READING — Tom Bergendahl knew his property was due for some updates. The four-unit building at the corner of Green Street and Elliott Street dated back to the early 20th century, and when the property manager explored his options, he quickly determined that drastic measures were necessary.
“It needed so much work,” Bergendahl said. “I started getting estimates and adding up the costs and was like ‘this is crazy, I should just tear it down and build a new one.’”
A self-described energy conservation nut, Bergendahl decided to redevelop the property as a series of solar-powered, high-efficiency residential units. After four years of work, the project is finally finished, and Bergendahl estimates the buildings are now among the most energy-efficient in town, if not the entire region.
The four homes are located at 88-92 Green Street and 27 Elliott Street, the latter of which is already in the process of being sold. Bergendahl said that three of the four were built with solar — they had to go without it for 90 Green Street due to cost overruns — and that all are far more energy efficient than the typical home.
The current standard for energy efficiency is the Home Energy Rating System, or HERS, which rates a home’s energy efficiency on a scale of 0 to 150, with a lower rating indicating better efficiency. The average home has a rating of 130, and the current code for new construction in Reading is 55, Bergendahl said.
The new homes ratings are 19, 22 and 31 for the solar properties, and the non-solar one is still only 52.
“On most days we’re generating electricity and selling it back to the power company,” he said. “All four units have central air and we’ve been running it May through early September. My electric bill for the best unit in terms of insulation and solar, the electric bill for August was $0.35. Basically running the AC almost for free.”
To help develop the homes, Bergendahl partnered with solar consultant Martin Plass, who helped spearhead a successful green energy initiative in Belmont called Belmont Goes Solar. Though the development process took a long time, Bergendahl said the project received positive feedback from the town and from neighbors.
“I think what they realized when I started talking about it, what they realized is no one else in Reading is doing it,” he said. “And I don't think many are doing it in any of the other surrounding towns either.”
The available homes at 88-92 Green Street are all approximately 1,150 square feet with three bedrooms and three bathrooms and are currently listed between $550,000 and $575,000.