Imagine a community of modular homes where the residents pay only $100 to $200 for a whole year of utility bills.
That dream is closer than many may realize, thanks to the ZeMod Delaware project.
Milford Housing Development Corporation, Beracah Homes and Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility are collaborating to offer zero-energy modular homes.
Two models of the energy-efficient homes are built on the assembly line at the Beracah factory in Greenwood.
The two-bedroom, two bathroom models include the 14-by-70-foot Solstice, which costs $143,800, and the 28-by-43-foot Sundial cottage, which costs $161,800.
The cottage was unveiled during the 2017 Delaware State Fair. That model home has been sold to a mother and son who live near Dover. The cottage – with handicapped accessible modification added – will soon be moved to their lot, and they will be the first family in Delaware with a ZeMod house.
Russell Huxtable, vice president and chief operating officer of Milford Housing, said while the cost per square foot of the houses is slightly above industry standards, energy incentives and down payment assistance added to low utility costs all make the homes more affordable.
“It's not just the mortgage, but the utilities that have to figure in the cost,” he said.
Huxtable said the homes are available to everyone, but it would be liberating for a low-income family to avoid high utility bills.
Similar homes in Vermont – known as Vermod houses – have had zero-dollar energy bills, Huxtable said.
The Vermont Energy Investment Corp. did a feasibility study to jump-start the program in Delaware. The goal of the three-year pilot project is to build 25 homes in Delaware. Milford Housing is charged with day-to-day management of the project.
Focus on air quality as well
The houses feature well-insulated roofs and floors, 10-inch walls and airtight windows. The air inside the house is monitored by a state-of-the-art CERV air-quality ventilation system, which automatically delivers fresh air when levels of carbon dioxide or volatile organic compounds exceed 1,000 parts per million. Beyond that level, studies show people will see a decrease in mental performance, sleep quality and productivity, according to the ZeMod website.
The houses are all-electric with high-efficiency HVAC systems for heating, cooling and hot water with no fossil fuels used in the home.
Solar panels produce all the energy required, and all appliances meet Energy Star standards. Heat and air conditioning are provided by one indoor, wall-mounted unit. Even the washer and dryer are high tech – humidity from the dryer is recirculated into the washer.
Efficient utilities help lower cost
Huxtable said the homes are suited for couples who are downsizing. And the 14x70 home is perfect as a new or replacement home in a manufactured home park.
For those with credit issues, Huxtable said, Milford Housing offers credit counseling to help rebuild credit history.
Huxtable said adding in mortgage and utility costs, a ZeMod homeowner would pay about $620 a month, compared to about $800 for a new manufactured home. He said typical monthly utility costs are about $230 for a new manufactured home, or 10 times higher than with a ZeMod house. That doesn't take into account land cost or land rent.
ZeMod Delaware offers an energy efficient incentive of $15,000 for families up to 120 percent of area median income.
Down payment assistance of $25,000 is available based on household income. For more information, contact Huxtable at 302-422-8255 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Monica Mandujano, homeownership specialist, at email@example.com.
Go to www.ZeModdelaware.com for more information on ZeMod houses.