Energy Efficient Homes Gives Boomers the Independence They Crave

by reddoor on December 12, 2012

solar panels on the roof of a SheaXero home

Many of us have preconceived notions about living in retirement communities – the lifestyle, the amenities… the net zero homes. Okay, perhaps energy efficient houses aren’t the first things that come to mind when you think of baby boomers moving into active lifestyle communities, especially zero energy (homes that produce as much energy as they consume), the pinnacle of resource efficient design. But Trilogy and Shea Homes Active Lifestyle communities, where SheaXero™ has been introduced, is no ordinary retirement community. Rick Andreen, President of Shea Homes Active Lifestyle, explains the motivating factor behind SheaXero.

“Independence – our customers don’t want to be tied to electricity bills, which over the last ten years have increased at twice the rate of inflation, for the rest of their lives,” Rick said. “SheaXero homes not only eliminate the impact of energy rate hikes for individuals, they also help homeowners and builders become part of a goal to help the country achieve energy independence, (using less electricity, not relying so heavily on foreign oil).”

The SheaXero homes have been successfully integrated in Shea Active Lifestyle communities in Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington State and Florida, but actually achieving net zero – a status for which many builders strive but few achieve — is not without complexity. Rick explains how the customer, whose average age is 58, is part of the success equation.

“They are the ideal audience – informed, frugal, and able to really take advantage of the tools we’ve provided them to take control of their home’s energy use.”

These tools include “connected-home” technology that lets homeowners remotely control heating and cooling systems, lock and unlock doors, and turn lights off and on at any given time. This smart-home technology is empowers homeowners to affect and determine their own energy use, which gets back to the essential idea of independence.

How to Achieve Net Zero

Controlling energy consumption is one thing, but the homes themselves have to be designed and constructed for maximized efficiency for something like net zero to even be a possibility. There are many factors that make possible an effective zero energy strategy, including the size of the house, the amount of photovoltaic (solar) rooftop panels, and the quality of construction and insulation.

“We approach the issue from two sides,” Rick said. “First we reduce the energy demands of the homes – through measures like high performance insulation, energy efficient windows, energy smart appliances — and then we produce enough clean energy from solar photovoltaic panels to take care of basic electricity needs.”

This “Reduce, then Produce” tactic has reaped major rewards for the Trilogy members, who are discovering, even in a hot desert climate like Phoenix, that their electricity costs can actually be reduced to zero.

“Our members often come in to brag about how they owe nothing on their monthly utility bills,” Rick said. “We love it when they do that.”

Chances are they love it too. Find out more about zero energy homes at

About the author

Josh Englander is a novelist and the founder of DesignLens, an online architectural publication that explores residential design and land planning concepts in America.


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