Sustainable Building Authority Walks the Walk With PEX Tubing, Solar Water Heater

Posted on June 7, 2009 by John OReillyNo Comments

“Do what we say and what we do!” might well be the mantra for the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT) at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. When CCAT decided to remodel its live-in demonstration home and educational center for technology and resource conservation, the change was drastic, cutting-edge and yes, green, too

The one-story home, called the Buck House, was likely built in the 1920s and in recent years displaced by the HSU Behavioral and Social Sciences Building. In the spirit of sustainability, the house was lifted from its site and “recycled” by moving it down the road to a new foundation that will also be used as a room for lectures and training.

CCAT, an authority on sustainable building for more than 30 years, knew that the move provided the perfect opportunity to add new, green amenities to the home. Early on, the CCAT committee decided to use radiant in-floor heating and took the essential first step of having PEX (crosslinked polyethylene) tubing installed in the newly poured basement slab. This tubing, manufactured by Uponor Inc., would eventually carry warm water from a yet-to-be-determined heating source to warm the slab and the people and environs above.

Once the tubing was in place, CCAT decided to call in contractor Stephen Bohner and his wife Amy, who co-own Alchemy Construction Incorporated, also of Arcata. Bohner (left, pronounced BAW-ner) is a Certified Green Building Professional, a member of the Radiant Panel Association (RPA), and a recently nominated RPA All-Star. Committed to green building practices, Alchemy Construction received Humboldt County’s Waste Reduction Award for 2007.

Shortly after his initial meeting with CCAT, Bohner visited the manufacturing operations of Heat Transfer Products (HTP) in East Freetown, Massachusetts. There he learned about the company’s Phoenix Solar water heater, which combines domestic hot-water storage (from a solar collector panel) with a 97%-efficient, gas-fired backup – all in one unit. The sealed-combustion, direct-vent Phoenix Solar delivers both high-efficiency space heating and domestic hot water, using state-of-the-art condensing boiler technology and a modulating, load-matching gas burner.

No Cold Showers: To date, the three student-residents, having never run out of hot water, are very happy with the new system. “Although I told the committee that they could expect to see a savings in their energy costs, I didn’t claim they’d never run out of hot water. But I knew they wouldn’t – especially with a 119-gallon tank. There have been no complaints.”

Read the entire case study and see more images.

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