Building a Home to Have Electric Bills of $0.00

The zero net electric bill house will go to Habitat for Humanity

By Brian Thompson
|  Wednesday, Sep 7, 2011  |  Updated 8:26 PM EDT
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A house is under construction on the banks of the Hudson River that promises an electric bill of zero dollars per year.

A house is under construction on the banks of the Hudson River that promises an electric bill of zero dollars per year.

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A house is under construction on the banks of the Hudson River that promises an electric bill of zero dollars per year.

Students from Stevens Institute of Technology and from the Parsons and Milano Colleges at the New School in New York City have joined together as a team to enter a U.S. Department of Energy competition to build the most practical, cost-effective solar-powered home possible.

"I  would want to live in it," said Melanie Hendel, a Parsons grad and Los Angeles native who was drilling screws into the siding on the porch.

When it is complete in time for this fall's competition, it will have just 16 off-the-shelf solar panels on the roof. But with super insulated walls a foot thick, and triple pane windows, it will be built to standards rarely seen in suburbia.

"The key is to minimize energy use," said Parsons graduate student Carley Berger, 25.

There will be a sophisticated heating and cooling system that uses advanced heat exchange principles -- think of a pumped-up heat pump - to warm and chill the house as needed.

And because of all that, the future occupants won't have to worry about an electric bill.

"Over the course of a year, your net utility bill will be zero dollars," said Erich Rau, a Parsons graduate student.

Rau explained that the solar panels will produce as much or more electricity over the course of every day than will be used in a typical 24-hour period so using power off the grid at night will be made up by selling it back to the power company during the day.

The cost of materials and labor is estimated at $250,000 which the students said would translate into a mortgage of $1,000 a month over thirty years.

But this house, after the competition in Washington, D.C. just off the Mall, will be going to a neighborhood there with the help of Habitat for Humanity.

It will be moved by flat bed truck to DC and after the competition a second story will be added that will bring it to 1,300 square feet and three bedrooms.

But that won't change the projected electric bill of $0 a year.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @Brian4NY

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