The Zero Energy House

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Lenoir City, Loudon County (WVLT) - Wouldn't it be nice to pay less than a dollar a day for utilities?

For one Lenoir City family, that's a reality thanks to their zero energy home.

Volunteer TV's Allison Hunt shows us how it's not only helping the environment, but the family too.

"That's for everything, not just the heating and cooling, that's the television, the cell phone charger the whole works," says Jeff Christian from ORNL.

It's one of four such homes in this Lenoir City subdivision, easily spotted by the solar panels.

"It generates direct current power, that has to be changed to alternating current to feed the receptacles in your home," Christian explains.

Or as 8-year-old Bryan Charles puts it, "It's like, what are they big dinner plates for the sun?"

He and his mom Kimberly have lived here for almost 3 years.

"It's just been really wonderful, it's really cut down on the electrical cost, and it's just given us a lot of information on how to conserve energy and stuff, things we never really thought of before," Kimberly says.

Things like turning off the lights and not running the water, it's been quite an eye opener for Bryan.

"He got to where he would come home to do his homework and instead of turning the light on he would open the blinds at the dinner table and do it there, so that's pretty neat to see him do that," Kimberly says.

And saving 40 to 50 dollars every month has really helped the family.

"If we didn't have those, life would be much harder," Bryan says.

"Especially over the year, it makes a big difference, little things that maybe Bryan might want or ya know, just to help out," Kimberly says.

And it's not just healthy for the environment, because it's air tight, fresh air is fanned in every 20 minutes.

"We find that the indoor air quality is even better than typical houses," says Christian.

So is it too good to be true? Jeff Christian with Oak Ridge National Laboratory says no.

Initial costs will be a little more, but made up in energy savings. The solar panels cost $18,000 and the converter, about $3,000.

"Many parts of the country are providing incentives, that's some federal incentives and quite honestly we're finding that a lot of people that have an environmental ethic, they're very willing to pay that," Christian says.

And Kimberly says she wouldn't have it any other way, "I love it here and I love my house so I can't imagine living anywhere else."

The house is made possible in conjunction with TVA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Lenoir City Utilities Board.

On really sunny days the meter actually spins backwards, meaning the electric company is paying the homeowners to use energy.

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