Gleaming bamboo floors, triple-pane windows and zero electric or heating bills forever — a ZEM Home, or Zero Emissions Modular Home, is a dwelling made by Wilder-based Vermod that made its debut in Rutland during an open house Saturday by Efficiency Vermont, showing local residents how to live sustainably for a moderate price tag.

“There is no fossil fuel in this house,” said Efficiency Vermont Account Manager Brad Long. “Ultimately, this house embodies a lot of the technologies we endorse (at Efficiency Vermont).”

Vermod was inspired by the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene and the particular damage it caused to mobile home parks, according to Cathy Reynolds, senior account manager with Efficiency Vermont.

“The thought was, ‘Oh, people are replacing mobile homes — this is the time to make them efficient,’” Reynolds said. “There will never be an oil or a propane bill … The grid is storing the energy for you.”

So the Vermod mission began post-flood: Embracing the ecological mission of Vermont and reducing personal carbon footprints as much as possible while living in a clean, well-insulated, modern home and paying a fraction of the price of a new, three-bedroom, wood-based architecture home.

The brick-red home with wooden accents is parked in the Vermont Farmers Food Center until Sept. 18, and boasts long, wide windows, energy efficient appliances, a spacious living area and full bath, complete with several closets and 7 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof that power the entire home through the summer and winter with the use of net metering credits. Prior to this past weekend, the house was in Bellows Falls, and will be taken to Swanton next as it tours the state.

“There’s a continuous ventilation system that does heat recovery,” Reynolds said. “The heat pump blows the heat down the hall and recovers the heat from outside … so you always have clean, warm, fresh air.”

Vermod offers two different styles of one-bedroom homes, three styles of two-bedroom homes, and two styles of three bedroom homes that range in price from $122,600 to $167,400 for a three-bedroom, two bathroom 28-by-36-foot home each with 10-inch-thick walls for optimum heat and air retention.

Several of the homes have already been implemented in Addison County, Reynolds said, and they’re hoping to spread the message of the availability and affordability of the ecological dwellings.

“The cost of retrofitting a house is expensive,” said Long. “Vermont has the second-oldest housing stock in the nation … most of our houses predate 1940s construction … this is quiet, it’s comfortable, even on the hottest days.”

One more uplifting aspect of the home is the price tag: Buyers with below 80% median income are eligible for a $10,000 solar incentive, while higher income buyers are eligible for tax credits on their efficient house.

Those same buyers and buyers financing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture RD Direct Loan can acquire a $8,500 Efficiency Vermont incentive, and buyers below the 120% median income through the Champlain Housing Trust for mobile home replacement can acquire a $35,000 boost off of their purchase price, according to Vermod’s affordability offerings.

Buyers have the option of paying more money for solar arrays, certain utility hook-ups, and have additional costs for the delivery and set-up of their home as well as any site work required to ready the land, which can range anywhere from $10,000 and $35,000, the notices said.

For households with below a $60,000 income, interest rates can be as low as 0% for the first five years of ownership, while more than $90,000 incomes only bring a 5.49% interest rate for the first five years with Efficiency Vermont’s Heat Saver Loan.

The homes, built to suit the needs of Vermonters while remaining efficient, convenient, affordable and sustainable, are still an under-utilized utility in the Green Mountain State, especially where many smaller homes still prove to be energy inefficient due to air leaks and aging infrastructure, Long said.

When buying a home, Long said often the cost of running the home isn’t information readily available — such as heating and fuel costs, energy efficiency and electric, so the cost of owning one’s own home can turn out to be far more expensive than the price tag leads one to believe.

“It just makes sense,” Long said. “These homes are going to last just as long (as any other brand-new home) ... our goal is just to provide options. To show people what’s out there.”


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