Reslock Home

1286 Deerlodge Road, Reno, NV

OWNER: Bert and Patti Reslock

DESIGNER/ BUILDER: Bert and Patti Reslock

SIZE OF HOME: 2992 sq feet, plus a garage of 1200 sq feet

DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: November 1991 to July 1992

PROJECT: Self-sufficient passive solar home with photovoltaic electrical system. Project cost: $52/ sq ft, comparable to an "on grid" tract home.

The Reslock home, showing the south facing atrium with Trombe wall.
Passive tracking PV panels, used at the Reslock home. Zomeworks trackers are used, which require no power to remain oriented towards the sun
A detail of the back of the tracking mechanism of the Reslock PV system.

RENEWABLE ENERGY SYSTEM DESCRIPTION

OTHER ENERGY EFFICIENT/ CONSERVATION FEATURES

AUXILIARY HEATING

PERFORMANCE EVALUATION/ EXPECTATIONS

Prior to the installation of the hydronic heating system, the TOTAL utility costs, propane (for cooking, clothes drying and water heating), gasoline and generator maintenance and replacement, averaged $73.00 per month (annual costs averaged each year for 4 years). In the Fall of 1996, the hydronic baseboard heating system was installed to assist the solar on overcast days. This allowed owners to stop chopping wood in the snow! At that point utility usage rose to $132.00 per month for the months of October 1996 through March 1997. The home has performed to all the owners’ expectations.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Bert and Patti designed their home to demonstrate that solar construction and alternative energy don’t require relying on antique technology, nor necessarily cost any more than building an energy dependent, non-solar home. Like city dwellers, they enjoy the conveniences of a microwave oven, fax machine, cordless phone/ answering machine, jetted bathtub, and had two teenagers living at home with curling irons, blow dryers, computers and stereos of their own. Given the opportunity, would they connect to the grid? Emphatically, NO!

A firm belief that the demise of the 1970s "Solar Energy Tax Credits" did not mean that solar energy had become passť technology for the 90s, coupled with the desire to find a homesite away from the hustle of city life, led the Reslocks to build their home on 12 acres of land, two miles off Red Rock Road.

Bert and Patti spent several years fine-tuning the design on paper, which would later become their elegantly simple home. Their design criteria required that the home be earth-bermed, passively heated and cooled, and above all, encompass the same modern conveniences enjoyed in most "normal" 1990s homes. Using tried and true passive solar concepts, dating from prehistoric cliff dwellings, sunlight fills and heats a central, 2 story, 160 sq. ft. south-facing atrium with a 12’ x 20’ thermal mass wall at its back. In the wintertime, the atrium warms the upper story of the home, which comprises 1416 square feet of living space, including the kitchen, dining room, living room, office, art studio, and a half-bath. The downstairs, comprising 1576 square feet of three bedrooms, two bath rooms, a central utility room, containing the washer, dryer and wood stove and the atrium floor space, remains cooler, which provides the "convection power" for heating the home as well as a more comfortable sleeping arrangement in all seasons.

Realizing that connecting to the power grid two miles away would be prohibitively costly, they opted to build their home with a photovoltaic electrical system. The challenges that this decision created in obtaining a mortgage have proved to be well worth every bit of the struggle. The initial cost of their PV system was less than one quarter the cost of connecting to utility power. In other words, the system paid for itself four times over on the day they moved in. With improvements and upgrades included, they still have considerably less than a third of the cost of utility power invested in their system. "We just giggle, nuke some popcorn, and plug another movie into the VCR on those stormy nights when the power is out all around us."

Their struggles with lending institutions revealed that there is a perception within the banking community that alternative energy technologies are unreliable and constitute a poor mortgage risk. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true. Continued conformity to this mistaken perception may inadvertently be promoting public utility monopolies.

Being solar enthusiasts, they would encourage designers and builders to give solar considerations priority, ahead of even "the view," in the placement of a house on a building lot. It just doesn’t seem rational to ignore the tremendous benefits that can be passively gained, at no additional costs, by the one simple factor of facing the long axis and large windows of a house towards the south.

Bert and Patti’s experiences have led them to discover that, to live well, we don’t have to sacrifice self-sufficiency or harm the planet. The Reslock’s home is a contemporary example of the blending of both ancient and modern technologies that take positive advantage of the free sunlight that falls on the earth every day.

DIRECTIONS

From Reno, drive north, towards Susanville, on US 395 to Red Rock Road (exit 78). Turn right off the freeway and follow the paved road for 11.2 miles. Turn right on to Deerlodge Road, a gravel road, and drive another 2 miles. The Reslock home is on the left 1/2 mile past the Animal Ark. Turn left at the Sun Feather sign.