THURMONT, Md. (AP) A three-bedroom bungalow owned by Denis and Brienne Superczynski in Frederick County is featured on the 2009 Metro Washington D.C. Tour of Solar Homes and Buildings.
One of five in the county on the tour, the house has been undergoing renovations for two years. The changes are just about finished.
The Superczynskis bought the house more than four years ago. They wanted to make it bigger and lower the carbon footprint. So they renovated the entire home and installed a solar radiant heat and hot water system.
Solar thermal radiant heating hoses are underneath the floors. They carry water heated by panels on the roof, which also heat the floors. Heat radiates up from the floors to warm the house.
But it's much more than solar power making this home green. There are LED lights along the stairway and in the kitchen and the doors are recycled. The Superczynskis worked to limit throwaways, use products made from renewable resources and increase energy efficiency. The expansion went upward more than out, providing 75 percent more space with an addition no larger than a typical patio.
There are skylights and passive solar lighting, taking advantage of the sun's rays in the winter and shielding the windows in the summer. Window positions allow for natural ventilation. "Solar houses don't have to be weird," Brienne said. "It's an in-town house. We walk to the library. We walk to school." Their children, boys ages 10 and 12, ride their bikes around town.
The renovations were done on a budget. Denis is a planner with the Frederick County Planning Department, and Brienne is a social worker for Hospice of Frederick County.
There are state and federal tax credits to help with the cost. "I don't know that most people who do it do it because of incentives," Denis said. The Superczynskis will get credits on electricity saved from their electric company.
With interior renovations nearly done, the couple plans to dig up part of the backyard and put in native plants, reducing the time and gas for mowing. The yard is a typical in-town lot; there's room for several shade trees and a garden.
The family bought the house in February 2005, and moved out for a year while the renovations were done. They rented a small house down the street.
There have been compromises. The shower in the main bathroom is made for comfort. The stone tiles were chosen for looks, not carbon footprint. "We live in the house," Brienne said. There is a Jacuzzi tub, a castoff from Denis' parents.
Every room is wired for high-speed cable and phone connections. The house has air conditioning, which is vented into the ceilings.
Renovating a house using green techniques doesn't have to be out of reach of most families, the couple said. "We want people to know it can be done," Brienne said.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)