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Featured Array: America's Oldest Net Zero Home

Aug 03, 2011

Featured Array: America's Oldest Net Zero Home

Located in Ann Arbor’s Old West Side Historic District, Matt and Kelly Grocoff’s home is America’s oldest and Michigan’s first net-zero energy home, that is, it annually produces more energy than the residents consume.  Matt Grocoff, Esq. LEED, is host of Greenovation.TV, contributor to the Environment Report on public radio and is the green renovation expert for Old House Web. He is a net-zero energy consultant and one of the most respected advocates and authorities on green renovations for existing homes. Grocoff has a Mission Zero goal to eliminate the negative environmental impact of every home in America.

The home was honored by USA Today as one of its seven “Best Green Homes of 2010” and The Atlantic called it “Sustainable Perfection.”

When the Grocoffs bought the 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 110-year-old Folk-Victorian home, it featured drafty old windows, zero insulation and a half-century-old furnace. After remodeling the interior and replacing the windows, Grocoff had long-time Michigan installer Mechanical Energy Systems (MES) install an 8.1kW solar energy system.

As the house has only 550 sq. ft. of roof space (fortunately with a perfect roof angle for a solar array), maximizing space for the array was very important. Grocoff chose SunPower 225 Signature Black panels and Enphase M210 microinverters to gain the most energy harvest from his solar system.

Grocoff has this to say about using Enphase: “Enphase provides the greatest output with my constrained roof space and a sometimes gray Michigan climate. I use Enlighten to closely monitor and manage my solar power generation to make sure I’m getting full performance. Enlighten monitoring also is essential for allowing anyone to view our system and prove that net zero is possible in a home of any age.”

Daren Griffith, sales manager and solar designer for MES, comments, “Even with up to six inches of snow, the microinverters can pull five to 25 watts with adequate sun. That can generate enough heat to melt the snow – a profound difference versus a single-inverter configuration’s performance.” Griffith also said that he’s seen 25 to 35 percent higher production than expected thanks to the Enphase solution, which he also credits for helping the solar panels reach their rated capacity of 207.1 watts even on some winter days.

See the live energy output of America’s oldest net-zero home from Enlighten.


For those skeptical of costs, Grocoff emphasizes that this is one of the best investments a homeowner can make. Prior to the work, the house required a 20-year energy cost of $83,510. Thanks to renovations and the solar system, Grocoff expects a 20-year energy return of $106,790. In other words, instead of spending $83,510 he will receive $23,280 by eliminating energy bills and receiving renewable energy credits.

Grocoff’s home has been featured in the pages and on the airwaves of The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Detroit Free Press, Preservation Magazine, Photon International, Solar Today, Fox Business News, NPR syndicates, NBC4 and more, in addition to hundreds of online magazines including The Huffington Post and TreeHugger.

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