The Footprint: Out of the Typical Residential Box
Although we have come close to, and, if you ignore the excessive plug loads, we have exceeded, zero energy status,1 we have other, less conventional constraints. We are committed to minimizing our impact by growing much of our own food. For example, we raise 100% of the pork and poultry we consume (organically and without soy protein) as well as grow most of our own vegetables. What we don’t grow, we source locally, including beef. The end result is we rarely go to the grocery store, except for some limited items that we cannot find from local farmers and vendors.
From an energy perspective, it also means we have four chest freezers and an extra refrigerator in addition to a small fan in the root cellar. Our chicken and turkey breeding program requires 250 W brooder lamps for the chicks and poults (baby turkeys) during the summer. All these farm loads use 2,154 kWh of electricity, which is not consumed in the house and accounts for the additional plug loads. In addition, although we do not yet own an electric vehicle, it is on the wish list, and the garage is wired to accommodate that load.
In 2018, we plan to replace approximately 4,000 kWh of electricity consumption for heating and cooking with a wood cookstove. (We do a lot of cooking.) This translates to roughly 1 to 2 cords of wood annually. The current wood stack from the lot clearing is 10 cords, and we’ll have an ample additional supply as we thin the forest on the lot to an ideal density. One way to think of the footprint is that we exchange vehicle miles and energy use in the food supply chain for on-site PV and wood.
We also manage the farming operation to build topsoil as a carbon sink and to restore fertility to the depleted soils. This discussion is way off-topic for this article and the energy aspects of the house, but it is food for thought.2
We raise 100% of the pork and poultry we consume and grow most of our vegetables. Loads related to these endeavors are 2,154 kWh of electricity, which is not consumed in the house and accounts for the additional plug loads.
- DOE. 2015. “A Common Definition for Zero Energy Buildings.”
- Rodale. 2015. "Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change."