By Cecilia Cho
Older homes may seem like unlikely examples of sustainability, but Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) is proving it can be done with the reopening of Project Living Proof, a 103-year-old house that demonstrates top energy saving ideas.
Project Living Proof (PLP) is a 3,665-square-foot house located just east of the Plaza in the historic Rockhill neighborhood at 917 Emmanuel Cleaver II, Blvd. In 2010, MEC gutted and restored it as a demonstration house to show visitors how older homes can be energy efficient. The restored PLP house is a resource for homeowners to learn how they can reduce the cost of hefty energy bills, increase the comfort in their homes and prevent the residents’ exposure to harmful contaminants and pollutants.
“We hope visitors are inspired by the energy efficiency and sustainability techniques they see at Project Living Proof,” said Warren Adams-Leavitt, MEC executive director. “Some are simple and straightforward, like attic insulation, and some are cutting edge and more complex technology, like solar.”
Visitors will see more than 20 different energy-efficiency demonstrations, plus four alternative fuel options and several gardening and water-conservation features. Here are some of the highlights:
- A geothermal heating and cooling system was installed to reduce energy costs by up to 70 percent.
- Fourteen solar panels were installed on the south-facing back roof, which connects to a photovoltaic (PV) inverter and a battery storage system.
- SmartGrid technology shows energy use in real time throughout the house. The smart displays are located near the refrigerator and dishwasher in the kitchen. The dishwasher can be programmed to run at times when other energy zappers are not commonly used — like the middle of the night.
- Extensive efforts were made to maintain as much of the original house as possible, including the original windows, which were restored to be more energy efficient.
- First-floor walls were reframed from 4-inches deep to 10–inches deep to allow for maximum insulation. A “truth window” shows visitors the layers of insulation.
- The kitchen has an abundance of sustainable features, including restored maple floors, a prep sink made from recyclable materials, wheat straw cabinets, recycled glass countertops, water-saving faucets and an energy-efficient stovetop.
- The front yard is devoid of grass and instead has several beds of edible plants that work to reduce water runoff from sewers by keeping as much water in the area as possible.
- Various examples of energy-efficient lighting options are installed throughout the house. On the upper level, occupant sensors have been placed in each closet so that lighting is available when closets open, and they automatically turn off when doors are closed.
- A LilyPad EV charging station is located behind the house for electric car charging. It is partially powered by the solar panels on the roof.
PLP was temporarily closed in 2014-15 while it launched a fundraising campaign and made needed repairs. Goals this year include adding a “rain catchment system” for water conservation and gardening.
Tours can be scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays or by special request at other times. The 30-minute tours are free, but MEC requests a donation to help fund future projects at PLP. Donations can be made during a tour or online at www.metroenergy.org. To schedule a tour, contact Warren Adams-Leavitt at 816-531-7283 or [email protected].