drawer 
knobs or pulls. 

extruded polystyrene rigid foam 
board: Insulating material manufactured 
by an extrusion process usually incor- 
porating Freon gas. Greater Rvalue and 
strength, and lower water vapor perme- 
ability and absorption set extruded poly- 
styrene apart from expanded polystyrene. 
Board usually comes in2x8or4x8 sizes. 
Manufacturers and their trade names and 
colors for extruded polystyrene include 
Dow— Styrofoam (blue); UC Industries— 
Foamular (pink); Amoco— Amofoam 
(green); and DiversiFoam— CertiFoam 
(yellow). Extruded polystyrene comes in 
varying densities and strengths. 

furring: Strips of wood used to create a 
space for insulation and a n ailin g base for 
another surface. 

garden windows: Windows in a room 
partially embedded in the ground. 


concrete or 
cinder block 

garden windows 

or plywood 

header, insulated: The structural 
member placed over a window or door, 
consisting of two wooden boards with 
rigid foam board between them. 


insulated header 

glazing: The transparent material used in 
windows, usually glass, but also can be 
polyester film, fiberglass, acrylic, and 
other materials. 



wood casing 

-aluminum spacer 

top plates |2x8sl 

interior wall fmish 

batt insulation 

rigid insulation 

header boards |2x8s) 

window lor door) 

double pane 

quad pane 

triple pane 
with low-E film 

triple pane 


film with low-E 


double pane 
with low-E fiW 


heat exchanger: A device for transfer- 
ring heat from one medium to another. It 
commonly includes an array of tubes or 
fins that presents a large surface to 
exchange heat between the air, water, or 
other medium flowing through or past it. 

heat exchanger 

cool water 
or glycol — 
solution out 

warm water 
or glycol — 

i^/a^/^ (^ 

I t 



heat pump: Heating systems that use a 
refrigeration cycle to extract heat from 
air, water, or the ground. A circulating 
refrigerant liquid that is colder than the 
heat source absorbs heat and changes to a 
vapor. The vapor is compressed, which 
raises its temperature. The hot vapor 
travels through another coil where it 
gives up its heat to indoor air or water, 
and changes to liquid. The cooled refri- 
gerant liquid passes through an expansion 
device that depressurizes it and causes it 
to cool to the point where it's ready to 
absorb heat again. Except at very low 
outdoor temperatures, less electrical 
energy is needed to extract heat from air, 
water, or ground using the refrigerant 
cycle than would be needed to directly 
convert electricity to heat, as in an elec- 
tric furnace or baseboard heaters. The 
initial cost of the heat pump is considera- 
bly higher than that of a furnace, base- 
board heaters, or ceihng panels. 

heat recovery ventilator (HRV), (also 
known as air-to-air heat exchanger, or 
AAHX): In tightly built houses, this 
device exhausts stale warm air and re- 
places it with outside air. The system 
includes a heat exchanger core to transfer 
a portion of the heat from the stale air to 
the colder incoming air. Some units are 
equipped with a duct heater between the 
HRV and the house to further warm the 
incoming air, and some are equipped 
with a duct heater between the HRV and 
the air intake to prevent freezing of the 
HRV in cold weather. In some cases, the 
intake air is warmed or cooled (depending 
on the outside temperature| by drawing it 
through a buried pipe. (See earth tube.) 

HUD standards: Construction standards 
estabUshed by the U.S. Department of 
Housing and Urban Development. As 
appUed in Montana, the standards require 
insulation values of R19 in walls and R38 
in ceilings, and U values of 0.47 in 
windows and 0,083 in exterior doors. 
Generally, this requires 2x5 walls, room 
for 10 to 11 inches of insulation in the 
ceiling, double-glazed windows, and R12 
insulated doors. 

humidity: See relative humidity. 

infiltration/exfiltration: Leakage of 
outside air into and inside air out of a 
house. Amount of infiltration and exfiltra- 
tion depends on the size and location of 
cracks and other openings, wind speeds, 
and the temperature difference between 
inside and outside. 

heat recovery ventilator 

defrost damper 


filters - 

fresh air 
into house 

infiltration and exfiltration 

insulating materials: 

Cellulose is ground-up paper treated 
with chemicals. The chemicals include 
fire retardants, corrosion inhibitors, and, 
in the case of spray-on insulation, ad- 
hesives and wetting agents. Cellulose- 
based insulation comes as loose-fill or 

Mineral fiber includes two common 
varieties: fiberglass and rock wool, also 
called slag wool. Comes as batts, blan- 
kets, and loose fill. Loose-fill also can be 
wet-sprayed with an adhesive to take 
form as blown-in-blankets (BIBS) or blown- 

PerUte is a light, cellular substance in 
pellet form, made from volcanic material 
and comes as loose-fill. 

Rigid foam board: See extruded poly- 
styrene and polyisocyanurate. 

Urethane foam refers to a family of 
compounds. Each foam uses a specific 
recipe to give it the characteristics desired 


for a particular job. Foam is sprayed in 
layers to the desired thickness. Also acts 
as an air-vapor barrier. 

Vermiculite is expanded, lightweight 
pellets made from silicate that are used 
loose or mixed in concrete and plaster. 

insulation applications 
basement wall insulation 

insulation applications: The most com- 
mon insulation applications are shown in 
the following illustrations. 

insulation baffles: A barrier to prevent 
attic insulation from interfering with attic 
ventilation. (See illustration under attic 

insulation configurations and appli- 
cation methods: 

Batts are flexible strips of fibrous 
insulation in precut lengths, sized to fit 
between framing members; can be un- 
faced or faced wnth foil or Kraft paper. 

crawl space insulation 


pieces of 
batt insulation 

nailing strip to 

attach batt insulation 

to rim joist 



siab-on-grade insulation 

extruded polystyrene 
sand or gravel 

concrete floor slab 

moisture barrier 

rigid insulation used as sheathing 

wood or metal 
comer brace 

extruded polystyrene 
sand or gravel 

ti insulation board 

with integral 
air barrier 

or siding 

Blankets is a form of insulation similar 
to batts, but in long rolls rather than short 

Foamed-in-place is a liquid mixture of 
urethane compounds sprayed onto open 
cavities or framing members |such as rim 
joists) in new or existing construction. 

Loose-fill is insulation provided in 
loose, bulk form. It usually comes in bags 
and is poured or blown into attics and 
existing closed walls. 

Rigid board: See extruded polystyrene 
and polyisocyanurate. 

Wet-spray is insulation mixed with 
adhesive binder and applied under 
pressure from a "gun" to fill open wall 
cavities or attics. Netting attached to studs 
contains the material in wall cavities. (See 
"mineral fiber" under insulating materiab.) 

foamed-in-place insulation 







wet-spray insulation 

deep, and can be insulated with any type 
of insulation. Horizontal or diagonal 
siding can be applied directly to the 
trusses, or sheathing can be applied and 
then siding over that. 

Larsen truss 

8 inches insulation 

3 1/2 inches 


2x4 stud 


kilowatt-hour (kWh): The amount of 
energy equal to 1 kilowatt (1,000 watts) of 
power being used for one hour. 

Larsen trusses: Trusses made with 2x2 
chords and intermittent plywood webs. 
These trusses are nailed vertically to the 
outside of a conventional stud wall, 
usually on 24-inch centers. The trusses 
can be nailed either to the studs or to 
horizontal blocking between the studs. 
Normally the trusses are 8.25 inches 

ledger plate 

low-E: Abbreviation for low-emissivity 
film, thin layers of metals used to coat 
window panes. The coating admits 
incoming sunlight and some heat but 
stops radiant heat from escaping through 
the window. (See illustration under 

mil: A unit of measure equal to one- 
thousandth of an inch, commonly used in 
measuring the thickness of polyethylene. 

Model Conservation Standards 

|MCS): Standards proposed by the 
Northwest Power Planning Council for 
new, electrically heated residential and 
commercial buildings. To conform to the 
standards, buildings must be constructed 
so their electric heating budget doesn't 
exceed a certain number of kilowatts. In 
Montana the proposed budget for a 
single-family dweUing is 3.2 kilowatt- 
hours per square foot per year. For 
example, a 1500-square-foot house would 
have to be constructed so that its 
projected heating load would be less than 
4,800 kilowatt-hours per year ($216 at 4 
1/2 cents per kWh|. 

Optimum Value Engineering (OVE): 

See advanced framing. 

oriented strand board (OSB): Board 
stock made from compressed strand-like 
wood particles arranged in layers and 
bonded with phenoUc resin. Designed 
and manufactured for wall and roof 
sheathing and subflooring, the sheets are 
usually 4 feet by 8 feet. 

outside air intake: A duct or pipe that 
brings air from outside to support com- 
bustion in stoves, furnaces, or other types 
of burners. The air can be delivered to a 
room or directly to an apphance. (See 
sealed combustion.) 

outside air intake 









overhang: A part of a roof, floor, or deck 
that extends outward from a wall. Often 
used to shade windows from sunmier 


permanent-wood foundation, (also 
called all weather wood foundation, 
or AWWF): A building foundation made 
of wood, pressure-injected with preserva- 
tives, used in place of concrete. 

permanent wood foundation IPWFj 

6 o"aO ' 

plenum: A passageway that conducts 
warm or cool air in a house. One example 
is ductwork from a furnace to rooms 
throughout the house. Another example 
is a cavity between studs in a wall used to 
disperse heated air from a solar collector 
into a room. 

polyisocyanurate foam board: Sheets 
of a urethane compound usually used for 
sheathing the outside walls of a house. It 
normally is faced with foil on both sides. 
Polyisocyanurate has a high R-value and 
low combustibility compared to other 
urethane compounds. Trade names 
include Thermax, Energy Shield, and 
High-R Sheathing. 

pony wall: A short frame wall used to 
support portions of the structure, often 
used in split-level houses. 

R-value: Refers to a material's ability to 
resist heat from passing through it by 
conduction. The higher the R-value, the 
greater the resistance to heat loss. A 
6-inch fiberglass batt has an Rvalue of 19. 
A double-glazed window has an R-value 
of 1 .8. This is the inverse of the U-value. 

radiant heat loss: Heat movement from 
a warm object to a cooler object such as 
from a hot stove to a person standing near 

relative humidity: The percentage of 
water vapor in the air relative to what it 
can hold. Excessive humidity can cause 
moisture to condense on vidndows. Very 
low humidity dries out the skin. Humidity 
between 30 and 40 percent seems to be the 
most common setting for dehumidistats on 
heat recovery ventilators in Montana. 

Residential Construction Demonstra- 
tion Project (RCDP): A research and 
demonstration program instituted in 1986 
to encourage construction of houses to 
meet Model Conservation Standards pro- 
posed by the Northwest Power Planning 
Council, and to incorporate at least one 
iimovative energy feature. Some of the 
energy features are a heat recovery venti- 
lator with duct heater, a heat recovery 
ventilator integrated into an electric 
furnace, an exhaust air heat pump, and 
an air-vapor barrier using the advanced 
drywall approach. Financial incentives 
covered the incremental cost of these 
innovations. DNRC is monitoring the 
houses to determine space heating costs, 
and performance of innovative energy 

Residential Standards Demonstration 
Program (RSDP): A research and 
demonstration program instituted in 1984 
to encourage construction of houses that 
meet or surpass Model Conservation 
Standards. Incentives helped defray 
increased costs for building components 
that are more energy efficient than simi- 
lar components in HUD houses. Extra 
insulation, air-vapor barriers, and ventila- 
tion systems are some of these com- 
ponents. DNRC collected electrical use 
data between April 1985 and April 1986 
to evaluate the energy efficiency of these 
houses compared to houses built to less 
efficient HUD standards. 

rim joists, also called band joists or 
header joists: The joist that sits on the 
sill and extends around the perimeter of 
the house. (See the illustration under 
insulation methods.) 

roof jack: A cone-shaped, flat-based 
flashing to seal the area where a vent, 
pipe, or duct penetrates the roof. 

roof jack 


sealed combustion: A system in which 
combustion air is piped directly from 
outside into a stove or furnace so no 
house air is used. Sometimes also known 
as "direct vent," especially when 
referring to a double-walied vent that 
draws outside air in through one passage, 
and exhausts combustion gases through 
another passage. 

sealed combustion 


air c=^c 

sealed combustion (direct vent) 

combustion air 

shed roof: A roof with a single sloping 

shed roof 

slab perimeter insulation 

single wall: A wall built with a single 
row of studs; 2 x 4, 2 x 6, and 2x8 studs 
are commonly used to frame a single 
wall. (See illustrations under thermal 

slab perimeter insulation: Rigid insula- 
tion installed under the outer portion of a 
slab usually extending from the founda- 
tion on the slab edge back under the slab 
from 2 to 4 feet. 

soffit: The underside of a part of a 
building such as the eave. A decorative, 
boxed-in structure such as that over 
kitchen cabinets. (See illustration under 
attic ventilation.] 

solar gain: Warmth gained from sun- 
light. Passive systems have no moving 
parts and commonly make use of a solar 
space or extensive south-facing windows 
to bring solar heat into the living space. 
These systems often use masonry as a 
storage medium for solar heat. (See illu- 
stration under sunspace.] 

Active solar gain depends on mechani- 
cal devices such as liquid-filled collectors 


to absorb solar warmth, and extensive 
plumbing systems to transmit it to the 
living spaces. For example, fans that 
distribute the hot air in a rooftop solar 
collector to the rest of the house, or 
pumps that circulate the fluid from a 
rooftop solar collector through pipes in 
the floor are actively distributing the solar 

splayed window: A beveled wall on the 
inside of a window opening. Viewed from 
the inside, the window opening gives the 
illusion of a bay window. 

spun-bonded polyolefin: An air barrier, 

such as Tyvek, made of thin polyethylene 
fibers bonded into a mat that stops air 
movement but allows moisture to pass 

staggered stud wall: One of several stud 
placement configurations to avoid con- 
ductive heat loss through an exterior stud 
wall. (See illustration under thermal 

stem wall: The foundation wall, used 
particularly to describe the concrete 
portion of a frame-and-concrete founda- 
tion wall. (See the illustration under pony 

sunspace: A room on the south side of a 
house that acts as a solar collector, with 
glazing, thermal storage, insulation, and 
shading incorporated specifically for solar 
heat gain. 

Super Good Cents: An electric utility- 
sponsored marketing program instituted 
in 1985 to encourage construction of 
houses to meet Model Conservation Stan- 
dards. The Super Good Cents Home 
Award shows exactly what the builder has 
done to qualify the house for this distinc- 
tion, and guarantees that the work has 
been certified by a utility representative. 

splayed window 



thermal bridging 





attached sunspace — 

circulation of air througti 

wall openings, and radiation 

of heat from Trombe wall, 

warms adjacent rooms indirectly 

single wall 

witli exterior 


rigid insulation 

batt insulation 

integral sunspace — 

living space is heated 
through direct solar 
gain and convection 

thermal bridging: Heat loss by conduc- 
tion, such as heat moving from indoors to 
outside through wall studs. 

single wall 

with staggered 


blown-in or 
foam insulation 

* insulation 

double wall 

with staggered 


TJI joists: "Truss Joist I-beams," 
Wooden I-beams of various depths, built 
with plywood and used as roof trusses or 
floor joists. 

truss joist I-beam (TJI) 



Trombe wall: A floor-to-ceiling masonry 
wall, set behind south-facing windows. 
The wall absorbs heat during the day and 
radiates it to the living space at night. 
Openings in the wall allow some of the 
heated air to circulate to the living space 
during the day. The openings are closed 
at night. (See illustration vmder sunspace.] 

truss: A structural unit that spans long 
distances, used for roof support. 

U-value: Refers to a material's ability to 
transmit heat by conduction. The lower 
the U-value, the less heat transferred. A 
6-inch-thick fiberglass batt has a U-value 
of 0.0526. A double-glazed window has a 
U-value of 0.5555. This is the inverse of 
the R-value. 

full depth of insulation 
covers wall plates 

ceiling slope is less 
than roof slope 

parallel chord truss 

for cathedral ceilings 


vapor-barrier paint: Paint with a very 
low moisture permeability used on dry- 
wall as a vapor barrier. 

waferboard: Made of compressed 
wafer-like wood flakes bonded with 
phenolic resin. The flakes may be 
randomly or directionally oriented, and 
may also be arranged in layers. Designed 
and manufactured for wall and roof 
sheathing and subflooring, the sheets are 
usually 4 feet by 8 feet. 

window coverings, insulated: Used to 
decrease heat loss at night by preventing 
warm room air from reaching window 
glazing. Names of some corrunercial win- 
dow coverings are Window Quilt and 
Wonderful Window (also known as 
Warm Window). 

window jamb, extended: In double- 
wall construction, the piece that extends 
from the normal 2x4 framing on the side 
of a window enclosure to the interior 

extended window jamb 

window coverings 

fop-in panels 
rigid insulation 
are usually held 
in place by friction 
fit or magnets 

window types 

quilted roman 

can provide 
an I^ value 
of 7 if the 
edges are 

tightly sealed 

accordian shades 

can reflect 

heat in or 

out but have 

little or no 

insulating value 


have a hollow 

structure which 

traps air and 

acts as an 


single hung 

double hung 




y dryv/all) 

window types: The most common win- 
dow types are shown in the following 







For More Energy Information 

The Energy' Division of the Department 
of Natural Resources and Conservation 
has more than 80 free publications 
describing energy-saving techniques that 
work in Montana. Topics include new 
house construction, fortifying existing 
houses against the weather, choosing and 
operating a heating system, and window 
insulation. To order the publications or a 
catalogue describing them, write or call 
the Energy Division, DNRC, 1520 East 
Sixth Avenue, Helena, Montana 59620, 
(444-6697) or visit the Energy Information 
Center at your local post office or court- 
house. The centers consist of literature 
racks containing energy publications. 
DNRC and the local County Extension 
Offices have a list of center locations. 


Several periodicals that regularly carry 
articles about energy-efficient construc- 
tion are listed here. 
Custom Builder. PO Box 985, Farming- 
dale, NY 11737. 

Energy' Design Update. Cahners Publishing 
Company, PO Box 716, Back Bay Annex, 
Boston, MA 92117. 

Fine Homebuilding. The Taunton Press, 
PO Box 355, Newtown, CT 96470. 
Habitat. 200000. PO Box 4885, Edmon- 
ton, Alberta, CA T6E 5G7. 
New England Builder. Builderburg Group, 
Inc., PO Box 278, MontpeUer, VT 95602. 
Practical Homeowner. Rodale Press, 
Emmaus, PA. 

Other Suggested Reading 

Argue, Robert. The Well-tempered House: 
Energy- Efficient Building For Cold 
Climates. Toronto, Canada: Renewable 
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