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Building homes that make more power than they take (Video)

"Zero-net energy" homes will feature thick walls, solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling systems, meaning families should be able to generate more energy over a year than they consume.

By MICHAEL HILL
Associated Press

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (AP) – Homes being built in this Hudson Valley cul-de-sac offer prospective buyers wooded lots, pretty views and – oh yes – the promise of thumbing your nose at the power utility.

These “zero-net energy” homes will feature thick walls, solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling systems, meaning families should be able to generate more energy over a year than they consume.

These homes under construction 70 miles north of New York City have costly green features. But the builders believe they are in tune with consumers increasingly concerned about the environment and fuel costs.

And there are homebuyers here and around the nation who are willing to pay more for savings down the line.

“I don’t have to worry about $6,000 worth of utilities to run a house,” said Gil Lobell, a current zero-net home dweller moving his family into a larger house in the new development.

“I can use that money for other things, so we go on vacations because I’m not spending money on utilities. I don’t worry about oil bills. I don’t worry about electric bills. I don’t worry about gas bills.”

Zero-net homes require two things. They generate energy, typically solar, and they are designed in a way to reduce energy consumption through the use of energy-efficient appliances and insulation. Lots of insulation, in the case of these homes.

Exterior walls of the nine homes being constructed here by Greenhill Contracting Inc. include a 6-inch layer of poured, reinforced concrete sandwiched by about 2