Beyond the Basics

To achieve their net-zero goal, the Grocoffs smartly combined a number of small steps to produce big energy savings. Their plumbing fixtures use much less water than traditional ones, saving both water and water heating costs. They added motion sensors in each room that automatically turn off the lights if they're left on. And by switching to energy-efficient appliances, they were able to reduce their energy consumption even further [source: GreenovationTV].

But the steps that pushed the Grocoffs' home beyond even modern green homes involved more substantial work. The couple drilled three 150-foot (46-meter) wells in their yard to provide geothermal heat, which substantially lowered their already-reduced heating costs. The couple then installed a solar panel array on their roof. Thanks to smart site placement and a commitment to this technology, they're now able to produce as much energy as they need. In some months, they're even able to sell excess electricity back to the power company, which in effect makes their net-zero home a net-negative home [source: GreenovationTV].

The Grocoffs, who track their home's evolution on their GreenovationTV blog, report that theirs is not only the nation's oldest net-zero home, but it's also the first net-zero house in Michigan and one of the first net-zero restorations ever documented. The couple tracks their energy consumption online, allowing them to see when their system is producing optimal power and identify options for boosting their efficiency even further. As of early 2011, the couple reported producing nearly 12,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity over a 12-month span, while consuming roughly 10,000 kWh [source: GreenovationTV]. By that standard, theirs is the oldest green home in America. It's reasonable to suspect, however, that their blog could inspire other American homeowners to fix up -- and make green -- even older homes.

Ready to green your home? Check out the links on the next page for some tips.