Once those elements are implemented, Artistic adds a 4.5-kWh photovoltaic panel system on the roof and a solar hot water heating system.

The home also is certified under Energy Star’s Indoor Air Package, which targets indoor air quality as well as energy efficiency. According to Energy Star, qualifying homes include, among other features, moisture control through water-managed roofs, walls, and foundations; pest management, including termite shields and slab reinforcements; whole-house and spot ventilation; sealed garages and direct- or power-vented gas- and oil-fired equipment; building materials with reduced chemical content; ventilating the home before occupancy; and radon control.

Upgrading from the base model to the zero-energy package with the included Energy Star Indoor Air Package adds an additional $44,000 to the homes’ $196,000 base price. Portions of the cost can be recouped through rebates, including a federal solar tax credit. New Mexico also offers a tax credit for homes with HERS ratings of 60 or better and a LEED certification of at least Silver, Wade says.

Homeowners also gain ROI through net metering. In addition, the local utility pays homeowners 13 cents for every kWh produced. Artistic Homes says that if tax credit savings and an estimated $200-per-month energy savings are applied to the mortgage, the home can be paid off in 17 to 18 years as opposed to 30.

So far, the company has sold two of the upgraded homes and has three under contract.

Wade estimates interest will continue to climb, especially as costs drop. “As technology gets better and as our building science and applications and procedures get better, we’ll be able to continually offer it at more affordable levels,” he says. “And as a general rule, we’re going to have to see the industry move toward that.”