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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 23, 2010

Mail-order homes make off-grid living easy

By Catherine Tsai
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

People willing to take the ultimate plunge into off-the-grid living can buy a solar house seen in an artist's rendering from Real Goods Solar.

Solar Village Homes via AP

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Read the home's listing: www.realgoods.com/product17-0376.do

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BOULDER, Colo. Real Goods Solar Inc. has been selling solar panels for years to people who want to live off the grid. Its latest catalog goes one step further: It offers a mail-order solar house, with a choice of traditional or cedar siding.

The factory-built, single-story house by Boulder-based Solar Village Homes goes for $90,000 to $120,000. At 935 square feet, it boasts energy-efficient and energy-producing features that include solar electrical and hot water systems. A Real Goods energy system includes the solar panels, wiring and conduit.

Erecting the house could cost up to $100,000 more, based on factors like building the foundation and connecting to a water supply. But some homeowners could have no energy bills, depending on their consumption, said Mark Kostovny, co-founder of Solar Village.

Real Goods sells everything from pocket-size solar devices for charging cell phones, to large photovoltaic panels for homes and recreational vehicles, but "we've never offered a single item even remotely in this price range," said retail director Bill Giebler.

Louisville, Colo.-based Real Goods plans to mail 1.5 million catalogs this year, Giebler said. With that reach, it's possible Solar Village could sell 20 homes, Kostovny said.

The company sells 12 to 20 solar homes a year through its own website.

"The whole reason we started Solar Village is to bring green to the masses," Giebler said. "Having a few million-dollar solar homes is fine, but I want thousands of these homes. That's when you've made a major impact on the environment and people's way of life."

Customers can choose a one- or two-bedroom floor plan. Layouts are basically the same, but the two-bedroom version has a wall enclosing the kitchen.

"The point was to keep it simple but appealing so people could afford it," Kostovny said.

No one has ordered one yet from the catalog, but Kostovny and Giebler said they've fielded inquiries from Malibu, Calif., to upstate New York.