Mother Earth Living

Modern History: America’s Oldest Net-Zero Home

By installing state-of-the-art technology and alternative energy systems, self-described “average couple” Kelly and Matt Grocoff transform their century-old house into a cutting-edge net-zero home.

Restored original wood floors, windows, beadboard and barn-style sliding doors maintain the home's historic feel.
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
The Grocoffs hired local painters Chad Pratt Painting to help them restore the exterior while containing the original lead paint. For similar projects, Matt recommends consulting the EPA's "Lead Paint Safety" booklet for information (
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
Matt Grocoff wanted to create a better world for his daughter to inherit.
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
The Grocoffs collect water for the garden in a rain barrel made of salvaged wine barrels from a nearby winery.
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
Matt converted a neighbor's old playhouse into a chicken coop using salvaged materials from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and the Ann Arbor Recycle ReUse Center. The chickens eat weeds and pests and contribute fertilizer to the yard.
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
Matt and Kelly chose zero-VOC wall paint and natural oil floor finishes. Their coffee table is made from salvaged butcher block, and their sofa and chairs (from Pottery Barn and Mitchell-Gold), which are made with sustainably harvested wood and natural materials, contain zero vinyl, formaldehyde or brominated flame retardants.
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
In addition to turning off when occupants exit, the home's automatic lighting controls can be set to turn on when someone enters a room and adjusted to ambient light levels, meaning lights don't turn on when there is plenty of daylight.
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
Following Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House principles, the Grocoffs added a bath without building an addition or removing walls.
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
Thanks to their many energy-efficiency improvements, Matt and Kelly Grocoff and their daughter live very comfortably in their century-old home.
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
A reclaimed claw-foot tub and salvaged sliding door keep the new bathroom in keeping with the historic house.
Photo By Kevin J. Miyazaki
The main floor of the Grocoff's house.
Illustration By Nate Skow
The second floor of the Grocoff's house.
Illustration By Nate Skow

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