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Practical pad: Habitat house built for efficiency

LAWRENCEVILLE - The latest Gwinnett Habitat for Humanity house is something special.

The house, located in Lawrenceville, will not only meet the needs of two children who need handicapped accessibility, it is the first rehab project in Lawrenceville, the first Habitat home in Georgia to have a geothermal heat pump installed and the first to bear the Right Choice Energy Star certification.

To earn the Energy Star certification, a home must meet strict Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for energy efficiency. The homes are at least 15 percent more efficient than those built to local code and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20 to 30 percent more efficient than standard houses.

"We partnered with several vendors offering high-quality, energy-efficient technologies to help a family of five save on their energy bills," said Amy Bryan, residential marketing director for Jackson EMC. "We wanted their hard-earned dollars to go toward the important things like caring for their family and furnishing their home, and wasting energy dollars shouldn't be part of that equation."

Jackson EMC employees volunteered on the demolition team, tearing out Sheetrock, insulation and shingles to prep the home for its energy efficient retrofit.

The company partnered with Gwinnett Technical College and R.E. Michel Company Inc. for installation of the geothermal heat pump. Geothermal pumps, or ground source heat pumps, are considered one of the most energy efficient heating and cooling water systems, according to the Department of Energy. Geothermal heat pumps are similar to regular heat pumps, only they rely on the constant temperatures of the earth in their exchange systems rather than outside air to provide heating, air conditioning and water heating.

"The geothermal heat pump and Right Choice Energy Star certification will help the homeowner manage electricity consumption," said Meredith Wilson, a residential marketing representative with Jackson EMC who led the project team to secure materials, service, funding and volunteers. "They'll also receive Jackson EMC's lowest residential rate, the Energy Advantage Rate, for being Right Choice certified."

12 Stone Church, which has two locations in Gwinnett, served as the sole financial sponsor for the Habitat home.