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SmartHome and Habitat home operate without furnace

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/18/11 @ 1:55pm

Cleveland Habitat for Humanity built a house last year that was so energy efficient, it does not have a furnace, the organization reports. The Malcolm Family has a Habitat house (pictured under construction) with no furnace, and has just gone through their first winter. Ms. Malcolm reports that, even on the coldest nights, she never needed to raise the thermostat above 70 degrees.

"The house is very comfortable and seems more breathe-easy," she says.

The concept of homes without furnaces is gaining momentum in our community, Habitat states. Research shows a more sustainable home design can eliminate the need for costly heating and cooling bills. By building well-insulated homes, the energy already produced by other appliances can be harnessed to regulate the temperature throughout the home.

As an aside, the Malcolm home uses a heating system of hot water circulated by flexible tubing under the floors (apparently powered by natural gas, however, solar thermal is also an option to power radiant floor heating systems-a local example is the McKenzie house in Ohio City). The Habitat house also appears to have cellulose insulation inside the walls and the exterior walls wrapped in about 1-inch Styrofoam sheets.

It would be interesting to see Habitat adopt these green building methods as standard on all of their new home construction-it fits so well with their mission of making home ownership affordable to low to moderate income families.

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PNC SmartHome Cleveland is another example of a super energy efficient house designed to function without a furnace. SmartHome Cleveland will be 90 percent more energy efficient than a typical home. It is currently being constructed (pictured) on the grounds of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History using sustainable materials and furnishings, advanced stormwater techniques, healthy housing techniques and biophilic design to connect occupants to nature.

This week, it will be wrapped in the 6-inch thick Neopor panels (a Styrofoam and graphite blend). Inside walls will have cellulose insulation blown in ? the total "R" value (or ability of a wall to stop air exchange) on the SmartHome will be around a 50 rating. By comparison, a standard wall built to code in Northeast Ohio equals around an R-15 value.

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