Discover Arvada’s Geos Community, Where the Homes’ Energy Costs Are Essentially Zero

That’s what it’s like for Jim & Patty Horan, who bought their 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 2,135-sq.-ft. home at 15062 W. 69th Place in Arvada’s Geos Community. They paid $525,000 for it three years ago (July 2017). 

Like all Geos homes, this one has no gas service. With only 6kW of solar panels on the roof, the home is heated by a ground source heat pump. It draws heat from the earth via a 300-foot-deep loop under the home. The heat pump uses very little electricity during the summer to further cool the 55° fluid in that loop, and not much more energy during heating season to heat that fluid to 100 degrees.

On Saturday, June 27th, Jim Horan gave me a tour of his home which I recorded for this fall’s Metro Denver Green Homes Tour. You can view the video at YouTube.com/jimsmith145.

Geos Community’s website describes it as “Colorado’s first geosolar development” and is the only subdivision I know that’s built entirely “net zero energy.” There are developers building solar-powered communities like KB Home’s subdivision on the northeast corner of Hwy 93 and 58th Ave., but they don’t come close to being net zero.

There’s a term for such homes — “greenwashing,” which Wikipedia defines at “a form of marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization’s products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly.” I’ve always marveled that those KB Homes were built with many of the solar panels installed on north-facing roof surfaces.

Getting back to the Horans’ home, there’s more to going net zero than having solar panels and a ground-source heat pump. Those features must be coupled with energy saving features so that the limited number of solar panels are enough to meet the home’s energy needs — with energy left over to charge an electric car.

Here are some of those features which I covered in my video tour with Jim Horan.

First and foremost is the passive solar orientation of the building with lots of south-facing windows and a south-facing roof for solar panels. Also, there are overhangs above each south-facing window designed to shade it from the sun during the summer while allow full sun in the winter when the sun is lower in the southern sky.

Next, the building’s “envelope” has to be very tight. That starts with foam insulation blown onto the interior surfaces of the roof and exterior walls, replacing the blown-in cellulose and fiberglass batting typical of tract homes built by other developers. The windows are Alpen triple-pane windows which also have foam-insulated fiberglass framing. (Fiberglass is better for window framing than vinyl – not as prone to aging and warping.)

Those elements make a house too air-tight for healthy living, so an energy recovery ventilator is installed which constantly brings in fresh air, using a heat exchanger designed so that the heat (or coolness) of the air being exhausted is used to heat or cool the fresh air being brought into the house. A heat pump within this device, called a CERV, provides further heating or cooling of that fresh air as needed.

In the townhomes at the Geos Community, the CERV works with an air-source heat pump mini-split instead of a ground-source heat  pump to heat and cool the home year-round.

Have you heard the term “indoor air quality” or “sick building syndrome”?  It refers to high levels of CO2 or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can build up in a home, especially in a home as air-tight as the Geos homes.

The CERV monitors both CO2 and VOC levels in the house and will bring in additional fresh air when those gases exceed the level set by the homeowner. (The Horans have the level for each gas set at 950 parts per million, or ppm.)

What are VOCs?  If you can smell it, it’s probably a volatile organic compound. Examples include new carpet smell and, worst of all, cat litter smells.

Two appliances in Geos homes also contribute to their low energy load. One is the Bosch condensation clothes dryer, which pulls in cool, dry air from the room. The air is heated and passed through the clothes; but instead of being vented outdoors, the air travels through a stainless steel cooling device or heat exchanger. It does heat the room it is in, so the Horans choose to dry their clothes on an outdoor line during the summer, even though their heat pump could handle the additional cooling load if they didn’t do that. Home Depot sells the Bosch 300 “ventless” dryer for $989.

The other appliance is the heat-pump water heater. It has a heat pump above the tank which transfers the heat from the room into the water. I’ve written about this product before. Home Depot sells a 50-gallon Rheem model for $1,299 which earns a $400 rebate from Xcel Energy and another $300 in federal tax credit if purchased by December 31, 2020. Because this appliance emits cold air, it’s in a pantry which the Horans keep closed in the winter and open in the summer. (I would put it in a wine cellar or in a room with a freezer, which emits hot air — a symbiotic arrangement within one room.)

As you are beginning to gather, building a net zero energy home is best done from scratch, when the additional cost is less than retrofitting a home. (My home is net zero in terms of electricity, but we still burn $30 to $50 of natural gas each month, and it takes twice as many solar panels for my home, which has about the same square footage as the Horans’.)

You may be wondering how much more it cost to build the Horans’ house, which they bought new in July 2017. To answer that, I searched all the comparable homes (2– or 3-story, between 1,500 and 2,500 square feet within 1 mile radius) sold during the summer months of 2017, and I found that the $246 per finished square foot paid by the Horans was actually below the median price ($253 per finished square foot) for the seven comparable sales. And those homes probably pay thousands of dollars per year more for electricity (and gas) than the Horans.

If you want to learn more about Geos community, give me a call at 303-525-1851 or visit the Geos website, www.DiscoverGeos.com.

Cohousing Community Coming to Arvada’s Geos Community

Cohousing communities have been built in Golden and Boulder, and one will be built in the Geos net-zero energy neighborhood on 69th Avenue, west of Indiana Street, incorporating the same net zero energy design elements described in today’s other post about Geos. Ten members are already signed up, including Norbert Klebl, the developer of Geos. When there are 12, design and construction work will begin.

At www.RalstonCreekCohousing.org you can watch some useful videos and learn about their monthly video chats and events. The community will consist of 20 or so units in a U-shaped condo-style building with main-floor common spaces and a courtyard facing Ralston Creek.

If you like the idea of cohousing, check out this one, which has the additional feature of being net zero energy.

This Home Is Close to All That Makes Golden ‘Golden’

538 Canyon View Drive — $573,000

This 3-bedroom, 3½-bath home is in Canyon Point Villas, a small community of paired homes within walking distance (via pedestrian bridge) of Clear Creek, the Golden Rec Center, downtown Golden and the Colorado School of Mines. There’s a city maintained park with playground within the subdivision, and Mitchell Elementary is just a few blocks away! This 2-story unit is nicely isolated from the noise of Highway 93 to Boulder and Highway 6 to Denver or the mountains. It’s in move-in condition with all new stainless steel kitchen appliances and windows throughout. It has new paint top to bottom, inside and out! View interior and exterior still photos and take a narrated video tour, include drone footage, at www.CanyonPointVillas.com, then call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 to arrange a private showing.

Homeowners Complain About Over-Solicitation by Agents, Buyers and Investors

In this era of “Big Data,” there are companies which specialize in providing hungry real estate agents with the names and addresses of homeowners with high “sell scores.”

You can tell if you have a high sell score by how many solicitations you have received by letter, postcard, phone call, text message or email about selling your home.

If you bought your house in the last year or two, you have a low sell score and probably aren’t getting such solicitations, but if you’ve lived in your house a long time and are of a “certain age” that suggests you are an empty nester, you probably get a lot of solicitations, especially from investors, but also from real estate agents who purchase lists with your name, address and phone number.

And these parties don’t pay much attention to Do Not Call lists.

Licensed real estate agents can subscribe to an app called Forewarn which allows us to get your phone numbers, including cell numbers, just by entering your name and ZIP code. I have this app myself. It’s marketed to us as a safety tool to forewarn us about buyers with criminal records, judgments or liens, etc. Armed with that information, we can decline requests to show listings either because they’re not qualified financially or we suspect they might rob or assault us. To get such details on the app, we enter the phone number which appeared on Caller ID, or we search by name and city or ZIP code, if we know it.

In prospecting, it’s a “numbers game.” It only takes a small percentage of persons to “bite” to make the practice of over-soliciting everyone else worth the time and expense, so there’s little you can do to stop it. However, here’s some practical advice on reducing those solicitations by just a little.

Regarding text messages, replying with “Stop” should at least reduce follow-up texts, and if it’s a robo-text, the computer will probably reply instantly with “You’ve been unsubscribed.” That is my favorite text message to receive!

If it’s a phone solicitation, you can block the number on most cell phones.  On my iPhone,  after I hang up, I find the number under “Recents” and click on the circled “i” at the right, scroll down and click on “Block this Caller.”

Many email programs also allow you to label an email as “junk” and to block that email address. In Outlook (which I use), the “Junk” designation is at the very left of the “ribbon” at the top of my screen, to the left of the “Delete” icon.

Of course, you can’t do much about letters and cards that you receive by mail other than to ignore and recycle them.

Many real estate agents subscribe to a service which alerts them every time a listing expires on the MLS, and owners of expired listings can expect to be inundated with calls, texts, letters and even door knocks from agents asking if you still want to sell your home and promising to do a better job than your previous listing agent.  There’s no way to avoid this onslaught of solicitations. Just know that it’s coming and prepare yourself to say “no” as politely as possible to the live solicitations and to respond that way to text messages and emails.  It will only last a few days.

If, however, your listing is “withdrawn” instead of “expired” on the MLS, it’s illegal and unethical for any agent to solicit you. That’s because the definition of “withdrawn” is that your home is subject to a valid listing agreement but merely withdrawn from the MLS. Note, however, that when the expiration date of your listing agreement arrives, the MLS will automatically change your listing status from “withdrawn” to “expired,” and the onslaught of solicitations will begin the next morning.

I don’t want to end this article without assuring you that none of the agents at Golden Real Estate engage in the kinds of solicitation described above. Thanks to our form of advertising (this newspaper column), we depend on prospects contacting us rather than us soliciting you. I myself have been licensed since 2002 and don’t recall ever making a “cold call” or sending a single card or letter soliciting a listing from a homeowner.

Unfortunately, that is unusual in our industry, and I apologize for the behavior of those other real estate practitioners.

Enjoy Standley Lake Living at This Solar-Powered Home

9110 W. 94th Ave., Westminster — Just listed at $429,000

This home, just listed by David Dlugasch, is move-in ready, with new paint, carpet, and a updated kitchen with gas stove, white cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and slab granite counter tops. There are four bedrooms, two up with a full bath and two down with a 3/4 bath. The living room and kitchen have laminate hardwood floors and lots of light. The large family room has a wood-burning fireplace. The fenced backyard includes a deck off the kitchen. The home is on a cul-de-sac just a few blocks from Standley Lake, Oakhurst Park and great biking and hiking trails, open space and fishing. Before requesting a showing, check out the narrated video walk-through coming shortly at www.StandleyLakeHome.info, which is just like an actual showing. Then call your agent or David Dlugasch at 303-908-4835 to see it in person.

Prices Reduced on 2 Homes Near Downtown Golden

One of those is 538 Canyon View Drive in Canyon Point Villas, a small community of paired homes within walking distance (via pedestrian bridge) of Clear Creek, the Golden Rec Center, downtown Golden and the Colorado School of Mines. There’s a city maintained park with playground within the subdivision, and Mitchell Elementary is just a few blocks away. This 3-bedroom, 2-story unit is nicely isolated from the noise of Highway 93 to Boulder and Highway 6 to Denver or the mountains. It’s in move-in condition with all new stainless steel kitchen appliances, and new windows throughout. It has new paint top to bottom, inside and out. Take a narrated video tour at www.CanyonPointVillas.com, then call me.

The second listing is 906 Homestake Drive, the 3-bedroom home shown at left. The furnace and A/C, washer, dryer and dishwasher are all new. The tenants’ lease ends July 31 and they are moving, so plan on August possession. The Colorado School of Mines is a ½-mile stroll on sidewalks along quiet residential streets. Downtown Golden is just a few blocks further. Because one of the tenants has a condition making her especially vulnerable to Covid-19, in-person showings aren’t allowed, but our narrated video walk-through at www.GoldenTownhome.com provides a complete showing experience. You’ll be able to tour the home immediately after submitting a contract and before submitting earnest money.

John Avenson of Westminster Is a Committed Teacher of Energy Efficiency

The sponsors of the annual Metro Denver Green Homes Tour, held on the first Saturday each October, are preparing to “go virtual” in case an  in-person tour is not allowed.

John Avenson’s house at 9988 Hoyt Place, Westminster

That will be accomplished by creating online video tours of the most notable “green” homes featured over the past 20 years. Since I’m on the steering committee for the tour and have the equipment and experience from creating video tours of homes for sale, I volunteered to create those video tours, starting with John Avenson’s home at 9988 Hoyt Place in Westminster.

By clicking here, you can view the 41-minute video tour, led by John, which I created last Friday. It is highly educational.

John Avenson

Many people, myself included, have created homes which can be considered a “model” of sustainability, solar power, and energy efficiency, but John is surely the only homeowner who has turned his home into a classroom for teaching it. He even posted pictures and diagrams throughout the house with instructional content about this or that feature, as you will see on that video.

He also hosts monthly Passive House meetings in his home theater which are also streamed online. They can be found at www.meetup.com/Passive-House-Meetup-S-W-Region/

John’s house was originally built by the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI, now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory or NREL) in 1981 using then-state of the art technology, but John has diligently, and at great personal expense, kept retrofitting his home with newer technology, which he is happy to explain to visitors and which he explains on the 41-minute video.

CERV monitor screenshot

For example, because of increased insulation and Alpen quadruple-paned windows, he was able to get rid of SERI’s supplemental natural gas furnace, installing a conditioning energy recovery ventilator (CERV) which is powered electrically. His grid-tied solar PV system provides all his home’s energy needs and has reduced his Xcel Energy bill to under $10 per month — the cost of being connected to the electrical grid.

Some of the technological innovations featured in my video with John were new to me. For example, the Alpen windows across from his kitchen have horizontal micro-etching which redirects the sun’s rays 90° upward to his ceiling instead of straight through the glass, reducing the need for lighting.

John provided his email address in the video, saying that his “learning center” is open 24/7 and that he welcomes all inquiries and visitors.

Just Listed: Updated Townhome in Canyon Point Villas

538 Canyon View Drive, Golden – Just listed at $595,000

Canyon Point Villas is a small community of paired homes, roughly half ranch and 2-story, with a few split-levels mixed in. It was just listed by Jim Smith at $595,000. In addition to being close to Clear Creek (via pedestrian bridge) and downtown Golden, there’s a city maintained park with playground within the subdivision. Mitchell Elementary is a short walk away — just a few blocks! This 2-story home at 538 Canyon View Drive is in the middle of the subdivision, nicely isolated from the noise of Hwy 93 to Boulder, Hwy 58, and Hwy 6 to Denver and the casinos/mountains. It is in move-in condition with all new stainless steel kitchen appliances, new windows throughout (including sliding glass patio door), and newer blinds. The furnace/AC and water heater are 2 years old. New garbage disposal, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, ceiling fans, light fixtures, and brushed nickel finishes throughout. All toilets are new and chair height. New paint top to bottom, inside and out! Brand new slab granite kitchen counter tops. Brand new carpet throughout and brand new laminate flooring on the main level.  Take a narrated video tour at www.CanyonPointVillas.com, then call to set a showing.

2001 Home North of Golden Just Listed by Carol Milan

5974 El Diente Street, Golden – Just listed at $704,000

Check out this beautifully updated home at 5974 El Diente Street in desirable North Table Mountain Village. It was just listed by Carol Milan at $704,000. This quiet neighborhood is walking/biking distance to the trails of North Table Mountain and Long Lake Park. The home features 4 bedrooms and a loft which could be an additional bedroom. With 4 beautifully updated bathrooms and an open floor plan, this home is very inviting and spacious. The beautifully finished basement features a custom wet bar, workout area, and home theater. Enjoy endless hot water from the newer tankless hot water heater. The Premier storage system in the garage is completely off the floor and washable. The backyard adjoins the neighborhood greenbelt. Take a narrated video tour at NorthGoldenHome.com, then call Carol Milan at 720-982-4941 to see it.

Just Listed: Updated 3-BR Townhome in Kinney Run

906 Homestake Drive, just listed for $575,000

Although currently a rental, this townhome at 906 Homestake Drive shows like it is owner-occupied. Beautifully updated, you probably won’t find anything to improve. It was just listed by Jim Smith for $575,000. The furnace and A/C, washer & dryer, and dishwasher are all new. The tenants’ lease ends July 31 and they are moving, so you can expect an August closing and occupancy. The Colorado School of Mines is a ½-mile stroll on sidewalks through quiet residential streets. Downtown Golden is just a few blocks further. Fossil Trace Golf Course and multiple open space trails are also close by! Because one of the tenants has a condition making her especially vulnerable to Covid-19, in-person showings aren’t allowed, but our narrated video walk-through at www.GoldenTownhome.com provides a complete showing experience, and you’ll be able to inspect the home after going under contract and before submitting earnest money.