The Kosmer Solar House Project

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Are you still living in the 20th century?

Well, John Kosmer left the 20th century understanding that energy efficiency and sustainability will be the unfolding story of our time for the foreseeable future.
A little over a year ago he designed and built a new traditional style 4000 sq. ft. affordable passive solar home for $125.00 a sq. ft., assembling technologies and incorporating design features that enable it to heat for $2.50 a day ($900-1200 a year in the cold Upstate, NY region with crude around $100 a barrel).
Dollar for dollar this traditional style passive solar home far exceeds the cost-to-benefit ratio of any "green" or "zero energy" home today. Heated by the sun, it cost about the same as a comparable size new ENERGY STAR qualified home but uses less than 70% of the energy of that comparable new home. 80% is possible if this home was built in a comparably cold climate but was not in his Snow Belt area and had regular height ceilings.

According to John, "When I owned my previous home, I was unaware that trying to save energy in an existing home was just playing in the margins of energy conservation. It became clear to me that existing 20th century homes are obsolete energy sieves that will take Herculean measures to bring up to speed in the 21st century. This passive solar home can become the model for 21 century home building and rekindle a housing boom in our collapsed building market into the foreseeable future."

In the area of upstate New York where John lives, for the 2007/2008 heating season, annual heat costs can run about $3000-$4000 for a 2000 - 2500 sq. ft. traditionally built home and electric to run about $1800 for a rough combined annual total of about $5000 - $6000.

When asked about increasing energy costs over time, John replies, "In a little over five years, as crude prices will likely blow well past $200 a barrel, you may be paying over $12,000 for your combined heat and electric. Even if you are only in the 20% tax bracket, you will have to earn $15,000 a year to be left with the $12,000 for those two costs alone before you begin to pay for anything else: before health insurance; before the car payment; before gasoline, before the mortgage; before telephone & cable or satellite; before food; before life. Will your income keep up with these two increases that are far and away outpacing inflation?".

He adds, "Creating these energy super nova passive solar homes and driving energy efficient cars is not solely about affordability for the owner, although that accounts for the lion’s share of interest in them. The concerns in ever widening circles are: Reducing personal energy costs; Reducing our dependence on oil; Restarting a housing boom into the foreseeable future; Rebuilding America one house at a time; Increasing sustainable living lifestyles; Diminishing the demand for oil as a source of geopolitical tension."

What Does"Green Living" Mean?

In John Kosmer's case, Building "green" and embracing sustainability encompasses many areas besides energy efficiency.
One measure is creating a small footprint to impact the environment less and to minimize building materials.
This passive solar home is only about 30 ft. by 50 ft. with an attached 30 ft. by 34 ft. garage.
It achieves its total square footage by having an attic that is usable heated space.
A solar house, by its nature, should be a simpler architectural form (like a long rectangle) to maximize solar gain.
These simpler architectural building forms minimize building materials and building costs without sacrificing distinctive design.
"Green" also means using recycled and renewable resource materials.
The ceramic tiles they used in their bathrooms and for the backsplash in the kitchen are Crossville Ceramic Eco-tiles made with SCS certified recycled content.

Green Elements of the Kosmer Solar House

- GE ENERGY STAR qualified Profile appliances
- Renewable resource Mannington Bamboo floors
- Crossville Ceramic Eco-tiles made with SCS certified recycled content
- Baxi ENERGY STAR qualified Luna 3 boiler with integrated solar hot water panels
- Simonton ProFinish ENERGY STAR qualified low E double glazed windows
- Therma-Tru ENERGY STAR qualified exterior Doors
- Velux ENERGY STAR qualified skylights
- 50 year warranted pre-finished James Hardie HardiePlank concrete siding and trim
- 50 year warranted Certainteed asphalt architectural shingles
- Dow Tuff-R Rigid insulation on the exterior surfaces & Certainteed fiberglass insulation in the interior cavities
- Vermont Castings Defiant high efficiency non-catalytic converter wood stove
- Pinnacle Supply’s high tech insulated double line water Time Saver Pipe

More technical information about his project can be found at the Kosmer Solar House website:

John Kosmer has been Home Improvement Editor of VICTORIAN HOMES MAGAZINE for over 23 years.
Articles on the Kosmer Solar House Project appear in the current Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication NEW HOME annual and in the quarterly summer issue of New York State regional magazine Kaatskill Life.
Two more articles appear in both the Nov/Dec issues or SMARTHOMEOWNER and DCD (DESIGN COST DATA).

For additional information:
Contact John Kosmer


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