Minnesota lakeshore home with 'off-grid zero energy cost' lists for … – Star Tribune

A few years ago Jim and Dar Walczak decided it was time to merge their house and cabin into one.
It just so happened that at the same time they started to look, Dar’s sister had just listed 5 acres of shoreline property on Beebe Lake she owned in St. Michael.
“Before we were jetting to our cabin in Wisconsin and then our house in Andover. The two houses were too much to maintain,” Jim said. “So that’s what we wanted out here — all the fun of lake living and year-round living.”
They wanted a modern house with ample square footage to accommodate their family’s needs. At the same time, the Walczaks saw it as an opportunity to build a house as renewable and energy-efficient as possible.
“It’s built so that it would have a net zero energy footprint,” Jim said. “We wanted it to be a responsible bigger home and give back more than we consume.”
A net zero footprint
When working with a team to build the house, spray foam insulation was used for the walls and roof. Solar panels were installed, as was a geothermal heating and cooling system.
“We have three 100-foot ground geothermal pipe loops that supply the majority of our heating and cooling,” Jim said. “In the summertime, we can use it nonstop and it uses almost no energy. … In the wintertime, if our geothermal doesn’t provide enough heat, we have a backup furnace.”
The house also has its own well and septic system. Special order Powerwall backup battery packs — strong enough to deliver energy throughout the grounds — were also installed.
“[Our contractors] assured us that our entire home can run off the six Tesla Powerwall batteries even during the winter solstice in December. We wanted it to be a net zero energy footprint and kind of a safe haven if you have to be off the grid,” said Jim, adding that a Starlink (satellite) also has allowed them to have the internet without any utility connectivity.
Enjoying the space
With the house completed in 2017, the Walczaks settled in and enjoyed all it had to offer. Its coziness is one thing that stood out, between the four fireplaces and geothermal aspects.
“It’s beautiful in the winter with the in-floor heat. It’s a walkout ranch, and because we have coils in the basement, it’s the most comfortable room. Usually, lower levels are cold, but this lower level is cozy,” Jim said. “And because everything is spray foam, there’s not a lot of air movement. When the wind blows, it doesn’t get drafty.”
Another thing they’ve enjoyed is how the blueprint has allowed the family and their guests to spread out.
“It has two kitchens, laundry areas,” Dar said, adding that there’s also a downstairs pool table and bar. “You could easily live on the bottom level without ever needing anything upstairs. You could live on the main level without ever needing to go downstairs.”
And then there are the cost savings. By Jim’s estimates, energy bills are about 40% less than if a house of the same size was running off traditional natural gas.
For example, in July, the bill was just more than $100, and that was mainly to cover splurges such as two additional refrigerators, a hot tub and sauna. But ultimately, with $550 in solar credits, it covered those costs and more.
“We contribute more to the grid than we consume, so because of that we get a credit at the end of the year,” he said. “We use that credit to pay our other bills. There’s [essentially] no electric bill. We have a small gas bill.”
Listing it
When they built the house, it was just what the Walczaks needed — a home that was also their cabin. It was spacious enough to raise their two school-aged children while their two adult children living out of state and their guests could regularly have extended stays.
“They would come to visit and enjoy the summers here and have their own space. But now they all have their own houses,” Dar said. “Honestly, it’s too much house for Jim and I.”
The couple have listed the six-bedroom, five-bathroom with more than 5,500 square feet for $2.95 million.
Listing agent Zach Dooher said the property is like no other inside and out. For starters, it comes with an eight-car garage and ample shoreline with a beach house, dock and stretch of private beach. In essence, it’s a resort-style home in which a vacation and primary home are combined into one property.
“Not only does it incorporate all the best parts of country and lake living, including 325 feet of lakeshore and gorgeous sunsets, it uniquely combines solar with geothermal energy to deliver an off-grid zero energy cost,” he said. “It is beyond unique due to its 24-7-365 off-grid living.”
Zach Dooher (zach@dooherhomes.com; 763-202-1726) of Realty Group, has the $2.95 million listing.

Nancy Ngo is the Star Tribune Home & Garden Editor.
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