Energy Miser House All But Cuts The Cord

One of the most remarkable things about Paul and Diane Honig's home in Harwinton is how unremarkable it looks. Passers-by might notice the array of solar panels on the roof, which these days is not unusual. But otherwise it's pretty much just another attractive new Colonial-style home in the country.

Except it isn't. The Honigs and their two boys live in Connecticut's first certified "passive house." Thanks to several strategies — extra-thick, heavily insulated walls, heat pumps, solar collectors, triple-pane windows and more — their home uses as much as 80 percent less energy than the typical house its size. Comfortable both in summer and winter, it should be an inspiration to all prospective homebuilders that achieving energy efficiency is the way to go.

The building is so power-miserly that the Honigs will avoid the $5,000 annual energy bill they would have paid had they built a conventional house. Even better, they may make money by selling the extra electricity the panels generate back to Connecticut Light & Power Co.

A CL&P spokesman called it "the most efficient and highest-performing house we've ever seen." It recently won first prize in the CT Zero Energy Challenge, sponsored by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, CL&P and United Illuminating Co.

Mr. Honig estimates that the extra cost of building a home with such extreme efficiency, about $60,000, will be paid for by the family's energy savings in 12 years. That's the proper way to think of eco-friendly construction: as an investment.

So-called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards are being used in more construction these days. There are now 250 to 300 homes in Connecticut that have achieved LEED certification, which is awarded by affiliates of the U.S. Green Building Council to residences that meet certain environmental goals.

But the Honigs' house tops them all, and it heralds the day when all new construction will be done with the environment firmly in mind.

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