Tucked in the earth

Tucked in a hillside, in the farm country of Tuscarawas Township, lies an ode to clean and energy-efficient living.

Tucked in a hillside, in the farm country of Tuscarawas Township, lies an ode to clean and energy-efficient living.

Built into a hillside on Barrs Street SW, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home measures 1,830 square feet. The rear of the house and one entire side wall are built into a hill, making them effectively below ground. Skylights in every room and large southern exposure front windows help heat and light the all-electric house.

“I don’t think I ever had an electric bill more than $150, even in the coldest month,” said Myra Zepp, whose husband, Dave, and friend built the house in 1977 and 1978. The Zepps lived there until about a year ago, when it was turned over to their 25-year-old grandson Kevin Smith, who shares it with his fiancee.

The house is one of nine earth homes located in Stark County, according to information from the county auditor office, which appraises all real estate in the area.

Earth homes are structures that make use of terrain in at least a portion of the construction. Although they are energy efficient, they typically cost about 20 percent more to build than a conventional house.

Dave and Myra Zepp said they spent about $80,000 to build the house nearly 40 years ago, though much of the labor was performed free of charge by Dave Zepp himself.

“We were being environmental before it was in style,” Myra Zepp said.

Geothermal-heated, the house has a backup heat source, though it never has been used. A white rubberized roof helps reflect sunlight to cool in the summer. The home’s 12-inch block walls, coated with a material similar to those used in commercial freezers, helps keep the heat in and the cold out.

“People don’t realize how well the earth can insulate,” Myra Zepp said.