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HCC has positive energy about house to be designed for green training

December 04, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Community College student Chris Giannoumis, left, observes as instructor Anthony R. Valente mounts a digital electrical meter beneath a standard analog meter. The meters were donated by Potomac Edison. Valente is the alternative energy technology program coordinator at the college, where an "energy house" is expected to be completed by the fall of 2012 or spring of 2013.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Call it a case of multiple personalities.

In some ways, Hagerstown Community College’s new “energy house” will be the epitome of green living, complete with roof-mounted solar panels, a retractable wind turbine and a geothermal heat pump.

But it will also feature some decidedly ungreen features: areas with low-efficiency windows, incandescent lights and poor insulation.

The result will be a training lab where students in HCC’s alternative energy technology program can learn not only about cutting-edge alternative energy systems, but also how to measure and improve the energy efficiency of typical, ordinary homes, alternative energy technology program coordinator Anthony R. Valente said.

“A lot of energy houses are really showpieces,” Valente said. “They’re almost off the grid, if not off the grid totally. You take a tour, you take pictures, and you’re done. Our energy house has to be a working laboratory environment.”

The Washington County Planning Commission granted site plan approval for the project earlier this month. Now, the college is interviewing architects, Valente said. If all goes well, the house could be completed in the fall of 2012 or spring of 2013, he said.

The house is to be built across from the new STEM building, at the rear of the parking lot near the entrance to the amphitheater, Valente said.

The structure will cost about $350,000, he said. The college will use grants and contributions from businesses to equip it with energy technology components, he said.

The one-story house will be about 4,500 square feet, Valente said. About 1,000 square feet of that space will be a garage-style workshop where students can learn to take apart and repair energy technology devices, he said.

HCC has had an alternative energy technology program since the spring semester of 2010, Valente said. The college offers an associate degree in alternative energy technology, as well as certificates in solar/wind energy installation and service and geothermal energy installation and service.

The program currently has about 76 students, he said.

Existing energy technology equipment is used in temporary laboratories, Valente said. Eventually, the program will use two laboratories in the new STEM building, as well as the energy house, he said.

In addition to being used as part of HCC’s programs, the house will be made available for companies to use for their own training exercises, he said.

One function of the energy house will be training for home energy audits, or evaluations of a home’s energy efficiency, Valente said. The house will have a blower door, used to measure airtightness, and rooms will have varying levels of efficiency, he said.

“That is a challenge, because we can’t have the house be sitting there and costing money, so we’ll strategically create environment changes” during auditing exercises, to simulate conditions in, for example, a home built in the 1800s, or a home built in the 1970s, he said.

For retrofit training, the house will have multiple types of ceiling insulation and three types of lighting, concept plans show.

It will have a sophisticated energy meter system and a system that allows energy usage to be controlled remotely by smartphone, Valente said.

And, because nothing stays “cutting edge” for long, the house will be designed to easily accommodate new systems and equipment, he said.

“We definitely want this energy house to be able to grow with technology,” he said.

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