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Newest Habitat For Humanity House Is 'Net Zero'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- For those of us who face high winter heating and electric bills it seems impossible to live in a home that won't have them. And that's a very real possibility for the owners of the newest Habitat for Humanity home in north Minneapolis.

It's called a "Net Zero" home because the house should generate as much power as it uses. And because it uses no natural gas or electricity from coal, the home's carbon emissions will also be zero.

Solar panels will provide the hot water and electricity, and the house is designed for the highest levels of energy efficiency.

On vacant lots just south of Lowry Avenue in north Minneapolis, this new community rises. It is among the 100 energy efficient homes that will make up what the city is calling Green Homes North.

"Net zero is a term we use to describe a building that generates as much power as it uses over the course of a year," Dan Handeen said.

Handeen teaches architecture at the University of Minnesota. He credits College of Design and Architecture students for pairing with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity in designing the super-efficient home.

"Here in Minnesota we need a lot of insulation. So to keep the heating energy down we put in a lot of insulation," Handeen said.

Fifteen-inch thick walls with a R-value of 60, triple-glazed windows and the four times the amount of insulation that's found in the typical attic, with an R-value of 100, keeps the heat in.

Solar panels on the roof and photo voltaic panels on the garage give the home its hot water and electricity.

But not only did the architecture students design the home, they pitched in alongside volunteers to help build it. Claire Lonsbury is a graduate architecture student and spent time working on the home.

"This was great because we knew we could help work on it after we designed it and we also knew we were helping people in the community," Lonsbury said.

And because the home is so air tight, a heat recovery ventilator keeps indoor air fresh without losing energy.

"We gave them our design parameters and what the families are looking for and then turned them loose to try to design as energy efficient home as could be done, really," Habitat's Chad Dipman said.

To the benefit of the newest Habitat for Humanity family -- who will be green by design.

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