Little Portion Green at the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center, on the St. Francis campus in Tiffin, participated in the 2012 Green Energy Ohio Tour. Mike Connor, director of the FELC, said about 20 people toured the strawbale house Saturday and about a dozen visited Sunday.
"This is the first time we've been on the tour," Connor said. "They were all fairly local - Findlay, Upper Sandusky, Tiffin, Bloomville and Fostoria."
In addition to its straw-bale insulation, the structure has other energy-efficient features, including triple-pane windows, an energy recovery ventilation system, passive solar heat, earthen plaster finish on the walls, and a slab floor insulated with a recycled glass product called Millcell. Other points of interest are the solar array that generates power for the house and the FELC and the wind turbine.
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
From left, Blase, Christopher and Stephanie Bruno examine branches embedded in the plaster around an upstairs window in the strawbale house Sunday at the Franciscan Earth LIteracy Center.
Because of its moving parts, Connor said the turbine requires more maintenance than the solar panels. The turbine was intended as a demonstration item rather than a primary power source. It is considered a residential unit. Since its installation, the windmill has generated about 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.
In contrast, the solar panels have generated 24,000 kilowatt hours. Connor said American Electric Power monitors the amount of electricity the solar panels produce. In addition to the strawbale house, the array also powers the coolers for summer produce and lighting for the center. Connor said the center uses less power in the winter, but with fewer hours of sunlight, the panels also generate less. The solar array is a commercial installation. The only maintenance is keeping the vegetation low around the panels.
"Right now, these panels have been turned on for almost a year (next week). In that 12-month period, we have produced 2,400 more kilowatt hours with the panels than
we have used. We haven't gotten a bill since November 2011."
In addition to serving as a residence for two sisters, Little Portion Green, is to be used as an educational and demonstration facility to teach the public how to use natural building materials, save energy and preserve the environment. The goal of the project is to attain zero energy and to demonstrate how to save resources by using innovative designs, techniques, equipment and systems.
Blase and Stephanie Bruno and their son Christopher live near the St. Francis campus and were curious to see the progress on the house. David and Barb Shine of Fostoria are friends of Sister Jane Omlor, who originated the project. They stopped in with their daughter Stephanie and her husband, John Herrington. Barb especially enjoyed the view through the home's windows.
"I've been wanting to come, but this is the first time it fit into the schedule," Barb said.
Connor said he and others working on the house have learned something new every day. The water and septic lines were installed last week. Omlor is looking for volunteers to lay tile.
"The finishing of the earthen plaster walls took a lot longer than we had anticipated. The folks doing those walls, I think, also were very particular about how they wanted them to look. They did a very nice job. We have an electrician coming in this week to finish all the electrical fixtures. Soon after that the plumber will be here to hook up the bathrooms and kitchen," Connor said. "When you are working mostly with volunteers, it's a slow process sometimes ... but we're getting close. "
Anyone interested in volunteering can call (567) 207-5393. For more information, visit www.felctiffin.org or call (419) 448-7485.