Imagine a house where you can plug in your refrigerator, washing machine and dryer, dishwasher, stove and coffeemaker, not to mention the water heater, vacuum cleaner, TV, all your electronics and even your car – and come up with zeroes on your electric bill.
Staff members of Granite Ridge Builders are done imagining. The Fort Wayne company is actually building a house that qualifies.
This month, the company headed by Tony Reincke is breaking ground on a Net Zero home that officials say is a first in the region.
Staff members have also dubbed it the company’s Next Step home because it contains many other features they think will be part of the homes of the future.
“We decided to build a house in northeast Indiana that has never been done before,” says Lonnie Norris, Granite Ridge’s vice president of sales.
“Net Zero means we’ll be using energy, but we’ll also be producing energy that will zero everything out.”
Norris says the nearly 5,000-square-foot home will front River Hollow Estates, a development exclusive to Granite Ridge along Flutter Road in northeast Fort Wayne. The house is being built, he says, not so much to be sold but as an ultimate model home.
Besides showcasing the energy features, Norris says, the house also contains smart technology features, “green” finishes, components that improve accessibility for those with disabilities and locally produced materials that cut down on its carbon footprint.
For the last several months, staff members have been searching for products to provide a wow factor to potential customers.
“One problem we’ve had is that things are changing so fast that every week there is something new we want to include,” Norris says.
“We want to bring it all under one roof and show people things they haven’t seen yet in this market.”
Just how will the house generate its own electricity? Brad Wallace, vice president of construction, says it will be with a 7-kilowatt solar panel in tandem with a pond-based geothermal system.
Most of the solar panels will be part of a separate outbuilding, so the home itself will look more like a conventional residence from the street.
“We don’t want people to drive by it and say, ‘What an odd-looking house,’ ” Wallace says.
The exterior is trimmed with manufactured stone and uses environmentally friendly composite siding with Craftsman style touches, including a pillared front porch.
The home has a three-car garage, three bedrooms and a den in a split floor plan. A fourth bedroom is on the lower basement level, which also contains a full kitchen and a media room.
Granite Ridge consulted with professors at Purdue University, who, with their students, designed and built an approximately 1,000-square-foot, traditionally styled Net Zero house as a research project. Energy Diagnostics of Valparaiso assessed the home’s potential performance.
Features that contribute to the energy savings include high-performance wall, ceiling and foundation insulation, a high-reflective roof and triple-paned and hermetically sealed gas-insulated windows. Heat will be recovered from hot-water drain lines, and sensors will adjust room temperatures based on occupancy.
An Energy Recovery Ventilation unit will assure retention of heat or cold while providing enough fresh air for a well-sealed building. Energy-saving lighting using LED technology will be installed.
The home will also have technologically up-to-date “smart” features.
“One interesting thing for this house is how much you can control from your cell phone,” says Tony Doepker, sales consultant.
He says a buyer’s smart phone could be programmed so blinds automatically rise and lower and the garage door opens and closes. The right commands would adjust the interior temperature, switch on the lights and the TV and unlock the door just as the owner arrives home.
The phone could even send alerts should something go wrong – for example, if the sump pump fills up or a door is unlocked at an unusual time, he says, adding that the buyer will be given a cell phone instead of a set of keys to lock and unlock the home.
The home also will be outfitted with luxury touches. There’s a remote control for the shower, a Bluetooth showerhead to play music and shower panels that can turn opaque for privacy.
There’s also what staff members refer to as “the $6,400 toilet” – a low-flush Kohler that has a heated seat that automatically raises itself up and down, a foot warmer, dual-function bidet, night light and built-in music system.
Among the green features are recycled drywall, paint that absorbs harmful volatile organic compounds, flooring made from recycled or renewable materials, recycled Grabill cabinets and top-rated Energy Star appliances.
Anyone with disabilities will benefit from a wheel-in shower, wider doorways and hallways and no-lip thresholds.
The home is expected to receive the Emerald, or highest, green certification from the National Association of Home Builders. The award is based on meeting standards in areas including energy, water and resource conservation, indoor environmental air quality and site design. A house must incorporate energy savings of 60 percent or more.
Norris says Granite Ridge plans to use the house to educate students about energy conservation and construction techniques. When finished, the home will be equipped with manufactures’ displays that explain new products, he says.
Norris says a price for the home has not been set, adding that any sale would be at least two years away.
The company plans to have the home finished by late spring.
“We’re kind of throwing everything at this house,” Norris says. “We want people to pick and choose – maybe they won’t want or get everything, but we want them to see what the possibilities are.”