The Winneshiek Energy District (WED) is hosting an open house of its net-zero home retrofit project, preceded by a short film screening and discussion, Saturday, Dec. 1, in Decorah.

The documentary film screening and project discussion are at 1 p.m. at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. The open house will follow, 2-4 p.m., one block from the church at 805 5th Ave.

"This is a great chance for people to come and see the result of a comprehensive home energy retrofit, and to consider what improvements might make sense for their own home," said Joel Zook, home energy planner for WED. "It's not rocket science, and most of the improvements will pay for themselves."


The home is considered "net-zero" because its carbon emissions from energy use will be avoided or offset - leaving the home with a net-zero carbon footprint.

An average Midwest home creates about 17 tons of carbon emissions per year. The net-zero home achieves its zero carbon goal through a combination of energy-efficiency, on site power production and the purchase of Oneota Tags - a local carbon offset program managed by the WED.

"We looked closely at achieving net-zero annual purchased energy inputs also," Zook said. "But creating all our energy on site for this house wasn't going to be cost-effective. We ended up reducing annual energy costs by about 75 percent, a solid achievement."

Energy Efficiency

"Before this project, there was little to no insulation in the entire house, and that's pretty typical for homes that were built 40 or more years ago," Zook said. "We've projected that our improvements have reduced the heating needs of the house by over 70 percent."

Solar Panels

Solar panels on the roof of the house will produce as much electricity as it needs over the year, Zook said. The residents will only need to pay the meter fee -- an electric bill less than $15 a month.

Oneota Tags

The only fossil fuel the net-zero home will use is a small amount of natural gas for space heating during the coldest time of the year and for water heating year round.

Oneota Tags will be purchased to offset any carbon impacts of the natural gas.

The Oneota Tags program is the first local carbon offset program in Iowa. Proceeds from the sale of Oneota Tag local offsets go toward purchasing simple "direct-install" supplies such as efficient light bulbs and showerheads and basic weatherization materials.

These are then installed in local homes by the Decorah Green Iowa Americorps (> team).


The net-zero project was documented with a video.

"We wanted to show people the process of remodeling the home," WED Director Andy Johnson explained.

"The video will allow us to reach a greater audience and show people some of the process of creating a very energy efficient home."

WED staff members will be available Saturday to provide more information about the net-zero house and discuss ways to make homes or businesses more energy efficient.