On Wednesday the 8th I got the call from CL&P concerning the CT Zero Energy Challenge results and was congratulated for our second place finish. Not that it was a big surprise since everyone's HERS values were announced months ago and that's how the contest was judged this year (next year there are a variety of factors which greatly level the playing field).
Reviewing the 1st and 3rd place finishers, I can't help but pat ourselves on the back for achieving what we did on such a limited budget. The other winners' homes are obviously big budget undertakings that easily push (though I'm just guessing) into the million dollar range. We did ours for less than a third of that. They hired consultants, architects and specialty builders. Karann and I designed, planned, engineered (with over-the-phone consultations from a few sources) and finished the house ourselves. Our builder, Dave Nugent, kicked ass for sure but this was his first "green" house.
Their houses are big (4000 sq. ft. plus), high-end homes unattainable by most, which I think sets a bad example of "green" building. Ours is a modest (some would even say large, if you live in the real world) home at 2670 sq. ft. And I know $320k is still a lot of money but at least it's reasonable for a custom (near) zero energy home, especially since the return on investment is already paying dividends; our electric bill is non-existent ($16 service fee every month) and we've purchased two, 100 gallon tank-fulls of propane in the last year and a half.
Now don't take this like I'm down-playing the accomplishments of the other winners (ok, maybe a little bit) but I do respect that they're setting examples that hopefully their other rich neighbors may follow. Maybe this will set a whole new trend of "keeping up with the Jones". Every neighbor trying to make their home more energy independent than the next.
In the meantime, I hope Karann and I have inspired the average, middle-class person to use some ingenuity, take a little time, and put in some sweat equity to make an energy efficient home that, you too, can be proud of.