Janesville28.3°

Evansville class project offers lessons about building smart

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GINA R. HEINE
April 21, 2008
— The six solar panels perched atop the west-side home collected nearly five kilowatt hours by mid-afternoon on a sunny day last week.

Inside, students built the home with free electricity.


When the high school students in the building trades class finish their home at Badger Drive and South Sixth Street—hopefully by the end of the school year—it will include many energy efficient aspects and be the only home in the city with solar panels.


“Where we could, we made an effort to do the energy efficient (option),” teacher Rob Kostroun said.


Tours of the work-in-progress will be one of the features of the sixth annual Evansville Community Earth Day Energy Fair on Friday. The fair will run from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the field house, 320 Fair St.


About 2,000 people attended the popular event last year, and organizers always are looking for ways to expand the fair. This year, the event includes exhibits, tours, performances and free items, including a cloth shopping bag and a compact fluorescent light bulb exchange.


When a family moves into the 1,600-square-foot, student-built home, it will have 25 percent to 50 percent of its electrical load provided by the sun, depending on the family’s energy usage. A box on a basement wall converts the DC current into AC to be used throughout the house. The system does not have storage capacity, so the power is either used at that time in the home or put onto the power grid.


Twenty-five to 30 students in Kostroun’s class have been working for only one and one-half hours a day since school started learning general contracting and carpentry skills.


Working with the solar energy system is an added bonus and excellent opportunity, said Doug Albright, owner of Albright Electric and Solar in Evansville and installer of the home’s system.


“It’s been really good for the kids,” he said. “We’ve actually let them put everything together—not on the roof, but on the ground—so they got firsthand knowledge of how everything worked.”


Funding for the about $10,000 solar panel system came from Evansville Water and Light and Wisconsin Public Power.


The three-bedroom home features other energy efficiency efforts: a tank-less, natural gas water heater, natural gas stove and clothes dryer, Energy Star appliances, extra insulation, low-emissivity glass windows and compact fluorescent light bulbs.


It is the first home the district has built since 1979. When it resurrected the program, organizers wanted to involve more than just construction students.


Agriculture students will help with landscaping while marketing students work to promote the house, Kostroun said. Engineering students drew up the house plans last year while art/interior design students could get involved with paint choices if time permits.


“We tried to incorporate into lots of other areas of the building,” Kostroun said. “We’re using this as a learning tool in a lot of other areas.”


Local contractors and businesses also have been very supportive of the project, donating time and cutting prices, he said.


“The whole goal wasn’t to build a green house, it just kind of turned out that we did a bunch more things than we thought we were going to,” Kostroun said.


But, hopefully, that will make the house more attractive to buyers, students working on the house said.


“I think it’d be a good selling point,” senior Travis Schnabel said.


If you go

What: Evansville Community Earth Day Energy Fair


When: Friday.


Time: 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.


Where: Theodore Robinson Intermediate School Field House, 320 Fair St., Evansville.


Cost: Free.


The event includes exhibits on renewable energy from energy efficient appliances to wind energy to sustainable agriculture. Tours of the High School Energy Efficient project home on Sixth Street will be offered as well as demonstrations on wind power, soybean based fuels and solar energy.


Other features include a compact fluorescent light bulb exchange promotion through Dave’s ACE Hardware, free oak trees from the Department of Natural Resources, area students’ science fair, a community bike ride tour of Evansville’s windmills, student performances and home energy demonstrations.



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