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NREL sponsors Habitat House in honor of anniversary

"I've bought trees and flowers and even the materials for a pond," Ruibal said. Thanks to NREL and Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, he doesn't have long to wait.

Charles and Dorothy Ruibal, their son Lueben and their daughter Bernadette soon will be moving into a new, energy efficient home at 3520 Apple Blossom Lane in Westminster, Colo.

Every home built by Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver includes energy efficient appliances, compact florescent lights, programmable thermostats and insulated windows. But advice from several of the Lab's researchers and contributions from businesses will make the Ruibal home one of the most energy efficient houses ever built by Habitat.

"This is a great opportunity for us," said NREL researcher Paul Norton. "We are always testing the energy efficiency of a home, we rarely get the chance to build one."

NREL's managing partners, Midwest Research Institute (MRI), Battelle and Bechtel, are sponsoring the home's construction by providing the sponsorship fee. NREL's commitment calls for 3,000 volunteer hours to help build the house. Volunteers will be recruited from NREL and DOE staff, friends and family members.

Staff from NREL, including Norton and researcher Paul Torcellini, have been working directly with Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver on the design of the Ruibal home. Norton and Torcellini met monthly with the design team to review ideas and modify the design to make it even more energy efficient.

"We went over the plans point by point to see what was doable and volunteer friendly," Norton said.

The Ruibal family home will stand as an example of energy efficiency thanks to its radiant wall heating system, solar thermal collectors for hot water, increased attic ventilation, light-colored roofing shingles and the solar tube skylight for the bathroom donated by Solartube International, Inc.

""The bathroom skylight will reflect light into the house and takes the place of a light fixture since daylighting is one of the easier applications of solar energy," Torcellini said.

NREL researcher Byron Stafford worked with Astro Power, producer of the world's largest solar electric cells, on their donation of a 1.6 kilowatt photovoltaic system. This $15,000 system will generate about a third to half of the electricity the family will use. Icynene Inc., manufacturer of Icynene foam, donated $3,000 in insulation to be used in the Ruibal home. Icynene is a plastic insulation material similar in chemical composition to the material used in pillows and mattresses. Upon application, Icynene fills cracks and crevices within the frames. Icynene takes minutes to cure and adheres to virtually everything.

"The insulation expands to completed fill the walls," Torcellini said. "The result is a well insulated house."

Advanced Hydronics, Inc. is providing a radiant wall heating system for the home at a fraction of its usual cost. The local company is providing the system design and installation and coordinating donations of equipment from Heat Transfer Products, Shamrock Sales, Wirsbo Companies, Dahl Plumbing Supply, and the Rocky Mountain Radiant Panel Association. In addition, Alchemy Energy, Inc is providing the solar domestic hot water system, including the collectors, storage tank and mechanical systems, at a greatly reduced cost.

The Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation, a long-time supporter of Habitat for Humanity, is paying for the radiant wall heating system as well as the solar domestic hot water system and energy efficient upgrade for the Ruibal's clothes washer.

In addition to being energy efficient, the Ruibal home also will be handicap accessible. Lueben has cerebral palsy. The floors will be hung in the foundation to reduce the step up into the home and the bathroom has been designed for wheelchair use.

Dorothy Ruibal is grateful the home will be equipped with handicap accessible amenities. "It will be more comfortable for my son and a stable place for us all."


By Sarah Holmes Barba


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