Imagine a house with no electric bill.
That's the goal of a new type of house being built in Clovis. The so-called "zero net electric home" offered by local builder Wathen-Castanos Hybrid Homes Inc. combines energy-efficient designs with solar panels.
Energy-efficient housing is not new to the central San Joaquin Valley. For example, four Centex neighborhoods in Hanford and Visalia appear on a U.S. Department of Energy list of projects where such homes have been or are being built.
And builders such as DeYoung Properties, Wilson Homes, Alvin Projects and Lennar Homes are partners in the department's "Builder's Challenge" program, in which participants make a commitment to build energy-smart homes. More than 45,000 homes have been built nationwide that follow the programs guidelines.
But Pacific Gas & Electric Co. believes Wathen-Castanos is one of the first homebuilders to introduce the zero net electric homes in the Valley, said Bob Riding, community energy manager.
The homebuilder unveiled its zero net electric home Friday. It's the third in a series of hybrid homes the builder offers in its neighborhoods at Harlan Ranch and at Loma Vista in Clovis.
The Jordan model, with the zero net electric features, is in the Ivy Gate at Loma Vista neighborhood in Clovis, a 39-lot subdivision with 15 homes already built.
"We're trying to provide a buyer with a home that will last them a while and be energy responsible," said Peter Castanos, sales manager.
The $20,000 zero net electric package is offered as an upgrade to any of the builder's homes. The Jordan home is $257,900 without the package.
It builds on the company's first two hybrid homes, which already include spider insulation, a material blown into the wall to fill gaps, reduce mold and hold in heat or cooling; solar-controlled glass blocking 90% of the ultraviolet energy; sealed ducts that eliminate air leakage; a tankless water heater; and Energy Star appliances.
"You can't get to zero net energy without solar," Riding said.
Some Wathen-Castanos homeowners already have seen energy-cost savings by buying hybrid homes. The average utility bill in the Las Casas at Viscaya neighborhood in Dinuba is $266.58, but people with hybrid homes are paying an average of $38 a month, according to surveys taken by Wathen-Castanos.
At Harlan Ranch, the savings are about the same with the average utility bill at $274.75 and a hybrid home at $44.11.
When solar panels are added, the electricity bill can drop to zero.