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Scholastic Kids Press Corps
The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of about 50 Kid Reporters around the nation.  The interactive site brings daily news to life with reporting for kids, by kids.

Green House

A New York family expands their home, reduces carbon footprint

By Matthew Spana | null null , null
Sarah Ellenbogen shows Kid Reporter Matthew Spana where rain water is stored in the basement of her family's home in Pelham Manor, New York. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Spana)<br />
Sarah Ellenbogen shows Kid Reporter Matthew Spana where rain water is stored in the basement of her family's home in Pelham Manor, New York. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Spana)

The Ellenbogen family of Pelham Manor, New York, lives in a large stone house, with a gym, an elevator, and an indoor fountain. Sound impressive? It is, but the most amazing part of this home is the size of its carbon footprint—not its 8,000 square feet of living space. The Ellenbogen home runs on geothermal and solar energy.

A carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air when oil or gas is burned to create a product, drive an engine, or fuel a vehicle. Carbon dioxide harms the environment and contributes to global warming.

When homeowners Rich and Maryann Ellenbogen built their dream home, they made sure it did not have a big carbon footprint. Mr. Ellenbogen designed and built an energy-efficient, cost effective “smart” home with geothermal heating and cooling, recycled rainwater, solar panels, and energy efficient design.

Geothermal heating and cooling systems use heat from water pumped up from inside the earth. It is not a common system in the New York area. It consists of a 750 foot pipe drilled down into three wells under the house. The water pumped up from underground is at 52 degrees. To heat the house in winter a heat pump pulls the heat out of the water and heats another system of water. That water travels through tubes in the floors of the house. This is called radiant heating. In the summer, to cool the house, the system runs in reverse. Heat is pulled from the house and added back to the water. As it travels down it is returned to the ground at a higher temperature.

The Ellenbogen house also collects rainwater and stores it in large tanks in the basement. The two daughters, Sarah, who is 7, and Rachel, who is 9, call this the “train room” because the big tanks look like trains. The tanks recycle and use this water for the grass and plants around the house.

Fifty solar panels installed on the side of the property collect energy from the sun. The solar panels provide electricity for the entire house. In fact, the solar panel system can run up to three regular sized homes!

On really sunny days, extra energy is created and the electric meter runs backwards, subtracting from the electric bill. On cloudy days when more is power is needed, they get it from the electric company. These panels are very expensive to install, but can save a lot of money over time.

Some other green products in the home are energy efficient windows and insulation. Mr. Ellenbogen says these are things most homeowners can do to reduce their own carbon footprints. Even kids can help, he told Scholastic News.

“Remind your readers to turn off lights and the television when they leave rooms,” he said. The Ellenbogens have something really cool for this. They can control the lights and temperature in each room by computer!


Celebrate 40 years of Earth Day and the fight to keep our planet clean on April 22. Scholastic Kid Reporters explore ways to make every day Earth Day in the Earth Day @ 40 Special Report.


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