If you’re looking to increase your home’s efficiency and reduce heating costs, a geothermal heating system is one of the many ways you can achieve just that. Also called a ground source heat pump, the system uses the earth as a source of heat in the winter. While the initial installation costs are higher than traditional heating systems, they pay for themselves in 3-10 years. Couple that with tax credits or incentives for Green initiatives, you could see your costs recouped even earlier!

Mark Johnson Custom Homes is currently installing geothermal heat pumps at two custom homes in Landfall, more specifically a closed loop geothermal heating system. There are various designs and options available, but the closed loop system requires two refrigerant loops be installed with a mix of water and antifreeze.

For more information on geothermal heating systems for your custom home or remodel, contact us today!

Mark Johnson Custom Homes, a new home builder in Wilmington, would like to share with our readers an article courtesy of NewsandObserver.com regarding Progress Energy’s efforts to assist their customers in paying for charging stations for their electric cars.

Progress Energy is now offering North Carolina customers home charging stations for plug-in electric cars at little or no cost.

The Raleigh-based utility announced that it is accepting customer applications for grants that will cover up to $1,500 of the cost of purchasing and installing a charging system suitable for electric vehicles such as the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

“We anticipate the $1,500 will cover the full cost of the equipment and installation for the vast majority of customers,” said utility spokesman Scott Sutton.

Progress is providing the charging equipment under a federally funded research project designed to help it better understand how the 240-volt chargers will impact the electric grid. Charlotte-based Duke Energy launched a similar program earlier this year.

Progress customers who receive the charging equipment from the utility will have to pay for the electricity needed to charge their vehicle.

A total of 150 Progress Energy customers in North Carolina and  South Carolina will receive grants for the charging equipment. Progress Energy will own and maintain the equipment until the research project ends in April 2013. At the conclusion, the utility will transfer ownership to the customer.

Applications are being considered on a first-come, first-served basis. North Carolina customers of Progress Energy can apply online. The program will be open to South Carolina customers once it is approved by state requlators.

Article Courtesy of: NewsandObserver.com

Wilmington home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share an interesting article, courtesy of environmentalleader.com, about the Empire State Building being awarded LEED Gold Certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally-recognized green building certification system that was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in March 2000. LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

The Empire State Building has been awarded LEED Gold for Existing Buildings certification.

It is the tallest and almost certainly the best-known building in the U.S. to receive the award, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, the company that managed the retrofit.

Johnson Controls and Jones Lang LaSalle conducted the retrofit, and say the $20 million project is guaranteed to reduce the building’s energy consumption by more than 38 percent and should save $4.4 million in energy costs annually. The improvements also reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 105,000 metric tons over 15 years.

In January 2011, the Empire State Building Company agreed to buy wind-based carbon offsets totaling 55 million kWh per year from Green Mountain Energy, making the Empire State Building carbon-neutral.

In March, the window technology used in the retrofitting of the building went on sale for commercial use. The iWindow is a thin material frame which is installed on the inside of existing windows. This then improves the thermal performance of single pane aluminum systems.

Article Courtesy of:  environmentalleader.com

Energy Star Certification

March 10th, 2011

Energy StarWilmington, NC home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes recently completed an Energy Star certified home in Landfall. The home received a 61 on the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) index, meaning it is 39% more efficient than a code minimum home.

The estimated ANNUAL energy cost for the 3100 sf home is $1,897. After the final calculation, the homeowner stated, “Wow, we would have spent that amount in 4 months at our last home.”

Basically, being 39% more efficient than code for this home equals $700+ savings PER YEAR. MJCH’s standard framing techniques, insulation package and HVAC system not only accommodate, but exceed Energy Star requirements. The return on investment is less than 15 months. If the homeowner stays in the home for 15 years, that’s $10,500 in savings and as our energy costs rise (and they will), the savings will be even greater. This also results in a more marketable home when it comes time to sell.

At the end of construction, our Energy Rater, Above and Beyond Energy, removed the front door, added pressure to the house and calculated the air leakage. This test, along with various field visits, ensured a 5 STARS PLUS rating which is the highest level attainable.

Programmable Thermostats

January 17th, 2011

Wilmington Custom Home Builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share with our readers a helpful article about how the proper use of programmable thermostats during cold winter months can help save energy and money.

Did you know that the average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills – nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling? Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.

Did you know that properly using a programmable thermostat in your home is one of the easiest ways you can save energy, money, and help fight global warming? A programmable thermostat helps make it easy for you to save by offering four pre-programmed settings to regulate your home’s temperature in both summer and winter – when you are asleep or away.

  • The pre-programmed settings that come with programmable thermostats are intended to deliver savings without sacrificing comfort. Depending on your family’s schedule, you can see significant savings by sticking with those settings or adjust them as appropriate for your family.
  • The key is to establish a program that automatically reduces heating and cooling in your home when you don’t need as much. Use the programmable thermostat calculator to see what you can save with set-back temperatures that work for your family. The pre-programmed settings for a programmable thermostat are:
Programmable Thermostat Setpoint Times & Temperatures
Setting Time Setpoint Temperature (Heat) Setpoint Temperature (Cool)
Wake 6:00 a.m. ≤ 70° F ≥ 78° F
Day 8:00 a.m. Setback at least 8° F Setup at least 7° F
Evening 6:00 p.m. ≤ 70° F ≥ 78° F
Sleep 10:00 p.m. Setback at least 8° F Setup at least 4° F
  1. Keep the temperature set at its energy savings set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours), for example, during the day, when no one is at home, and through the night, after bedtime.
  2. All thermostats let you temporarily make an area warmer or cooler, without erasing the pre-set programming. This override is cancelled automatically at the next program period. You use more energy (and end up paying more on energy bills) if you consistently “hold” or over-ride the pre-programmed settings.
  3. Units typically have two types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. Avoid using the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage day to day temperature settings. “Hold” or “vacation” features are best when you’re planning to be away for an extended period. Set this feature at a constant, efficient temperature (i.e. several degrees warmer temperature in summer, several degrees cooler during winter), when going away for the weekend or on vacation. You’ll waste energy and money if you leave the “hold” feature at the comfort setting while you’re away.
  4. Cranking your unit up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees, for example, will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats, including ENERGY STAR qualified units, begin to heat or cool at a set time, to reach setpoint temperatures sometime thereafter. Units with adaptive (smart/intelligent) recovery features are an exception to this rule — Adaptive recovery units are constantly calculating the amount of time required to heat or cool the house, so that it reaches that temperature when the homeowner programmed it. By “examining” the performance of the past few days the thermostat can keep track of the seasons. In this way, your house is always at the comfort levels when occupied, but saving the most energy when unoccupied.
  5. Many homes use just one thermostat to control the whole house. If your home has multiple heating or cooling zones, you’ll need a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to maximize comfort, convenience and energy savings throughout the house.
  6. If your programmable thermostat runs on batteries, don’t forget to change the batteries each year. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.

Article Courtesy of: www.EnergyStar.gov

New Hanover County, NC green home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share with our readers an interesting article courtesy of ConcreteNetwork.com.

Concrete is a friend of the environment in all stages of its life span, from raw material production to demolition, making it a natural choice for sustainable home construction. Here are some of the reasons why, according to the Portland Cement Association and the Environmental Council of Concrete Organizations:

Resource efficiency. The predominant raw material for the cement in concrete is limestone, the most abundant mineral on earth. Concrete can also be made with fly ash, slag cement, and silica fume, all waste byproducts from power plants, steel mills, and other manufacturing facilities.

Durability. Concrete builds durable, long-lasting structures that will not rust, rot, or burn. Life spans for concrete building products can be double or triple those of other common building materials.

Thermal mass. Homes built with concrete walls, foundations, and floors are highly energy efficient because they take advantage of concretes inherent thermal massor ability to absorb and retain heat. This means homeowners can significantly cut their heating and cooling bills and install smaller-capacity HVAC equipment.


Concrete Batch Plant. Davis Colors.

Reflectivity. Concrete minimizes the effects that produce urban heat islands. Light-colored concrete pavements and roofs absorb less heat and reflect more solar radiation than dark-colored materials, such as asphalt, reducing air conditioning demands in the summer.

Ability to retain stormwater.Paved surfaces tend to be impervious and can block natural water infiltration into the soil. This creates an imbalance in the natural ecosystem and leads to problems such as erosion, flash floods, water table depletion, and pollution. Pervious concrete is a special type of structural concrete with a sponge-like network of voids that water passes through readily. When used for driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, and other pavements, pervious concrete can help to retain stormwater runoff and replenish local water supplies.


This parking lot installed in 2001 at Bannister Park, Fair Oaks, Calif.,
is the first in the state to use pervious concrete. The Sacramento Cool
Communities program was a partner in the project, which used pervious
concrete for stormwater management and to reduce the urban heat-island
effect. In about 10 years, the trees will shade more than half the lot.

Minimal waste. Concrete can be produced in the quantities needed for each project, reducing waste. After a concrete structure has served its original purpose, the concrete can be crushed and recycled into aggregate for use in new concrete pavements or as backfill or road base.


Recycled Concrete Aggregate.
Photo Courtesy of Portland Cement Association.

Article Written By: Anne Balogh, ConcreteNetwork.com

Radiant Barrier Roof Sheathing

August 19th, 2010

We all know how hot attics can get in the summer months, causing HVAC systems to work overtime. Mark Johnson Custom Homes aims to educate both our clients and readers, so we’d like to share with you a Green product that we use in all of our homes called Radiant Barrier Roof Sheathing. 

Green Home Building in Wilmington, NCThe product name comes from the ability of the foil coating to be a barrier to the transfer of radiant heat. In the middle of summer, the temperature in attics using this product will be approximately 40% cooler than a home using traditional sheathing. The product is made by laminating a thin, durable sheet of aluminum to OSB.

We use LP® TechShield® in our homes because it is the only radiant barrier with VaporVents, incisions that penetrate the foil, glue and OSB substrate. This patented, post-lamination incising process allows LP TechShield panels to dry more quickly from construction moisture than other radiant barrier panels. Green Building in North CarolinaWithout this incising step, moisture could build up and lead to foil delamination.

But how it is Green exactly? Radiant Barrier Roof Sheathing helps reduce energy consumption. It’s ENERGY STAR®-certified and reduces the heat load on in-attic air handling systems, cutting monthly air conditioning bills up to 17%. Several other factors make Radiant Barrier an environmentally friendly building material; for more information on Radiant Barrier Roof Sheathing, click here

Mark Johnson and his team have extensive experience with Green building, including their Green home in Wilmington, NC. The home was not only Energy Star Certified, but also earned a LEED Platinum Rating, the highest attainable certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

This article was featured in our August issue of The Precursive Planner, our free monthly e-newsletter. Subscribe to receive our home builder newsletter today!

In a previous blog post, Mark Johnson Custom Homes introduced our readers to The Energy Detective (TED) , the latest in energy monitoring systems for your home. TED was essential in giving their Green home in Landfall in Wilmington, NC a LEED Platinum rating, the highest rating of a Green home by the U.S. Green Building Council and certifying it as an Energy Star home. As emphasized previously by Mark Johnson Custom Homes and in a recent article by Stephani L. Miller of CustomHomeOnline.com, installing an energy monitor alone will not lead to utility savings. There are two key points that must be addressed regarding the system you’re installing and its daily use.

First, the energy monitoring system must provide essential data to the homeowner that will result in behavioral changes. Real-time data that is useful to the homeowner is a must, whether it’s in table or chart form, or includes tips on how to manage your home’s energy consumption. And secondly, the information must prompt the homeowner to implement behavioral changes. Changing your behavior is the most effective method in energy savings and according to Miller’s report, many of the latest monitoring systems do not provide the proper information for homeowners. The Mark Johnson Custom Homes team is proud to announce that TED provides real-time information in an easy to use format, therefore increasing your annual energy savings!  

Energy Monitoring System

If you live in the Wilmington, NC area and would like more information on The Energy Detective, contact Electronics 2 You, a trusted member of the Mark Johnson Custom Homes team and one of Coastal Carolina’s finest home audio establishments.

Green Bathroom ArticleCustom home builder Mark Johnson maintains a 100% referral rating by ensuring his clients have a quality, pleasurable home building experience. One part of making sure his clients are fully satisfied is by staying atop the latest building trends, including Green options for custom homes. Research is key for Mark and his team to do this, which is why resourceful articles from websites such as RealtyTimes.com can be so helpful in being certain the clients’ needs are exceeded.

An article posted today from RealtyTimes.com highlighted new design innovations that are becoming more frequent in high-end homes. One such novelty is Active Clean Air and Antibacterial Ceramic Tiles by Savoia Canada, which use titanium dioxide and sunlight to clean the air of harmful pollutants. Kohler Canada introduced a series of waterless urinals and toilets for your home that feature a control for water temperature, heated seats, a deodorizing function and more. And Broad-Nutone’s Humidity Sensing Fans automatically turn on the bathroom fan by monitoring the humidity levels in the bathroom.

For more information on these and other bathroom trends, read the complete Realty Times article by Jim Adair!

Cape Fear Green Building AssociationDid you know there is a well-connected Green building organization in Wilmington, NC? The Cape Fear Green Building Alliance is a great resource for homeowners looking to retrofit their home, Green building professionals wanting to take educational courses, Green event in the area and everything in between! The Mark Johnson Custom Homes team learned the value of the CFGBA last year when we had a chance to work with them after building our first completely Green home in Wilmington, NC. This new home in Landfall, which is Energy Star and LEED Platinum Certified, was featured in the CFGBA’s 5th Annual Solar and Green Building Tour.

The CFGBA has monthly socials, offers online message boards via their website, monthly e-newsletters, resourceful online publications available and much more! Visit their site today and see how the CFGBA can help you with all of your Green building needs!