September 30th, 2010
09:30 AM ET

One Simple Thing: Getting to zero

Jim Spellman
CNN All Platform Journalist

Ward, Colorado (CNN)–What if the power company sent you a check every month instead of a bill? Sounds pretty good, but is it possible? For about 100 households in America, the answer is yes. They call them “net-zero houses,” and they produce more energy than they use and they could be the way we all live in the future.

I drove from Denver up to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to visit net-zero homeowner Jeff Hohensee. I expected to see some sort of futuristic space pod or at least a geodesic dome but instead I found a 1970s split-level. Did I have the address wrong? Nope. This is the place.

Hohensee bought his house back in 2007. That first Rocky Mountain winter was a shock.

“Our first winter our energy bill was through the roof. January was knocking on the door of something like a thousand bucks a month out the door,” he says.

A thousand bucks a month? Yikes.

He knew something had to change. He began with small steps. He went to Home Depot and bought a caulk gun and started plugging gaps around windows and doors and then blew insulation into the attic. He saw positive results and kept on going - new doors, new windows and new energy efficient appliances. He started drying his clothes on a rack he calls a “solar clothes dryer.”

This is not the futuristic, high-tech home of tomorrow I had expected to find.

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