Matt and Kelly Grocoff just received the March/April utility bill for their 110 year old Folk-Victorian home in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Old West Side Historic District. It was -$68.44—and yes, that's a minus sign before the dollar sign. Matt and Kelly’s home—America’s oldest net-zero energy restoration and Michigan’s first net-zero house—has been retrofitted so that it produces more energy than it consumes.
Matt and Kelly use less than 10,000 kilowatt hours of total energy per year. Their 8.1 kW SunPower solar panels (which cost them $19,000—less than an SUV—after a tax credit and utility incentive) supply that and more—enough to earn them money back from the local utility. In addition to eliminating their energy bill, Kelly and Matt expect to earn an additional $1,100 per year by selling renewable energy credits back to the utility company.
Kelly, a clinical therapist, and Matt, the host of Greenovation.TV, say that buying their 2,200-square-foot home—complete with drafty old windows, lead paint, zero insulation, a 50-year-old furnace, asbestos siding, a gas-powered mower in the shed and even a few pieces of coal scattered around the back yard—was a dream come true. Their goal was to turn the historic home from an energy hog into an energy producer because, Matt says, “130 million existing homes are consuming 22 percent of the energy in the United States. And if we built every new house to be net zero, but we neglected our existing homes, we would reduce our carbon output by zero.”
In addition to installing solar panels, the Grocoffs improved their home’s windows, added weatherstripping and installed a geothermal heating and cooling system. Those fixes, plus careful living, have reduced the home’s energy load by 70 percent—and all the while the Grocoffs have kept the National Trust for Historic Preservation folks happy. “This is not a gut rehab or a pre-recession large-scale remodel,” Matt says. “This is an affordable and practical restoration that we hope is an example for others to follow.” You would never know the Grocoffs’ All-American home with the classic front porch is “green”—until you get a glimpse of the solar panels blanketing the south-facing roof.
Matt estimates they will eliminate $83,210 in energy costs over 20 years and receive more than $23,000 in renewable energy credits from their utility company. “That's a $106,000 return that we will keep in our community in Michigan to help restore our economy,” Matt points out. Because energy efficiency and renewables have a guaranteed return, “Kelly and I believe it's the safest place to put our money,” Matt says.
“Did we mention that our house is also the most comfortable house in the neighborhood?” Matt adds. “We want to show everyone how cozy saving civilization can be.”
Matt and Kelly Grocoff’s Total Energy Investment
Insulation: $3,600 (not including tax credits or incentives)
UltimateAir ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) $3,000
Window restoration: $6,000 (restored 110-year-old windows)
Wattstopper motion sensor light switches: $500
Smart Strip: $50
CFL and LED light bulbs: $150
Energy monitor: $150
Storm windows with low-E glass: $1,600 (including 30 percent federal tax credit)
Geothermal heating/AC and hot water: (3 ton): $13,000 (with 30 percent federal tax credit)
Solar/PV system: $19,000 (after utility incentive and federal tax credit)
Now blanketed with solar panels, the historic home produces more energy than it consumes. Photo by Matt Grocoff
Because saving energy is the patriotic thing to do. Photo by Matt Grocoff