Reddy KilowattThe “All Electric Home” and the “Condominium” were modern ideas in the early 70’s. Just behind Elizabeth Park in West Hartford three of these new “condo” apartment buildings were built in 1973. With the motto “Live Better Electrically” the utility provided incentives to construct buildings using electricity for all heating, cooling, appliance, and hot water needs. Grosvenor House, as this new Prospect Avenue address was named, appealed to upscale apartment dwellers who preferred owning their homes. And yes, considering this the state of the art at the time, they were “All Electric.”

Today, with the same intention to be forward thinking, the owners of a penthouse condo at Grosvenor House are redefining what “All Electric” means in the twenty first century. Following a move from their nearby single family home they were first determined that their unit would use dramatically less energy.

When we remodeled the 2000SF penthouse to open it up and update its style in 2013 we took the opportunity to cut it’s energy load in half. This set the stage for the magic formula of producing nearly as much energy as they use: Reduce then Produce.

To produce that energy a solar canopy was designed for the east and west patios. These architectural additions not only produce 87% of all the energy they use, they provide welcome shade and shelter. These otherwise hot patios have become outdoor “rooms” with welcome shade in the style of a pergola with translucent glass solar panels for a roof. These attractive panels are produced by Lumos Solar and were installed by Aegis Solar, a leading CT installer.

“We’re able to live out here all the time now,” the owner’s exclaim, noting how the patio’s previously got uncomfortably hot. Outside their master bedroom on the west side, the new canopy provides welcome shade from the otherwise overbearing afternoon summer sun. “When you’re up this high there are no backyard trees for shade,” they add.

Because the main rooftop is owned by the association the solar energy system had to be installed on a structure that could be run to the owner’s electric meter to take advantage of the incentives and tax rebates that make solar energy financially attractive. This was the driver and inspiration for these structures which also include a wire mesh grid for climbing vines.

This project is a wonderful demonstration of how energy awareness can inspire a redefinition of “Living Better Electrically.” Inspired by their example, another penthouse owner has hired Wolfworks to design and construct a similar solar canopy for their unit. As for this owner, their next twenty first century update will be an electric car.


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