Cool House, Cool Down

All the signs are extant that another Texas summer has arrived – the beads of sweat mustering on my forehead, the AC in my car turned up to 11, and of course, frightfully high energy bills.

Based on information provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 20% of the average household utility bill is spent purely on cooling a house down to an acceptable temperature. For residents of sunnier regions of the United States, this number is usually even more considerable. Tied to all considerations is the relentless upward march of energy prices which further exacerbates the situation.

Eco-Friendly Home

To combat the sweltering weather and despite a stifled housing market, many families have resettled into ultra-efficient, eco-friendly homes. Thanks to strong demand, eco-friendly homes ranging from homes with living green roofs and straw-bale walls to net-zero residences have experienced notable growth.

Cool House Tour

In order to showcase their work, Texas builders, such as Native, in conjunction with the Texas Solar Energy Society, are having a tour of cool, cool-houses. The Cool House Tour is not only a showcase of the high-tech attention-grabbers commonly associated with eco-friendly houses but also a surfeit of practical, low-tech building technologies that make the difference between having a summer electric bill of nearly $350 per month versus $50 per month.

Native’s 2400 square foot home on display boasts “several passive, and many active design features, which contribute to its low energy and water use,” according to Lloyd Lee of Native. These features include an entirely self-sufficient rain-water collection, filtering, and distribution system that meets 100% of their water needs. Meanwhile a geothermal heat pump system consisting of 300 feet deep pipes provide for the house’s cooling, heating, and hot water needs. Of course all the other less flashy essentials are present as well from super-efficient spray-foam insulation to clerestory windows that reduce the need for electrical lighting.

So while the weather may be unbearable outside, in a cool-house, your electric bill doesn’t have to be.