Guess What Dropped In: A House!

A crane operator gently lowers a Vermod home into place. (Herald / Sandy Vondrasek)

The big excitement on Bethel’s North Main Street yesterday was the installation of Scott and Nelda Putney’s new, energy-efficient Vermod home, now set next to their older home of 26 years.

Starting at 8 a.m., or so, a small crew of workers—including the operator of a huge crane and Steve Davis, owner of Vermod—carefully moved through the stages of lifting the three pre-built components of the home from a flatbed truck and fitting them together on a previously installed cement frost wall.

Vermod homes, which are built in an old UPS warehouse in Wilder, are all based on variations of 14-foot wide units. The finished product can be as simple as a 1000-square-foot rectangle, 14-by-70 feet, the standard dimensions of a mobile home.

In fact, these super-insulated, “net-zero” homes were initially designed, after Tropical Storm Irene, as quality replacements for damaged mobile homes. According to the Vermod website, although mobile homes make up just 7% of Vermont’s housing stock, 15% of the homes damaged during and after the storm were mobile homes.

Today, many variations in the Vermod design are available, including stacking one unit on top of another, and a one-bedroom “cottage” with a pitched roof.

The Putneys opted to have two boxes, 45- and 55-feet long, melded together, side-by-side, to create a home that is wider than the standard 14-by-70-foot model. The Scotts’ new home, at about 1400 square feet, will also sport a couple of add-ons—a mud-room entryway on the north side of the home and a sunroom and porch to the south. Instead of the flat roof typically seen on a Vermod, the roof on the Putney home has a slight pitch.

The Putneys had enough acreage at their current home so they could sub-divide off a parcel for the site of their new home.

Complex Delivery

On Wednesday, workers first transferred the 55-foot-long unit from a truck bed to the foundation. Then came the more spectacular step of having the crane hoist the 14-by-45-foot unit from the truck, and over the unit already in place, to its designated location.

Once the crane operator had the perfectly balanced second unit hovering just above its final destination, Davis and his crew used only body weight and crowbar manipulation to fit it in place like a puzzle piece.

The third and final unit set in place was the small entryway.

Because the Putneys’ design is a little more complex than some, some portions of the project remain to be done, including installation of the seven 1000 kw solar panels on the roof.

‘Net Zero’

These panels, along with a Vermod’s high-efficiency appliances and heat-pumps, are key to the “netzero” promise of a Vermod home.

Thanks to those panels and net-metering, a Vermod home produces as much energy, or more, as it uses—which means no heating or electrical costs, averaged out over a year.

The highly insulated homes are all-electric, with heating—and summer cooling—provided by heat pumps.

Scott Putney figures he will save about $3000 a year in heating and electricity costs. He also is looking forward, he said, to the end of hauling in firewood to help heat their older home.

Time To Down-Size

Putney, the former owner of Bethel’s Spaulding Press who now works part-time as an advertising representative for The Herald, said he settled on buying a Vermod after exploring several downsizing options, including moving into a retirement community.

After visiting the model Vermod home at the Wilder plant, the Putneys worked with a company representative to design and outfit their future home.

“You get to pick everything,” Putney said. “You even pick whether you want doorknobs or handles.”

Like other seniors moving into new digs, the Putneys opted to have handicapped accessibility built into their home.

Putney said this week that moving in will be a gradual process. He plans to have their current home ready to go on the market by the spring.

At the Vermod Plant

Ashley Andreas, one of the home ownership advisers at the Vermod factory, said that potential buyers can peruse design options available to them in three “books.”

The first focuses on “the affordable package”—the original, 14-by-70-foot Vermod; the second is the “income-friendly” book with more options, and the third is the “customized home” book. Prices for a Vermod generally range from $120,000 to $200,000.

It takes about seven weeks to build a Vermod, she said, and buyers will spend anywhere from a few weeks to more than a year on the design process.

Andreas pointed out that the Vermod “started with mobile home replacement and we remain very passionate and focused on affordable housing.”

There are multiple options—including low- and no-interest loans and other incentives—to make a Vermod affordable for those with limited incomes.

Because of its energy-efficient features, the Vermod costs more up front than a manufactured home, but offers savings in terms maintenance and operation.

Vermod representatives are well-acquainted with the loan and incentive programs available to Vermonters, which include grants to cover the cost of removing an old mobile home, she said.

By the end of this month, Andreas said, there will be 78 Vermod homes set in place, many of them in towns along the Connecticut River Valley. The Putneys’ home is the third in the White River Valley, with one already in Royalton, in a mobile home park, and in Sharon.

The Randolph Area Community Development Corporation, which owns the still largely undeveloped Salisbury Square acreage in Randolph village, is exploring the use of Vermod homes for the 21 remaining lots in the development.

According to Andreas, Vermod has been experiencing substantial growth in the last year.

“We’ve been changing a lot within the company to meet that demand,” she said.

The goal, she said, is to continue “to provide homes made with quality, health, sustainability, and energy efficiency in mind.”

Sandy Vondrasek

The Herald / November 2017