Green builder John Wesley Miller wanted to prove a point.
So he plopped down $450,000 for a leaky, inefficient 1962 home in the Sam Hughes neighborhood and started adding things like solar panels, a solar water heater, a super-efficient heat pump and double-pane windows.
When he was finished, Miller had the only existing masonry home to qualify for Tucson Electric Power’s Guarantee Home Program, which offers discounts and heating and cooling price guarantees to energy-efficient houses.
The program is designed for new homes.
“We wanted to show that you could take an old house and turn it into a superefficient home,” Miller said recently during a tour of the 2,000-square-foot ranch home at 3002 E. Hawthorne St.
TEP worked with Miller throughout the renovation, said Dan Hogan, the company’s supervisor of residential new construction programs.
For new construction there are normally three inspections required for a home to qualify – for framing, insulation and airflow – but inspectors visited the Miller house an extra time, Hogan said.
The program gives a roughly 10 percent discount on electric rates for the life of the home and a guarantee from TEP that your heating and cooling costs won’t rise above a certain level for five years. That cost is custom-set for each home, Hogan said.
Miller’s isn’t the first existing home to qualify for the program, but the others required far more extensive upgrades.
“It’s the first one we didn’t strip to the studs,” Hogan said.
Though the lift was lighter than the previous attempts, getting the masonry house up to the TEP standard was not easy.
“Practically everything you see is new,” Miller said.
That includes extra insulation on the outside of the burnt adobe walls, which was then covered with a layer of plaster.
New windows ($6,000), a rooftop solar electric panel and water heater ($15,000-$20,000), insulation and new stucco ($10,000-$15,000) and a new heating and cooling system ($6,000-$8,000) are among the improvements that helped earn the TEP guarantee, Miller said.
The roof was topped with an extra 4 inches of insulation, too.
The changes were not a good investment. Miller put about $300,000 into the house and has it listed for $699,000, he said.
“I won’t even get my money out of it,” he said.
Originally, Miller thought he could make money from the renovation, which includes custom woodwork and solid cherry doors, Corian countertops and all new tile throughout.
But ultimately he simply wanted to encourage recycling on a new level, he said.
“This is the ultimate recycling. You recycle a whole house.”
Renovations that meet the Guarantee Home standards will continue to be rare, Hogan said.
“It’s just too expensive. Until it can be done much cheaper, I don’t think it’s going to be done too frequently,” he said.
“But it’s good to know it can be done, because then you can look for ways to make it economical.”
On the Web
TEP Guarantee Home Program: www.tep.com/Green/GuaranteeHome