Developer ready to start work on net-zero homes

AIKEN --- It's hard to imagine not having to pay an electric bill, but a local developer says it's possible with the type of homes he'll begin building in Aiken in a few months.

"I never thought I would be doing zero-energy homes here," said Ron Monahan, the developer of The Ridge at Chukker Creek south of Aiken.

Mr. Monahan plans to build what he says will be South Carolina's first net-zero energy homes at the subdivision.

In a net-zero home, solar panels and other energy-efficient techniques generate enough power to feed electricity back to the electric company, causing the meter to run backwards, said architect George Watt, who is working with Mr. Monahan on the project.

Mr. Monahan and Mr. Watt demonstrated a solar pathfinder, which tracks the sun in order to determine which lots are suitable for a net-zero home.

The home's attic, walls and ceiling are coated with an insulation foam that expands and seals the house, reducing energy use by as much as 50 percent, they said.

Mr. Monahan said he hopes to build four net-zero homes in a 270-home master-planned community that has been designed with conservation methods that he says will have homes using 70 percent less energy.

Other savings will come in the form of federal and state tax credits. If President Obama's stimulus package is approved by Congress, federal energy conservation incentives could increase.

Mr. Monahan and Mr. Watt will also be working with the city on inexpensive energy-efficient methods on Aiken's north side, where the city is building affordable housing and doing restoration work.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.