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Building A No Bills, Zero Energy Home In Austin Texas

Savegreenly helped the owners make this Austin Texas home "zero energy".  Of course all homes have some bills, such as property taxes, water, etc., but this home in Austin has no energy bills whatsoever. Here is how the home was built, from the ground up, to have zero energy bills.

Sizing The Home To The Needs Of The Owner

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of making a home eco friendly and energy efficient is sizing it to fit the needs of the future occupants. In this case the home was to be occupied by a single retired woman and her two dogs.   For the narrow lot the home plan would need to maximize space, while also affording a nice view of the valley below. The builder and his architect used creative storage systems and well designed cabinets to make the most out of the small space. An open living plan in the living and kitchen area, combined with granite countertops, slate accents, bamboo flooring, 10' ceilings, 8' doors and 6' windows, gives the home a much larger feel than its 1,303 square feet. (Most guests who visit the home estimate that its size is about 2,000 square feet or more.)   Part of  this illusion is achieved by using high end finishes, high ceilings and over-sized doors and windows. See the Austin zero energy home floor plan below.

Small zero energy home plan in Austin Texas.

Choosing The Site

The first step in building this Austin zero energy home was site selection. The owners chose a lot with plenty of unobstructed exposure to the southern sky so that a rooftop photovoltaic system could capture the maximum hours of sunlight available. The small lot was located on the edge of a steep drop-off, which offered a nice view of a deep hill - country canyon from the great room and master bedroom. Since no backyard was possible due to the steep drop-off, a large deck was built on the view end of the home.  Depth of the slab was 14 feet at the drop-off end. Sand bags were used to take up much of the space in the form, saving concrete. The slab was engineered using post tension cables instead of rebar, reducing steel cost.  Minimal site clearing was done, preserving most of the trees on the lot, including a large Red Oak, seen in the rear left below, and a smaller Red Oak which was allowed to grow through a hole made in the rear deck. These trees are low enough not to interfere with the solar panels on the roof, yet help shade the hot west side of the home.

 zero bills, zero energy home in Austin, Tx.    zero energy home plans

Walls were framed with 2x6 studs instead of 2x4's, allowing for more insulation and adding strength to the structure. To prevent air ingress and add strength, every wood on wood contact, including doubled up wall studs, cripples, plywood to stud contact, etc., were glued together using Liquid Nails, in addition to being nailed.

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