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8 green homes on Long Island

As the Long Island homes featured here clearly demonstrate, energy-efficient construction comes in all shapes and sizes. Some are glamorously green with eco-friendly bells and whistles as top-of-the-line solar panels and whole-home automation; others demurely conceal their low carbon footprint behind passive-house features such as super-insulated walls and triple-glazed windows. But the owners have one thing in common: They agree that going green doesn’t benefit just the environment and their wallets — it also improves their peace of mind. 

WATER MILL

Solar panels and water heating tubes on this
Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

OWNERS Saundra and David Dubin

YEAR COMPLETED 2010

SQUARE FOOTAGE 4,500

GREEN GOODIES Carbon-neutral, net-zero energy home, certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council. (LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the council's building certification program that awards ratings based on the “green” points; platinum is the highest level.) The house also has dual-flush toilets, rainwater harvesting for irrigation, a geothermal heating system, energy-efficient blinds and tiles, solar lighting, solar evacuated tubes for hot water, spray-foam insulation, and smart-home integration (meaning various appliances and systems are connected to Wi-Fi so the homeowner can monitor and adjust heat and lighting whether at home or away, thereby saving energy). It is also known as the Hamptons Green Alliance House. The HGA is a nonprofit that promotes green, sustainable, resilient and smart-built systems and worked with the Dubins to rebuild the home after their previous house burned down.

WHAT THE OWNER SAYS “We all have a responsibility to become more energy-efficient and to be conscientious stewards of our environment, including reducing our carbon footprint and our reliance upon fossil fuels — especially on Long Island, where we live on a sole source aquifer,” says David Dubin, 58, a senior law partner at Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo, in Riverhead. Saundra Dubin teaches American Sign Language at Southampton High School.

FINANCIAL FOOTPRINT “Our utility bills decreased by 70 percent, and our reliance on fossil fuels decreased by 90 percent,” says David Dubin. “We only use propane for our clothes dryer, stove and barbecue.”

MONTAUK

The Montauk house contains recycled, reused and/or locally
Photo Credit: Mia Certic

OWNER Jessica James

YEAR COMPLETED 2009

SQUARE FOOTAGE 2,400

GREEN GOODIES Recycled, reused and/or locally sourced building materials, geothermal heat pump, radiant heating, solar roof panels, Energy Star-certified appliances, energy-saving lighting, super-insulated SIP (Structural insulated panels that replace traditional insulation, framing members, sheathing and Sheetrock) used in walls and the roof, passive solar benefits (achieved by orienting the house appropriately), and largely native plantings.

WHAT THE OWNER SAYS “Building my home has allowed me to pull together all the strands of my life,” says James, 62, a homesteader and former chef-restaurateur, “from using architectural salvage and furnishings from the house I grew up in to incorporating ancient building techniques like the timber-frame construction I came to love during my many years living in the English countryside in a 16th century coaching inn.”

FINANCIAL FOOTPRINT “The solar roof panels produce $1,200 worth of electricity a year, meaning a 10-year payoff for the solar array,” says James.

WESTHAMPTON

Solar panels on the home at 48 Tanners
Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

OWNERS John and Francie Phillips

YEAR COMPLETED 2014

SQUARE FOOTAGE 4,000

GREEN GOODIES Solar panels, geothermal heating and air-conditioning, high-performance windows, maximum sealing and insulation, maximum water efficiency, Home Energy Rating System score of 25 (which is 75 percent more energy-
efficient than a typical new house).

WHAT THE OWNER SAYS “We live in such a beautiful, special area, with beaches, bays, creeks and coves that are irreplaceable,” says John Phillips, 68, who works with Francie at Town & Country Real Estate in Westhampton Beach. “Doing our part to make our home more ‘green’ was . . . a series of conscious choices to keep our carbon footprint as small as it could be. It took a bit of research and effort, but we considered it all a worthwhile investment that we saw as doing our best to keep Westhampton the place we want to live in and enjoy for many years to come. Going green is not as hard as it used to be. Sure, it might still be a bit more expensive at first, but over time it’s an investment that really pays off. Our utility bills are a fraction of what they once were, and we know that we made good choices for ourselves, our community, our children and grandchildren.”

FINANCIAL FOOTPRINT “The electrical and combined heating and air-conditioning bills run on the average of $12 for eight months of the year and a high of $100 for the other four months,” says John Phillips. “We do not use any oil.”

BAY SHORE

This Bay Shore house has a solar roof
Photo Credit: Swati Srivastava

OWNERS Mark Bartosik and Swati Srivastava

YEAR COMPLETED 1963 (the green features are retrofitted)

SQUARE FOOTAGE About 2,900 (including basement)

GREEN GOODIES Solar roof with building-integrated tiles, solar laminates, Energy Star reflective TPO roof membrane (a thermoplastic polyolefin membrane aims to reduce cooling costs), geothermal heat pump, quadruple-glazed windows, variable-speed pool pump, spray-foam insulation, exterior insulation made from molten rock, exterior vapor permeable air barrier membrane -- which seals walls against air infiltration and exfiltration -- composting, drip irrigation in the garden, and a smart water-sprinkler system.

WHAT THE OWNER SAYS “Green building saves the environment,” says Bartosik. “It also saves money in the long term — the return on investment is better than the long-term stock market average. And it makes you more resilient. If you lose power in winter, it will be a long time before you freeze if the house is well insulated. We should have the minimum impact on the environment, but that doesn’t mean having to live in the stone age.”

FINANCIAL FOOTPRINT “Ten years ago, our utility bills were $2,000 [a year] for electric, and between $2,000 and $4,000 for oil,” says Bartosik. “Now we pay under $100 for everything for the whole year. We pay about $12 a month for a connection to PSEG; we’re not off-grid and still rely on PSEG when there’s no sunshine. At the end of the year, because we generate more electricity than we use, we get a small check from PSEG for that excess electricity.”

HICKSVILLE

This Hicksville home features insulated concrete form construction,
Photo Credit: Ken Brengel

OWNERS Ken and Sheila Brengel

YEAR COMPLETED 2008

SQUARE FOOTAGE About 3,400

GREEN GOODIES Insulated concrete form construction, geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, open-cell spray foam, heat-recovery ventilator and centrally located pollutant sensor (which work together to keep the temperature and climate at comfortable and efficient levels), smart thermostats, backup radiant heating, LED lighting, induction cooktop, thermal windows, instantaneous domestic hot-water heating, Solatube natural lighting (which captures sunlight and brings it inside, so a light fixture isn't needed).

WHAT THE OWNER SAYS “I’m a mechanical engineer and certified energy manager,” says Ken Brengel, 56, “so green building is in my blood, so to speak. I enjoy new renewable technologies and love to find ways to implement the technologies. . . . We are heavily taxed here on Long Island, so whatever you can do to cut down on your carbon footprint will help offset the costs you have little control of. We also need to think about energy conservation for future generations. I’m concerned quite a bit about our water resources going forward. We need to protect the resource and consume prudently.”

FINANCIAL FOOTPRINT “My utility bills annually run $900 to $1,000 for everything,” says Ken Brengel. “Pretty good for a large house.”

WESTBURY

This Westbury house contains an air-source heat pump,
Photo Credit: mynassauproperty.com

OWNER David and Tracy Hawkes

YEAR COMPLETED 1953

SQUARE FOOTAGE 1,076

GREEN GOODIES Air-source heat pump, 13 kilowatt solar panels, LED recessed lights, air-source heat pump hot-water heater, double layer of fiber-roll attic insulation, low-temperature hydronic panel radiators.

WHAT THE OWNER SAYS “I have a typical Levitt ranch,” says David Hawkes, 37, an engineer (Tracy, also 37, is a lawyer). “I bought it three years ago and completed all the projects except the solar by myself. With my solar, I’m pretty much zeroed out — it’s sized to meet all my standard electrical loads: lighting, domestic hot water, cooking, A/C, etc. With such a high cost of living on the Island, lowering energy bills is a necessity. Reductions in the production of climate-changing gases also seems prudent.”

FINANCIAL FOOTPRINT “My solar costs me $160 a month,” says David Hawkes, who leases his solar panels. “Without it, my bills would be $350 to $400 per month. So in total I’m saving $190 to $240 per month.”

ROSLYN

This Roslyn house has geothermal cooling and heat,
Photo Credit: Kristie Pierce

OWNERS Kristie and Will Pierce

YEAR COMPLETED 2015

SQUARE FOOTAGE 4,200

GREEN GOODIES Geothermal cooling and heat, all-LED lighting, airtight build, spray-foam insulation made partly from soybeans. 

WHAT THE OWNERS SAY “To me, green building is a must for new construction,” says Will Pierce, 32, who owns a day camp (Kristie Pierce, also 32, works there, too). “I’m saving somewhere around $6,000 per year. When you include the tax credits that offset the cost of the system — 30 to 40 percent of the total cost, in our case — the system will pay for itself in five to seven years. The geothermal system is very easy to maintain. The groundwater on Long Island comes out of the ground at 58 degrees, so when cooling the house all that is needed is the power to run the fans. And in the winter, the system has to warm up only about 12 degrees to keep the house at 70.” Adds Kristie Pierce: “If not for Mother Nature, go green for the cheaper utility bills. In the long run, it’s absolutely worth it. Fresh air, fewer pollutants, no greenhouse-gas emissions . . . ”

FINANCIAL FOOTPRINT “The heating and cooling is built into our electric bill, which averages $200 to $250 per month,” says Kristie Pierce. Adds Will Pierce, “In conjunction with our geothermal system, our house holds its temperature very well. It’s so airtight we have a vent that alleviates negative pressure when we do things like run our exhaust fan when cooking. This greatly improves the house’s efficiency.”

SOUTHAMPTON

This Southampton house is certified LEED Platinum, water-saving
Photo Credit: East End Fine Art Services

OWNER Kim Erle

YEAR COMPLETED 2015

SQUARE FOOTAGE 4,600 (including pool house)

GREEN GOODIES Certified LEED Platinum, water-saving plumbing fixtures and irrigation system, no-added-urea-formaldehyde doors and beadboard paneling, energy-efficient appliances and systems, air-source heat pump heating and cooling, eco-friendly furnishing and decor (they are stain- and fade-resistant, so they last longer; the upholstered pieces contain plant-based foam and recycled content in their springs; also, the furniture is made by manufacturers that use sustainable practices), home automation that optimizes the home’s energy use, solar panels, HEPA filtration central vacuum, a whole-home energy-recovery ventilator system (which brings in fresh air and expels stale air from the entire house 24/7). Erle calls it the Sunset Green Home Project (named after her business), which just won the Best Resilient Design award in the national Green Builder Home of the Year Awards. She built the home after her cottage was destroyed in superstorm Sandy.

WHAT THE OWNER SAYS “To me, green means durable and sustainable — both of which speak to longevity,” says Erle, 52, a sustainability consultant. “Durability means the home will withstand the forces of time and nature. I mean, a home can have all the ‘green’ bells and whistles in the world, but if it can’t survive a storm, what’s the use? And sustainability means we’re mindful of the resources that we used to build the home and that we are using to operate the home. Homeowners on Long Island should also investigate green building options for the tax benefits they might receive. In the Town of Southampton, for example, we will enjoy a 10-year tax exemption by having earned LEED certification.”

FINANCIAL FOOTPRINT “We don’t use oil, and we only use gas for water heating,” says Erle. “Our electric bill in October was $50, and in general they haven’t exceeded $200 per month — and that includes both heating and cooling. This is very different from the old home, whose electric bills in the winter would top $700!”

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