I’ve always said that if we could get most of our hot water from the sun in our antique (1743) house in cloudy, cold Massachusetts (which we do), it should be easy for most of the country to heat water with the sun.
Taking that philosophy much farther, Paul Brazelton’s Minnesota family has just done a deep-green retrofit of a 1935 house—and yanked out the furnace. With frequent temperatures of -20F and spikes well below that, this is a brave thing to do.
But not unproven. Energy visionary Amory Lovins also lives in the snowbelt (just outside Aspen, Colorado). While he doesn’t see the temperature extremes of a Minnesota winter, his no-furnace house was designed and built back in 1983, with technology we’d now consider quite primitive—and he grows bananas in his sunroom. And thousands of Passivhaus Institute-certified EnerPHit homes have been built in Germany and Scandinavia (also not known for balmy winters).
The Brazelton project will be the first certified EnerPHit home in North America.