Cozy, Low-Cost Winters in Maine: A Conversation with the New Owners of a Zero Energy Home

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Josh and Kelly Sink, the two new happy owners of an Island Carpentry zero energy home in the Kelsey Brook subdivision of Freeport, Maine. Below I’ll relay some of what we talked about, including why the Sinks chose a zero energy home with Island Carpentry and BrightBuilt Home, what the process of planning and building was like, what challenges stand for zero energy homes, and what the Sinks are most looking forward to (hint: it has to do with a warm house and low energy bills during winter).

1) Why the Zero Energy Home?

Josh and Kelly have high awareness of the need for ecological sustainability in our world today. Before coming to Maine, they lived in Tennessee and oriented their lives toward homesteading. While Tennessee may have a longer food growing season thanks to a warmer climate, they still lag behind Maine in terms of incentives of incorporating solar panels, which was a goal for the Sinks.

Seeking a more progressive political environment, the Sinks decided on Freeport, Maine, which really is a wonderful community in which to raise their kids.  

In addition to their environmental values, the Sinks recognize that their zero energy home may be more expensive up front, but that it is a better long term investment with drastically reduced heating and energy bills through the year.

2) What’s Most Exciting about the New Home?

If you’ve lived in New England, chances are you’ve spent many winters in homes that leak the heat from your gas or wood stoves right out into the bitter cold. For many New Englanders, sweaters and light jackets and cold toes are standard fare for the winter house, but not for Josh and Kelly’s zero energy home.

Josh notes that he trusts the integrity of how the house was built and is excited to experience a well-sealed and properly ventilated house this coming winter.

3) Challenges of Building a Zero Energy Home?

The Sinks first connected with Mike in 2015 regarding their vision for a zero energy house. After some planning, it appeared that their ideal house would ring up too expensive. After connecting with BrightBuilt Home, an expert design team specializing in zero energy construction, the Sinks found a design that worked within their budget.

The Sinks are well aware that the zero energy approach is still a very progressive idea in our society. In many ways the politics of Maine and the rest of the country still support business as usual practices that are energetically and ecologically wasteful, likely because it appears cheaper to do what we have always done.

However, Kelly is keen to note that zero energy housing is becoming more of a necessity in the 21st century than a mere trend or fad. Kelly is right—the ecological condition of the world is so dire that energy efficient and other sustainable green building methods may be the only way humanity can go forward as a species (along with many other changes of course!).

On that note, while the cost of the zero energy house has been a challenge, for the Sinks it was a challenge that was worth the extra effort. When we consider the primary importance of ecology over economy, then all of us are called to put our money where our values are. After all, can we place a price tag on the future of our children and grandchildren? Some things are priceless.

Besides, the future will more and more merge our sensibilities with our economic interests. Even today, in usually just ten years, the savings from energy bills will make the investment for zero energy worth it. 

4) Working with Mike

Both Josh and Kelly expressed they were glad to have been able to work with Mike for this project. At the beginning it seemed like they may part ways after the initial pricing snafus, but several references spoke well on Mike and so the Sinks chose Island Carpentry to head the building project with BrightBuilt.

All in all the process was smooth, communication was good, and a positive process has brought about a warm, energy-efficient and progressive conclusion. Now all that’s left is to move in. Perfect timing too, because as the Starks say, “Winter is coming!” (Game of Thrones reference for the non-geeks out there).