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Design Your Dream Solar Powered Home with Google

Have you ever heard of Google Sketchup? This free 3-D software modeling system is designed to be easy enough for the common computer user to grasp. Philippe and Thao Jeanty test-drove the tool when they used Google to design a solar powered home in Fairview, Tennessee. The program made it easy to move components around and visualize the end result. Whenever the couple hit a snag, they posted their inquiries in online forums to get instant answers.

Their original budget for their 2,700-square-foot custom solar powered home and adjacent 700-square-foot mother-in-law apartment was $275,000, but when all was said and done, they spent $350,000 – which is still pretty cheap when you consider what went into this home’s construction. Geothermal systems use the 54 degree ground temperature to heat and cool the home. In the winter, a wood burning stove provides additional heat, although they say the corn-based foam insulation helps considerably. A five kilowatt solar panel provides most of the electricity in the solar powered home and apartment, the Jeantys say. They’re still tied to the grid for after-dark power, but their electric bill is mere pennies a day. They also sell excess power back to the local power company.

To save money on their solar powered home, the couple used foundation made out of concrete blocks and vinyl exterior siding. They also reused a number of components from their old dilapidated house – windows, doors, wood from the floor, kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures. Even though the house was unique and one-of-a-kind, Clarion Homes agreed to work on the project, which came out wonderfully, according to The Tennessean.

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