Affordable homes with zero electric bills
Arizona builder becomes the first to offer 'net-zero' production homes. Prices start at $140,000 in some areas, with solar systems a $10,000 add-on.
Homes with significant energy-saving features, such as solar panels, have in the past been reserved for the rich. Usually they're custom-built, at a higher than normal building cost.
In Arizona, Meritage Homes, the nation's ninth-largest homebuilder, has introduced the first production "net-zero" home, which means the house produces as much energy as it consumes, resulting in zero electricity bills for the homeowners.
"It’s pretty cool to watch your meter spin backwards," Bruce Ploeser, a restaurant franchise owner, told the Phoenix Business Journal. He and his wife and four children moved into the first Meritage net-zero home.
The Ploesers' new 3,400-square foot home in Buckeye, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, has five bedrooms. They paid $326,000 for the house, which comes with a host of energy-saving improvements in addition to solar panels -- built at a cost of less than $100 per square foot.
Meritage's homes start at $140,000 in Tucson, Ariz., and $160,000 in Las Vegas, with a nine-panel solar array on the rooftop standard. An additional 24 panels, which will make the home net-zero, are a $10,000 to $15,000 upgrade.
The company plans to offer net-zero homes in other communities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Texas.
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An 89-home project in French Valley, Calif., about an hour north of San Diego, offers homes priced from $279,990 to $319,990 with significant energy-saving improvements. The net-zero option costs an additional $10,000 to $12,000. Those homes are close to the median price for their ZIP code, $245,000, the North County Times reported.
"It's not meant for people buying their last house, or most expensive house. It's for people buying their first home," C.R. Herro, vice president of environmental affairs for Meritage, told the newspaper.
While Meritage is the first major homebuilder to offer net-zero production homes, other homebuilders are also offering energy-saving features to distinguish themselves from the large number of competing foreclosures and other used homes offered for lower prices.
Brittany at CalFinder, which covers solar, lists several other builders and communities offering energy-efficient features on new homes. A number of builders, including Meritage, have started providing energy-efficiency ratings and estimates of utility bills for new homes.
"The market is terrible," Herro told the North County Times. "You've got two choices: You can be a commodity and build as cheap as you can and compete against bank-owned, or you can do something that's worth more and has more value to the buyer than what's in the market. The second's a lot more fun."
Man you righties are embarrasing. Seriously.......
Who the hell would be against this?!?!?!?!?
And i thought 60 was high, 90 in the summer(AC running). Back in the 90, s my average was $7 bucks a month. went to $12 one month when i forgot to turn the stove of for a weekend. The price i gotta pay is living in the Peoples Republic of California.
Glad to see an article like this and hear about a builder offering this with new homes. More builders should do this and honestly I think it should be a requirement, at least on the new homes. Even more so if you do live in a place like the SW US where there is ample sunshine and high electricity costs. Now maybe not the whole net zero system but at least a smaller system that lets say provides 30-50% of the homes power. That is still a great thing and the more homes the better. Same for businesses. Anything to help entice existing homeowners or businesses is great as well. There are also many other greener and more efficient building methods that I think should be required or pushed more heavily too. Now contrary to popular belief these system will typically pay for themselves in 3-5 yrs, maybe a little longer for the bigger systems, up to 8yrs, but for anyone who plans to live in a house long term it makes great sense, short term owners it does at least add value - up front cost is not as noticeable if bought with house already. And yes current quality systems last at least 25yrs - rated for - or more. No different that any other building material, some are cheap and last only awhile while quality ones last at lot longer - get what you pay for. Also $600 a year electric bill...I find that doubtful even for a single person living frugally in terms of electrical usage. I ask though do you have gas heat or stove? As that needs to be factored in. Buying one of these systems is not being a fool or being dooped. It is being smart. Only ones that are dooped are the ones who continue to believe the oil companies and think fossil fuels are still the way of the future. Yes these panels do take resources to make but that energy and pollution reduction is offset several times over throughout the life of the panels, and like many things the more demand there is the more advancedments the technology we will see meaning more efficient panels and less energy intensive production and related pollution as well as costing less. Also I don't foresee energy costs dropping anytime soon - even while fuel prices drop it seems there is no change in my bill or it goes up anyways - so your saving isn't linear, you have to account for rising costs which saves you more, which I'm going to assume beat inflation. Others are right too in that all utility companies must by back excess power that is applied as a credit or paid out in a check to you - though it is not dollar for dollar but a rate for the fuel you saved the electric company - either way that really only matters when you produce more juice than you use, the bang for you buck is lessen some at that point. I like the thought to of having small scale wind and solar working together where it makes sense. Big wind power is great and it is very cheap but what an eyesore! Bottomline this is a great thing to hear and hopefully we will hear more of it. Solar won't be the sole power source, it can't be, but it should and will play a major role in our future power production and can also be a great way to create new jobs for our country as well. It is time to start and continue supporting green incentives like this, in the end we will all benefit - except maybe the oil companies.
The people whom afford this houses will have the income to also by an eco friendly vehicle and thus get to their jobs.........is just a matter of common sence......
@jefro1: come live in cali where the average electric bill for a family of four is about 200-300 a month. The cost of one of these systems are made up within 3-4 years.
My electric bill is only about $600 a year. Why would I pay $10K -$12 up front with interest to save that amount? So the financed amount would be like $40K? That is a lot of electricity!!! Now I'd have to then replace batteries every 5 years and inverters every 10 and if I am lucky the panels will last 18 years (if they don't get hit by hail). Pffssst! Stupid.
Sadly the people have been duped and fooled. PV cells are not green and the current models will NEVER provide more electricity than it took to make them. They are an energy negative product.
What is energy green is in most parts of the US a solar water heater.
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.