OAK LEAF –AndersonSargent Homes held a home tour of four houses on Sisters Lane Saturday morning. Many of the guests came to hear how builder and designer Jim Sargent builds energy-efficient homes that eliminate high utility bills and in some cases, even have the utility companies buy back electricity from the home owner.

The tour featured four custom, energy-efficient homes built for four sisters on the quiet cul-de-sac in northwest Ellis County.

“To build a home that is energy efficient, it has to be built sun friendly. When I design a home for a client, we build to what they want, but work around their wishes to be as energy efficient as possible,” builder Jim Sargent said.

“To begin with, I eliminate west windows. Sun comes through the windows at one light frequency and changes to another creating heat. It cannot escape the room, it just stays adding more heat to the room,” Sargent said.

Another feature Sargent incorporates to his design is eliminating natural heaters.

“A home has two heaters, the garage and the attic. Both can have a variance of 30 degrees or more. The attic can have enough heat to make it unbearable to be in for more than a few minutes. This adds heat to the inside of the house,” Sargent said.

These two heaters are eliminated by first not attaching the garage to the house.

“We detach it and add a covered walkway between the house and the garage,” Anderson said.

Insulating the underside of the roof deck with spray foam eliminates the attic heater.  

“Insulating the frame and ceiling traps heat in the attic. Putting an open cell spray on foam stops it at the roof,” Sargent said.

Homeowner Randy Shine demonstrated the attic insulation to the many visitors on the tour.

“It’s over 95 degrees outside and the inside (of the attic) is 80 degrees. With the house set at 75 degrees, there is barely a five-degree difference in here and the attic. We’re very happy with our home and enjoy being able to save energy and be able to conserve our resources,” Shine said.

The dwelling also features roof mounted solar panels.

“Our last electric bill was $109 before the panels were installed. We keep the house at a constant 75 degrees so we are excited to see what our savings will be,” Shine said.

Another conservation feature of the home is a rainwater collection system. Currently they are collecting rainwater into two 500-gallon barrels.

“With as little rain as we have had this spring and summer, we have still been able to provide enough water for our lawn and shrubbery watering needs,” Shine said.    

“These homes are built with a system called ICF or insulated concrete form. The manufacturer of the blocks is Durisol. These are a series of blocks that are not like the traditional concrete block but are made of a bonded wood and concrete composite. These blocks are structurally sounder than traditional concrete blocks, create an insulation barrier and have sound deadening qualities as well,” Sergeant said.  

Many of the guests came to the tour looking at the possibilities of building similar homes for themselves.

“I advise people to let me do the design. I’ve spent 15 years studying home designs and materials to see what works and what doesn’t. Often when clients bring me another designers plans and want me to build them a home, after we go through the design to give it the desired energy efficiency we scrap their original plans and come up with our own. There’s nothing wrong with their plans, but to build one for energy savings takes an experienced designer,” Sargent said.

“Each of these homes is a custom home. We sat down with the client and designed their home to their desires. One was built around the client’s art collection to resemble a gallery.  Another was for a family home, yet incorporating a home-based business office,” Sargent said.

“When designing the home we can use any desired exterior the client wants. We can use Hardi board, put on a brick veneer exterior or use stucco. We just have to know what the client wants because there are special attachment methods.

Another visitor was inquiring about building a tornado shelter in his home.

“The primary damage in tornados is the roof will be lifted off the frame. In regular construction you just have two by sixes straight nailed to the frame. In the energy efficient home the roof is attached to these block walls with double plates used in the roof attachment construction and it is much stronger. With this type of construction, the roof is not going anywhere,” Anderson said.   

Many of the guests on the tour asked about the cost difference of a home built with the blocks and a traditional frame house.

“Unless the home has a lot of irregular exterior features that will raise the cost, there is normally a 10 percent premium for this type of construction,” Sargent said.

Sargent is planning on developing two new communities featuring the block construction homes.

A 15-home community will be developed on a tract north of Waxahachie. The homes will be close to Shackleford Road and all will face north to south with no west windows.

The second complex will be a 17-unit development with the homes being smaller, yet having an 18th room for the owners to use as a community room complete with commercial kitchen and additional bedrooms for overnight guests.

Sargent indicated that he is very excited about the progress of these developments and continuing to build energy homes.