Net Zero Energy Homes...

Education & Training with GLREA

Imagine a house…with all the modern conveniences…

computers, coffee pots, heat, computers, indoor cook stoves…even IOL (instant on lighting! I think that came from a Dudley Moore movie!) Did I say computers?

Just think of all those things we have become so fond of…modern comforts…

Now imagine that same house after a year… compute the utility bills…and they average zero…

Wouldn’t that be the cat’s meow?

Electric Meter



I have just described a net zero energy home. Some times it uses energy, sometimes it produces more energy than it uses. However, after a year the energy bills net out to zero…

Yes, you heard me right, ZERO. Zip. Nada. Zilch…

You are probably saying,

"Sounds great but it would cost a small fortune!"

Am I right?




What if I told you it doesn't have to cost a fortune? You would probably ask me to prove it…

Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is out there. They have committed to building all LEED certified homes; they have committed to EPA Water Sense homes, they have committed to zero step homes.


My friend Chris Hall, Construction Director at Habitat for Humanity of Kent County tells me they are going to prove net zero energy is achieveable...on a budget. Chris and the other folks at KCHFH are going to prove it on a Habitat for Humanity Home!

They are out there!

What could be better? Habitat for Humanity clients are among those who need it the most. Habitat for Humanity clients are hard working folks with lower income. Utility bills take a good chunk of their income...

What do your utility bills cost you per month? $50? $100? $200?

What would happen if you spent those dollars locally as opposed to sending it to your utility provider? Did you know that dollars spent locally add up to 6 times as much income for local economy?

A few weeks ago I was doing some calculations for a presentation. I was astounded...Michigan has about 4.5 million homes. If each of those homes were to reduce their electric consumption by 2000 kWh per year ~ just 167 kWh per month ~ it would make available almost a billion dollars annually at today's electricity prices. If that were spent locally, it could equate to 5 - 6 Billion dollars to the local

just...WOW! That's a chunk of change!

What if you were able to invest those dollars? I'm aware the market's have been down so let's assume a 5% investment rate. That $100 per month invested over 30 years would be over $83,000...not a bad retirement supplement for most people. Just from avoided cost of today's dollars and rates.

So what does it take to build a net zero energy home? Fantastic donors.



Donors like Grand Rapids resident Craig Van Ess who competed in his 12th Ironman competition on Sunday, June 27th to raise  funds on behalf of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County.

Volunteers who offer insight at design charrettes, answer phones, schedule, pound nails and simply enjoy helping others by offering their time and talents.

Suppliers like Kohler who donate water saving faucets and showerheads to HFHKC.




If you are interested in learning more about Kent County Habitat for Humanity's Net Zero Energy Home, read about the Wealthy Heights Project now under way in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

If you are interested in donating time, talent or products to the first Habitat for Humanity Home in the US that will be net zero energy, check in with Kent County Habitat for Humanity and let them know!

I will bring more news about this exciting project as it develops...the Wealthy Heights Project is setting a great example. The proof is in the pudding....

As Chris says, "Simple. Decent. Affordable. And Historic. And LEED Certified. Did we miss anything?"

Stay Tuned!


Copyright 2009 Mary McGraw Bigelow. All rights reserved.


Comments (12)

Robert T. Boyer
FHA Loan, VA Loan, Jumbo Loan,FHA Loans,VA Loans,Jumbo Loans - La Jolla, CA
San Diego Real Estate & Mortgage Loans, Ph.D. | VA Home Loan

This sounds totally great.  We helped a gal build her habitat home.  It was quite interesting to be involved.

I really look forward to hearing about the success / proof of a net zero home.


Robert Boyer

Jun 28, 2010 05:26 PM
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!

How fantastic Robert! It's always great to hear from people who have gotten involved! So satisfying!!!

I will be sure to keep updating on this's exciting!

Jun 28, 2010 05:38 PM


Thanks for this amazing post on positive possibilities...much needed today when energy efficiency is a priority and on the minds of many people who are looking for ways to remedy potentially far-reaching and disastrous effects ...over which they have no control...

Jun 29, 2010 04:36 PM
Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407

Very cool. Thanks for such a great post of environmental awareness.

Jun 29, 2010 04:59 PM
Loan Survivor Real Estate Financing Expert
Purchases, First Time Buyers, Pre-Approvals, Refinance - Birmingham, MI

We're getting greener, slowly but surely.

Jun 30, 2010 03:47 PM
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!

Hi JaneAnne ~ It will make a difference in many lives as it is adopted as possible! Something the hard working crew at Habitat for Humanity Kent County will strive for! They have a very committed crew!

Jun 30, 2010 03:54 PM
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!

@ Ralph & Drew ~ Thanks for the comments! It's easy to write about great people and great ideas! Seeing folks implement and "walk the walk" is always the challenge. I'm so happy HFHKC is out there to set great examples! Leave it to the Chrisser!

Jun 30, 2010 03:56 PM
Mary McGraw
GLREA - Rockford, MI
2015: Solar Energy Is Still A Simple Machine!

Thanks for the feature Cuz! Happy Independence Day to All!

Jun 30, 2010 04:17 PM
Barbara Heil-Sonneck
Design2Sell - Atlanta, GA
Home Staging Atlanta

Step by step we are more aware of our environment and step by step green tactics are implemented. Great news, tks for sharing.

Jul 09, 2010 12:35 AM
Sandy Nelson
Riley Jackson Real Estate Inc. - Olympia, WA
your Olympia area Realtor

Very encouraging. If Net zero can be done in Michigan al low cost, it should be even easier in my home state of moderate climate, Washington.

Jul 18, 2010 06:55 AM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

What a great idea if more people could save on their utilities!  I see more and more people adding solar panels to their homes in a tie-in situation, as our electric rates are so high.  It helps a lot.  They say that Hawaii is on the leading edge of renewable energy innovation, and I hope it's true.

Jul 29, 2010 09:51 AM
David Popoff
DMK Real Estate - Darien, CT
Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct

Mary, I just become interested in net zero homes and found two great groups that can help in the rating/planning and design of these homes.


Feb 22, 2011 09:33 PM