Owner of house with no furnace is staying warmDr. Gary Konkol’s passive solar house is standing up to the test of its first Wisconsin winter just fine.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Dr. Gary Konkol’s passive solar house is standing up to the test of its first Wisconsin winter just fine.
“I’ve been staying plenty warm,” Konkol reported in response to a call from the Star-Observer last week.
The inquiry seemed reasonable since the house on Kirkwood Way North, just outside of the North Hudson village limits, doesn’t have a furnace.
It’s one of only a dozen or so passive houses in the United States, and the first to be built in the Upper Midwest.
With 22-inch, super-insulated walls, the house is warmed mostly by the sun’s heat coming through the triple-glazed windows.
Electric mats in the floors provide back-up heat.
Konkol said he turned on the electric heat for the first time on Nov. 28. He had been away for the weekend and returned to a temperature of 60 degrees inside.
The heating mats are now set to maintain the temperature at 67 degrees.
Konkol, a Woodbury physician, said that on sunny days he returns to 75- to 78-degree temperatures inside the house — even when it falls to below zero outside at night.
“I like that heat. It’s almost subtropical when I come home,” he said.
He reports in a blog on his first month in the house that the windows allow 64 percent of the sun’s heat into the house, more than twice as much heat as a standard window will allow. The blog is posted on a website established for the house, www.passivehouseinthewoods.com.
“The house has been very comfortable. I like its solid nature; the quietness of it. And the lack of drafts,” Konkol said.
He had just received his first electric bill for the house, covering 38 days — mostly for the month of November.
The photovoltaic solar panels that track the sun from a pole in the yard produced 366 kilowatts of electricity over the period. He received credit for the power from St. Croix Electric Cooperative.
He used 679 kilowatts of electricity, resulting in a charge for 313 kilowatts. His total energy bill for the period was $56.
Konkol has opened his home to frequent tours and says he doesn’t mind the many requests for information about it he gets from the media. The house has been written up in numerous newspapers and magazines, most recently in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Remodeling Today.
“I appreciate the media’s interest because it tells me there is interest in passive houses,” he said. “So, hopefully, I won’t have the only passive house in the Twin Cities area in the next year or so.”
He said the architect of his house, Tim Eian of TE Studio of Minneapolis, is now designing two more passive houses because of the publicity the Passive House in the Woods received. The houses will be built in Northfield, Minn., and Marine on St. Croix, Minn.
The day of the Dec. 11 blizzard, Hudson elementary, middle and high school teachers were scheduled to tour the Konkol’s house as part of a sustainability program. The tour was called off because of the snowstorm, but will be rescheduled.