Zero energy modular home visits Pownal

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POWNAL — A traveling, zero-energy modular home provided context Tuesday for residents to learn about such homes, along with energy efficiency in general.

The about-450-square-foot home through Efficiency Vermont has been on tour to the public for 18 months, with a stay in Pownal from Oct. 9-17 at the Pownal Center Firehouse. Tuesday's hours were 2-6 p.m.

Most of the small group of attendees at the home mid-Tuesday afternoon said they came out of curiosity.

At about 2:45 p.m. Peter Schneider, energy consultant with Efficiency Vermont, spoke to the group of attendees in the home's small living/dining area, complete with a table, chairs, a small couch and appliances.

"That's the benefit of a house like this," he said. "It's turnkey; everything's done."

That includes everything from appliances to solar on the roof, he said.

"We've had homeowners move in same-day," he said.

One man in a green jacket said he's used to living in similar conditions — he resides in a mobile home.

"But when the grandkids come over, or one family or the other family we need what [space] we got," he said.

Schneider responded that this particular home is actually one of the smaller ones Efficiency Vermont has delivered.

"Most our homes are a thousand square feet, plus or minus," he said. "This one, of course, is designed so we can travel."

Most of the homes also go to income-qualified buyers, he said.

The traveling home is 14 ft. by 40 ft. with foot-thick walls, "for extra insulation," Schneider said.

The house will be stopped in Pownal until Oct. 17, with hours Wednesday and Thursday from 2-6 p.m., in addition to being featured at the Housing & Energy Opportunity Fair, scheduled for Wednesday from 6-9 p.m. at the Pownal Center Firehouse

The home has been on tour for 18 months for "outreach and advocacy" purposes, Schneider said.

"We're ready to meet visitors where they're at," he said. That means answering questions about everything from saving money on fuel costs to home energy visits to ventilation, he said.

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Pownal marks the home's first time in Bennington County. Schneider said he wasn't at open houses held Wednesday and Saturday, but he heard it's been "very busy."

Town Administrator Michael Walker also briefly visited the home Tuesday afternoon.

"My idea was to try to bring some of the opportunities that exist in the state to Pownal," he said of the impetus behind the effort. "Give our citizens' options, to give them assistance."

It's also important because people experiencing economic challenges don't have the time to go and look for things like this, he said.

"If you don't know about something, you can't access it," he said.

Efficiency Vermont provides advice, technical services, and financial support to create healthier and more comfortable spaces, addressing things like electrical and heating costs, according to the organization's website.

"Certainly, not everybody is looking for a new home," Schneider said. The open houses provide an opportunity to ask questions and learn about things like heating, cooling or a free home energy visit, he said.

The home parked in Pownal costs about $120,000. Efficiency Vermont also offers incentives for income-qualified homebuyers of up to $17,000.

Schneider showed Annette Dixon the heat pump on the wall in the home's living/dining area.

"I have a friend who just put a heat pump in their house," Dixon said.

Schneider turned it on for her.

"And it's very quiet," she said. "You don't even hear it."

A normal unit might run at about 85 percent efficiency, but this heat pump runs up to 300 percent efficiency, Schneider said.

"One person, it might be fine," said Judy Robertson of the home on her way out. "Two people, it might be questionable. Size-wise."

Robertson said she's looked into solar, but it didn't make sense for her.

"Too many trees," she said of her property.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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