Folks is talking about Passive houses!
Using a mix of excellent insulation, high efficiency appliances, and an ingenious heat exchange system, passive solar homes use a fraction of the energy their normal counterparts use, and there is no sacrifice made in the looks department.
Here's a marvelously dry video tour of the Sustain-O-Casa of David and Harriet Borton.
The Borton's charming Troy, New York abode has been built with a number of design elements that keep its energy use in the ultra-low category.
Firstly, their house has huge windows on the southern facing side, allowing sunlight to heat the interior, while the northern side has very few tiny windows and is more heavily insulated.
As Mr. Borton helpfully explains, the 250 square feet of windows on the south side of his house generate approximately 60 million btus of heat, which is the equivalent of 500 gallons of heating oil. All for free, from the sun, just because he pointed his house in one direction. Amazing.
The Borton house is so efficient that the morning sunlight that comes through a window turns dishes on a rack into a radiator for the kitchen.
The video also includes a quick rundown of the Borton's three solar arrays, including a tiny little 25 year old chip of a panel that kept the family with a working fridge, telephones, and lights/t.v. at night when a snowstorm in the mid 1980's knocked out power for a week.
Here's the Passive house wiki.
Here's a US Passive house site.
A Passive house post from greenlineblog.
A wonderful piece in the Times about Passive houses around the world.
Thank you to David and Harriet Borton for allowing us the informative peek into their situation. The Grieco Brothers Christian and Christian for shooting the viddy, and to the Green Buildings Open House, for hiring the Grieco Brothers to shoot the viddy of the Bortons.
Here's the Green Buildings Open House affiliate site.
Sustainability can be fun!