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(CBS2Chicago.com)   Zero energy solar homes: If the meter arrow points left, you're sending power - if it points right, you're buying it   (cbs2chicago.com) divider line 121
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16512 clicks; posted to Main » on 13 Sep 2008 at 2:36 AM (5 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2008-09-12 11:50:48 PM
From what I've read and heard, one of the main problems with this type of system (applies to wind energy as well) is that the electric company charges you about 10 times the cost of what they give you for each kilowatt/hr you give them.
 
2008-09-13 12:00:48 AM
This again?

These houses at this point are prototypes & super-expensive, even with gov't rebates.

From an engineering standpoint, it's cool as Hades. What IS doable is buying a solar-powered water-heating system. Where I live, they are both federally & locally rebatable. No clue on how expensive maintenence/replacement is, though.
 
2008-09-13 12:02:42 AM
This sort of thing really should be mandatory for new homes being built.
 
2008-09-13 12:07:18 AM
ninjakirby This sort of thing really should be mandatory for new homes being built.

Yep. Anybody who builds a new home should have to pay a much higher rate for energy than the rest of us. That's exactly what the US needs right now, another way to harm the construction industry.
 
2008-09-13 12:09:03 AM
it's gonna get cheaper, thank you early adopters. It is the way of the future.
 
2008-09-13 12:22:35 AM
knbber2: From what I've read and heard, one of the main problems with this type of system (applies to wind energy as well) is that the electric company charges you about 10 times the cost of what they give you for each kilowatt/hr you give them.

You're right, a $150 energy bill is cheaper than a $0 one.

Considering most homeowners aren't in the energy business and that they install these types of generators primarily to offset or even nullify their energy bills, I'd hardly consider the resale value a problem.
 
2008-09-13 12:23:57 AM
Not bad....possibly good....
 
2008-09-13 12:24:50 AM
IronTom: it's gonna get cheaper, thank you early adopters. It is the way of the future.

Thank you for the reasonable response.

I still wonder, in this solar hell-hole we call Arizona, why new homes aren't equipped with solar panels on the roof, if nothing else but to run the air conditioner. I have friends who pay over $350 a month to cool their homes to a balmy 78-80 degrees. I can't sleep in that kind of heat.

I live in an apartment building with a central chiller and don't pay utilities. My AC is cranked from April to October. I love the nice, big comforters and blankets on my bed in July.
 
2008-09-13 12:26:31 AM
IronTom it's gonna get cheaper, thank you early adopters. It is the way of the future.

Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner. When oil is $20 a barrel, there's no point in investing in solar. With oil where it is now, investing in solar makes perfect sense.

There is no need for a federal government energy policy. People will invest in alternative energy when it makes sense. When it doesn't make sense, there's no point in taking our money to give to those who bribe congressmen. That's not to say that I'm against a Pigovian tax on carbon-based energy, for example, but the hairshirts need to get the respect they deserve, which is none.
 
2008-09-13 12:28:26 AM
ecmoRandomNumbers: I have friends who pay over $350 a month to cool their homes to a balmy 78-80 degrees. I can't sleep in that kind of heat.

This summer has been so awesome in the Ozark Mountains, my AC has been turned off since early August.

I was in Vegas last week - hell on earth. I don't know how you people in the desert SW do it.
 
2008-09-13 12:30:46 AM
knbber2: is that the electric company charges you about 10 times the cost of what they give you for each kilowatt/hr you give them.

Depends on the power company. I'm negotiating with Dominion power right now to figure out a rate. Part of the problem is that you can't, from your house, actually "upload" electricity with anything approaching the same efficiency that it gets delivered. In rural areas, like where I am, you can offset electricity usage for people nearby.

You are essentially lessening demand on the grid for a very localized area. The rate they credit you for is based on the average drop in demand near your source. Right now, about the best we'd be able to do is power our own stuff (take it to zero) and maybe have a little extra for the three farms nearby. 1 kilowatt hour from a solar grid on my farm would provide at best a 0.3 kilowatt hour for our neighbors right next door, which is about a quarter mile away.

Factor in the switching costs for your meter (you pay for it) and for someone like me looking for sustainability then batteries don't look like such a bad idea. But batteries, once full, are wasted energy.

We're seriously looking into using land for electricity production, but the cost/benefit analysis is tricky. Right now there aren't a whole lot of tax breaks, or at least there aren't enough to justify the cost if you want to sell the power back. There might be enough to justify installing the panels if we live here for the next 20 years.

And this:

The wood floors are made from fast growing bamboo with a non-toxic finish

makes me laugh a little bit. Our house is 120 years old, and it still has the original pine wood floors throughout. Pine is a soft wood, but when it's taken care of and cut thick enough it lasts forever. We still have to re-wax it every year, no biggie. New bamboo floors are cut to less than a quarter inch thickness - they won't last. Whatever pine trees died a century ago to make our floors - they're still contributing.
 
2008-09-13 12:42:48 AM
nashBridges: Whatever pine trees died a century ago to make our floors - they're still contributing.

Things (and I'm not trying to channel my dead grandparents here) were actually built to last back then. People thought more long-term. "House-flipping" would've been considered lunacy and get you locked up as a swindler.
 
2008-09-13 12:46:57 AM
ecmoRandomNumbers: in this solar hell-hole we call Arizona

You would easily benefit when the technology becomes the competitive choice. All that sun, man, it ain't London, it is Arizona, you get the energy.
 
2008-09-13 12:53:11 AM
nashBridges: You are essentially lessening demand on the grid for a very localized area.

and even so: your electric bill can be essentially $0.00

If your neighbors get off on it too, let them give you gold rings/ vegetables.
 
2008-09-13 12:54:33 AM
ecmoRandomNumbers: "House-flipping" would've been considered lunacy and get you locked up as a swindler.

hahaha, like that commercial with the painting auction, "and I'd like to sell it now" :)
 
2008-09-13 12:55:34 AM
Fellows: Here's a photo of the floors right before we sold it:

Wow, that's a beautiful room! Why did you sell it?
 
2008-09-13 12:58:07 AM
ecmoRandomNumbers: Wow, that's a beautiful room! Why did you sell it?

Had to move. If I told you what we sold it for, you'd be sick.

Hint: less than six figures. Bonus: still made $40,000 profit.
 
2008-09-13 01:02:44 AM
IronTom: hahaha, like that commercial with the painting auction, "and I'd like to sell it now" :)

It's not that much different. When people use homes as "investments" and ATMs, we all get screwed. A house is a place to live, but more importantly, that house is in a neighborhood. And you stay there, and raise kids, or dogs, rats, lizards, whatever. You build parks and community centers, and you watch each others' kids and keep an eye on your neighbors' house when they're on vacation. That mentality went rapidly to hell here in Arizona when Californians came in and swept up the last of the affordable housing and made it unaffordable, and then defaulted on their loans. Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, and not just economically.

I'm still pissed that I got priced out of the housing market before I even had a ghost of a chance. Oh well, my rent is still cheap as hell and I have a savings account.
 
2008-09-13 01:05:38 AM
Fellows: ecmoRandomNumbers: Wow, that's a beautiful room! Why did you sell it?

Had to move. If I told you what we sold it for, you'd be sick.

Hint: less than six figures. Bonus: still made $40,000 profit.


Jeebus.
 
2008-09-13 01:07:13 AM
ecmoRandomNumbers: When people use homes as "investments" and ATMs, we all get screwed

absolutely, just another place to get money from. It should be a home, not an investment. Many people would like to stay in their homes as a permanent place.

I'm still pissed that I got priced out of the housing market before I even had a ghost of a chance.

Housing prices are coming down to something more realistic, and that is great.
 
2008-09-13 01:14:26 AM
IronTom: ecmoRandomNumbers: When people use homes as "investments" and ATMs, we all get screwed

absolutely, just another place to get money from. It should be a home, not an investment. Many people would like to stay in their homes as a permanent place.

I'm still pissed that I got priced out of the housing market before I even had a ghost of a chance.

Housing prices are coming down to something more realistic, and that is great.


Now all I need is the traditional 20% down. I'm willing to bet that 99.994% of the middle class doesn't even have 20k in their savings account to put down on a $100,000 house.

$100K houses here in Phoenix are still crappy and in crack districts.
 
2008-09-13 01:17:09 AM
ecmoRandomNumbers: $100K houses here in Phoenix are still crappy and in crack districts.

10% on a $200k? No ARM. 15% on $150, and we will come and visit.
 
2008-09-13 01:19:30 AM
I would come and visit you whatever you chose. If the place you are in is where you feel as home, a house is always a better option then renting. You own it. You eventually may own it 100%, and in the interim you are gaining equity.
 
2008-09-13 01:21:26 AM
Of course, if you get a place that is ruled by a HOA, they may not like having electric panels on your roof, but, they probably wouldn't know the difference between them and solar pool heating.
 
2008-09-13 01:26:12 AM
And if ever get my act together, I would stop by. Just that thing about being 1,700 miles away.
 
2008-09-13 01:29:01 AM
IronTom: You eventually may own it 100%, and in the interim you are gaining equity.

I guess that depends on how long you live. Anybody who has bought in the last 9 years here is in the hole.

I have no equity, but I also have no debt.

Oh well.

IronTom: And if ever get my act together, I would stop by. Just that thing about being 1,700 miles away.

Wait 'til January or February. It's really beautiful. :)
 
2008-09-13 02:00:27 AM
IronTom: and even so: your electric bill can be essentially $0.00

Indeed, but the initial cost is substantial.

Completely made up figures, but something we have to consider with real world numbers:

If you pay $200 a month for electricity, that's $2400 a year. If the cost of implementing a solar farm just to get your bill to zero is $24,000, then you have to invest not only the money but also the time to break even. That's ten years in this fictitious scenario.

There's also the maintenance cost in time and money. You can't throw up a solar grid and leave it alone for a decade while dreaming of profit. It has to be cleaned, vegetation around it has to be cleared, and it has to be tested every year to monitor output.

So even though my electricity bill would go to zero, it's not like I'd be doing less work for it.
 
2008-09-13 02:02:14 AM
ecmoRandomNumbers: I also have no debt.

That is a good feeling.
 
2008-09-13 02:04:27 AM
nashBridges: So even though my electricity bill would go to zero, it's not like I'd be doing less work for it.

thank you for your pioneering efforts.
 
2008-09-13 02:15:34 AM
nashBridges: IronTom: and even so: your electric bill can be essentially $0.00

Indeed, but the initial cost is substantial.

Completely made up figures, but something we have to consider with real world numbers:

If you pay $200 a month for electricity, that's $2400 a year. If the cost of implementing a solar farm just to get your bill to zero is $24,000, then you have to invest not only the money but also the time to break even. That's ten years in this fictitious scenario.

There's also the maintenance cost in time and money. You can't throw up a solar grid and leave it alone for a decade while dreaming of profit. It has to be cleaned, vegetation around it has to be cleared, and it has to be tested every year to monitor output.

So even though my electricity bill would go to zero, it's not like I'd be doing less work for it.


True, but a lot of people actually have a philanthorpic streak in them that causes them to spend insane amounts of money as early adopters. They're not nuts, elitists, or assholes. They actually CARE about the future of the planet (no, not all of them. There are still people who buy Priuses because they're more visible and recognizable than Civic hybrids).

But there are people out there who really have good intentions and go out of their way to reduce their footprint -- recognition be damned.

I know a Dutch Boeing engineer who is constantly looking for ways to save energy. He has a compost heap in his backyard (his retarded dogs attack it every day, but he's okay with that). His hobby, now, is figuring out how to make zero-emission diesel engines. Who knows? He might actually figure it out. He's no elitist or environmentalnut, either.

The environment isn't a partisan issue. We all breathe the same air.
 
2008-09-13 02:38:32 AM
the solar-panneling could pay for them selves right?
 
2008-09-13 02:46:44 AM
knbber2: From what I've read and heard, one of the main problems with this type of system (applies to wind energy as well) is that the electric company charges you about 10 times the cost of what they give you for each kilowatt/hr you give them.

Around here, if you're producing power, it just runs the meter backwards. At the end of the month, if you send more power than you use, it just credits your bill the number of KWH that you provided them. You never get any money from them, though, it just counts as future energy credit. Not a terrible thing, since you can probably sell a nice chunk of energy in the summer around here (Seattle), and use your energy credits in the winter.

I'd do it, but I don't see how the system would ever pay for itself. I like the idea in theory, it just needs more time in development to drop the cost enough to make it practical.
 
2008-09-13 02:50:57 AM
What amazes me is most new homes constructed today aren't very energy efficient.

We have the technology and the knowledge capable for making extremely energy efficient homes, yet we don't. I guess there isn't enough of a demand for efficiency.
 
2008-09-13 02:54:50 AM
IronTom: Of course, if you get a place that is ruled by a HOA, they may not like having electric panels on your roof, but, they probably wouldn't know the difference between them and solar pool heating.

Here in NC they ruled last year that HOA's cannot ban rooftop solar panels. However no one is selling back to the grid either that I've ever heard of. Both Progress and Duke Energy have a "minimum connection" fee of about $7 a month whether people have a nuclear generation station in their backyards or not, we're still paying it, and by law, cannot disconnect from it if a structure is occupied.

/would love to be off the grid.
 
2008-09-13 02:57:38 AM
ecmoRandomNumbers:
The environment isn't a partisan issue. We all breathe the same air.


May I quote you on that? I really like it.

/seriously
 
2008-09-13 02:58:48 AM
IronTom: Of course, if you get a place that is ruled by a HOA, they may not like having electric panels on your roof, but, they probably wouldn't know the difference between them and solar pool heating.

I'm hoping at some point there will be laws protecting solar panels like there are protecting satellite dishes.
 
2008-09-13 03:01:04 AM
Semi-Sane: What amazes me is most new homes constructed today aren't very energy efficient.

We have the technology and the knowledge capable for making extremely energy efficient homes, yet we don't. I guess there isn't enough of a demand for efficiency.


They're one HELL a lot more efficient than anything built 100 years ago. Give it time. Technology progresses. Just don't have expectations that we'll see the 22nd centrury tech by Next Tuesday.
 
2008-09-13 03:01:49 AM
This is awesome. The technology alone is great and it's a good thing we start doing this. Private homeowners can become solar farms. As the technology improves, prices will come down. It will become a commodity just like everything else. This is actually a realistic answer to energy concerns.
 
2008-09-13 03:03:02 AM
I'm solar. So is your mom.
 
2008-09-13 03:04:46 AM
Fellows: nashBridges: makes me laugh a little bit. Our house is 120 years old, and it still has the original pine wood floors throughout. Pine is a soft wood, but when it's taken care of and cut thick enough it lasts forever. We still have to re-wax it every year, no biggie. New bamboo floors are cut to less than a quarter inch thickness - they won't last. Whatever pine trees died a century ago to make our floors - they're still contributing.

The point is, those 120-year-old pine trees aren't here anymore so that's not an option.

The house we lived in/remodeled a few years ago had original pine hardwood floors. Beautiful floors that would last another 50-100 years if properly taken care of, but you can't get that anymore.

Here's a photo of the floors right before we sold it:


The great thing about trees is they grow on trees! The more you buy the more people plant.

And how can you not get PINE? You get lumber out of pine trees in 10 years. There is a pine forest specifically for building materials growing right by my house. It was clear cut about 7 years ago and they'll come back and clear cut then replant it again in 3 to 4 years.
 
2008-09-13 03:07:09 AM
I'm all for being green and all, but I can't afford environmental philanthropy.

Ecologically-friendly has to be economically feasible, if not cheaper.

That said, I'd love a house like this, and with the cost of energy rising, it will look better all the time. I heat my pool with solar, no way I'd trade it for a gas heater, it's farking FREE.

Ultimately, mankind MUST go solar, unless we can harness fusion.
 
2008-09-13 03:07:33 AM
What if it stands on end and catches on fire?
 
2008-09-13 03:08:30 AM
rocinante721: This again?

These houses at this point are prototypes & super-expensive, even with gov't rebates.

From an engineering standpoint, it's cool as Hades. What IS doable is buying a solar-powered water-heating system. Where I live, they are both federally & locally rebatable. No clue on how expensive maintenence/replacement is, though.


My aunt and uncle have a system on their house that's going on 20 years now. Even though it's one of the more complicated system types due to the requirement for an antifreeze loop (they live in Northern Ontario) that's isolated from the potable water by 2 heat exchange surfaces (required by code here) it's been pretty damned reliable. The antifreeze side requires a flush every 5 years or so and they had to replace the circulator pump a few years back. The pump is pretty much a standard circulator pump like you might find in a commercial building and is about the most exotic component of the system other than the panels themselves. Everything else is just plain old pipe loops for the heat exchanger surfaces and an insulated storage tank.

Even though they're in Northern Ontario the system usually provides all the hot water they need via solar power and only needs the occasional boost from a small electric tank. In fact, during the summer they have to dump some hot water down the drain so the storage tank doesn't overheat because of all the heat the system produces.
 
2008-09-13 03:08:41 AM
Imagine if part of your 'property value' was based on your electric 'bill' being an asset instead of a liability.

It's easy if you try.
 
2008-09-13 03:10:31 AM
IronTom: it's gonna get cheaper, thank you early adopters. It is the way of the future.

You mean people with a lot of money on their hands that will never recoop what they paid to be "off the grid."

18% efficiency = too little for the benefit. Like someone said previously using it for heating water is the best use of solar right now.
 
2008-09-13 03:11:10 AM
I know we're a long way from making it affordable and reliable, but I can dream, can't I?
 
2008-09-13 03:11:37 AM
FTFA:The thick walls are filled with solid Styrofoam that insulates to an incredible R-40

Isn't Styrofoam incredibly bad for the environment and take a bajillion years to biodegrade?
 
2008-09-13 03:14:35 AM
ChiliBoots: rocinante721: This again?

These houses at this point are prototypes & super-expensive, even with gov't rebates.

From an engineering standpoint, it's cool as Hades. What IS doable is buying a solar-powered water-heating system. Where I live, they are both federally & locally rebatable. No clue on how expensive maintenence/replacement is, though.

My aunt and uncle have a system on their house that's going on 20 years now. Even though it's one of the more complicated system types due to the requirement for an antifreeze loop (they live in Northern Ontario) that's isolated from the potable water by 2 heat exchange surfaces (required by code here) it's been pretty damned reliable. The antifreeze side requires a flush every 5 years or so and they had to replace the circulator pump a few years back. The pump is pretty much a standard circulator pump like you might find in a commercial building and is about the most exotic component of the system other than the panels themselves. Everything else is just plain old pipe loops for the heat exchanger surfaces and an insulated storage tank.

Even though they're in Northern Ontario the system usually provides all the hot water they need via solar power and only needs the occasional boost from a small electric tank. In fact, during the summer they have to dump some hot water down the drain so the storage tank doesn't overheat because of all the heat the system produces.


I think he was talking about storing the solar engery in a battery and operating a regular water heater from that, instead of actually using the sun to heat the water directly.
 
2008-09-13 03:15:06 AM
I priced out solar for my house. Here's some interesting things I didn't suspect going in.

* With federal, state, AND utility rebates of thousands of dollars each, I was still at least $15,000 away from meeting my needs. For my power bills, my cost even point would be 25 years away.
* Not all rebates are available. You have to get on a waiting list which usually takes at least a year.
* You have to purchase an expensive inverter that syncs with the AC grid. And have a licensed electrician install it which costs hundreds more.
* If the AC grid power goes out, your inverter will turn off, leaving your home with no power. This is to prevent you from still sending out power onto the grid and electrocuting unsuspecting utility workers.
* If you want to run power while the AC grid is down, you have to purchase a large and expensive battery bank. Which degrades over time and requires new purchasing.
* With the dozens of neat solar prototypes that have been hyped for the last 5 years are so (which should make solar cheaper), zero are on the market for purchase for residential customers. And from what I could tell, none will be at least for at least the next three years.
* Flat panels bolted to the roof are the cheapest option right now. But they're really expensive. The best deal I could find worked at about $3.50 per watt. Compare that to my local power company, which essentially provides power for less than $1 per watt.

Right now, zero energy homes are an extremely expensive niche. Nothing more.
 
2008-09-13 03:17:14 AM
ecmoRandomNumbers: nashBridges: Whatever pine trees died a century ago to make our floors - they're still contributing.

Things (and I'm not trying to channel my dead grandparents here) were actually built to last back then. People thought more long-term. "House-flipping" would've been considered lunacy and get you locked up as a swindler.


"Outhouse flipping", however, was a common Halloween prank.
 
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