Homes in the Lyon's Gate community feature PVT's Echo solar system, which provides solar energy as well as hot water and home heating and cooling.
Homes in the Lyon's Gate community feature PVT's Echo solar system, which provides solar energy as well as hot water and home heating and cooling.

Boasting a unique solar system that harnesses energy as well as heat, a tight envelope, and an array of conservation-minded products, houses in Meritage Homes’ new Arizona community exceed Energy Star requirements by 50%--while still maintaining a starting price point of $174,900. “We challenged everything from the concrete up,” says C. R. Herro, vice president of environmental affairs for the production builder. “My entire job is to look at what’s being done in custom homes, what is being done in cutting-edge science, and what is achievable from a large-scale builder. Everything we could do, we did in this community.”

Each of the 210 homes in the Lyon’s Gate development in Gilbert, Ariz., will feature a roof-mounted Echo solar system from PVT Solar. The systems not only convert sun power to electricity like traditional PV panels, but also transfer the remainder of the sun’s heat to air drawn-in under the panels for use in water and home heating; cool air is brought in during nighttime hours to supplement stale indoor air. According to PVT Solar, Echo generates twice as much energy as a basic PV system but only costs about 25% more.

The system also qualifies the homeowner for state and federal tax credits between $5,000 and $6,000.

“Every home we build coast to coast is built to what we call a ‘Meritage green standard’ so everything exceeds the Energy Star requirements, but this community is the first time we’ve broken 30 on the HERS index,” explains Herro.

Besides the solar system, the homes include low-E windows, Energy Star-rated appliances, fluorescent lighting, SEER-14 air conditioners, energy-efficient heat pumps, and the technology to control electrical systems via a smart phone. In addition, the homes’ 9-inch wall system with exterior and interior wraps and spray-foam insulation is three and a half times more efficient than a standard wall with R-19 batt insulation, Herro says.

Together, the feature enable the house to save 80% more energy than standard homes built to current code and perform 50% better than Energy Star standards, according to Meritage. 

Rounding out the list of green features are weather-sensing irrigation systems, low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets, and low-VOC paints and finishes.

The Lyon’s Gate community includes eight models starting at less than $180,000 for 1,600 square feet up to $229,900 for 3,000 square feet.

Herro says the company keeps the price low three ways: “One, we as a company had a vision where we actually had to tighten our belts and our profitability; two, we have suppliers that bought into that vision and tightened their belts; and three, we’re building this for the entire community. This isn’t an option, this isn’t an upgrade, this is the way every home is built and obviously that efficiency of scale helps us control those prices.”

Lyon’s Gate will serve as a testing ground for Meritage, which plans to build all future homes to its new super-efficient standard.

Evelyn Royer is Editorial Assistant for EcoHome.