Green subdivision promises no gas or electric bill

The builders say a combination of factors will help homeowners protect the earth while keeping more "green" in their wallets.

"The principles of the house are energy efficiency, renewable energy and green construction, which is using products that are renewable resources," said Bernie Schmidt of Schmidt & Associates.

From the front porch made from re-claimed wood to the bamboo flooring and the wheat board cabinets -- the 20 homes set to be built at 95th and Marquette Streets in a subdivision known as Solar Verde -- will all be built green.

Some energy efficient features like Styrofoam insulated walls and an air-to-air heat pump system for heating and cooling might even save you money.

"The manufacturer says it'll work down to zero degrees outside, and cooling it works up to about 95 degrees," said Schmidt. "Then it starts to get a little inefficient, but for Chicago, that's a pretty good range."

But the builder says the secret weapon is on the roof.

"We designed a photovoltaic roof that's integrated with the shingles. Under this black glass here, there are little silicone wafers, and when the sun's rays hits the silicone wafers it creates electricity," said Schmidt.

Cables then carry that electricity to the basement where it is converted to usable energy. That's also where more savings could begin.

"If you're not home, nothing's on, maybe your refrigerator is on, but it's making a lot more power than a refrigerator needs, it'll start sending the power back through the meter the other way and it turns the meter backwards... then ComEd is then using your power, but they're going to credit you for that. You get a bill that month. It'll say you use so many kilowatts from us, and the next line will say you gave us so many kilowatts back," explained Schmidt.

The concept may sound too good to be true, but the architect says the new roofing technology has been around for decades.

"This is the first development east of the Rocky Mountains to offer photovoltaics as a standard option to all the homeowners," said Kelly Andreck- Principal, A Design Consulting. "Everything that we've used in this house is proven. So, none of it is being tested."

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