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This website documents the construction and performance of our "green built" home in Middleton, WI. Acker Builders completed construction on November 16, 2009. On this site you can find real-time solar panel output, photos during and after construction, and a description of the techniques used to improve indoor air quality and maximize energy efficiency.

Solar Panels

Plumbing complete

Posted Wed, 11/04/2009 - 23:09 by kpbadger

Today it was the plumbers' turn, and all of our faucets, toilets, and showerheads were installed. Please read the Water Conservation page for more information on our selections (low-flow faucets and dual flush toilets).

Here are the pictures of the fixtures.

Powder room:

Master bathroom:


Laundry room:

Hallway bathroom:


One thing I found interesting (and helpful) was that Dave Jones Plumbing labeled all of the shut-off valves. In addition to having their name and number all over the place for future service, this could be very helpful for folks who don't want to trace the pipes.  Here's an example tag.

The two missing pieces of kitchen counter backsplash were put in place and also the gas cooktop, garbage disposal, and dishwasher were installed.

Almost Done!

Posted Tue, 11/03/2009 - 16:29 by mattacker

Much of the interior work is done, as you can see.  In the coming 2 weeks:

-The kitchen countertops will be installed.

-The plumbers will finish.

-The solar panels will be installed.

-A rain retention system will be installed.

-Landscaping will be completed.

-Exterior doors will be painted.

-Mirrors and shower door installed.

-Carpeting laid.

-Final Energy Star Test (blower door).

-Final Cleaning.

-Final Inspection.

Any the many various other things that make the final weeks so hectic.  Sounds like alot, but this is managable.  I just hope the weather stays dry for us to finish the outside yard work by the time the Paulisses move in.  Which is slated for the week of November 16th.

Kitchen countertops installed

Posted Tue, 11/03/2009 - 16:00 by kpbadger

Kitchen countertops are installed, with the exception of the backsplash in a couple places. The worker reported that the pieces were not correct, so they will return tomorrow to finish them.  We opted for quartz countertops.  Quartz and granite were the same price and for us the deciding factor was that we liked the appearance of the quartz that we chose.

The bathroom countertops are remnants which were installed some time ago. Today the backsplashes were finished.


Geothermal heat pump installed and activated

Posted Tue, 10/27/2009 - 22:29 by kpbadger

Yesterday and today, our geothermal heat pump was installed and commissioned. I took videos of much of this work which will be posted shortly. In the meantime enjoy these pictures and the narrative.

If you're new here and you want to know what geothermal is, why we chose it, and how much it costs, then check out the Geothermal page.

When reading this summary, keep in mind that our wells were drilled back in July, before the excavation for the foundation. The pipes were laid under the basement floor before the floor was poured. Then it's been a waiting game ... until yesterday.

On Monday morning, the heat pump was delivered. This is a very heavy unit. The landscapers from two doors down were kind enough to give the system a ride in their digger, down to the door of the walk-out basement. From there, the guys from Modern Heating & Cooling wrestled it into place.

Below the heat pump is the plastic "pad" and on top of this, under the heat pump, they installed rubber feet. This is to reduce vibration.  Once the heat pump was in place, they took off the service panels and were kind enough to let me grab a couple pictures of the inside:

The air return attaches to the heat pump to cover the large yellow filter shown in the middle picture above. They slid this into place and then cut a hole in the return duct above to connect everything.


They also made the connection of the desuperheater (hot water generator) to the buffer tank. That is the copper pipes -- one connection into the heat pump and one return.  The electrician was also there and he installed a disconnect box and wired up the system.


The next thing to be installed is the flow controller, which consists of two pumps. This must be within five pipe-feet of the connections to the unit, which ruled out the wall. Ultimately the best place to mount the flow controller was the side of the heat pump unit itself.


On Tuesday morning, the geothermal team from Sam's well drilling arrived to connect the loops to the flow controller, fill the loops with water and an environmentally-friendly antifreeze solution, and purge out the air. I am still processing the videos from this, so for now I post the picture of the end result.

Tuesday afternoon, Modern returned to start up the unit for the first time. This included installing the thermostat in the dining room area.

Modern will be back Wednesday to finish up, including connecting the second zone, activating the upstairs thermostat, and possibly commissioning the HRV.

The guys from Modern and Sams were all very gracious in answering all my questions during and after the install, tolerating me standing there watching and taking photos and videos, and letting me know their schedule so I could balance it with my other obligations. Video will be posted in the coming days.


Trim, countertops, appliances

Posted Tue, 10/27/2009 - 22:04 by kpbadger

Over the last two days, progress on the interior has been made.

The entry way into the great room is now nearing its final form, with the half-wall and pillar design suggested by Matt Acker.

Countertops were installed today in the bathrooms. The installation of the laminate countertop in the laundry room is scheduled for tomorrow, and the kitchen counter top will be installed next week.

The lockers and bench in the mud room are taking shape.

The wall oven, microwave, and range hood were installed in the kitchen.  The washer and dryer were delivered today, and the dryer was installed.  The washer needs to wait for the drain pan from the plumbers.

On the outside, the "plexi porch" has been installed. This was another Matt special.  We wanted a similar design to our neighbors' porch, with glass on the bottom rather than a solid opaque finish such as siding or wood. The main motivation was so our cat could also enjoy this space. However, a new code had recently been put into effect, specifying safety glass requirements that no manufacturer had a suitable product to meet. So Matt came up with the idea to sandwich plexiglass between the wood to create something cost-effective, attractive, and code-compliant. We are very pleased with the outcome, and the view is great.