Three Decades of Green Living

By Max Resnik


10 photos

August 2, 2011 Updated Aug 2, 2011 at 5:40 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A.J. Patrick has been living green for the last 30 years. His home’s energy is generated exclusively from his geothermal and solar systems. To see how it works, Patrick took Indiana’s NewsCenter for a tour.

Patrick built his home in 1981, a time when green energy was for lack of a better term, green. The asymmetrical home in the Fallen Timbers addition is constructed completely of steel and concrete and does not have any wood rafters. When construction began 30 years ago, Patrick’s neighbors thought he was putting up a warehouse.

“When I started putting the steel up, my neighbors would come over and say, ‘Hey, you can't build a warehouse here. This is residential.’ I said, ‘This is going to be a residential home.’"

Upon entering Patrick’s home the first thing a visitor notices is his 35 foot cathedral ceiling. Perhaps it was seeing steel extended that far into air that threw off his neighbors. They were not the only ones skeptical of the home Patrick saw as a way to energy efficiency. Patrick approached local banks about his home during the planning stages. He says they could not understand how someone could construct a home that survived only on geothermal and solar energy.

“All they thought was that I was going to build it into a hill with a dirt floor and dirt for a roof. I told them that this was going to be a very attractive looking home.”

Inside and outside, the home resembles any other contemporary home. What is not visible to the naked eye is the geothermal system, concrete walls and plumbing within his energy-efficient toilets. Also not visible, the concrete webbing, loaded with layers of insulation, which comprises part of the home’s structure. The webbing allows the insulation to have no gaps. In a normal home, wooden studs force insulation to begin and end at different points and leads to leaks and drafts within a home. Patrick’s home is completely insulated because there are no points where insulation begins and ends.

Not only are these amenities part of what makes a very energy-efficient home for Patrick, so are the shades built-in to each window of the home. The shades and the home’s climate control can all be adjusted by an electronic pad on a wall in Patrick’s office.

"You touch the screen with your finger, indicate what kind of temperature you want, what fans you want going on and even the shutters. The technology is there."

Patrick says the energy crisis of the 1970s was the catalyst for him in pursuing his green home. Patrick had another incentive in the form of state and federal credits for pursuing such a home. Under President Jimmy Carter, folks like Patrick were able to receive 65 percent of their total costs back over a three-year period through those credits.

Patrick says that between six and seven years after the home was constructed and paid for, he made his money back. His average cost 30 years ago for his entire year’s worth of energy was about $470. In 2007, Patrick paid $864.66 for a year’s worth of energy.

Like many, Patrick sees the continual increase in energy costs and urges today’s younger generations to utilize technologies that he took advantage of three decades ago.

“Go for it. Go for it because if you have an opportunity to build something like this, you will not be sorry you did it.”

Patrick will not be in his home for much longer. He has just put it on the market and says he is looking for a new family to come in and continue his tradition of efficient living.

For a look inside, check out the video above.

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