LAYTON, Utah— John Loveless doesn’t sweat when it’s in the triple digits. That’s because he lives in what he calls “a giant Yeti cooler,” a very energy-efficient house that was mostly homemade by the Layton resident.
His story begins years ago when, to save money, the engineer installed some solar cells on his house.
“Sunscreen is the gateway drug,” jokes Loveless.
This led to the addition of more insulation and efficient LED lighting, a heat transfer pump to heat and cool his home, a sewer heat recovery system to save energy from hot water running drains into sewers and several other energy saving measures. Loveless even transformed a petrol car into an electric car.
“I pushed this house until it was profitable and practical,” he said.
Loveless started thinking about building a new house, designed from the ground up, incorporating these measurements, and more.
Eventually, he and his wife designed their dream home, found land, and got to work.
Loveless planned to be the general contractor and do some of the work himself, but hire other people to build much of the house. He had worked in construction in the past.
There was one problem, however: the pandemic. Subcontractors were either unavailable or were now over budget.
Loveless was going to have to build most of the house; himself.
“I work full time. I also teach part-time. There were a lot of cold winter nights,” he recalls. “’What have I gotten myself into? What was I thinking?'”
Loveless did the earthworks, foundations, framing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, tiling and painting himself.
“Building my own house was one of the craziest, stressful yet rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life,” he told a Audience TikTok.
Stepping through the front door of the two-story home, you enter a spacious two-story living area and a giant concrete slab that rests on foam insulation.
“It’s like a heat battery. So whatever the temperature of the room, this concrete will take that temperature,” says Loveless.
The walls are thicker and better insulated than a standard house.
“This house is basically a giant Yeti cooler,” he said. “You can turn off the heating or air conditioning, and it will maintain the temperature for six hours.
Windows and eaves are positioned to provide shade in summer and sun in winter.
“(In winter) It’s like 5000 watts of heat working. It’s like four heaters running for free,” Loveless said.
He installed heat pumps, devices that use outside energy to heat and cool air and heat water.
“Solar energy falls from the sky for free. Let’s use that to power our house. Let’s use that to power our cars,” Loveless explained.
The garage houses three electric vehicles.
The total cost, including the land, Loveless said, was $422,000. He estimates that he paid four percent more for materials than he would have for a standard house.
Now their monthly electricity bill, which powers the house and cars, is $80 a month, but, he says, it’s not just about the money anymore.
It’s about demonstrating, not necessarily to do-it-yourselfers but to home builders, that homes like this can be achievable and affordable.
“Seeing the environmental good, why not do it for the environment too,” Loveless said. “Why can’t you have both?” Why can’t you save money and protect the environment? I believe that caring for the environment and being a good steward of the Earth is a moral value close to my heart.