Taking a Home Off the Grid

A traditional house goes off the grid with groundbreaking technologies and elegant eco-conscious design. See the exclusive gallery of images.

The architect wanted to infuse the entire interior of the home with the water view, which led to a linear design with an emphasis on openness, to allow sunlight and views into the 12,200-square-foot home.

The design also meant that the home would have a considerable amount of exterior exposure that would be an energy draw. The solution was the incorporation of such elements as spray foam insulation for all exterior and subterranean walls and roofs, energy-efficient windows, LED lighting, geothermal wells, and, most important, an onsite power generation system, the latter effectively taking the home off the grid.

The idea of installing a cogeneration power system emanated from the mind of Daniel Gressel, an investment banker and economist, who has studied the efficiency of power plants. He hired Blueprint Energy Group of Westport to install the system (one of the first of its kind in the United States) in the cellar. The system runs on natural gas, provides electricity and heat and cooling, serving as its own back-up generator. It also provides hot water for the family's pool and hot tubs. The Yanmar Micro CHP system from Japan cost around $80,000. However, the payback period is relatively short because when the home uses little power, the electric meter runs backward and power is sold to the grid.

"I would say the Gressels spend about $5,200 to power and heat their home [mostly through the purchase of natural gas]," says Rob Fischetti, principal of Blueprint Energy Group, who is also an artist and contributed several pieces to Jennifer Gressel's somewhat eclectic collection of art in her home, "whereas a home this size would usually cost around $20,000 a year to power."

Matt Matthews of Significant Homes LLC of New Canaan, who served as general contractor for the project, says, "Not only was it an architectural achievement in its own right, but we also did a perfect mating of the old and new right down to the size of the aggregate in the mortar and the pattern of the stone. On top of all that, it was green from the standpoint of materials used. What we did with co-generation was groundbreaking."

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