Zero Energy Home Glows Green When it’s Good for the Planet | Home Design Find

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Zero Energy Home Glows Green When it’s Good for the Planet

priusbarn1 green

So often Prius owners are accused of being pious and smug – just wanting you to know how virtuous they are; by doing the right thing for the planet.

This zero energy home takes that protest-too-much quality one step further: It advertises frankly to the neighbors when it is creating more energy than it is using.

How? Energy efficient (LED of course) lights under the house glow eco-virtuous green when it is producing more than enough energy for its elegantly simple and spartan needs.

priusbarn3 green
But what if the house is not making enough energy for its inhabitants? Well, when when it’s using more energy than it is making, this little house “blushes” an eco-embarrassed red.

Wouldn’t that make your house next door feel just a little piggy? After all, your house always uses more energy than it makes. This house is really setting a whole new standard in devising new ways of keeping up with the Joneses.

But, on the other hand; this has its good side. I’ll bet the neighbors are dropping by to see just why those lights are sometimes green and sometimes red and to find out just how it works this magic! Want to know? Here’s how to build this zero energy house. (Well, zero or better.)

priusbarn4 green

It’s not so hard to make your home an energy producer rather than an energy consumer.
Solar on the roof, geothermal heat exchange in the ground, super insulation in all the walls and low emissivity glass windows.

The south-facing side of the roof is almost half solar panels. The roof hosts an array of panels that are perfectly tilted for this region’s sun.

Ground temperature remains always an even 55 degrees or so, regardless of surface temperatures; whether it is an icy 20 below or whether it’s lemonade weather – 110 in the shade.

So simply passing pipes through the house and down in the ground can cool a summer house and get the warming of a winter house begun. If you are starting with 55 degrees F it is not nearly as as much work to heat a home to 70 degrees F — than if you are starting from 20 below zero!

Geothermal ground heat exchanges are a green option for moving liquids through radiant floors and radiators at the sides of rooms. This zero house in Maine needs no furnace —so it does not use a forced air system; and that is healthier because the air is fresh and cool, but your feet are warm on the radiant floor. And you can bet those features are probably going to be advantageous on a free efile for next year.

Glass can also be a heat loser, so this home uses low-emissivity glass, that does not let the heat escape in winter, and does not let the summer heat in either.
priusbarn5 green
So the super insulation works both ways: even in the lazy barefoot days of long hot summers, this spartan and minimal house never loses its cool.

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45 Comments so far to “Zero Energy Home Glows Green When it’s Good for the Planet”
  1. Frank Says:

    The green glow is not such a bad idea – a lot of people like to brag without bragging. The red light on the other hand… People do not like that. Not to mention if you are using more than you are producing you are just making the trouble worse by those lights – even if they are efficient they are a non-zero draw.

    So – FAIL – but close.

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  3. M48 Says:

    I support the idea of making home eco-friendly, but I’m not quite sure I’d want it to glow. A little excessive maybe?

  4. Allan Says:

    Where is this house?

  5. skraemer Says:

    It’s in Rockport, Maine.

    I know a Prius owner who drives more efficiently now, because his dashboard tells him (with the equivalent of the green glow versus the red glow) when he is being efficient and getting better milage.

    So it actually affects his behaviour.

    So, if you lived here, maybe if all your neighbors knew when you were being a hog, you’d turn off extra electricity.

  6. me Says:

    Is it just me or does that look more like a lab than a house? Not something I’d call comfortable but maybe my dogs would like it!

  7. Martin Lewis Says:

    I agree with Frank, the lights are counter-productive. Doh!

  8. Uncle B Says:

    My dream, a “Zero upkeep, Zero running cost” home is almost a practical reality! Here’s a Light for your yard: –
    and a toilet that pays in free heating gas:
    Refrigeration can be done, free, from the sun! and don’t forget the windmill! It can run your computer for free! We are entering a new and happier age for mankind, spread the joy, spread the information!

  9. Brad Says:

    Interesting concept, but the external indicator lights are highly pretentious. Isn’t the point of going green to help the environment NOT to provide another forum for competition. If you need the threat of scorn from your neighbors as a result of a house that glows red too often, your motivations are misplaced. On the other hand, the idea of indicators as to the efficiency of your house on the INSIDE is a great idea as most people are probably unaware of just how much energy they use on a daily basis.

  10. bebo Says:

    Hope this is the start of things to come, hopefully a few years from now solar power will be more affordable and joe public will see the gains that are to be had.

  11. Susan Kraemer Says:

    Brad, I’m inclined to agree. There are such devices, that show you your energy use inside.

    Bebo, solar loans monthly payment amounts are actually now already competitive with the electricity bills we pay monthly.

    It is not really the expense, it is the hassle-factor of getting financing, compared with the ease of signing up to pay a utility to “rent” electricity each and every month.

    If you are 20, and plan on paying a utility for electricity till you drop, you will have spent between $200,000 and $500,000 on electricity by the day you die.

    With tax credits (30% off under new laws this year) , the cost of a solar system is now down to about $10,000 to $20,000 (depending on if you are an energy hog) . Once paid (just like a car loan) your electricity is free.

    Which is more expensive: $500,000 to rent or $20,000 to own.

  12. Brian Says:

    It’s art, at best. Like Brad said, the lights are pretentious. Also, I’d say that the homeowner would be wasting 500w on a statement.

  13. jim sadler Says:

    Americans come from a different tradition than that green light type of bragging. Our historic past suggests that we should instead provide rewards for every hour of running green and penalties for every hour of running red. Perhaps we could dun people a large fee for running red and send it to the people who are running green. If the penalties are severe enough all monetary power would shift to those who conserve and produce energy.

  14. nautre Says:

    looks like an heat pump or ac unit on the right hand side of the second picture.

  15. Susan Kraemer Says:

    Nature; yeah, I seem to remember the documentation at his site shows that there is a ground heat exchange to get a jump-start on heating and cooling using geothermal power.

    (Being a zero energy house, it has no fossil-fueled AC.)

  16. Susan Kraemer Says:

    Jim; that is a terrific idea – like the auto feebates we were going to have in California – registering a gas guzzler would cost an extra fee and that money would go to those registering a fuel sipper – as a rebate.

    Not a rebate, a fuel sipper Feebate.

  17. Mike O'Brien Says:

    It’s a lovely little house in style and spirit. I like the idea of trying out new ways of communicating our ethics and values to each other, instead of our status or wealth. We already know that fur coats and titanic SUVs are effective symbols, but we need some pilot projects like this one to explore new ways of rethinking our social values and their expression to our community. Let’s wait and see what happens with the lights.

  18. D.E.M. Says:

    What? Good for the planet? Where did you hear that shit? Does anything we do except maybe launching all the nukes we ever owned could destroy over 0.000001% of all life on Earth?

  19. dave Says:

    looks dumb. on the inside i mean.

  20. Susan Kraemer Says:

    Mike – you nailed my ambivalence – I think you sum up (“in style and spirit” – exactly!) what I was thinking in covering this story.

    I was ambivalent, on the one hand… ugh: “keeping up with the Joneses” but otoh – maybe it IS a time to share new values for us to jointly aspire to.

  21. Ethan Says:

    I ride a bike to work and my desktop background is a picture of a clearcut, so yes, I would go for the green lights and pretentiously harp about how I’m Captian Freakin’ Planet every chance I got.
    Whoa, nice Excursion, good neighbor. Why do you hate the environment?

  22. tannimarie Says:

    cool house but the green/red light is visual polution

  23. crackgerbal Says:

    Excellent post. I love how this home uses peer pressure to keep people doing the environmentally friendly thing. However, I cant say that i would want lights on in front of my house or all my neighbors houses all the time. Seems like so many lights would be a bit distracting. Maybe there is a better way to incorporate such social pressures into how we live with out constant lighting.

    I also think that using geothermal heating is a really good solution to our heating needs. After all, there is an abundance of heat below the surface of earth that is completely untapped.

  24. Susan Kraemer Says:

    Good points crackgerbal – but you know that the geothermal for homes is really not accessing the “abundance of heat” that is deeper, (utility-scale geothermal) but instead it accesses the (about) 5 to 10 feet down – where the temperature is completely stable at about 55 degrees, right?

    Not heat exactly, but much better than minus 20 degrees that it might be outside.

    Home geothermal (ground heat exchange) is more of a jump-start on getting the temperature inside to 65 or 70 because you only have to add 20 degrees (ish) to get there.

  25. hoosiergambler Says:

    “Mike O’Brien Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    It’s a lovely little house in style and spirit. I like the idea of trying out new ways of communicating our ethics and values to each other, instead of our status or wealth. We already know that fur coats and titanic SUVs are effective symbols…”

    if this catches on and becomes widespread this will create a whole new dynamic, instead of red state v. blue state it will be red house v. green house. it will be income based in most cases, those with better means will live in green ‘hoods and those with lower incomes will will usually make up all red ‘hoods giving new, broader meaning to the term ‘red light district’. due to all this overwhelming advertisement of whose who, segregation will be better highlighted and class warfare will only intensify. :(

  26. hoosiergambler Says:

    yeah… i know, it’s who’s, not whose. i ‘m a fool.

  27. Susan Kraemer Says:

    Hoosier gambler – true about the red consumers v green consumers, but it doesn’t have to be about income, if legislation can counterbalance that a bit. A lot of the green jobs initiatives are designed to remedy that.

    In Northern CA for example, my utility; PG&E is offering to fully subsidise ( = free) 1 kw solar systems to VERY low income homes.

    A low income neighborhood here; Richmond has the solar Richmond program that teaches high school kids from low income neighborhoods how to install solar, then gets them into the jobs doing it.

  28. shalini Says:

    cool house…

    excellent ground heat exchanger

  29. dincmetal Says:


  30. Yusef Mama Says:

    Geothermal systems are problematic above the Mason/Dixon line. Great A/C in summer but kind of glitchy in winter especially in the more northern areas. Your article also doesn’t mention the enormous cost of building such a structure nor the toxic fluids in the geothermal system and the hazardous materials in solar panels and low e glass. Nice try though!

  31. jake Says:

    Although going green is one of the best things we can do for our planet, i fucking hate how its constantly exploited as a bragging right. You shouldn’t have to show of to you neighbors about how environmentally friendly you are, you should just be environmentally friendly. Also it just seems like a wast of resources, I mean, oil was abundant once, and maybe we should learn our lesson, and not wast materials for frivolous aesthetics.

  32. CalifDreama Says:

    I wish the house design was som what nicer looking outside however it’s eco friendly. Plus great informative ways to make improvements to your escapes for a greener tomorrow that will contribute to your energy saving and make our planet healthier and cleaner!

  33. Terry Says:

    I would love a house like this, although I’d prefer it if it didn’t have the “brag factor.”

  34. @ndre Says:

    when i saw this zero energy design home.. it make me remembered “the day the earth stood still”..

  35. Jake Says:

    Let me get this straight. You are burning energy (lighting LEDs) to brag that you are saving energy. Anyone else see the hypocrisy, or am I the only one taking crazy pills?

  36. iyiegitim Says:

    çok güzel olmuş emeğinize sağlık

  37. Kevin K. Says:

    (linkback) Cool or Lame? Zero Energy Home Glows Green When it’s Good for the Planet [VOTE] –

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  42. Rubber Stamps Says:

    That is so cool! Green is the way to go!

  43. Eldon Says:

    I like the red glow. It reminds me of my days in Amsterdam.

  44. Power factor correction Says:

    If the lights cause changes in behavior that is more efficient, it could bring about a net gain. Still, seems a bit much.

  45. sustainable earth Says:

    Zero energy homes are now becoming mainstream. We have some in a neighborhood near us, though they don't turn colors. Isn't the color thing just a waste of power?

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