Sustainability Demonstration House: Retrofit an Existing, Older Home into an Energy Efficient Residence Phase II

Institution: Michigan Technological University
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Why This Project Is Important 

We are now entering phase II of the Sustainable Demonstration House project! We would like to thank all of our donors who made phase I a huge success. This project is about helping Western Upper Peninsula households reduce energy consumption, save money, and reduce carbon impact. The area has a low median of 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 eager to learn what energy efficiency and renewable energy steps they can take to reduce costs and carbon impact. The residence involved in this project will be a model of a "net zero energy demo house." Working with local community organizations, his student-led project will demonstrate economic and environmental sustainability through efficient enhancements and retrofits, managing and recycling waste, while utilizing renewable resources to generate energy.

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 wase reduction and sustainable gardening. 

The enterprise, with help from residents, has put up solar panels that help pay for much of the electricity acquired by the house (A special thanks to a donation of the solar panels and a battery backup from local companies). The panels are located at the south entrance to Michigan Tech's campus; a powerful symbol for our commitment to sustainability. We replaced indoor light fixtures with more efficient LED bulbs, some of which were donated to us and the others were bought using money donated from sponsors like you. Several residents now live in the house, constantly working on being more efficient, weighing trash and recycling, tracking water usage, and maintaining social media accounts promoting a sustainable lifestyle. Open houses are held where community members are welcome to view improvements made to the house.

By January 2019, the Aquaponics system will 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 and searching for upgrades to our heating system.

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...

Questions for the Researcher

gtang2016's picture
Guiliang Tang  November 10, 2020 - 11:26am
Glad to see the solar panels on campus. How much watts of the 32 panels? How much did it cost in dollars? Is it possible to duplicate one or translocate it at MTU blueberry research station?
gtang2016's picture
Guiliang Tang  November 10, 2020 - 11:26am
Glad to see the solar panels on campus. How much watts of the 32 panels? How much did it cost in dollars? Is it possible to duplicate one or translocate it at MTU blueberry research station?
jmeldrum's picture
Jay Meldrum (Researcher)  November 10, 2020 - 11:51am
8.6 Kw. ~ $30K It is possible to duplicate the system elsewhere. It just takes money and a place to put it. If translocate means moving this one, no. Jay
jp's picture
jim paul  April 27, 2021 - 6:43pm
Is there a way to view real time data from solar array? website? Is heating and DHW net zero? if so where are the specifications for system? house heatload?
jmeldrum's picture
Jay Meldrum (Researcher)  April 29, 2021 - 7:25pm
Sorry, we don’t have that data available in real time for you. In the summer we are near net zero but in the winter we are not due to the heat loss off this 1954 house with many windows and an aging heating system. We are planning mods to get there.

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of $20,000 fund goal
The average donation for this project is $569
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What Your Donation Can Help Us Do: 

  • Cash donations are always appreciated 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 the windows during winter, and plumbing for the rainwater system for the garden.
  • The heating system is baseboard heat radiant. The circulation pumps need to be replaced with lower power induction motors for the six zones within the house. Money for these pump replacements would be welcome.
  • Some of the windows are single pane and need to be replaced with more energy efficient double or triple pane. We are looking for a partner to supply us with energy efficient windows.
  • A new roof membrane is needed.
  • New LED bulbs to replace outdated lighting outside of the house are needed.

$100+ (5/100)

Plaque on the wall of the residence.

$250+ (3/40)

Acknowledgement as a solar panel donor.

$1,000+ (1/4)

Plaque on appliance.

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Gifts to projects listed on SUPERIORIDEAS.ORG are received and processed by Michigan Tech Fund. Michigan Tech Fund is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code acting on behalf of Michigan Technological University. It is the policy of Michigan Tech Fund that a portion of the gifts and/or income therefrom may be used to defray the costs of raising and administering the funds.