Color Me Green: Homes Becoming More Energy Efficient

"Green home" in Bellaire
So-called "zero-energy" homes are still rare in Houston, but they're slowly gaining popularity as more and more homeowners make efforts to conserve energy and use renewable resources. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the "solar house" in Bellaire is just one example of what's known as a "green home."

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The 4500-square foot home on Valerie Street in Bellaire features a long list of energy efficient features that are evident nearly everywhere you look, from the dozens of double-pane windows that naturally light the home during the day to the large solar panels on the roof. This is homeowner and designer Kathleen Carrier.

"The goal of the house was to incorporate as many energy efficient features as we could. It's a combination of active energy efficiency and passive. Active being solar panels, solar hot water heater, solar pool heater, and geothermal and also passive, such as natural day-lighting, fluorescent lighting, overhangs, a radiant barrier in the attic. Things like that."

Carrier is one of the early adapters, a rare homeowner who has gone to extremes to capture renewable energy. She says it might not be cheap to build green, but it's worth it in the long run.

"Using renewable energy may not always be the most cost-effective to become energy efficient. It might be upgrading your windows. It might be building a house with a metal roof instead of a composition shingle roof. So it's very important to find a builder and an architect or designer that can help you sort through those decisions and you can get the best value for your money."

One of those builders is Chris Fry, president of Dovetail Builders here in Houston, the company that built Carrier's solar home. He says green homes still aren't very popular in Houston, but interest is growing.

"I would say that it's in its infancy in our market in Houston. Of course in California it's very popular. In Austin it's very popular. In Houston it's just now becoming a popular concept and beginning to be something that our clients are interested in."

Even if homeowners can't afford expensive upgrades like solar panels and geothermal systems, they can afford different light bulbs. That according to Aaron Mercier with Environment Texas, who says a simple bulb change can save a lot of energy.

"Nine-percent of all household electricity consumption in America goes to lighting and if every household in America was to replace its most heavily used incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, we could reduce our consumption of energy for lighting by half. Something that simple and inexpensive can make a dramatic difference."

Environment Texas has released a list of the top ten opportunties to build new energy in the future. You can find a link to that list on our website, KUHF.org.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...