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Posted April 16, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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A model home: House showcases company's green options
By Stacey Keenan - Daily Staff Correspondent
STEPHENSON -- When it comes to going green at home, recycling, eating organic food and turning off the lights are among the easier -- and less expensive -- things to do. When it comes to energy usage, it gets a bit more complicated, and pricier.
Builder Brookfield Homes plans to change that by taking home design in a more environmentally friendly direction, showing that it is possible to create energy right in your own backyard.
The proof can be seen in one of the company's model homes, and in the energy lab housed in it, built at the company's Snowden Bridge development in Stephenson.
"Brookfield wanted to focus on renewable energy," says David Poole, area sales manager with Brookfield Washington, a division of the national company and the developer behind the Snowden Bridge planned community.
The company is offering several renewable energy systems as options on all of its floor plans, including geothermal heating and cooling, solar water heating, solar panels and a small-scale wind turbine. The model home at Snowden Bridge -- a version of the Middleton, part of the Village series of homes, the company's smallest-size floor plans -- was built to showcase all of these systems.
"One element to green is the size of the home," Poole says. "The [Village series] homes are designed with that premise. They're more efficient."
Energy from the Earth
"Geothermal works using the temperature of the ground to heat and cool your home. It's very similar to a traditional heat pump," says Poole. "The temperature of the ground is always a constant 55 degrees, so [the pump] doesn't work as hard. It also gets rid of the need for an outdoor compressor, so it gets rid of the noise pollution."
A 400-foot pipe brings up heat from underground, then heat exchangers absorb the heat in an ecologically safe refrigerant, according to a display in the energy lab. The heat is sent throughout the home with a blower. The process is reversed to cool the home.
The cost to install a geothermal system in the Village series homes is roughly $12,000. The system should cut a home's heating and cooling costs in half, Poole adds.
Energy from the sun
Another optional system is the solar water heater. This system includes a group of solar tubes installed on the roof with pipes connecting them to the water heater. The pipes pump a liquid solution through a manifest system to the roof and back to the water heater. The glass solar tubes collect heat from the sun, which heats the liquid in the manifest system. The heated liquid then heats the water in the water heater, says Poole. The system can produce enough hot water for the entire house, and store heat for later use.
The cost to install the solar water heater system is about $7,000.
"They say about 15 percent of the total energy you use is to heat hot water," says Poole. "This system should cover 80 percent of that. So, it should drive down your water heating costs by 80 percent."
The third optional system is solar photovoltaic panels. The base package, which costs about $10,000, includes three panels that are 175 watts each.
"You could piggyback more as long as the roof allows," says Poole.
The solar panel system harvests the power of the sun to create energy for the home. This system supplements the others, and helps to offset a home's energy usage. Both systems work in low-light conditions, according to a display in the energy lab.
Energy from the wind
The fourth system available is a small-scale wind turbine that's installed on the roof. This system costs roughly $2,500 for the 400-watt turbine, which is capable of producing enough energy to power all home lighting. And, the quiet turbine requires only a wind speed of about eight or nine mph in order for it to start operating.
"This area has a very high average wind speed," Poole said.
A fifth optional system is Green Plus, which, at about $4,000, includes a variety of options such as dual flush toilets, GE Profile Energy Star-rated appliances, cabinets made from sustainable resources, carpet made from recycled plastic bottles and other eco-friendly building materials.
A few options of this package are standard in the Village series homes, including closed cellulose insulation made from recycled newspapers and phone books, compact fluorescent light bulbs installed throughout the home and WaterSense low-flow faucets.
In the model at Snowden Bridge, the energy lab offers displays that illustrate the efficiency of each system and how each works.
And, while there was already a federal tax credit program in place for energy efficient systems, President Obama's recent economic stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, included a few changes that help make purchasing a new home with green technology even more appealing.
For geothermal systems, solar panels, solar water heaters and small wind energy systems, the one-time tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of the system, with no upper limit, through 2016, according to www.energystar.gov. This is a change from the previous tax credits, which set limits on how much of a tax credit a homeowner could receive.
Snowden Bridge is off Old Charles Town Road in Stephenson. The Middleton model home and energy lab is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For more information, call Brookfield Homes at 866-347-7755 or visit the Web at www.snowdenbridge.com.
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