The Energy Efficient House That Jack Built

The 1973 oil embargo motivated Jack and Billie Strickler to design and build an energy efficient—and energy-producing—house for their retirement.


| July/August 1979



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A component of the hot water storage system.


FORREST RAMBO

The prospect of being retired and having to live on a fixed income didn't bother Jack and Billie Strickler of Camano Island, Washington at all until the 1973 oil embargo forced the U.S. into an era of limited energy resources and caused many people—including the Stricklers—to take a long hard look at their dependence upon "outside" sources of power.

The Evergreen State couple decided that—with the cost of fuel increasing at an alarming and unpredictable rate—an affordable, energy efficient house was no longer just a good idea but had become almost a necessity! So the good folks sat down to design an abode that was [a] mostly solar heated, [b] inexpensive to build using standard construction techniques and materials, [c] completely in accordance with all local building codes, [d] easy to maintain at a minimum of cost, and [e] fully compatible with several alternative technology systems that Jack had in mind. The Stricklers' dwelling was completed in July of 1976, and to date it has proven itself over the course of three harsh winter seasons.

Jack and Billie's three-bedroom, 1,536 square-foot "EVAC" (Energy at Very Acceptable Cost) house only required $122 worth of "power" last year (and no more than $32 of that figure went for heat). Better yet, the home was built for about $30,500 or less than $20 per square foot (compared with the area's "going rate" of approximately $32-$35).

And while it's true that the state of Washington has the nation's lowest electrical rates (which makes it difficult to judge the efficiency of the Stricklers' structure, using a "dollars and cents" yardstick alone), EVAC has demonstrated its performance on frosty 19°F mornings when the interior drops to only 60°F without any supplemental heating.

Besides being energy-efficient, EVAC has the additional benefit of easy construction, while its space-saving layout makes the dwelling both highly livable and downright attractive.

Planning Paid Off

Before they even considered breaking ground, the Stricklers carefully weighed their energy needs, took an accounting of their resources, and then designed their future home to suit that precise set of circumstances. But planning for an energy-conserving house wasn't enough to satisfy these folks. Tthey developed and installed a 3-KW windplant, too (and even got their local utility to underwrite a portion of the home's heating system as a demonstration project!).





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