Most homeowners' heating bills rose this winter as the temperatures dropped. What if you could buy a house with much lower heating bills, and one that also pays you back on sunny days?
The house at 101 Craigwood Drive in Moon does just that by coupling a solar array with geothermal heating. Gail and Frank Felton added them six years ago to the house built in 1973.
"We upsized and brought my father-in-law to live with us," Mrs. Felton said.
The house came with a lower-level suite with a bedroom, kitchen, full bathroom and separate laundry room. The Feltons are now downsizing and have put the two-story, brick- and vinyl-sided Colonial on the market for $490,000 (MLS No. 999494) through Angela Brondou of Prudential Preferred Realty (412-398-4610 or www.prudentialpreferred.com). An open house is set for 1 to 3 p.m. today.
When the Feltons bought the five-bedroom, 31/2-bath house in April 2008, the heating system barely functioned. "We froze our first winter," Mrs. Felton said.
Early the next year, they headed to the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show and found Western Pennsylvania Geothermal Heating and Cooling Inc. Encouraged by friends who loved their geothermal system, they had one installed in 2009 and the solar panels in 2010, after another visit to the home show.
The investment has cut their energy consumption and has saved them money. Mrs. Felton recalls monthly heating bills as high as $650 or $700 before they replaced their old gas furnace.
"I know we're saving 35 percent. ... Our bills averaged $335 per month and we're down to $213," she said.
Though they maintain a simple gas connection, the electric bill is now their only bill. On days when the solar array generates more electricity than they use, their electric meter runs backward. The homeowners sell these Renewable Energy Credits back to the electric company.
They new system allowed them to create a three-zone system in the house for added comfort.
"My father-in-law was always cold and I was always hot," Mrs. Felton said. "With the geothermal, you can run the furnace on the first level, shut it off on the second level and have the AC on the third."
In case of power outages, a whole-house backup generator automatically kicks in.
Daylight is plentiful in this house. The 23- by-14-foot living room has windows at either end and there is a charming window seat in the 12- by- 11-foot dining room. Oak crown molding and baseboards are found throughout the house. The eat-in kitchen measures 19 by 12 feet and has dark wood cabinets and French doors that lead out to the upper deck.
Mrs. Felton considered having the kitchen remodeled but the contractor talked her out of it. "He said, 'In green thinking, why would you rip out perfectly good cabinets?' "
They did replace the appliances recently with stainless steel. There is a Hotpoint dishwasher, GE refrigerator and double oven and a water filtration system under the sink. Off the kitchen is a mudroom/laundry room with GE washer and dryer. The lower-level laundry includes a Maytag washer and Kenmore gas dryer.
There is a first-floor powder room, two full bathrooms upstairs and one more on the lower level. While neither the bathrooms nor the kitchens have been recently updated, the house has been well maintained over the years.
The 12-by-9-foot family room has a red-brick fireplace with built-in shelves on either side and wood beams on the ceiling. The wood-burning fireplace is well-supplied by trees cut down on the property.
"We had to cut down one tree for the solar panels so we had them cut it and stack it," Mrs. Felton said.
The master suite measures 17 by 14 feet and offers a nice view of the woods at the rear of the house. The bathroom has a double vanity dark wood cabinets and a tub/shower combination.
The other three second-floor bedrooms measure 15 by 10 feet, 12 by 13 feet and 13 by 11 feet. Neutral carpeting covers hardwood floors.
The fifth bedroom is on the lower level in the father-in-law suite, which has its own entrance and a large game room with exposed brick, wood beams and a wet bar. There is even a stage area for impromptu performances.
The two-car garage with automatic door openers is accessed from the laundry room.
Mrs. Felton and her father-in-law are avid gardeners who enjoyed growing organic vegetables from seed in a raised bed. There is greenhouse and a large garden shed with upper loft area for storage, another home show find. The covered front porch has space for a couple of rocking chairs.
Built on a private lane, the house has mature landscaping that includes large oak trees around the back that provide shade and add privacy.
"Robinson is about 10 minutes and the airport about the same. It is very convenient to going Downtown or to Coraopolis," Mrs. Brondou said.
The property has a county assessed value of $229,700 (www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Search.aspx). No properties have sold on Craigwood Driver over the past three years.
Lizabeth Gray: firstname.lastname@example.org.