Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Official! 2nd place in CT Zero Energy Challenge

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.


jnitin said...

Congratulations! We are in the process of "thinking" of building a home. We have just acquired land in greenwich ct and was wondering if it is possible for me to reach out to you to be able to "gain" and "learn" your knowledge of building a value green home in the area. my email is and phone 203-5706496

Connecticut Yankees said...


Your comments are right-on. Congratulations on the wonderful home you and Karann have built. If we were your age again we would be building a Passive House, and one of my regrets is that we will never be able to approach net-zero energy with out 1968 colonial house (well maybe if we tore off the siding and roofing and covered the house with 4 inches of foam board we could get there, but the outside skin is in good shape so we are not ready for that).

For Jnitin:

If you are thinking of building, be sure to check out the Volume Windows Purchase program at the DOE web site. They have gotten a group of manufacturers to get the cost of triple-glazed R-5 windows down to $4 /sq ft over R-3 windows. If they were available 4 years ago when we did ours, we might have gotten closer to net zero.

Gene D.

Kate said...

Great job, Schaller family! You are an inspiration - it's great to see that a "normal" family can put together a zero energy home for roughly the cost of a regular code home. Our family has a dream of building a dream-green-home someday. Right now we're in the research stage, and looking for ways to improve our existing place. Thanks for your perspective on geothermal. Lots to think about!

Mapperley said...

Great job in developing your own Eco Home. We are based in the UK and currently going through a slow, and expensive, process of refurbishing our existing house to give us a much greener lifestyle. We have the PV panels, and have insulated as much as possible - we hope to triple glaze and swop our boiler for an air source heat pump shortly along with upgrading our lighting. Congratulations again.