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By JOHN FRIEDLEIN email@example.com ELIZABETHTOWN — Steve Rafferty moved last year into a home that is both energy efficient and an easy place to spend retirement years. Constructed by local builder Greg Shircliff, the Valley Creek Road home at first glance doesn't look unusual. It's not until Rafferty, who designed the home, points out features such as his EcoStar roof made of recycled rubber that the differences become evident. It looks like slate, although it comes in different patterns and colors, and it has a 50-year warranty. Also on the roof are nine skylights called solar tubes. They are lined with reflective aluminum, so on the inside it looks like a bulb glows behind an opaque cover in the ceiling. "Any room that doesn't have a window has a skylight," Rafferty said. The house also features a geothermal system, which heats a radiant floor to provide the only source of heat during the winter. Warmed water courses through floor pipes embedded in a concrete slab. That is covered with wood flooring, which doesn't transfer heat as efficiently as tile but can be more appealing. In the summer, the ground cools the water for the air conditioning system. Rafferty was told he will make up for the extra expense of the geothermal system in seven to nine years through savings on utility bills. Adding to this efficiency, the home's walls were made thick to accommodate extra insulation plus a layer of insulation was installed under the floor. And keeping living space at less than 2,000 square feet saves energy -- and makes it easier to clean. A large garage provides storage space to cut down on clutter. Being a retirement home, it's all on one level and it has wheelchair-friendly designs, such as no stairs. Plus the pocket doors open wide for easy access. Also, there is a roll-in shower in the bathroom and bars to hold on to, and pocket doors both save space and provide easier access to closets. The home also has safety features such as large wiring and other fire prevention measures. As for energy efficiency, improvements can be made to existing residences. For instance, small- to medium-sized changes include replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Rafferty in a previous house, reduced his electric costs by about $40 a month doing this. Also, curtains and blinds can be adjusted to let in the sun in the winter an keep it out in the summer. Rafferty's kitchen features efficient appliances and he put devices such as his computer on a power strip, so he can keep it from sipping power while not in use. Also, he may plant evergreens on the north side of his property to block the winter wind. Deciduous trees on the south will help let in sun during cold months. A member of a solar energy society in the early '80s, Rafferty plans to look into the possibility of photovoltaic panels for the south side of his house. He may supplement itwith a turbine, although Kentucky isn't the best state to harness wind energy. In addition to cutting down on pollution, a green home -- while costing more up front -- saves money over time. "The energy efficiency portion puts more money in my pocket," Rafferty said. "And when you're retired, you don't want to go spending the money needlessly." John Friedlein can be reached at 505-1746.