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W.Va. solar house shines light on saving energy

July 12, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- More than 500 people attended the Mountain View Builders Solar House open house on Saturday to learn about energy-saving techniques.

"People are starting to pay attention, and that's why the great crowd is here today," said Mike Heatwole, a vendor with a plumbing supply company in Harrisonburg, Va.

Mike and Pete McKechnie, owners of Mountain View Builders, who build energy-efficient homes and are known as the "green builders" in Morgan County, began Mountain View Solar as an educational extension of their company to educate the public, Mike McKechnie said.

Julia Christian, a Mountain View Builders employee, said the purpose of the event was to promote the solar house and to "show people it's not as hard as you think it might be to make your house as energy-efficient as possible."

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Tours were given throughout the afternoon inside the house by family members. Faith McKechnie, who lives in the house with her husband, Mike, said all of the appliances are energy-efficient and Energy Star rated, and the low-flow toilets use only 1.1 gallons of water per flush. The home has radiant floor heat and a solar hot water system.

"By combining wind and solar, we generate electricity from the wind, we generate electricity from the sun and we make hot water from the sun from the solar panels on the roof," Mike McKechnie said.

Vendors and subcontractors were set up in the basement and outside to talk with people. Pete McKechnie said the vendors supply Mountain View Builders with the different energy-saving products in the solar house, and the subcontractors were there to explain the different systems in the house.

Norman and Marcia Pearce drove from Front Royal, Va., and "are trying to save energy any way we can," Norman Pearce said. They use energy-efficient light bulbs and replaced old windows with thermal panes, he said.

The couple came to the event because they need to replace their old water heater and they want a solar heater. Norman Pearce said they got information and signed up for an estimate.

Pam Murphy, the Pearces' daughter, drove from Fort Valley, Va., to attend the open house. She wants to renovate now and build in the future using energy-efficient techniques.

The solar house was a demonstration model from the Department of Energy's 2005 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., and was built by students at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Mike McKechnie said his company purchased the house from the university, took it apart and moved it to Berkeley Springs.

"We want people to understand that energy conservation with current technologies is easy and available and that alternative forms of electrical generations work here and work now," Pete McKechnie said. "It's not for California anymore."

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