TexasIsHot – Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficient Gadgets

Apr 20 2011

Builders offer green tract homes with nearly zero utility bills

To stand out in a still-sluggish housing market, major builders are starting to sell affordable tract homes that come with solar panels and nearly zero utility bills.

On Earth Day Friday, Meritage Homes will begin offering a “net-zero” home that’s designed to produce as much energy as it uses annually. Such homes, starting at $140,000 in Tucson and $160,000 in Las Vegas, will be available in parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and central Texas, where a nine-panel rooftop solar array is already a standard feature. For a $10,000 upgrade, consumers can get 24 more solar panels that could reduce utility bills to zero.

“It’s a new way of building homes,” says C.R. Herro, vice president of environmental affairs for Arizona-based Meritage, the nation’s ninth-largest builder.

“This is the first major-size builder to do this,” says David Johnston, author of Toward a Zero Energy Home. He says net-zero building has become common in Canada, but until now relatively few affordable-housing units have achieved such efficiency.

Still, in an economy with $4-a-gallon gasoline, Meritage’s effort reflects an industrywide push to build homes that cost less to operate.

Last month, Los Angeles-based KB Home announced that it will include as a standard feature in 10 Southern California communities a small, six-panel rooftop solar array capable of cutting energy costs by about 30% in an 1,800- to 2,000-square-foot home.

“Just about all the larger builders are focusing on energy efficiency,” says Kevin Morrow of the National Association of Home Builders.

“Shiny granite can only go so far” to lure buyers from low-price foreclosures, says Nate Kredich of the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council. Kredich says he applauds Meritage for “really pushing the envelope” on sustainability.

Bruce Ploeser’s family of six plans to move next week into Meritage’s first net-zero house, in the Verrado community in Buckeye, Ariz.

“It’s beautiful,” says Ploeser of the five-bedroom, 3,400-square-foot, $326,000 home.

He likes watching its meter, which often shows that the 25 photovoltaic panels are sending a surplus of energy back to the grid.

“I’m just amazed,” he says, “that it’s running backward.”

Read More from Wendy Koch, USA Today.

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  • "Texas is the third fastest growing state in the nation with a net growth of 1,000 people each and every day. This brings many challenges including providing clean and affordable electricity. That is why I'm excited about TexasIsHot.org. This website is an instructional resource that will help Texans save on their energy bills at home and in the workplace..." State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford)
  • "Now, more than ever, Texans need to work together to conserve energy and to make more efficient use of the energy we consume. The TexasIsHot.org website is an extraordinary resource for people who want to save money and help conserve our precious natural resources..." State Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas)
  • "By partnering with the TexasIsHot Coalition we can extend our effort’s reach, leverage our resources, and ensure that Austin’s energy grid continues to be a test-bed for technologies, products, and services that will transform our state’s energy system." Brewster McCracken, Executive Director, Pecan Street Project
  • "The City of Houston is working harder than ever to make Houston green and energy efficient, but we need the help of every citizen. I would encourage everyone to take a moment to explore the TexasIsHot website to learn what we can all do to make Houston, and the rest of Texas, the green and energy efficient example for the rest of the nation." Mayor Annise Parker, Houston
  • "Energy efficiency is one of our top priorities. Partnering with the TexasIsHot Coalition will help us educate citizens and local businesses about energy-efficient practices in order to meet our goal of reducing residential and commercial electric use." Gavin Dillingham, Chief of Sustainable Growth – General Services Department, for the City of Houston
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  • "I am excited that the City of Corpus Christi has joined the TexasIsHot Coalition and look forward to working with them to help Texans become smarter energy users. Energy efficiency is by far the best way for people to reduce their bills and help the environment, but we need education and outreach to make this happen." State Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr (D-Corpus Christi)
  • "Because of its fast growth and hot summers, Texas has to get smarter about energy conservation. I applaud the efforts of Corpus Christi and TexasIsHot to help businesses and residents reap the benefits of increased efficiency." Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen)
  • "Energy efficiency is the cleanest, quickest and cheapest way to get smart about energy use, saving both money and the environment. I applaud the TexasIsHot Coalition in their effort to educate Texans about the benefits of energy efficiency..." Luke Metzger, Director, Environment Texas
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