Sustainable Demonstration House: Retrofit an Existing, Older Home into an Energy Efficient Residence

Institution: Michigan Technological University
Funders (12)
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Why This Project Is Important 

This project is about helping Western Upper Peninsula households reduce energy consumption, save money, and reduce carbon impact. The area has low median household incomes, high unemployment, old housing stock, a high number of heating degree days, an elderly demographic, and a significant segment of the population living in rental housing. At $0.25/Kw-hr, the electric rates in the area place severe energy burdens on such vulnerable populations. Residents and businesses are concerned and eager to learn what energy efficiency and renewable energy steps they can take to reduce costs and carbon impact. The residence outlined here will be a model “net zero energy demo house.” Working with local community organizations, this student-led project will demonstrate economical and environmental sustainability through efficiency enhancements and retrofits, managing and recycling waste, and utilize renewable resources to generate energy.

Students who live in the model residence will be expected to participate in outreach activities throughout the local community and online to help people learn about, experience, and make their own energy reductions. There are many older homes in the Western Upper Peninsula that were constructed during the mining boom a century ago. The model home will serve as an example of how similar homes throughout the UP and the rest of Michigan can be renovated for sustainable living. The Enterprise program is a unique multi-year, multi-disciplinary curriculum that promotes the development of students’ technical, business, and interpersonal skills in a business-like environment.

Project Description 

The Alternative Energy Enterprise at Michigan Tech will retrofit an existing, older home into an energy efficient residence, incorporating renewable energy generation. The goal is to set up a Sustainable Demonstration House to serve as a resource for the broader community to learn about, test and experience energy efficient/low carbon living. The residence will also incorporate waste reduction and sustainable gardening.

The enterprise, with help from residents, has put up solar panels that help pay for much of the electric required by the house, especially thanks to a donation of solar panels from a local solar company, and replaced indoor light fixtures with more efficient LED bulbs. The panels are the southern most lot along 41, a powerful symbol to people driving into Houghton. Several residents now live in the house, constantly working on being more efficient, weighing trash and recycling, tracking water use, and maintaining social media accounts promoting a sustainable lifestyle. Open houses are held where community members are welcome to come view improvements made to the house.

By June 2019, the hydroponics system should be functional and producing food for the residents. Additionally, the team has completed its heat loss model of the house in its current state and is ready to start replacing windows.

Meet the Researcher

Jay Meldrum

Jay S. Meldrum is the Executive Director of Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center (KRC)and and is the Executive Director of Sustainability for the University. KRC is a soft-money research arm of Michigan Tech University and employs approximately 30 scientists and engineers to provide a wide range of applied research services to clients in government and industry. Research expenditures of KRC are approximately $8 MM annually.
The U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) is the Keweenaw Research Center's primary sponsor, with several active R&D contracts now under way. Projects involve vehicle mobility studies in rough terrains and snow on the Center's 900 acre proving grounds.
Meldrum is an active member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and has served on several committees and boards including the The Board of Directors (2014-2016). Meldrum is the lead organizer for the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge, a Collegiate Design Series Competition that promotes the redesign of snowmobiles for lower emissions, lower noise output, and better fuel economy. This week-long event brings hundreds of volunteers and competitors to the Keweenaw and is a big boost to the local economy. Meldrum is the faculty advisor for the Alternative Energy Enterprise which covers projects including solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps, fuel cells, and bio-fuels.
Meldrum earned an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of...

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of $20,000 fund goal
The average donation for this project is $3115
days left
Funding is Closed

What Your Donation Can Help Us Do: 

  • Cash donations are always welcome to pay for project materials, like the Aquaponics indoor growing system, additional low energy LED lights, painting the exterior of the house, thermal wrap for windows in the winter, and plumbing for the rainwater system for the garden.
  • The heating system is baseboard radiant heat. The circulation pumps and be replace with lower power induction motors for the six zones within the house. Pumps replacements would be welcome.
  • Some of the windows are single pane and need to be replaced with more energy efficient double or triple pain. We are looking for a partner to supply us with energy efficient windows.
  • The roof needs repair and is causing leaks. A new roof membrane is needed.
  • LED bulbs for out-dated lighting outside of the SDH.

$100+ (11/100)

Plaque on the wall of the residence

$250+ (4/40)

Acknowledgement as a Solar Panel Donor

$1,000+ (3/4)

Plaque on Appliance

40 Solar panels will provide 10 Kilowatts of power Appliance donations will go towards a refrigerator, stove, and furnace.

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