Energy Efficient CS Home Welcomes the Sun

It takes a lot of effort to build a home, and some would say the same thing about going green. But what about doing both at the same time? That's what one College Station woman did when she built her new home last summer.

A Midwest transplant, Heather White retired to the Brazos Valley, and also retired her big energy bills in her brand new home.

"I think the largest bill I've had has been about $50," she said. "And it's 3,850 square feet heated and cooled."

Would White have had a regular home that size, she thinks she'd be paying about $300.

It's a pocketing of money that came with a big cost up front. You see, this isn't your ordinary new home. You've got your wood and tile floors, barely any carpet.

There's spray foam insulation instead of batting.

No single paned windows...try double.

But let's dig a bit deeper...six to eight feet deeper, where wells hold water at a constant 60-65 degree temperature, easier to heat or cool.

When you're done looking down, look up to a metal roof to reflect heat, and a few dozen dozen solar panels to absorb the sun's rays.

All the amenities -- all installed to keep energy efficiency high -- added quite the pretty penny to the build cost.

"Part of the recouping of costs has to do with the duration that you're in the house, but an up front cost is going to be probably 20% more, I think," White said.

"Even a few years ago, it was obvious the price of electricity was going up all the time. That was a big motivator and thinking about what was sustainable for the lifetime of the house, because I was planning on living here forever," she added.

Forever is a long time to recoup costs. The problem at first was finding a builder. Before Sterns Construction agreed to the deal, White talked to some seven or eight companies that didn't want to do the job.

Even with Sterns in charge, a lot of the energy savers had to be brought in from other Texas cities like Austin.

"It is something that can catch on," White said. "It has to do with people first being aware that it's even available. But it's also finding a builder who's willing to use these technologies that is interested in it."

As with any major project, there's always something you'd want to change in hindsight. For White, the biggest complaint -- if you can call it big -- is with a kitchen faucet that doesn't flow as well as she'd like.

"I could probably install more solar panels, something like that, but as far as the actual house itself, I really like the house a lot," White said.

And the bills, too.

It also helps your bill when you can sell your extra power. White has a deal with BTU where any energy she has gets sent into the power provider's system.

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