Dave Warkentien’s solar house impacts the local environment
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a house that was so environmentally conscientious that it seemed to leap off the pages of a sci-fi novel? For our World Consumer Rights Day series, the Beacon decided to take a look at just such a house that is very much reality. Vicky Warkentien, a music professor at Bethel, lives in such a house. Her husband, Dave Warkentien, built this futuristic house himself. Dave Warkentien was inspired by climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe and her husband Andrew Farley, who is a pastor in Texas, as well as the Evangelical Environmental Network. Their mission influenced him to help the environment in a Christian community. Warkentien was intrigued by the mission of the Hayhoes and the EEN, and then made it his mission to development an eco-friendly lifestyle. After years of engineering experience, Warkentien had the ability and resources to build the energy efficient house he had envisioned. This vision glowed so bright that his house became one of the most energy efficient homes in Indiana. Warkentien’s wife desired to be walking distance from Bethel College, where she teaches music and conducts the chamber orchestra. The house that was previously on the property was not livable, so Warkentien had it demolished, except for the basement. Out of the rubble, Warkentien began building his new home. He opens his door to anyone who is interested in or could spread his environmentally safe ideas. Warkentien used two different techniques to achieve his goals. The first one is “passive house”, a German idea that focuses on making energy efficient buildings, and second is energy company. Tesla’s “Powerwall,” a battery pack that is charged by the solar panels on his roof. His solar roof is faces south and is positioned at an angle to capture the most sun during the winter. This optimizes his energy absorption during winter instead of year-round. Warkentien uses the passive house techniques to keep his house insulated by having his walls 12 inches thick and his floors 8 inches thick. Even his lighting is strategically placed; the lights are mounted to wooden 2 by 2 boards that run all throughout the house. This helps insulate heat, instead of hanging lights that poke holes through the fabric of the ceiling, causing heat loss. His heating and ventilation system uses a geothermal heat exchanger and a heat recovery ventilator that keeps the air at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The ventilator has filters within its system that purifies the air that passes through. This system is comparable to a hospital’s ventilation system: they filter out mold, pollutants and biohazardous substances. The geothermal heat exchanger system uses 700 feet of tubing, which is why Warkentien kept the basement of the old house: to fill it with the tubing. He says that his house is “a breathing house” because it is airtight and draws air from one specific shaft from the outside through the ventilation system. It uses the warmth from the ground and coolness of the air to create the temperature Warkentien desires it to be in their home. The entire heating and ventilation system uses only 8 watts of power. It isn’t just the structure of the house that is so environmentally safe. The Warkentiens’ entire lifestyle takes the environment into account. Warkentien has a Tesla electric car that is charged through the house’s power system, yet even with powering this car, the house still generates enough energy to covers much of the electrical/utility bill. Warkentien also has an air conditioning machine that uses artificial intelligence to detect where most of the people are standing to detect where to direct warm or cold air. He spends very little on energy costs during the winter months, and in the summer season, the house generates more energy than needed, so he does not have to pay many of the bills that tend to frustrate other homeowners. As for his future plans, Warkentien desires to instruct others on his training and inform them on the ways they can also help the environment by using the classroom he has set up in his home. He often leads tours for the environmental classes at Bethel College, different high school classes and architectural firms who wish to tour the home to be educated on how he created this house. The question now is, how will Bethel College be changed or challenged by his influence?