Community of solar powered homes going up at Rocketts Landing

Updated: Aug. 20, 2014 at 5:34 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You see homes with solar panels here and there, but how about an entire neighborhood running on solar energy? Homes in the first solar community in Virginia are now for sale. The Villas at Rocketts Landing are designed to be energy efficient and solar powered, but at an affordable price.

When you walk into one of these homes, you won't necessarily see the difference in the walls or ducts, but the developer says you'll see it in the power bill.

Jay Epstein with Health-E-Community Enterprises showed us one of its energy efficient windows.

"If you look below, it's clear. But you'll see it's reflective, so it's reflecting the sun," he said.

The Villas at Rocketts Landing were designed by Epstein's Health-E-Community Enterprises, in collaboration with Earthcraft Virginia and Renewable Engineered Systems, to be energy efficient from the ground up.

"All of our air handlers are in the air conditioned part of the house and that's important because it works better, instead of it being up in the attic or down in the crawl," Epstein explained.

And the homes are designed to be cost efficient as well. He added, showing us the frame of an unfinished house, "What we're doing is value engineering the lumber that we're using. We're saving lumber, saving forestry."

Each house in the community will be powered by its own set of solar panels, which will generate more energy than the house needs. The excess energy will be sold to Virginia Dominion Power.

"The solar produces $600 to $700 a year that offsets your utility bill," said Epstein.

And Epstein says he guarantees that a home's power bills will be about 80% lower than a comparable home's, with averaged bills as low as a dollar a day in their smallest model, 1500 square feet.

"$155 would be the normal utility bill on a 1800 square foot home," explained Epstein. "We're saying that bill is going to be $45."

Health-E-Community Enterprises plans to build 45 homes in the Villas at Rocketts Landing, at the corner of Orleans and Williamsburg roads. The subdivision is near the newly developed Rocketts Landing and a subdivision Epstein also developed called Fulton.

The solar power adds $22,000 to the cost of each home. But Epstein says the homes are affordably priced, ranging from $222,000 to $249,000. The models all have three bedrooms, and two to two and a half baths.

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