David and Martha Gurzick bought their new home for its historic neighborhood and closeness to the cafes and antique stores of downtown Frederick, Md.
The Gurzicks live in a so-called net-zero energy house—a home so energy-efficient that over the course of a year, its electricity consumption is expected to be zero.
The four-bedroom brick house includes energy-eating creature comforts, such as a steam room and an extra-large washer and dryer. But when the sun shines on the solar panels and the Gurzicks are at work, the house produces more energy than it consumes. At those times, the electricity meter is running backward, and the couple is selling energy back to the grid.
Extreme energy efficiency is moving mainstream, becoming standard practice for large home builders.
The “green” residential construction market has grown steadily in recent years—even throughout the recession. Green housing projects accounted for 20% of all newly built homes last year and had an overall value of $25 billion, according to industry-research firm McGraw Hill Construction. As the housing market continues to recover, the researchers predict, this share will grow to between 29% and 38% of new U.S. homes by 2016.