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Net Zero Energy Home in Fraser

Joe Smyth and Kristen Taddonio

Joe and Kristen Taddanio live in Fraser, which is one of the coldest climates in Colorado. After years of living in a tiny home, they were eager to design and build a modest home in the mountains on their newly purchased, 1/8th acre lot. Kristen and Joe are both energy-conscious individuals with backgrounds in science, technology, and energy policy, and they have worked for organizations like the U.S. EPA (Energy Star Program), Mountain Parks Electric, and the Energy and Policy Institute.

In 2017, Joe and Kristen attended the CU Boulder Solar Decathlon showcase in Denver. Looking to get more involved with energy efficiency, they were very impressed with the innovative, sustainable home designs on display. Roughly two years later, Kristen and Joe were asked to sponsor a solar decathlon team for the 2020/2021 Solar Decathlon Build Challenge. They saw the invitation as an opportunity to combine their passions for home electrification and affordable housing, and they wanted to build a home that produces more energy than it consumes.

Their new home, designed and built by a team of students during the pandemic, is known as SPARC, which stands for sustainability, performance, attainability, resilience, and community.


  • Ultra-low energy costs; the home generates more electricity than it uses.
  • Low initial costs of home – lower than market rate
  • Excellent comfort
Image of Net Zero Energy Home in Fraser

The cost of their new home was $330,000, a savings of approximately 30% compared to the market rate for a comparable home built in Fraser based on price per square foot. Joe and Kristen pay less to heat and cool their new 1,176 square-foot home in Fraser than their previous home, a 275 square foot “tiny home” in Fraser. Their annual utility expenses are around $400, primarily from “fixed” energy charges like the $29 per month service availability fee. The home includes a solar PV system which produced 9,484 kilowatt- hours (kWh) of electricity  from April 2021 – March 2022 (more electricity than the home consumed).

“I love that our home uses heat pumps instead of methane gas to stay warm during the cold winters in the High Rockies, which means no combustion and air pollution in our home, no risk of dangerous gas leaks, and no exposure to increasingly expensive and volatile gas prices.”


“I love the comfort of living in a quiet, well-insulated home, and the assurance of low energy bills for years to come!” – Kristen

Quick Facts

  • Location:
    Fraser, CO
  • Home Size:
    1190 ft2
  • Year Completed:
  • Cost:
    $330,000, about 30% below market rate for comparable home in area.
  • Builder:
    Team of CU students
  • Building Code:
    DOE Net-zero, passive solar
  • Heating & Cooling:
    Three Mitsubishi cold-climate mini-split heat pumps, with electric resistance back-up
  • Why This Heating System:
    Very efficient, desire to be all-electric, much cheaper and easier to install than ground source heat pump system.
  • Water Heating:
    Standard electric, with SkyCentrics control module for scheduled heating and for demand response.
  • Cooking:
    Radiant electric
  • Solar:
    7.6 kW, 24 panels
  • Storage: