National Solar Tour showcases range of possibilities for green homes - 27 East

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National Solar Tour showcases range of possibilities for green homes

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The Guglielmo home, in East Hampton, has a 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system intalled on their roof. Their electricity bill is $5.60 a month.

The Guglielmo home, in East Hampton, has a 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system intalled on their roof. Their electricity bill is $5.60 a month.

The Guglielmo home, in East Hampton, has a 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system intalled on their roof. Their electricity bill is $5.60 a month.

The Guglielmo home, in East Hampton, has a 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system intalled on their roof. Their electricity bill is $5.60 a month.

Tina Guglielmo's East Hampton home has a 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system intalled on their roof. Her family also tries to keep energy costs low by hanging their laundry to dry.

Tina Guglielmo's East Hampton home has a 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system intalled on their roof. Her family also tries to keep energy costs low by hanging their laundry to dry.

Tina Guglielmo's East Hampton home has a 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system intalled on their roof. Their electricity bill is $5.60 a month.

Tina Guglielmo's East Hampton home has a 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system intalled on their roof. Their electricity bill is $5.60 a month.

Bill Chaleff's home was one of the first solar houses in East Hampton. Chaleff's architectural firm has been building green houses since 1986.

Bill Chaleff's home was one of the first solar houses in East Hampton. Chaleff's architectural firm has been building green houses since 1986.

Large glass windows and doors run the length of Bill Chaleff's East Hampton home to provide the most natural lighting at each time of day.

Large glass windows and doors run the length of Bill Chaleff's East Hampton home to provide the most natural lighting at each time of day.

Bill Chaleff's architectural firm, Chaleff & Rogers, has been building green homes since 1986.

Bill Chaleff's architectural firm, Chaleff & Rogers, has been building green homes since 1986.

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Bill Chaleff's architectural firm, Chaleff & Rogers, has been building green homes since 1986.

Bill Chaleff's architectural firm, Chaleff & Rogers, has been building green homes since 1986.

Bill Chaleff displays the air vents in his house. The house stays at 72 degrees the entire year.

Bill Chaleff displays the air vents in his house. The house stays at 72 degrees the entire year.

Bill Chaleff at the piano in his living room in East Hampton.

Bill Chaleff at the piano in his living room in East Hampton.

Bill Chaleff concentrated on curved lines when building his East Hampton home because he wanted the house to fit in with its surrounding environment.

Bill Chaleff concentrated on curved lines when building his East Hampton home because he wanted the house to fit in with its surrounding environment.

Bill Chaleff stand in front of his East Hampton home. His was one of the first solar houses in East Hampton. Chaleff's architectural firm has been building solar homes since 1976.

Bill Chaleff stand in front of his East Hampton home. His was one of the first solar houses in East Hampton. Chaleff's architectural firm has been building solar homes since 1976.

Lazlo Kiss and his family use a composter in their backyard to turn kitchen waste into mulch for their garden.

Lazlo Kiss and his family use a composter in their backyard to turn kitchen waste into mulch for their garden. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lazlo Kiss and his family use a composter in their backyard to turn kitchen waste into mulch for their garden.

Lazlo Kiss and his family use a composter in their backyard to turn kitchen waste into mulch for their garden. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Kiss home would be mostly open space if it weren't for 10-by-8-foot closets from Ikea that were built into the design to separate rooms.

The Kiss home would be mostly open space if it weren't for 10-by-8-foot closets from Ikea that were built into the design to separate rooms. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Kiss home would be mostly open space if it weren't for 10-by-8-foot closets from Ikea that were built into the design to separate rooms.

The Kiss home would be mostly open space if it weren't for 10-by-8-foot closets from Ikea that were built into the design to separate rooms. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A 3D model of the Kiss home created by Lazlo Kiss' architectural firm, ASAP house, Inc.

A 3D model of the Kiss home created by Lazlo Kiss' architectural firm, ASAP house, Inc. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lazlo Kiss incorporated clean design, like these invisible bookshelves, to complement the clean exterior of a modular home.

Lazlo Kiss incorporated clean design, like these invisible bookshelves, to complement the clean exterior of a modular home. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Lazlo residence is a prefabricated home that was transported in three modules and put together on site in two to three months.

The Lazlo residence is a prefabricated home that was transported in three modules and put together on site in two to three months. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Lazlo residence is a prefabricated home that was transported in three modules and put together on site in two to three months. Mr. Kiss used local grasses and wildflowers to landscape his front yard.

The Lazlo residence is a prefabricated home that was transported in three modules and put together on site in two to three months. Mr. Kiss used local grasses and wildflowers to landscape his front yard. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

author on Oct 1, 2009

The measure of a good home should have nothing to do with comparing to the other houses that surround it, according to Sag Harbor-based architect Laszlo Kiss. Instead, designing a good home should be an insular process, taking into consideration the needs of the person who owns it in a way that will work with, instead of against, the environment surrounding the structure.

But if a passerby were so inclined to compare Mr. Kiss’s energy-efficient home to that of its neighbors, or even other homes on this year’s “National Solar Tour,” that person couldn’t help but notice the distinct differences. This is the second year in a row that Mr. Kiss’s home will be on the tour—sponsored by Renewable Energy Long Island and the Long Island Power Authority—which opens green buildings up for public viewing.

With its sharp lines and simple geometric features, Mr. Kiss’s house might be one of the more dramatic-looking houses on the “National Solar Tour,” but it’s certainly not the only East End residence which will be on view during the sixth annual tour, planned for Saturday, October 3, and including 90 Long Island structures from Far Rockaway to Montauk. Locally, approximately eight homes on the tour are in East Hampton Town and five are in Southampton Town.

Mr. Kiss’s 2,500-square-foot house was built two years ago and was the first modular home designed by his Sag Harbor-based architectural firm, ASAP House, Inc.

From the front, the modular house is essentially a large, moss-green rectangle sitting inside a cage of bright red wood. A porch runs the length of the house and five pillars and crossbeams hold a flat, translucent roof about a foot above the structure. The small L-shaped windows that frame the front door show no indication of the floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors that are almost the whole length of the back wall of the house.

Brought to the site prefabricated in three modules and put together in under three months, Mr. Kiss’s house is the most typically modern-looking version of sustainable homes on the solar tour. It incorporates photovoltaic solar panels (PV panels), solar pool heating, geothermal heating within the house and daylighting technology, which provides enough natural light so that the Kiss family rarely has to flip on the light switch.

One of the main goals of the “National Solar Tour” is to educate consumers that there’s no one way a green home should look, according to Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island. The tour aims to show visitors that any house and any budget can incorporate solar panels and other sustainable practices such as energy-efficient appliances.

“The people that go on the tour come from all walks of life but so do the tour hosts,” Mr. Raacke said. “There are some very simple working-class, middle-class homes, there are ranches and then there are high-end homes that are pretty stunning, million-dollar homes that decided to go green as well.”

Tina Guglielmo, who had solar panels installed on her 960-square-foot East Hampton home in March 2008, said during a walk-through of her house last week that she wanted to be a part of the tour so that people would know solar panels are an option for everyone. She added she also wanted to use her home, which was built in 1988, as an example that any home can be energy-efficient.

Ms. Guglielmo said she has always been interested in environmental issues and that she used to work for an environmental advocacy group. She said the research she did there fueled her interest in installing solar panels on her own home.

But it was a battle at first for Ms. Guglielmo to convince her husband, Michael, to invest in the $30,000 system, which, even after rebates, would require the family to take out $9,000 in loans from the bank.

“We’re a middle-income family,” she said. “We just never had thousands of dollars sitting around.”

But eventually, after attending a solar seminar, Ms. Guglielmo said she found a way to both appease her desire to be more sustainable and quell her husband’s concerns.

“I realized we could do it without adding an extra bill,” she said. “That’s how I convinced him. We just pay the bank $110 toward the loan every month ... The same amount we were paying LIPA for electric every month. We just replaced it.”

Ms. Guglielmo said she and her husband expect to pay off the PV system in 10 years and will still have at least 15 years on the life expectancy of the panels.

“That’s 15 years of free electricity,” she said. “It pays for itself. If we remodeled our kitchen or finished our basement, those things wouldn’t pay for themselves.”

Mr. Raacke said that it’s satisfied homeowners like Ms. Guglielmo, whose energy bill is now $5.60 a month, who make the tour a success.

“The tour is a very powerful outreach and education tool,” he said. “Hearing this from a salesperson, a vendor or an advocate is one thing but hearing it and seeing it at a home and talking directly to a homeowner is another. They have no hidden agenda and they are living proof that solar works.”

It’s the simple fact that green building can be less expensive than traditional building, and that society has a responsibility to work with the environment instead of against it, that motivated architect Bill Chaleff to put his East Hampton home on the solar tour every year.

“However long they’ve been doing it, that’s how long this house has been on it,” he said during a tour of his home last week.

Mr. Chaleff’s home has a curved red roof and is nestled about 5 feet into the ground on three sides for temperature control. The house also incorporates solar panels and daylighting, and was constructed with structural insulated panels made up of polystyrene foam (the material used to make coffee cups) and oriented strand board (chips of wood glued together to form a solid board).

Chaleff & Rogers, Mr. Chaleff’s architectural firm in Water Mill, has been designing solar low-energy, low-cost buildings since 1974. He estimates he’s built more than 200 buildings with structural insulated panels but can’t be sure of an exact number because he stopped counting. The material, Mr. Chaleff said, costs the same or less than the traditional 2-by-4 studs used to build houses but doesn’t do the environmental damage.

“I just will not build with sticks anymore,” he said. “It’s silly and not the best value. And as an architect, that’s what we’re supposed to be looking out for.”

Mr. Chaleff said his greatest concern as an architect and as a solar home owner is the misconception among people in his industry that green building costs more. Since his and many other green homes are constructed in wooded, secluded areas, Mr. Chaleff said he uses the “National Solar Tour” as an opportunity to spread the message that building green doesn’t have to be expensive.

“This is the only way to build,” he said. “I want to be a part of this cultural shift.”

Combatting and changing sometimes negative perceptions is also on Mr. Raacke’s agenda for the tour. “People can tend to think of green building as a sort of hippie technology, he said, adding that he’s discovered many homeowners who credit the tour for helping them make the decision to embrace solar technology.

“People go on the tour and they find that this is really mainstream now and it works,” he said. “Seeing is believing.”

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