Big Home, Zero Electric Bill?
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
Over the last two nights, we've seen how going green with hybrid cars may save you some green over the long run. But that's not the only place you can help yourself and the environment.
The fridge indoors and the quiet air conditioner outdoors may make it seem like it's any other home. But the tank-free water heater may give it away. Or possibly the massive solar panels on the roof.
The owner, Bobby Burk won a recent $100-thousand energy home makeover from Gainesville Regional Utilities, WCJB TV 20 News and its partners. He says his monthly power bill went from around $400 to about $150.
"It's been nothing but positives," says Burk. "The air conditioner chills the home down really quickly, like 100 times more efficient than the first one."
Well maybe not 100 times more efficient. But what also helps is better insulation and duct sealing that's hidden in the attic. With more than two dozen rebates in all, GRU officials say it's all about a whole home approach.
"Such as if you are going to be doing your A/C, also make sure you duct leaks are sealed, your ducts aren't leaking," says Josie Binion with GRU. Make sure "you have the required amount of insulation."
But it's not just hidden things in attics. Replacing your old appliances with new energy-efficient ones, like a fridge, a stove, or even a dishwasher can make a big difference as well.
But homebuilder Richard Schackow has built what he says are the two most energy efficient homes in North Central Florida in the new Forest Creek subdivision in the 1600 block of NW 34th Avenue. A lot of thought went into the home's construction. They both have a reflective metal roof, well-insulated siding is a light color to reflect the sun's rays, and even these windows have a special coating to keep the sun's heat from warming up indoors. A geo-thermal heat pump in the garage is over a well that uses cool air off the Floridian Aquifer to run a silent air-conditioner underground. Solar panels on the roof can produce enough power during the day to run everything indoors, but also send energy back to GRU's power grid. It will make money for the future residents during the daylight, and possibly fully make up for the energy needed at night or on cloudy days.
"I sure hope Gainesville area moves this way forward," says Schackow. "Because we're looking at a cleaner world we live in if we do."
Burk says it feels like he's living in a whole new house by going green. And judging by the amount of green he's saving every month, he may as well be.
"It was saving green at first," says Burk. "But it makes you think about the other, so I guess it's a combo of both now."
Obviously, not everyone can move into a $300-thousand house, or spend $100-thousand on upgrades. But one of the easiest things you can do is use a lighter to check for leaks around windows or door frames. If the flame moves because of a draft--seal it up. Experts say that can save you up to 30-percent.
For more information and to see Burk's house for yourself, you can check out the GRU website at www.gru.com. Click on "Virtual Energy Tour" to see some pictures, find out more information and pricing for the different energy-saving products, and learn about companies qualified to install the products in your home. On the GRU website, you can also find information about GRU's rebate program--everything from air condition and attic insulation rebates to solar panels and poop pumps.
Schackow has built the first two homes in the Forest Creek subdivision. Over the next few years, he hopes to finish the rest of the 28 lots. They are located off NW 17th Street, near the intersection of 39th Avenue and U.S. 441. The asking price for both is about $300-thousand. But with GRU rebates and tax credits, you'll get between 20 and 30-thousand dollars in your money back.
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