Snowden House Goes Green

When Ms. McKay took over the home from the rest of her family and commenced the restoration in 2005, her biggest challenge was upgrading the heat and cooling system. The home was traditionally heated with radiators operating first from a coal-fed furnace and later converted to a gas boiler, and cooled the old-fashioned way with two attic fans, transom windows, and sleeping porches. In the 1960’s central air was installed to parts of the house but it still required numerous window units throughout the home to cool it properly, which were unsightly and costly to operate. Having grown up in San Francisco and educated in the west, Ms. McKay is an avid supporter and believer in sustainable building and lifestyle. In her restoration of the old-style mansion she was committed to bringing it up to date with the most sustainable technology available, utilizing renewable energy sources wherever possible. After much trial, error, and diligent research on her part, she retrofitted the home with a geothermal heating and cooling system that relies on the temperature of the lake to provide the heating and cooling of the home throughout the year. The only non-renewable energy source utilized is the electricity required to run the units. While somewhat more costly to install, the monthly utility bills now average around $300 per month for a 6,000 square foot home, offering a year-round savings that have more than compensated for the initial expense. Moreover, the satisfaction of knowing that the home is now creating a significantly lighter carbon footprint on the environment is deeply rewarding. In addition to the geothermal system, the home maintains the traditional natural air-cooling system of two attic fans, transom windows, and a screened porch. For efficiency and luxury, two of the private bathrooms on the main floor have heated marble floors.