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Zero Doubt that “Unity House” is Net Zero 

When Mitch and Cindy Thomashow moved into their new home last year, they knew they were living in one of the most sustainable and energy efficient homes in Maine, and likely the Northeast. Known as Unity House, the home uses a mixture of photovoltaic solar panels for generating electricity and a separate solar hot water system, along with an extremely tight, super-insulated building envelope and passive solar design elements. The two hoped the design of the home would help it achieve Net-Zero status, producing as much energy as it uses.Designed and built by Bensonwood Homes in Walpole, New Hampshire, earlier this year Unity House received LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the highest achievable green building designation. While the home is connected to the local power grid, which acts like a giant battery during periods of low solar production, it is built to be energy independent and is one of only seven certified LEED Platinum residences in New England (BrightBuilt Barn is a second example , also built by Bensonwood). Indeed, with Net Zero documentation now added to its LEED Platinum certification, Unity is among only a handful such buildings nationwide. From October 5, 2008 to October 5, 2009, energy use data shows Unity House produced 6,441 kilowatt hours of electricity while using only 6,430 kwh. The data shows that the cumulative months of overcast conditions and unseasonably cold temperatures in the first 3 seasons of 2009, considerably dampened solar collection, yet the home’s heat and power production/retention performed exceptionally well despite these limiting factors. Unity College Sustainability Coordinator Jesse Pyles says, some may call it a home of the future, but it’s a home that can be built now and Bensonwood Homes and Unity College has proved it.