By Scott Meeker
The app on Frank Schaffer’s iPhone offers a series of bar graphs and percentages, breaking down the current and past energy usage statistics from all over his house.
“Every single circuit in the house has a monitoring system to it,” Schaffer said. “I can monitor and calculate all of our costs right here for the past day, or past week. We have three kids. If they were to leave the fridge door open, the parameters can be set so that it sends us a text alert so we know something’s going on.”
In terms of energy efficiency, the future is here and it’s at 2215 W. 27th St. The 2,200-square-foot residence — billed as Joplin’s first reproducible green home — was opened for private tours on Friday, and will be showcased during an open house and block party from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.
Schaffer, president of F.E. Schaffer Construction, built the home utilizing the most up-to-date efficiency technology. From the AC unit and tankless water system to the hydronic furnace and plumbing system, everything has been designed to lower utility costs by making a much smaller energy footprint.
The former house on the property belonged to Schaffer’s mother, and it was destroyed in the 2011 tornado.
“We lived at 27th and Pearl and we lost our house, too,” he said. “When she moved to Springfield, we bought the lot, but we weren’t sure what we were going to do with it. We were so busy that first year and a half after the tornado helping out, rebuilding other homes and running a business. But there was a lot of time to think about what we wanted to do.”
During that time, Schaffer said he became infatuated with the concept of energy efficiency and what could be done to bring electric costs down.
Partnering with Missouri Gas Energy and a number of other organizations, he built a home that captures the triple crown when it comes to efficiency. It has been certified as an Energy Star partner through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program, received LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification, and a nod from the National Association of Home Builders’ Green program.
One of the key components to the home’s success is the thermal enclosure system.
“If it weren’t raining, you could walk around the house and notice that there are no foundation vents,” Schaffer said. “From the outside in, everything gets sealed.”
Then, there’s the two and a half ton HVAC system, and the hydronic furnace that taps into the tankless water heaters to heat the home.
While outfitting a home with top-of-the line technology does require a significant up-front investment, it’s one that eventually will pay for itself. The proof, Schaffer said, is in the bills.
“Last month, we were still constructing the house and we were in and out, in and out,” said Schaffer. “The AC was running pretty much non-stop at 65 degrees to pull the humidity out of the house. Our bill was just $51.90.”
All of this is music to Catherine Hart’s ears.
Hart, the general manager of GreenTown Joplin, has been in Joplin since August 2011 to help educate city officials, private individuals and business owners about energy efficient and sustainable construction and think long-term when it comes to building.
“I am thrilled,” she said, during a private tour of the home on Friday. “I know how much research, thought and intention went into this. To see it open, I’m so happy for (Schaffer) and the community.
“I hope that it can help demystify green building for people. This is just one of the many types of green homes that Joplin has, but it shows that a normal-looking house can be energy efficient. This is a home for the future. It incorporates a lot of the bells and whistles we’re going to see in homes down the road.”
Bob Painter, the manager of energy efficiency programs for MGE, said Schaffer’s home serves as the perfect showcase for what is possible.
He said that interest in energy efficiency was slow to evolve after the tornado, even though the utility was offering rebates as an incentive to those willing to rebuild with it in mind. After talking to other builders, he was connected with Schaffer and they decided to design the home around the tankless water system.
MGE is using Schaffer’s home as a case study, showcasing its energy-saving features in detail at www.energyefficiencyfortomorrow.com.
“We want to use the home as a teaching tool for how to build effectively,” Painter said. “A lot of time, when you hear ‘green home’ you think it has to have solar. But this house doesn’t need solar because the envelope is so tight.
“I’m glad it’s here and where it is (in the tornado zone). It’s not a mega-home. It has plenty of space, but it’s on a smaller footprint. It’s a little on the upscale, but people can build a house like this affordably.”
Other partners in the project include Rheem, Kohler, General Electric, C&L Supply, Metro Appliances, B&G Drafting, Fiberlite Technologies, Accurate Rater Network, Ozark Nursery, Crane Home Energy and LP Tech Shield.