Sunday, June 5, 2011

Meritage has 'net zero' home

Meritage Homes is building houses in the Lyon's Gate community near Ray and Higley roads in Gilbert that it claims have achieved the elusive "net zero" standard.

Through a combination of conservation and solar-power generation, the 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom house - the first in the development built to the standard - under certain conditions will have electricity bills that average out to zero over a year. The house produces more energy than it consumes in the cooler months to balance out the times it consumes more than it produces in the summer.

In the past, homes that achieved the net-zero standard have been expensive custom builds. The Meritage home's $200,000 price is comparable to other new homes of similar size and level of amenities.

It wasn't possible a few years ago, Meritage Vice President C.R. Herro said. Recent advances in solar technology and more reasonable prices for the spray-foam insulation used are factors in making the home affordable. The home also features 9-inch-thick outer walls, highly efficient windows, Energy Star-rated appliances, LED lights and other energy-saving features to achieve such energy savings.

Bruce Ploesner bought the first home Meritage produced this way in the Verrado community in Buckeye.

Ploesner, his wife and four children moved into the home only in April, but so far have been impressed with its efficiency. "The first energy bill, for about two days of usage, was 15 cents," Ploesner said. "The second bill we just got was for about $15, but that included a week when we were moving in and doing things and had the doors open a lot."

Herro said Meritage would offer the net-zero option in every community the company builds in that offers solar power. The other energy-saving features will be part of the homes it builds even if solar power isn't an option.

Meritage Homes has a display model of its net-zero home at Lyon's Gate. Displays reminiscent of a science center demonstrate the energy-efficient features of the home and how it works. The display model is open to the public.

by Weldon B. Johnson The Arizona Republic Jun. 4, 2011 12:00 AM

Meritage has 'net zero' home

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