When their children went off to college, Professor Ty Newell and his wife Deb were faced with the so-called empty nesters problem of finding themselves living alone in a house too big for them. Instead of just buying a smaller home, the couple decided to build Equinox House, a net-zero home located in Illinois. The house was designed and constructed by Ty and his son Ben in 2010.
The walls and roof of the Equinox House were made using twelve-inch thick structural insulated panels, while the building team also took extra care to seal any air leakage throughout the building envelope of the home. To further seal the home, the Equinox House was fitted with high performance, triple-pane windows, which also aids in preventing thermal transfer. All the windows were also placed in such a way as to allow the maximum amount of sunlight into the main living area of the home.
All the heating, cooling, humidity control and ventilation needs of the household are taken care of by a single heat pump based system, which was specially developed by Ty and Ben Newell at their company, Newell Instruments. The system manages to maintain a comfortable temperature and humidity level in the home, while it also brings in a constant flow of fresh air from the outside, which it achieves without the loss of conditioned air inside the house.
The home is also installed with low-flow plumbing fixtures and has rain water collection system installed, which is designed to meet 80 percent of the annual water needs for a family of four. Equinox House was also the first house in Illinois approved to use rainwater indoors for toilets within the entire municipality.
The energy needed to power the house is provided by a ground-mounted solar panel array, which also generates enough electricity to power an electric car. In the first few months of being operational, the solar array had already generated enough energy to power the house and offset all of the power that had been needed to construct the home.
Good indoor air quality is ensured by a Conditioning Energy Recovery Ventilator (CERV). The iAQ-100 made by AppliedSensor installed inside the CERV is able to both detect and remove a broad range of potentially harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Other sustainable features of Equinox House include LED lighting throughout the home, Energy Star rated appliances, only low or no-VOC paints and finishes, and more. According to the Newells, they have yet to pay a utility bill except for a monthly customer service fee, since moving into to the house in 2010.