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Opening eyes with a green home (photos)

A couple builds the first LEED Platinum-level green home in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, to show that green, healthy, and high-tech are compatible and affordable.

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Martin LaMonica
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
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Solar on TV

DORCHESTER, Mass.--From his Web-enabled TV, Ivan Liriano shows off how much power his rooftop solar panels are producing. Liriano and fiancee Cynthia Loesch earlier this month hosted a ribbon-cutting for the first Platinum-level LEED residential green building in this neighborhood of Boston. The couple needed to do a lot more than just hire contractors. To build the home, they had to convince bankers, city officials, and neighbors that building a green home wasn't more expensive than traditional methods. They also wanted to include all the high-tech touches they desired.

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Remote-control home

The couple wanted a green building, but they also wanted a "smart home" with a state-of-the art security system. Here Liriano shows how he can view security cameras from his smart phone. He can also arm the Vivint security system and control the smart thermostat, lights, or small appliances. Over time, Vivint will be adding other energy-related features, such as getting more information on energy usage and custom recommendations to improve home efficiency.

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Let the light in

It's the cheapest form of light: the sun. The three units in their building have ample windows, providing a significant amount of indoor light, as can be seen here. Another way to get points for the LEED certification is by using EnergyStar-rated efficient appliances and light bulbs. To have good indoor air quality, they chose wood floors rather than carpeting and had the stove vent outside.

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Superefficient boilers

Here's the house's basement, with the solar hot water tanks on the left and very efficient natural gas boilers on the right. The gas boilers operate at 96 percent efficiency and work with temperature sensors outside to optimize their performance.

The solar hot water tanks will help the boilers operate more efficiently as well. Rooftop solar panels heat water stored in the two tanks. When the boiler turns on, it will draw from the hot water tanks to reduce the heat needed from the boiler.

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Natural habitat

The garden features native plants, even blueberries, which will create habitat and beautify the neighborhood. And it will be efficient with water. Underneath the fountain is a 1,000-gallon cistern for storing rainwater. The water is filtered and then distributed to the plants.

The building owners had to jump through some hoops to get the rainwater harvesting system approved by city officials, who came out to visit and see it during construction.

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Fitting in

From the outside, the smart, green home doesn't look any different from others in the neighborhood. On the roof, however, are 22 solar photovoltaic panels, which produce up to 5 kilowatts of power, and an array of solar hot water panels. The building is a three-family unit with the owners living on the second floor. They were able to rent out the other two units within a few weeks.

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Home control base

The building owners were told by professional installers that home automation systems would cost $10,000, but they found the Vivint home security and energy management system met their needs for much less. Here's the home base controller to arm the building. Next to it is a smart thermostat that can be controlled from this base or from a smartphone application.

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