The family oohed and aahed as they were led through their
new hogan-style home, and rejoiced at the thought of never
having to pay another electric bill, thanks to the home's
solar collectors and wind generator.
even as the show aired last October, five months after the
home was completed, reality was seeping through the
had started to surface with the air conditioner, water was
draining from the roof right into the foundation, and the
greywater irrigation system was malfunctioning, creating a
stinky cesspool in the yard.
water, the landscaping was dying.
midwinter it was evident this extreme makeover had some
extreme glitches. The house was freezing. For days on end,
the Yazzies could not get the indoor temperature above 40
degrees, even with the thermostats cranked all the way up.
daughter Geralene and her children, who live in an
attached smaller hogan, moved into the main hogan because
their side was even colder.
their brand-new solar-heated house, the Yazzies lived like
traditional Navajos, huddling around a decorative
wood-burning fireplace to keep warm.
which airs "Extreme Makeover," installed
electric baseboard heaters, shooting the family's electric
bills up to $400 a month.
wind turbine, which was supposed to supplement the solar
collectors, especially during the winter, stopped working
after the first few months.
for help, the Yazzies called Mark Snyder, the electrician
who had installed the solar collectors and heating system.
Snyder made a trip from his home in Los Angeles and found
his system was working fine.
when the drywall was peeled back, the problem became
clear: the insulation in the home's walls had settled,
leaving the upper third of the walls completely without
insulation. The thermal wrap that was supposed to help
seal the house had huge gaps in the corners.
systems are designed to work with houses that are like a
Thermos," Snyder explained. "That house is more
like a barn."
hot days, in contrast, the house is uncomfortably warm. It
had been designed in traditional Navajo style, with an
east-facing door. The problem is, the door is made of
morning sun would hit it and the whole front entrance
would be like a furnace," Snyder said.
problem was alleviated somewhat by painting the door
white, but it still transmits a lot of heat.
there were cosmetic problems: the cork flooring was
peeling up, tiles were falling off the shower walls, and
two huge pine beams were pulling away from the walls.
afraid to have someone sit under them in the living
room," Yazzie said. "I keep thinking one of
these days one of them is going to fall."
light fixture did fall.
could have hit one of the grandkids,'" Yazzie said.
spring, a water pipe burst, flooding the crawl space. At 3
a.m., the family was desperately searching for the main
water valve so they could shut it off - "Nobody ever
gave me a blueprint to the house," she said.
winter is coming again, and Yazzie is hoping the situation
won't repeat itself. ABC did send someone to blow foam
insulation into the floor and attic, but Snyder said that
without insulating the walls, it won't be much help.
commissioned an energy audit by a Flagstaff firm, which
shows huge heat leaks at various places in the home.
to E3 Energy, the company that performed the audit,
"This leakage is equivalent to over an 18-inch (by)
18-inch hole in the envelope of the home."
Snyder had to hire a local handyman to carve the foam
insulation out of the night ventilation system his company
had installed in the attic.
is trying to cheap it, and it's not going to work,"
he said. "They need to send someone in here and get
this taken care of."
said she's been reluctant to complain for fear of looking
you look at where we were a year ago and where we are now,
it's much better," she said. "I have a house
with running water and electricity and a room for
"happily ever after" is still in the works.
winter's around the corner again, and I'm worried,"
Yazzie said. "I don't want my grandkids getting sick
from living in a cold house."
is also worried for her youngest daughter Gwen, who has
asthma. Gwen's health had improved considerably after the
family moved into the home, thanks to a state-of-the-art
air filtration system, but that was removed along with the
malfunctioning air conditioner.
Sullivan of IQAir, the system's manufacturer, said his
company will be glad to reinstall the filter if someone
will just tell him where it is. Yazzie says she has no
said she and her son Garrett Yazzie, whose award-winning
science project was the impetus for the green-built house,
have fixed some of the defects with the help of Snyder,
local handyman Danny Begay, and donations from Garrett's
friends in Orchard Lake, Mich., where he attends a college
replaced the cork floor with a wood floor that seems to be
of the stuff I can deal with if I have to, but I want the
house to be warm," Yazzie said. "If they would
just fix the insulation I would be happy."
has been battling illness and mobility problems stemming
from an automobile crash two years ago, and hasn't been
able to go back to her job as a heavy equipment operator.
living on her disability check, and says if she has
another winter of $400-a-month electric bills, it's going
to break her.
a previous interview, Garrett said his main motivation in
accepting the house was so he wouldn't have to worry about
his family while he was away at school.
I worry about them more than I did when they were in the
trailer" that was torn down to make way for the
house, he said.
warranty on the house is up, but Georgia said she brought
most of the problems to ABC's attention before it expired.
Guest of HomeLife Communities, which built the house, said
he has been apprised of the problems and was told by ABC
that the corporation would take care of them.
a while they were calling me to consult about various
problems with the house, but I haven't heard from them in
three or four months," Guest said.
Makeover: Home Edition" executive producer Diane
Korman referred this reporter to ABC's public relations
employee there requested an e-mailed list of the problems
at the house. As of Monday there had been no reply to that
Burgess, a spokeswoman for Flagstaff-based Southwest
Windpower, which manufactured the wind turbine, said the
company was unaware the windmill is malfunctioning and
would send someone to look at it.
said she's a traditional Navajo and tries to maintain
hózhó, so she's keeping a positive attitude and trusting
ABC to come through.
don't want this to come out negative," she said.
"They've done a lot for us."
Snyder, who has made several trips to the home and spent
thousands of dollars helping the Yazzies correct its
defects, said he's angry with the broadcasting company for
capitalizing on the Yazzies' story without giving them the
happy ending they were promised.
Cinderella someone and then abandon them," he said.
"How mean is that?"