Stonington home wins energy efficiency award

Jeff and Sandy Alexander at their home in Stonington on Thursday, May 4, 2017.  The Alexanders recently received an award for their newly built home as having the Lowest Home Energy Rating System Index Before Renewables.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Jeff and Sandy Alexander at their home in Stonington on Thursday, May 4, 2017. The Alexanders recently received an award for their newly built home as having the Lowest Home Energy Rating System Index Before Renewables. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Stonington — When Jeff and Sandy Alexander moved from Pennsylvania in 2015, they already knew both what they did and didn’t want in their next home.

“We came from a very inefficient home,” Jeff Alexander said.

“It leaked and it was very vulnerable to the elements,” Sandy Alexander added. “We knew we wanted to find an efficient home.”

Since his job at Comcast covers a wide territory, the Alexanders could have picked just about anywhere in the Northeast to live. But with his roots in Norwich and family in the area, the couple started looking in southeastern Connecticut, eventually renting a house in Mystic for a year while they looked for land to build their “forever house” from scratch.

Once they found a 2.6-acre parcel in the northern corner of Stonington that was once part of an apple orchard, they began looking for a builder who would share their goals. In December, they moved in.

“We’ve always been oriented around the importance of the environment, and having a child really ramped that up,” said Jeff Alexander, referring to the couple’s 7-year-old son, Brody.

Added Sandy, an interior and web designer, “Our goal was to set an example for our son. We’re really trying to instill that mindset in him.”

The result of their commitment to build an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly house has earned them accolades and attention from Energize Connecticut, an initiative of the Energy Efficiency Fund, the Connecticut Green Bank, the state and electric and gas utilities that is funded through a charge on customer energy bills. The Alexanders’ 2,800-square-foot, two-story home, with a large central living-dining-kitchen area creating the hub for three smaller bedrooms and an office, won the top Home Energy Rating Score in this year’s Zero Energy Challenge.

The home was cited for its tight insulation, air-tight construction and efficient design. With twenty-eight solar panels and a geothermal cooling and heating system, the home also makes good use of renewable energy technologies, the award citation noted. It was one of 17 homes chosen in this year’s contest.

“There are ways to build a home and better ways to build a home,” Jeff Alexander said. “If you start by building an airtight home, you have a leg up. The construction of the house and the envelope are what we were recognized for.”

The walls are 12 inches thick, with blown-in cellulose insulation. It’s oriented to make the most of south-facing exposure for light and energy production from the solar panels. Low-maintenance fiber cement board covers the exterior, topped by a metal roof and surrounded with a large wraparound porch with decking made of ipe, a South American wood.

“We made a lot of choices that cost us a little more up front” but will be economical in the long run, Sandy Alexander said. “We took advantage of every energy incentive we could, and that helped bring down the cost.”

Jeff Alexander said he hopes their house inspires others to do what they can to make their own homes more energy efficient.

“You don’t need to implement sweeping changes to your home, but if there’s an opportunity to be more thoughtful, just think about what’s in your control,” he said.

Now that they’re settled in their new home, the couple is working on landscaping and planning a large vegetable garden, a continuation of their conservation ethic.

“We’re hoping to be here the rest of our lives,” Jeff Alexander said.

 j.benson@theday.com

Jeff and Sandy Alexander at their home in Stonington on Thursday, May 4, 2017.  The Alexanders recently received an award for their newly built home as having the Lowest Home Energy Rating System Index Before Renewables.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Jeff and Sandy Alexander at their home in Stonington on Thursday, May 4, 2017. The Alexanders recently received an award for their newly built home as having the Lowest Home Energy Rating System Index Before Renewables. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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