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This home looks ordinary but it could save its owners $70,000

How would you like to live in a house that uses nearly zero energy; has a smart-home system automating lights, music, and doors; and is filled with energy-efficient appliances?

Zero-energy homes, as they are called, are here, and they aren’t just being built in energy-conscious California, which has a mandate for them by 2020. A model home built by High Performance Homes in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania meets the U.S. Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home program requirements and is chock full of green and high-tech goodies.

The DOE defines a Zero Energy Ready Home as a high performance home in which a renewable energy system can offset all or most of its annual energy consumption. The model by High Performance Homes exceeds those requirement and is in the top one percent of homes in the nation for quality and energy-efficiency.

The 5,500-square-foot single-family home at the Links at Gettysburg features high-performance building technologies including Dow PowerHouse solar shingles that fit flush with the roof line, a geothermal heating and cooling system that uses the constant heat from beneath the ground, energy-efficient appliances, structurally insulated panels (SIPs), and advanced indoor air quality systems.

A smart-home-technology package is also included, and by the looks of a video appears to be a Control4 system that enables energy monitoring and complete heating, ventilating, and air conditioning control, as well as remote control of lighting, thermostats, and security from any smart device.

“To see a house that looks like any other house at a glance — there is a lot more going on behind the walls. All those improvements – health, comfort, durability, a better living experience – costs less the day they move in, where the monthly utility bill savings easily exceed the monthly mortgage increase attributed to Zero Energy Ready Home innovations,” said Samuel Rashkin, chief architect for the DOE Building Technologies Office.

Based on the Energy Star v3.0 Home Report, the model home will realize annual savings of almost $3,900 in the first year of ownership, $50,000 after ten years, and almost $200,000 over the course of a 25-year mortgage. If you add the upfront incentives for investing in renewable energy, the system will save a homeowner more than $70,000 in the first ten years of ownership. Annual savings calculations include an annual electricity cost increase of 5.5 percent. The U.S. national average increase of energy cost over the last 30 years is 7.5 percent.

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According to the Philadelphia magazine website, the Links has 300 lots for sale, and High Performance Homes has five high-end floor plans that range from a single-story, 1,830-square-feet ($419,990) option all the way up to the “Rochelle” option at 3,200-square-feet ($699,990) – the latter being the layout of the model home. Residential Energy Credits are available from the state and would lower the price of the home up to $20,000.

Costs may still be high for some high-performance zero-energy homes, but remember, this is a big luxury home. Other builders are producing very green and efficient homes that  cost only slightly more than getting a home without efficiency features.