BROOKSVILLE — Zero energy, certified Energy Star, solar, green: All are classifications of homes built for saving the Earth — and a homeowner's pocketbook, as well.
Ron King, 66, a longtime Hernando County builder, has been pursuing the environmental dream since 2006, building them all, serving up a menu of designs and installations so the buyer can choose the level of energy efficiency he or she wants.
The initial cost of some features is higher than standard items. Others cost less. In the end, and not even accounting for lower energy costs in the long run, Ron King Homes offers a basic 2,000-square-foot, 3/2/2 zero-energy home on a lot of about a quarter-acre in Deerfield Estates, off Powell Road, for $215,000.
King's partner and green Realtor John Revantas, an enthusiastic encyclopedia of energy-efficient bricks-and-mortar construction, last week pointed to the first Ron King Homes model, saying, "It's never had an electric bill." Revantas, 76, proudly bandies about a photocopy of the $0.00 invoice as part of his believer's sales pitch.
The zero-energy home is the company's epitome and the one it likes best to build and boast of. The other classifications, all designated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, provide various and lower levels of energy efficiency and carbon footprint, but all are more environmentally friendly than what the EPA calls "standard construction."
"The government is driving greater efficiency," Revantas said, as it has set stricter measures three times over the past decade.
"It's just like they do for emissions from vehicles," he explained.
Each home built is inspected by a federal government rater four times from start to finish to assure the contractor builds or installs up to 30 energy-saving features, depending on the classification sought.
"They're very strict about it," Revantas said.
"Right from the get-go," he explained, "we give (the rater) the plans. He gives us the recommendations of what we need to include."
In building a zero-energy home, for instance, concrete blocks for exterior walls are shot full with an insulating boric acid-based foam. Air ducts are built into the superstructure within air-conditioned spaces rather than in an attic. Window glass is infused with a material that sheds heat in summer but allows warmth during winter. Exterior doors are insulated. Windows and doors are specially mounted to ensure they are air-tight.
To test the latter, "the rater comes in with fans, blows air in and measures how much gets in," Revantas said.
Tight construction is especially important in Florida.
"Air conditioning is the biggest eater of power," said Aaron King, Ron King's son and the air-conditioning specialist for the company's homes.
With the built-in energy-saving features, along with energy-saving appliances, the 2,000-square-foot model requires a 3-ton-capacity air conditioner instead of the standard 5-ton. The unit's approximately $2,000 lower cost helps offset the $1,200 added for the insulated concrete blocks and the $2,500 for the specialty windows and doors.
The costliest add-on — for solar panels, their controls and installation — runs to $11,000 or $12,000, said Revantas, collecting the sun's heat and turning it into electricity.
Follow trends affecting the local economy
Subscribe to our free Business by the Bay newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
"You cannot accomplish zero energy without solar," he pointed out.
Power is assured during nighttime's darkness or a rainy day's cloud cover through a symbiotic relationship with the local power supplier. When a home's solar panels are going great guns on a hot, sunny day, the unused power flows into the supplier's line.
"Essentially, the meter is running backward," Revantas said.
When the sun isn't shining, the home draws power from the electric company.
The power company buys a home's excess energy; a home buys from the power company when it lacks. All this is tallied on paper. At the end of the month, Revantas said, "Yes, the homeowner may be getting a check from the power company." He allowed that some certified energy-efficient homes may pay a monthly electric bill of $20 to $30.
But the federal government, encouraging the use of solar power, grants a tax waiver for the homeowner — 30 percent of the cost of the solar installation deducted from federal taxes.
"The whole thing is to make this (solar) home more affordable," Revantas said.
Ron King Homes in Deerfield Estates continues its green theme outdoors. Lawns are of Bermuda grass, less thirsty than the much-planted St. Augustine. Plantings are native species and varieties recommended by Florida-Friendly Yards and Neighborhoods. Drip irrigation is installed, minimizing evaporation and, thus, water consumption.
Ron King Homes has six residences under construction in the 100-acre, 248-lot Deerfield Estates, where it has already built 15 energy-efficient homes. King himself is on site working with contractors daily. He and Revantas both live in the development.
The community hub sits within a 2-acre park and offers a pool and a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse with fitness center and meeting rooms.
Noted Revantas: "We're upgrading the clubhouse to new energy requirements."
Contact Beth Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.