Prototype energy-efficient homes cost nothing to power

There may be no such a thing as a free lunch, but for consumers who are willing to invest in home energy efficiency, energy bills could be eliminated entirely if a new prototype designed by California students can be replicated by builders.

Students from the California Institute of Technology and the Southern California Institute of Architecture worked together to create a home that is the model for any homeowner striving to make his or her home more green.

According to Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC, the compact, hyper-insulated prototype (CHIP) home is intended to inspire and educate local homeowners to embrace energy-efficiency in their own homes, even if they don't go to the extreme lengths of the CHIP home. It is currently on public display so citizens can see how 100 percent energy efficiency can be achieved.

The schools' solar decathlon team constructed the 733-square foot home, which is powered entirely by solar panels. Optimal energy-efficient insulation keeps the home airtight, moderates its temperature and eliminates the need for significant energy use. According to the students behind the effort, some homeowners may actually be able to make money off the energy improvements if they live in communities in which homeowners are rewarded financially for energy efficiency.

"They start to think in new and innovative ways about how they might better insulate their homes while they are simultaneously investing in solar panels to power their homes," student Brian Zentmyer told the news source.

While the CHIP home sets a lofty standard for homeowners, a home inspection company in Maryland can assess a home's heating and insulation to determine whether there are extraneous energy costs that the homeowner can eliminate with some cost-effective solutions. From installing CFL bulbs to more involved reforms like replacing leaky windows, there are a myriad of ways to make homes more green.