When it comes to energy-efficient homes, Carol Bintz’s Ohio house is a gleaming model of sustainability. She first was inspired by her own energy efficiency and renewable energy research done as part of her job to reduce operating costs at the Toledo Museum of Art. There she saw how quickly the savings could stack up.

Carol took a leap toward her energy-efficiency goals for her new home by choosing a homebuilder with expertise in residential efficiency and renewable energy technologies and strategies, many of which were developed through the Energy Department’s Building America program. Today, she’s thrilled with her high-performance home, she says, and she's passionate about spreading the word.

“I enjoy comfort, quiet, and peace of mind that I am doing the right thing for myself, my environment, and for future generations,” Carol says. “It has to start somewhere -- with someone -- and I want to be among those who set the example.”

The company that built Carol’s home, Decker Homes of Lambertville, Mich., has built only 100-percent Energy Star homes since 1998. New homes built by the company average 40 percent greater energy efficiency than homes built to code, and many of the homes incorporate renewable energy systems that generate electricity.



Owner Bill Decker Sr. estimates that for every dollar spent on making a home energy-efficient, consumers will get a $3 return in energy savings, a reason green homes help not only the environment, but also Americans’ wallets.

“We started Decker Homes in 1981 because we believed the time had come for high-quality, energy-efficient homes,” Bill says. “Now that green homes are really catching on, we plan to continue pushing the envelope toward our goal of building net-zero energy homes.”

Thanks to the geothermal heating and cooling system, tight insulation, energy-efficient lighting and windows, and solar panels, Carol’s first year of energy bills totaled less than half of the average American family’s annual energy bill of nearly $2,100. The home achieves 65-percent higher efficiency than a typical new home.

Recently, Carol expanded her array of solar panels. The upgrade became economical when she combined the 30-percent federal, home-solar tax credit she will claim on her 2009 taxes with a low-interest loan offered through Ohio’s Energy Conservation for Ohioans program and a state grant available to solar system installers. Her estimated annual energy cost now is estimated to be about $660 – less than $60 per month.

Decker Homes is a partner in Builders Challenge, a program that helps consumers distinguish energy efficient products from conventional ones, and was recognized in 2008 for its commitment to building net-zero energy houses. Through partners such as Decker Homes, DOE is helping homeowners make quality, high-performance homes an affordable reality.

“Every home we’ve ever built has been energy-efficient,” Bill says. “It’s the right thing to do, and it is my passion. I am proud to be a part of the program.”