The Green Room: Remodeler's Whole-Systems Approach Includes Solar Power

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Remodeler Millard Blakey of WreckCreations' is known for his whole-systemps approach, and it includes using solar power.

May 01, 2009

Blakey and his team turned ho-hum solar collectors into a key part of the design. The panels create a visual break and can be seen from the nearby highway.

Photos courtesy of WRECKCREATIONS

Millard Blakey, owner of remodeling firm WreckCreations, has extensive experience in green remodeling and used it in a whole-systems approach to the remodeling work done on his home near Lexington, Ky.

“We want to grow old here. We are making provisions for wheelchair and walker access and aging-in-place. We also wanted our remodel to be environmentally friendly from demolition to completion,” Blakey says about the project.

He and his firm insisted on incorporating producta that were eco-friendly, recycled or recyclable. That included replacing the fixtures with low-flow models, installing dual-flush toilets and using Energy Star washing machines.

Unfortunately for Blakey and his team, they were frantically getting ready for a model home tour at the same time. In the rush, Blakey was averaging about 30 people a day working on the house, so he had to squeeze a yearlong project into eight months.

Blakely says it’s been quite a journey researching, understanding and locating green products. Most notable are the photovoltaic panels and solar hot water collector tubes mounted in a rather unconventional place: on the deck.

“The deck atop the workshop is a work of art on its own. It not only serves as an entertainment hub for family and friends but as a foundation for a beautiful redwood trellis which support the evacuated tube solar hot water collectors and photovoltaic modules,” says Blakey, adding, “At the top of the collector today [a cloudy 57-degree day] it’s 151 degrees in the tubes. After the two exchange processes it’s 124 degrees at the bottom of the tank.”

Blakey and his team approached the solar collectors as part of the home’s overall design and didn’t just tack them onto the roof as an afterthought. He also wanted them to be a visual break from the neighbor’s yard.

“We’ve been very pleased with the aesthetics of the deck. My solar guy loves it,” Blakey says.

The house is in a cul-de-sac and faces a highway, so the panels are visible to passersby.

“It shows that the panels don’t have to be on the roof,” he says. Not that putting it on the roof is wrong or incorrect, he notes, but fairly often the installation situation is less than ideal.

“Depending on the roof pitch, the clients and the aesthetics of the house, you’re making a [design] compromise. There are lots of ways to incorporate solar. That’s the fun part of it,” he says.

The home now uses 20 percent less energy since Blakey started tracking it. Even though the home has added bells and whistles —including a “man room” and a whole house audio system — the home only uses 300 watts in standby mode. It can generate up to 2,280 watts of electricity, and Blakey says he’s seen the meter run backwards on several occasions. He receives credit toward the electric bill for any electricity he generates back to the grid.

If you have ideas or comments, e-mail Nick Bajzek at nicholas.bajzek@reedbusiness.com.

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