College students design home with $2 energy bills

A family home with a minuscule energy bill? Yep — and thankfully it’s not just one big solar panel attached to a shoebox. A group of students from three Syracuse, N.Y.-area colleges designed a home that only racks up $2 in energy costs each month — and it’s a 1,925-square-foot craftsman-style beaut.

The students tied for the grand prize in the Department of Energy’s Challenge Home Student Design Competition last month for their blueprint of a three-bedroom home. The two-story house features wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and doorways, passive solar lighting and heating, and a water heat pump connected to a solar thermal system.

The students estimate construction costs would be $243,082 and that the house would sell for about $322,000 ($169 per square foot). Invest more money up-front and get rewarded with really low utility bills? Not a bad trade-off!

The other grand prize winners, from Toronto’s Ryerson University, designed a three-story townhouse for a Denver location. Their two-bedroom, two-bath home would span 1,275 square feet and feature a flexible modular workspace, hybrid hot water heater, solar PV, and a “rain screen” to help drain water. They expect construction costs of about $181,000.

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