Is $339,000 For This Green Solar-Roof Home In Chicago Affordable?

Chicago Green Solar Homes photo

Solar Verde is a planned 20-home community near Chicago's South Chicago Heights subdivision which is intended to have all zero energy homes as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy's Building America program. The first two zero energy houses at Solar Verde, now completed, are supposed to be reminiscent of mail-order, Sears catalog-style homes of the early 20th century, except their solar roof panels, on-demand water heating, heat pump and high-efficiency building materials mean the homes should pay you back with significant energy bill savings.

Net zero electric bills?
The $339,000 price tag for the home is higher than Chicago's recent median of $262,000, and at 1,595 square feet it's also less roomy (U.S. median = 2,400 sq. ft.) than some would like, though with three bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a full basement. The sales pitch for the homes is that the photovoltaic systems can reduce electric bills to zero and avoid release of nearly 11,500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, as well as around 40 pounds of SO2 and 30 pounds of NOx that would be emitted if coal-generated energy was used in a newly-built home.

Integrated 4 kilowatt solar roof panels
The homes' solar roof panels are a standard feature designed to provide most or all the energy and power a typical family would require, with a net metering system to feed excess to the grid when the sun shines as well as allow for owners to get all the electricity they need in winter and other low-sun periods. According to Solar Verde's builders, the solar rooftop tiles alone would run around $10,000 per kilowatt, or $40,000 for the 4 kW system. But the homes have a host of other features to make them energy efficient.Extruded polystyrene walls, bamboo floors, PET carpet
To keep energy use (and energy bills) low at Solar Verde, the houses use prefabricated recycled plastic and steel wall systems from Techbuilt and R-50 efficiency value attic insulation. There are skylights to provide some natural lighting and compact fluourescent bulbs in other lighting fixtures. Bamboo floors or PET carpet from Beaulieu are used throughout the homes, as well as no-VOC paints, low flush toilets and wheatboard cabinets.

According to Schmidt, all these standard green and efficiency features will make the Solar Verde homes hold or increase their value as well. A white paper from the Solar Appraisal Institute says that each $1,000 in reduced energy costs for a home adds around $20,000 to its resale value. Via ::Solar Verde
More on zero energy homes:
In California:
Zero Energy Communities Being Built
Near London:
Beddington Zero Energy Development
And in Montreal:
Zero-Energy Condo Wins Equilibrium Competition

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