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Buying & Selling a Home

Eco Building Hits the Mainstream

You don't have to live in a yurt to save the earth and cut your utility bills.

In 2003, Glenn Moore lost his home in Austin, Tex., to a fire. When he rebuilt, he wanted to save energy -- and money. His home, which Moore's architect describes as a "21st-century bungalow," features high-efficiency windows and HVAC system, a reflective metal roof, and walls that were built by injecting concrete into Styrofoam forms. The new house earned a five-star rating from Austin Energy's Green Building Program. Last fall, when a heat wave hit and the city set power-demand records, Moore used half as much electricity as the typical Austin-area homeowner.

High electricity and heating costs have revived interest in energy efficiency. But the movement toward green homes is also spreading because builders can put up normal-looking homes and still incorporate energy-saving features, such as home-monitoring technology and on-demand water heaters. Jim Petersen, director of research and development for Pulte Homes, says green is hot in the Southwest. Buyers accept higher costs, he adds, because even if they pay several thousand dollars more -- an extra $50 a month on the mortgage -- they save $100 on utilities.

Other builders are hopping on this bandwagon, partly to meet popular demand and partly to forestall being forced by law to build more-energy-efficient houses. National Association of Home Builders spokesman John Loyer says in ten to 15 years, building green may just be called building.

--Pat Mertz Esswein


Garden Harvest

Do the words locally grown and farm fresh make you salivate? At, there is a nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets and food co-ops, as well as retarurants specializing in local cuisine. Or buy fresh food online for local delivery or pick-up. Click on the map, or type in your zip code. (From the April 2006 issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance.)