When Jay and Kim Gaebelein relocated from Dayton to Northeast Ohio in 2006, they scoured the housing market but could not find a home for sale that met their needs. As a result, they opted for a custom build, which proved to be the ideal opportunity to incorporate some of the more innovative features that piqued their curiosity. While Jay had lofty ambitions that included a metal roof, an insulated basement floor and radiant floor heating throughout the home, it quickly became clear that to incorporate all their dream features would come at a higher price than they were willing to spend. Instead they chose a limited number of features to incorporate from the start, and left room to retrofit other areas in the future.
“Whenever you build, you are always making choices about what items you must have and what you would like to have,” Kim says. “Our choices were focused on how we could build a cozy, inviting home that would sip energy rather than gulp it.”
Before beginning construction on their home in 2007, the Gaebeleins dedicated nearly four years to research and planning while they lived in a rental property. They talked to draftsmen and looked at house plans, taking features from several different houses. The couple also gathered a lot of ideas from one of Jay’s favorite publications, Smart HomeOwner, which provides solutions for efficient, eco-friendly homes. They compiled all their ideas into a set of binders that served as a guide throughout the building process.
The result is a 6,400-square-foot home that feels very intimate while still providing plenty of living space and privacy. The ranch-style home has an open floor plan going from the living room into the kitchen. Directly off the kitchen is a half-bath, a laundry room, a master suite and stairs to the finished basement. On either side of the front entry way is a dining room and a study. A long hall leads to their 5-year-old daughter’s room, which includes a full bathroom. That end of the house also features a guest room complete with a Jack-and-Jill bathroom that leads into a private sitting area for guests. This space works great, especially when Kay’s parents visit from Arizona. The guest room also has a sliding door that opens up to the backyard and patio.
One of their top priorities was to find a solid builder. They chose Dominic Zinicola from Republic Construction Consultants, and are pleased with their choice. Although many of the proposed concepts were new to the firm, and they were nervous to work with new materials, the team was open to expanding its outlook.
The Gaebeleins also hired an energy consultant who helped with the planning process and who checks in with the family periodically. Among the home’s eco-friendly and energy efficient features are a geothermal system with supplemental resistance heat; an energy recovery ventilator; Icycene® open cell foam insulation in the walls, basement and attic; 1-inch insulated foam board on the outside walls and under basement slab; dual flush pressure assist low-flow toilets; CFL light bulbs; sun tunnel skylights; and Lo-E4 Andersen casement windows, just to name a few.
In addition, the house has a Therma-Tru™ fiberglass exterior doors as well as Energy Star appliances and ceiling fans. The living room features an efficient, wood-burning Quadra-Fire fireplace, which can heat up to 3,500 square feet. Insulated shades also provide additional temperature control.
Jay tracked the family’s energy consumption in the new home from 2008-2009 and compared it to that of the 2,500-square-foot rental they lived in from 2007-2008. At the rental, the family used a total of 136.55 MMBtu over a one-year period. In the new home, that number dropped to 82 MMBTU.
“People don’t realize that you can make a difference and it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult,” Kim explains.
Kim and Jay have even passed their eco-friendly outlook onto their daughter, Jenna. One morning, when Jenna awoke to see the Christmas lights in her room were still on from the night before, she politely informed her parents that they’d been “energy hogs.”