Off the Grid
Don Rogers' Vision
Weathered Exterior Adds to Charm
Don Rogers of Meaford knew the kind of home he wanted in retirement because he had visualized it many times in his mind's eye.
It had to be in the countryside with a stream, have a raised knoll and, yet, be close enough to a major centre and the couple's grandchildren, for his wife, Marj. They had looked at properties from Manitoulin to throughout the Bruce Peninsula but nothing had what each of the couple wanted. "I would like a property but Marj would say it's too far from ... everywhere. We could never agree." Then, they saw a farm for sale 15 minutes outside Owen Sound and, as soon, as Rogers saw it, he knew.
"I got excited the first moment I saw it," he says. "It had everything I had seen in my mind ... a stream, fresh spring water from the Niagara Escarpment, a knoll, everything. I knew exactly where the house would sit and how it would look." In 1991, the Rogers bought the property and began to plan for the house. He knew he wanted an open-beam, timber-frame house and began investigating companies that specialized in that type of construction. What he found was the Great Lakes Frame Company just outside of Chatsworth.
"When I first met the owner, Pliny Loucks," says Rogers, "I thought, this kid is too young to know about building a house. He's only 26, how can he possibly know how to build a house from start to finish?" The two went over designs. Rogers knew he wanted a home that wasn't necessarily large but that felt spacious and cozy at the same time. "There is no doubt that Don knew exactly what he wanted," laughs Pliny. What Rogers ended up with is a show home design of 1400 sq. ft.
"We acquired the beams from a milling company in upper New York state that had actually acquired the trees from the Ottawa Valley," explains Loucks. "It was one of the first 10 homes that we built. We built what are called stress skin panels where the wood encases styrofoam insulation panels. The frames were fabricated in the factory and then taken to the site where they were erected much like a giant lego set."
A great room, loft master bedroom and a bath fitted with a claw-foot tub and overhead skylight, custom made kitchen cabinets and antique wood stove with a dining room opening onto the wrap-around deck overlooking the south slope, complete a home filled with all the elements found in nature. Hand-hewn beams create interesting geometric angles throughout, slate stone flooring from Wiarton curves against warm pine planking floors and tall sweeping windows maximize natural light from every direction. "We used local craftsmen and materials wherever possible," Rogers explains. In the 13 years, they have also planted 12,000 evergreen trees that serve as a windbreak protecting the house in the winter.
While the home is everything that Rogers wanted, above all, it is completely self-sufficient in energy. "I wanted a home that was environmental and off the grid when it came to power," Rogers points out. What resulted was a cost-effective, energy-efficient combination of solar and wind power and wood and propane that enables Rogers to live his dream-come-true lifestyle.
Maple wood slabs can be used to feed the boiler, that is wrapped in an insulation 'blanket', or can also be raised to the upstairs level via a 'dumb-waiter' designed by Rogers. From the back of the house, a second system of solar panels heats the water with another smaller panel operating the water pump. Inside, elegant hot water radiators from a bygone era provide heat throughout. "I found the rads at a scrap yard," Rogers points out. "Nobody wants them anymore and yet they provide one of the best sources of evenly distributed heat ever invented."
Ten solar panels and two windmills on the knoll beside the driveway, create electricity that is also stored in over 1000 lbs. of batteries and that can make up to 24 volts of direct current which can then be transferred to a regular 110/220 volt system. The system is 95 - 98% efficient," explains Rogers, "but it's the combination of energy sources that makes it work," he adds. "During the winter months we don't get a lot of sun but do get a lot of wind for the two windmills and, then, there is the wood and some propane for back-up." Overall, Rogers spends in he neighbourhood of $900 a year for heat, hot water and electricity.
"It took two years to build the house. Would I do it all over again? Absolutely. Sometimes, I just lay in bed and look up at the beams and the angles ... I never get tired of it."
Classic Reclaimed Radiator Circulates Hot Water Powered by Solar and Wind
Don Rogers with one of his Solar Panels
Claw Foot with Light
Dumb Waiter Lifts Wood Slabs to Wood Stove
Dining Room Opens to South Facing Deck