Local builder creates homes that don’t need power from the grid.

By Jim Bucher

I remember watching Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color back in the day and marveling over a segment on the “House of the Future.” Far as I know not much has materialized other than the robotic vacuum. Walt Disney nailed that one.

But in 2017 the home of the future is here!

Now, from my limited mind (please no cracks) this is a net-zero house. Nope, not a soft drink, but a living, breathing home.

Net-zero basically is a structure so energy efficient it’s able to generate enough power that it requires little to zero electricity from the power grid. In fact, the homeowners make enough power to sell electricity back to the utility companies. Take that DP&L and Vectren!

The net-zero house called The Claiborne is the brainchild of homebuilder Jeff Testerman, whose career was “pre-determined” and/or “prefabricated” depending on how you word it.

“I worked in a family business and started helping on our family home in 1967,” says Testerman. “For the most part it’s all I have ever done. I am a finish carpenter by trade. I hurt my back and still needed to eat so I learned about building new homes, light commercial construction and high-end residential remodeling,” he says.

Jeff then came upon an idea.

“I built a ICF (insulated concrete form) house in Brookville with all the bells and whistles and energy-efficient techniques available at the time,” he says. “My utility bills were so low I researched how to make them even more efficient and ran across zero-energy homes, found it intriguing and continued researching,” Testerman says.

You see where this is going don’t you?

Jeff and his company, TesCon Inc., created an impressive resume of extremely well-built homes, many of which were highlighted during the Home Builders Association’s Homearama events. But the energy efficiency thoughts kept “building” in his mind.

For a time it was a pipe dream to create and build the most energy-efficient home on the market today. Then, what the heck, Jeff says, let’s do it. And The Claiborne net-zero home, “constructed” in his mind, was born.

“Net zero effectively means a home that produces nearly all or all of the home’s energy requirements over the course of a year per Department of Energy guidelines. We have exceeded that goal with this home.” Jeff says.

But it’s much more than saving on your utility bills.

“We built this Energy Star 5+ rated home utilizing aging in place design, no steps, unique flexible space that could serve as an owners or in-law suite. We have a pool, cabana, hard surface flooring, geothermal heating and cooling, R54 wall insulation, R60 ceiling and attic insulation, triple pane windows and all,” Jeff says.

All the comforts of home and then somewhere you can turn up the heat in the winter and the temperature down in the summer with no worries.

“The house should save nearly $200,000 over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Even more as time goes on and energy prices continue to rise as they have always done historically. No maintenance and an entertainment/ family get together home like no other,” says Testerman.

But as Americans we tend to be reactive rather than proactive and who knows with the current political climate.

“I believe we have an obligation to future generations to preserve our natural resources. We can start now by using the largest energy supply known—the sun,” he says.

He’s been motivated ever since hearing of a story back in 1931.

“Thomas Edison was chatting to friends Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford and said, ‘I’d put money on solar energy and hope we don’t wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.’ Pretty smart guy,” Jeff says.

Speaking of smart, his outdoor swimming pool is heated, not by a gas unit, but using the sun’s energy. Also, this modern-day visionary owns a hybrid ‘plug-in’ automobile with a charging station in the garage.

That’s correct, his home is powering the car! I think Thomas Alva Edison would be proud.

Testerman says it’s up to our generation to set an example for the next.

 future renewable energy understanding. West Milton School District is doing that and the students will benefit with learning. I believe the youth of our world will drive this message as time goes on,” he says.

You’d think Jeff would rest on his laurels—I mean this is a practically perfect home, but Testerman isn’t ready to chill in his energy-efficient den quite yet.

“I think, Jim, if we could get people to understand what the long-term gains could be and doing what is right would be great, along with getting this place sold so I can move on to my next endeavor. Already have something in mind,” he says.

Yep, saving the planet one home at a time.

“Buch, we do not have to be tree huggers my friend, but we all must take just a little responsibility to leave this planet a better place. It has been good to us.”

Like Mr. Disney said, “It’s a small world after all.”


– Buch

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