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We went on the green homes tour

A few local builders put on a “green homes tour” over the past weekend. It showcased some energy saving features and techniques utilized in a few homes, as well as some environmentally friendly building practices.

The first home was built utilizing wood from trees cut at the homesite. The wood was used in the flooring, cabinetry, and trim. There isn’t a cost savings, and it takes 1.5 years from cutting to installation, but it was a novel idea. They also used geothermal heating/cooling, and were in the process of installing solar panels. The solar was an especially interesting idea because most information I’d read had said they aren’t really cost effective. However, there are some pretty sizable state and federal grants available which bring the cost down to a point where it can actually pay for itself within a reasonable time.

There were a couple of odd things about the home though. For one, there were a TON of windows. Literally some of the walls had windows from floor to ceiling, and the ceiling was as high as a 2-story home. So 20 feet of windows on some walls. It doesn’t matter how thick those things are, they leak a lot of energy and it seemed a little at odds with the overall theme of ‘green.’ Another thing was more minor, but the garage was detached, and there wasn’t a covered walkway to the home. Very odd in a home that probably cost close to $1m. However, this home wasn’t for sale, it was built for a customer. To each his own.

The second home was a much more practical design, and actually won the “most green” award of the homes on the tour. It featured geothermal heating and cooling, spray foam insulation, and ICFs used for the entire frame. Very expensive, but high quality.

Overall it was well worth the trip out to see what some of the various vendors and builders are incorporating into their designs for people who want maximum energy efficiency, and are willing to pay for it. As with all ‘green’ tech, you have to actually do the math and calculate what the cost of the product is, and the potential energy savings to see if it actually saves money. If it’s close, or it doesn’t, then the product is aimed at those who are environmentally conscious, and don’t necessarily mind paying a premium to help the environment.

Lastly, if you get a chance, check out my friend’s site if you get a chance: www.skepticalmind.com. It has nothing to do with homes, but it’s a great resource for those of you who like to read using a Kindle.