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Building homes that make more power than they take

Dragonfly

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Building homes that make more power than they take




NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (AP) -- Homes being built in this Hudson Valley cul-de-sac offer prospective buyers wooded lots, pretty views and — oh yes — the promise of thumbing your nose at the power utility.


These "zero-net energy" homes will feature thick walls, solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling systems, meaning families should be able to generate more energy over a year than they consume. These homes under construction 70 miles north of New York City have costly green features. But the builders believe they are in tune with consumers increasingly concerned about the environment and fuel costs.



If you had the money, would you buy a smaller house that's built to be as "energy independent" as the ones described above, or would you opt for a bigger "conventional" house like the ones most of us have grown up in?




I would definitely go with smaller and energy independent.


I love the sound of what's described in the article.
 

MaggieD

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Building homes that make more power than they take






If you had the money, would you buy a smaller house that's built to be as "energy independent" as the ones described above, or would you opt for a bigger "conventional" house like the ones most of us have grown up in?



I would definitely go with smaller and energy independent.

I love the sound of what's described in the article.


I most definitely would. I think people who buy larger homes than they need are silly. McMansions are tough to heat and cool efficiently, expensive to heat and cool efficiently, a lot of work to keep clean, and expensive to maintain. Give me my little house any time.
 

KevinKohler

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Big houses are just more to clean. Besides, all I care about is my garage. There's a corvette in it.
 

sawyerloggingon

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Home I'm building has 90% south facing windows and on a sunny day in the dead of winter with below freezing temps I can let the fire go out and actually have to open windows to cool things off. Also I went ape on insulation and caulking. Solar panels provide the bulk of our elec and our water system is gravity fed, no deep well pumps. I'm not a greenie though, just trying to live cheap and efficient.
 

Fisher

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I think the government needs to stop spending billions on Solyndra type fiascos and put that money into building super efficient modular housing for poor people addressing both the the effects of energy cost on those who cannot afford it and creating market-wide demand for the systems that would make it a more "scalable" investment for businesses to pursue as the jargon goes.
 

Fishstyx

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You can still have a bigger place and be energy indepenent. Geothermal can be used for just about anysize house. Instead of just solar, you can go with solar and small wind turbine (depending on your location).

I always thought that this should be the direction green energy should be focused. Wind and Solar will never produce enough to take over the grid. Its all still too pricey, $29k for that solar power system? Its only affordable because its heavily subsidized.
 

Carjosse

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I guess it works for people who work ins small towns, getting one of these within commuting difference of a large city would cost you a fairly large fortune.
 

CalGun

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You don't have to go smaller to be energy independent and you also don't have to spend an arm and a leg but its not cheap. It took me a few years but I have no utility tie in at my second home, its completely solar powered and there is a propane generator for emergencies if the doesn't provide. Yes I have to buy some propane to use that but propane doesn't go bad nearly as fast as gas or diesel and I haven't bought any in about 18 months now. I certainly won't need it in the summer - winter is the only time it might be needed and fact is I could go without the electricity and burn wood I harvest for heat if needed.

I would not mind seeing states / communities where solar power is highest ranked requiring home builders to situate homes so they have a 180 degree azimuth to the sun so they could take best advantage of solar power. They also need to insure that roof line has no shade impacts - in California right now people that have that situation in some utility areas can actually save money because the utilities charge so much for electricty - solar is actually cheaper. That's sad - commentary on the cost of power by the way.


Building homes that make more power than they take









If you had the money, would you buy a smaller house that's built to be as "energy independent" as the ones described above, or would you opt for a bigger "conventional" house like the ones most of us have grown up in?




I would definitely go with smaller and energy independent.


I love the sound of what's described in the article.
 

sawyerloggingon

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You can still have a bigger place and be energy indepenent. Geothermal can be used for just about anysize house. Instead of just solar, you can go with solar and small wind turbine (depending on your location).

I always thought that this should be the direction green energy should be focused. Wind and Solar will never produce enough to take over the grid. Its all still too pricey, $29k for that solar power system? Its only affordable because its heavily subsidized.
I'm off grid with solar but I use propane for refrigeration and our stove in summer. In winter we use a wood cook stove so even that is off grid. It can be done.
 

sawyerloggingon

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You don't have to go smaller to be energy independent and you also don't have to spend an arm and a leg but its not cheap. It took me a few years but I have no utility tie in at my second home, its completely solar powered and there is a propane generator for emergencies if the doesn't provide. Yes I have to buy some propane to use that but propane doesn't go bad nearly as fast as gas or diesel and I haven't bought any in about 18 months now. I certainly won't need it in the summer - winter is the only time it might be needed and fact is I could go without the electricity and burn wood I harvest for heat if needed.

I would not mind seeing states / communities where solar power is highest ranked requiring home builders to situate homes so they have a 180 degree azimuth to the sun so they could take best advantage of solar power. They also need to insure that roof line has no shade impacts - in California right now people that have that situation in some utility areas can actually save money because the utilities charge so much for electricty - solar is actually cheaper. That's sad - commentary on the cost of power by the way.
The problem is not all streets run east west and it is difficult to orient a house to face the sun on a north south axis street.
 

specklebang

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Most of us city folk don't have much chance for this. I live in a townhouse built in 1976. I've gone LED on my bulbs but there really isn't much more I can do.
 

CalGun

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Not true, the home's orientation does not matter, a roof line is all that matters. A significant roof line position facing 180-188 degrees with a proper pitch is all one needs. It can be managed in the design it just has to be planned for; when we built our home in Nevada it was easier than for a subdivision but made all the difference in the world to have the correct azimuth and pitch for solar.

Where the front door is - is not really relevant to a roof line angled correctly to make the most out of solar power.


The problem is not all streets run east west and it is difficult to orient a house to face the sun on a north south axis street.
 

CalGun

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In Vegas?

Do you have a roof? I know some condo's only have ceilings and someone else has a roof, and I love condo living. I assume your association pays for ourdoor lighting. The issue with Vegas is your juice is SO CHEAP that solar does not pay. Solar will cost about .20/.23 cents a kilowatt hour to produce (over 20 years). You are probably paying .12? So solar makes no sense. There are people in California paying .52 a kilowatt hour for extremely large homes so solar makes plenty of sense for them.

Most of us city folk don't have much chance for this. I live in a townhouse built in 1976. I've gone LED on my bulbs but there really isn't much more I can do.
 

GottaGo

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Most of us city folk don't have much chance for this. I live in a townhouse built in 1976. I've gone LED on my bulbs but there really isn't much more I can do.
Make the cats purr and harness the vibrations for energy. :wink:
 

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Since the OP is about given the choice- not what can you do with the more conventional house you have now- let's stay with that.

SW Oklahoma is all about high heat and low rainfall. Most years we can go 90 days without a rain and more than 90 days of 100+ temps. So it's thick walls and window designs to minimize solar gain. I'm out past the sidewalks so there are fewer restrictions on us. We are in the planning stages for our last house. 2000 sq ft, thick concrete/tornado resistant walls, bermed 1st floor, a wind tower to draw heat up and out like in the Middle East. We are over an aquifer so geothermal is the way to go there- not everyone in the state is as fortunate as we are with a large aquifer underneath. Our own well, solar panels as a stand alone, with the ability to put a wind gen ontop of the tower. A well insulated stick house would be cheaper, but my wife doesn't like being so exposed out on the flatland our new home is to be built on.

Now we heat with a wood stove, two are in the plans for the new house. For resale value a central heat and air system will be installed. Propane for the stove and central heat.

I don't think you need to go smaller- just design better.
 

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Nice in theory, bad in application...for what I want, at least.

I'd like to have some green-ish improvements to my home (mostly because they save money in the long term, and they're tax write-offs), but I know that there are limits. I don't envision ever owning a home that gives more than it gets.

If it was really practical, wouldn't Al Gore have a home like this instead of a home that has about half the overall power consumption of Las Vegas?
 

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There are a few companies here in my province that offer solar panels for free.

That's right, I wrote free.

The business model is simple but brilliant. The company locks in a price per kilowatt with the province. They then solicit business by looking for roofs for rent. Some criteria needs to be met, such as south/south west facing, and a minimum slope (30 degrees, I think). The company will then put as many solar panels as they can, and hook it up to give back to the grid. The homeowner will then get a fixed rate, based-on how many panels they were able to fit. My panels are set to be installed in the fall. No matter the amount of energy they will collect in any given year, I will be given approximately $500 for the next 25 years. After that time, the panels will belong to me. Imagine getting paid for doing nothing. I love it.
 

sawyerloggingon

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Not true, the home's orientation does not matter, a roof line is all that matters. A significant roof line position facing 180-188 degrees with a proper pitch is all one needs. It can be managed in the design it just has to be planned for; when we built our home in Nevada it was easier than for a subdivision but made all the difference in the world to have the correct azimuth and pitch for solar.

Where the front door is - is not really relevant to a roof line angled correctly to make the most out of solar power.
Good points on the roof line. I was thinking more about passive solar and windows orientation, you need southern exposure for that.
 

sawyerloggingon

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There are a few companies here in my province that offer solar panels for free.

That's right, I wrote free.

The business model is simple but brilliant. The company locks in a price per kilowatt with the province. They then solicit business by looking for roofs for rent. Some criteria needs to be met, such as south/south west facing, and a minimum slope (30 degrees, I think). The company will then put as many solar panels as they can, and hook it up to give back to the grid. The homeowner will then get a fixed rate, based-on how many panels they were able to fit. My panels are set to be installed in the fall. No matter the amount of energy they will collect in any given year, I will be given approximately $500 for the next 25 years. After that time, the panels will belong to me. Imagine getting paid for doing nothing. I love it.
Great Idea and I am all for using existing roof tops rather than bull dozing deserts for massive solar farms.
 

sawyerloggingon

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Since the OP is about given the choice- not what can you do with the more conventional house you have now- let's stay with that.

SW Oklahoma is all about high heat and low rainfall. Most years we can go 90 days without a rain and more than 90 days of 100+ temps. So it's thick walls and window designs to minimize solar gain. I'm out past the sidewalks so there are fewer restrictions on us. We are in the planning stages for our last house. 2000 sq ft, thick concrete/tornado resistant walls, bermed 1st floor, a wind tower to draw heat up and out like in the Middle East. We are over an aquifer so geothermal is the way to go there- not everyone in the state is as fortunate as we are with a large aquifer underneath. Our own well, solar panels as a stand alone, with the ability to put a wind gen ontop of the tower. A well insulated stick house would be cheaper, but my wife doesn't like being so exposed out on the flatland our new home is to be built on.

Now we heat with a wood stove, two are in the plans for the new house. For resale value a central heat and air system will be installed. Propane for the stove and central heat.

I don't think you need to go smaller- just design better.
Good point on building different ways for different environments, there is no one size fits all construction technique.
 

Middleground

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Great Idea and I am all for using existing roof tops rather than bull dozing deserts for massive solar farms.
Agreed. Damn it's just so much easier, ain't it?

My job involves research in construction. I have little doubt that more and more new housing developments will be self-sustaining, like the OP and your house. Much better for our wallets and for the enviroment. It's a win-win situation and it's just a matter of time.
 

specklebang

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They do provide heating in the winter. They like to sleep on top of me and those little 101 degree bodies do the job.


Make the cats purr and harness the vibrations for energy. :wink:
 

sawyerloggingon

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Agreed. Damn it's just so much easier, ain't it?

My job involves research in construction. I have little doubt that more and more new housing developments will be self-sustaining, like the OP and your house. Much better for our wallets and for the enviroment. It's a win-win situation and it's just a matter of time.
I would love to see new housing developments built around solar efficiency, the sun is free and clean and passive heating and roof top solar is the future I believe.
 
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What if...?

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Since the OP is about given the choice- not what can you do with the more conventional house you have now- let's stay with that.

SW Oklahoma is all about high heat and low rainfall. Most years we can go 90 days without a rain and more than 90 days of 100+ temps. So it's thick walls and window designs to minimize solar gain. I'm out past the sidewalks so there are fewer restrictions on us. We are in the planning stages for our last house. 2000 sq ft, thick concrete/tornado resistant walls, bermed 1st floor, a wind tower to draw heat up and out like in the Middle East. We are over an aquifer so geothermal is the way to go there- not everyone in the state is as fortunate as we are with a large aquifer underneath. Our own well, solar panels as a stand alone, with the ability to put a wind gen ontop of the tower. A well insulated stick house would be cheaper, but my wife doesn't like being so exposed out on the flatland our new home is to be built on.

Now we heat with a wood stove, two are in the plans for the new house. For resale value a central heat and air system will be installed. Propane for the stove and central heat.

I don't think you need to go smaller- just design better.
The wind tower is my favorite.

Are you doing the underground "feeder" as well?

Where you dig a long trench and bury a big clay pipe with a shady inlet that comes in at the bottom of the house. Air is drawn in and cooled by the 62(?) underground temp by the wind tunnel.

I've seen a setup where they had no underground but set up passive swamp cooling at floor level using the wind tower air draw. Worked pretty good for only the small water pump power.
 
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