OBERLIN — Step into the home of Andy and Cindy Frantz and you usually won’t hear the roar of the air conditioner.
Yet it’s cool and pleasant, even on a hot day.
That’s because the couple has insulated their sprawling Victorian on King Street so well that cool night air remains trapped in the house throughout the day.
When they do turn on the air for in-laws or other visitors, the power comes from their own solar panels.
The panels generate so much electricity on sunny summer days they supply power to Oberlin Municipal Light and Power.
The Frantz family’s changes have brought them national recognition with a profile on their efforts to go green in Better Homes and Gardens this month.
Andy Frantz estimated the family spent about $30,000 on renovations and cut a $400 monthly energy bill in half.
It’s surprisingly easy if you take it one step at a time, Frantz said. A representative of the city’s power plant came to the house and recommended installing two types of insulation, he said.
“There’s no need to waste oil and energy,” said Frantz, director of the America Reads tutoring program in Oberlin.
Cindy Frantz, a psychology professor at Oberlin College, said the house is popular among the ecologically conscious — another professor brings her environmental science students to the home to check out the energy and water-saving efforts.
It was that professor — Kathryn Janda — who recommended that Better Homes and Gardens feature the family for the magazine’s approximately 40 million readers.
While the Frantzes could have built a new home, Cindy Frantz said there was greater satisfaction in updating their 2,400-square-foot Victorian beauty, which has gorgeous oak trim and homey features like window seats.
The city of Oberlin was extremely helpful, she said. In addition to surveying the home and recommending insulation, the city’s light and power department allows the electric meter to run backward to give the couple credit for electricity that returns to the system.
Kitty Morgan, executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens, said the Frantz family was a great choice for the debut of the “Living Green” feature. And she predicts it will be popular with readers.
“We can’t have the same energy profile forever — it’s money out of the pocket,” Morgan said. “Now you have the oil and gas prices going up and Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ which became a must-see.”
Morgan said the Frantzes are a family that cares about the earth.
“I just love them — these people are dedicated to making their lives much more eco-sensitive,” she said. “They view it as part of their faith — being Unitarians, they see it as a moral issue to be good stewards of the Earth.”
Cindy Frantz said some things are just better when they’re done naturally.
For example, she said there’s nothing like the fresh eggs they get from their chickens and home-grown vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, beans, onions, potatoes, lettuce and cucumbers.
She said their lifestyle seems like a very natural thing.
“Growing up we took a lot of hikes and camped and went to really beautiful places,” she said. “That’s what really motivates me.”
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frantz Family Energy Savers
Two types of insulation — cellulose blown into the outside walls of their old Victorian and spray-on icynene insulation inside to keep in heat in the winter and cool in the summer
Solar panels to generate electricity
Ceiling fans; close windows at about 8 a.m. on hot days and open the windows at night when it cools
Energy Star refrigerator
Tankless water heater that provides hot water only on demand
No clothes dryer — front-loading washing machine nearly spins clothing dry. Items are hung outside or in the attic to finish drying
Downspouts connected to rain barrels, which save water for the garden
Composted chicken manure, grass clippings and leaves instead of man-made fertilizers
Electric mower, which costs about $5 a year in power to operate
Toyota Prius hybrid that replaced 1992 Honda Civic
Steve Manheim / chronicle photos
Andy and Cindy Frantz, with sons Dalin (left), 11, and Noah, 8, in front of their Oberlin home.