ELLENTON -- There's always compelling human stories when Habitat for Humanity dedicates homes, as it did Sunday at Hope Landing in Ellenton.
This time, when the curtain was raised on the 103rd and 104th Habitat homes built in Manatee County, there stood proud new homeowners DeAngela Griffin and her bright and energetic daughter DeShaunte Turner, 8, and Cheryl Roth and her cuddly granddaughter, Bayleigh, 18 months.
But, without them realizing it, their new three-bedroom, two-bath homes upstaged them both.
Their duplex is on the leading edge of "green" technology, said Manatee County commissioner and former Palmetto mayor Larry Bustle, one of the roughly 40 people who attended the dedication of these easy-on-the-earth homes, fittingly on Earth Day.
"I like this swing toward energy efficiency," Bustle said. "That is a departure. I remember back in 2005 we did Habitat for Humanity for 38 families in downtown Palmetto but it didn't have these innovations."
Griffin, who works at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Roth, a custodian for Manatee County, will be neighbors in this remarkable duplex in Hope Landing, at 1647 38th Avenue E., Ellenton, nearly across the street from Blackburn Elementary School.When finished, the community, which has two residents now, will have 18 Habitat of Humanity homeowners.
Griffin and Roth, who qualified for Habitat for Humanity homes based on their jobs, income and need, will be the third and fourth residents in a few months.
As the dedication day evolved Sunday and many spoke, it was clear that Griffin, who is described by Habitat family service manager DiDi Hager as "a model of perseverance" and Roth, described by Hager as "a woman with great inner strength," had both poured their hearts and sweat equity into their new energy-efficient homes.
Habitat homeowners complete hundreds of "sweat equity" hours in the building of their homes and the homes of other Habitat neighbors, said Diana Shoemaker, executive director of Habitat for Humanity.
But there was no getting around that their duplex was special.
The duplex, which gives each homeowner 1,100 square feet, has outer walls made of blocks constructed with a Styrofoam-like substance attached on the outside and inside so concrete can be poured in between the open spaces.
This makes the homes capable of withstanding hurricane wind speeds of more than 200 mph and it provides an R-23 insulation value, said Bruce Winter, construction manger for Habitat for Humanity.
The R-23 rating will help the house maintain a constant temperature and requires a smaller heating and air conditioning system, Winter said.
In fact, with the "mini-split" Mitsubishi heating and air conditioning system on the homes, the expected electric bills would be half of what a normal home construction would be, Winter said.
The mini-split, so named because it can supply different rates of cooling, is only as big as a suitcase on the side of the house.
The heating and air conditioning system for the duplex costs about 10 or 15 percent more than a regular air conditioning system, but will save the homeowners money over time, Winter said.
"It ramps up and down like a hybrid car providing more or less cooling to the home as needed," Winter said.
The duplex also has a solar water heating system, which will save Griffin and Roth a third of the cost of their monthly electric utility bill, Winter said.
The solar water heating system costs $4,000 which is 10 times the cost of a regular hot water heater. Winter projects the system will start returning value to the homeowners in eight years.
"Our homeowner across the street who has three children moved in last August," Winter said. "They were living in a two bedroom, one bath apartment. They were averaging $110 a month in electricity bills. Their bill for August was $41."
The duplex also has spray foam insulation in the attic ceiling, Winter said.
"What that does is keep the attic at a temperature that stays within 10 degrees of the living space," Winter said. "Most attics get to 140 to 160 degrees during the summer."
The spray foam insulation will run five times the cost of regular blown in insulation, but also pays the homeowners back, Winter said.
"When it was all said and done the energy-saving features of the home were about eight percent over standard construction costs, Winter said.
Habitat for Humanity plans to hold town meetings, first in Palmetto, to help the general public understand how going green will actually save them money, Winter said.
"We hope to get started with a meeting in about a month in Palmetto," Winter said.
One way people can learn about making their houses "green" now is to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Winter said.
"The volunteers who come to work with us have no previous construction experience," Winter said. "They learn how to side their home or put a roof on their home by volunteering with us."
Volunteers are welcome to come out at 7:30 a.m. to noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at Hope Landing, Winter said. More volunteering opportunities can be found at manateehabitat.org,
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.