America's Oldest Net-zero House: Ann Arbor, MI, USA

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America's Oldest Net-zero House: Ann Arbor, MI, USA

The historic green buildings listed so far have one thing in common: They were originally built with features that -- intentionally or not -- reduced their effect on their surroundings, saved energy or used resources in an efficient manner. This home in Ann Arbor's Old West Side neighborhood is green through a different tactic: Its current owners turned the rehabilitation of a typical 110-year-old home into an exercise in low-impact living.

The home is considered net zero because it produces as much energy as it consumes. Thanks to a solar array installed on the roof, a geothermal heat system and an energy-recovery ventilator, the home's owners can power modern, energy-efficient lighting and appliances without depending on power from the electric grid. In fact, the owners report that their home produces excess energy, which is then sold back to the power company. In the future, this could be a case of a home providing enough energy to keep its occupants warm, cook their food and power an electric car [source: GreenovationTV].

The house's owners documented the rehabilitation project online, showing energy-conscious homebuyers two important things: First, buying and owning a green home doesn't mean giving up the historic charm of a house with a history. Second, energy efficiency can be part of the plan for any dwelling, regardless of its age. After all, if a drafty Victorian home can become net zero, there's no reason a newer home can't do the same.

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