Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cover IV: Old Is New Again

Deb Cheslow (above) measures how ‘tight’ the house is. Below is Andy Kelderhouse (left).


Andy Kelderhouse fills a saucepan with several inches of water, plops it on the stove and peers into it intently. Yes, he’s going to watch water boil.

In less than 60 seconds, the water is churning. “How about that?” he exclaims and then continues the magic. He slides the boiling pot of water aside and places his hand on the heating element. It’s completely cool.

Next he demonstrates an oven that looks like a microwave but bakes like a conventional oven—in half the time. Like an overgrown kid, he goes from room to room pointing out largely hidden features that do amazing things.

Kelderhouse, president of Fralin & Waldron, isn’t in a futuristic, Jetsons-style home. He’s standing in an old-fashioned-looking four-square house with high ceilings, hardwood floors, transom windows and miles of thick baseboards and crown molding.

The house is the first to be built in Daleville Town Center, a community under construction off U.S. 220 in Botetourt County.

Kelderhouse says the idea began more than a dozen years ago. “It was more of a Fralin & Waldron vision. Initially it was pioneering, and in the past four or five years, the consumer has really been buying into it. We wanted to get away from the ‘big mansion’ look and recapture the old-style neighborhood.”

The community will feature sidewalks, alleys, hidden utilities, a community square and walking trails. All of the homes will be Earth Craft certified. “The utility bills will be 35 to 45 percent less than for standard homes of similar size,” Kelderhouse says. “Even with the winter we had, the highest gas bill for this 3,700-square-foot house was $85.”

Kelderhouse walks across the street to observe a blower door test being conducted by Deb Cheslow of Earth Craft House Virginia. It’s a test that will determine how tightly sealed and energy-efficient the house is.

The room is filled with a half-dozen observers, all eager to see how their baby will perform. As a large fan sucks air out of the home, everyone’s eyes are fixed on an electronic display. They’re hoping that when the calculations are done, the home will have a HERS rating of 60 or less. A rating of 100 is considered standard for new construction. Each point below 100 represents an energy savings of 1 percent.

To demonstrate the sensitivity of the measurements, Cheslow opens a window several inches. Immediately the numbers jump. “This is one tight house,” she observes.

(Alison Weaver photos.)

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