Solar Panels for the Passive House: John & Nancy

After years of searching for the perfect home that fits their needs or would be excited to renovate, John and Nancy decided to build! Around that same time, they attended the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center’s presentation about the Passive House movement – an exceptionally rigorous building standard that results in a home which, using the latest technologies, has the smallest carbon footprint currently possible.

The concept hit home. John says he doesn’t consider himself an “environmentalist” per se; he just believes in living within his means.

“We believe in energy conservation. We believe in protecting our valuable non-renewable resources. But we’re also big believers in electricity and living the lifestyle we’ve come to know within reason, but just to do it more efficiently and more economically.”

“Ultimately, we went with Solar Connection because we appreciated their curiosity and interest in working on a project like this, in helping us figure out where we would mount panels, how many we could do. They were sensitive to all the same things we were sensitive to. And a lot of it was just attitude, choosing people we thought could relate to what we were thinking about. They believed in what we were trying to do.”

Nancy added, “They took a lot of time making sure it was right, helping us choose the right thing, looking at what was available or not. They were just very proactive about giving us something that was going to work.

“We debated, I remember, about whether or not to get the water tank that had an electric heating element in it, and the size of the tank. They were careful to advise us on that. We went with a larger tank because we felt that the mass would hold the energy longer, and we don’t turn on the element very much.”

With their decision to not only build a home, but to spend time designing it to be ultra energy-efficient, John and Nancy also committed to documenting the process so others could learn from their experience.

“We stepped back and had conversations about what’s meaningful at this point in our lives and what kind of a legacy we wanted to leave. Then we said if we’re going to do it this way, we’re going to blog about it and teach as we go along to whatever extent possible.”

Their blog, Root River House (, has the house’s specs along with pictures and descriptions of each step of the build. As the blog posts narrate the house’s story, their values of moderation, contentment and personal responsibility shine through.

“Sustainability is living as part of the natural system. That will last longer. It’s real. It’s honest. It’s sustainable.”