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July 29, 2014

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Green homes use less energy, have more high-tech features

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Keith Shimada / Special to the Home News

Dave Tonelli, left, and Tony Allen play with the control panel monitoring home energy efficiency during the VIP grand opening of the Villa Trieste community in Summerlin.

Green homes

UNLV's Joon Lee feels the difference in window glass during the VIP grand opening of the Villa Trieste community in Summerlin. Launch slideshow »

Imagine a residential home that uses 65 percent less energy during peak hours than a traditional home and that allows residents to monitor all of their energy use at the touch of a button.

Pulte Homes, in conjunction with UNLV and NV Energy, has made that scenario a reality for local home buyers.

Four model homes of Pulte Homes New Villa Trieste development in Summerlin were unveiled Thursday.

Each home incorporates green technology that promises to lower the monthly power bill significantly and give residents the ability to monitor water and energy use through a touch-screen computer.

All of the homes in the 185-unit community, which range in size from 1,487 to 1,960 square feet and in price from $225,000 to $265,000, will feature the same green technology.

The homes are the result of a $7 million grant given to UNLV's Center for Energy Research, in partnership with Pulte Homes and NV Energy, by the U.S. Department of Energy. The money was awarded to be used for the development of a model community that will significantly reduce peak residential energy demands.

Bob Boehm, professor of engineering and director of UNLV's Center for Energy Research, described the various green features that have been incorporated in each home.

Tankless water heaters that heat water only when needed will lower energy use, while dual-flush toilets promote water savings, he said.

The homes also feature air conditioning units with larger coils that allow them to use less energy to cool the air and compact florescent bulbs that use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

One of the other features is blown-in insulation that Boehm said will fill all of the nooks and crannies better and allows less heat to escape while low-E glass (glass that has a special coating that reduces radiative heat flow) used in the windows allows less heat in.

In the roof area of the area of the homes, an insulated attic and insulated ductwork keep cooling costs down, while solar panels generate energy for the home.

President and Chief Executive Officer of NV Energy Michael Yackira said, "It's through buildings like this we can assure customers are taking control of their energy needs."

He said he would like to see these homes be the type of buildings that are developed once the housing market recovers.

UNLV Vice President for Research and Director of the Urban Sustainability Initiative Ronald Smith echoed that sentiment.

"In the future I hope someday it will become part of our basic value system," he said.

He said despite the fact that additional costs that can be associated with building the more technologically advanced developments, in the long run they do pay off.

A local housing analyst, Home Builders Research Inc. President Dennis Smith, said that cost efficiency is the key to the green technology trend taking off in the housing market.

While he said a lot of the features such as the low-E glass and insulation are already becoming the norm, it's the next step of not just saving energy but actually producing it that has yet to become a standard.

"I think solar panels have to become more cost efficient before they are prevalent," he said.

It's all a matter of how much time it takes to recoup an investment, he said.

Smith remains hopeful for the future.

"We're hoping it will become a natural thing and such a norm and an expectation that people won't even think twice," he said.

Ashley Livingston can be reached at 990-8925 or [email protected].

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