Green has worked!

Annie DeighnaughMay 7, 2012

We spent a lot of money up front to make our house very green.

We have closed cell insulation.

We put in a geothermal heating system

Passive solar....House is built into a southern facing slope so main floor has a few windows to the north but more on the south....lower level is a finished basement with only southern and western exposure. (Lower level maintains a temp of 63 degrees with no heat all winter.)

5 kw of active solar panels

House is 2100 sq ft on main floor with a little more than 1/2 of the lower level finished.

We installed a wood stove.

Used solar tubes in 2 interior spaces.

Result is last 12 months total energy cost for the house....heating, A/C, lighting, gas fireplace, hot water, etc.....was $1200.

Not bad.

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Wow, that is great. I don't have any of that stuff, however, and my bill is about the same.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 8:03PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

That's do you keep your costs so low? Are you in a warm climate? We are in the northeast. It is not unusual for neighbors to spend $500 per month just on oil.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 3:23PM
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Hot, humid climate. We use efficient mini split heat pumps to condition air. Low electricity prices here compared to NE. We have a solar-powered clothes dryer. We turn off lights and don't use may incandescents.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 4:02PM
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I'd be interested to hear what made your South side passive solar heat, other than the fact you face south? The back of my house does, too.

I attribute my savings to other things, too. Many motion sensors. Using only cold water except for showering. Lots of CFLs and LEDs when the lights aren't motion, a 7-day programmable thermostat (not 2 choices, but 7!). Plus, I live alone and don't expend energy fussing at someone to be more aware.

I have 32 solar panels + a solar water system.

I pay about $720 a year, plus I get about $2k from the state of MD for being the very 1st, registered and licensed Residential Solar Power Plant in the state. So essentially, with netmetering lowering my bill to start with, they're paying me lots to do what I do best: sit in the sun! My system is 5.64 kw.

Aren't we cool! [LOL]

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 12:42PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

We have only 3 windows on the front side of the home, but we have lots more on the south side. As a result, we gain 4 degrees in temperature on sunny days. The house is built into a southern facing slope so the lower level (finished basement) is completely protected from the north side but exposed to the sun on the south side. It maintains a temp of 63 degrees all winter without any heat...but on sunny days it gets up to 67.

We did not go further though like putting heat sinks in or green house spaces with angled glass roofs. We have good size overhangs, but not enough to affect the light gathering/shading.

Unfortunately, no one is paying us for generating power...we are just able to bank what we don't use and draw down the bank when we need it.

I couldn't live without hot water though...we put in tankless hot water heaters which are helped when the geothermal system is running as we have a desuperheater too. With the geothermal, day/night thermostat doesn't really work well. The system likes to maintain a steady temp. But typically, it comes on about once a day in the winter in the a.m. The sun heats it during the day and we use the woodstove to heat it through the evening or cloudy days.

Our total energy costs are running 60% below the old house even though the old house was smaller, had no AC, we burned a lot more wood, and had the temp set much lower with a day/night thermostat. And we have more power burners in this literally glows at night with all the electronics, security systems, etc...

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 10:11PM
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I have to check temperatures. I'm having the back (south side) of the house sided (had nothing for 5 years) and have had them put that foam board and Tyvek paper on it. I think the patio slider dictates the in/decrease of heat.

My solar water works well, other than the fact my shower is 75' from the system, which means I have to run the water to get the hot water to the shower. Hence the circulating pump I just had put in.

Lots of savings for and savings from involved here! :)

I'm pretty proud of the stuff I've done. I have a lot of REdoing to do, which is stuff my STBX did. Then I'll really be excited with having visitors.

I have only my phone chargers, different computers, and motion sensors running at night. I blink a lot.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 1:17PM
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To make this thread more meaningful we have to be able to compare apples to apples. Energy consumption needs to be posted in kWh/yr. Dollar figures are interesting but don't tell the whole story oranges to oranges so to speak.

Fossil fuel heating should be presented in volume per year (U.S. gal/yr, Imp gal/yr, liters/yr, cubic meters/yr etc.) and the approximate age & efficiency of the furnace. Where you live would also be useful.

We live in Montreal, Canada. House was built in 1961. Nothing special, built to the prevailing standards of the day, 60's slider windows, about 2800sq ft.

We do heat with geothermal. Electricity is our only source of energy aside from good solar gain in the wintertime. Total electrical consumption this past year, 370-days, has been 15,490kWh at a cost of $1,245.89 including all fixed costs per day and taxes. This breaks down to about 8cents/kWh w/Tx.

Not bad since most neighbours were paying between $3000 to $4000 per year just for heating oil, which topped out this year at about $1.34 per liter with tax - that's about $5.07 per U.S. gal!

BTW: The difference in the price of heating oil, gas, etc (May 24, 2012 price of gas in Montreal today is $1.399/liter or $5.295/U.S gal, regular gas!) between Canada and the U.S. is the cost of socialism.

Welcome to 'Canatopia' (with apologies to Mark Levin)!


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 10:21AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I didn't want to put in a hot water recirc system as it runs all the time even though the bathroom needs hot water maybe for 20 min out of 24 hours a day. So we put in 2 tankless hot water for the master bath on the west side of the house and the other on the east side for the rest of the house where the kitchen, powder room, laundry and guest bath are located.

I can calculate our electricity usage in a year, but I don't know how to factor in our LP gas usage which feeds the hot water and the gas fireplace. Electricity and gas are our only energy costs.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 11:15AM
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Thanks so much for this post, fascinating. You've given me lots to think about, and fodder to convince DH about the importance of southern exposure! Those are definitely impressive energy costs.

How long before your savings off-set the cost of geo-thermal?
Also, How big of space do you need for your water tank and whatever indoor equipment s needed for your GT system?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:32PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

the geothermal paid off right away. As it was new construction, the only difference in cost between the geothermal vs. traditional heat+a/c is the cost of the wells, which were drilled in one day. With the 30% tax credit we saved the cost of the wells right away.

The tankless water heaters take up no floor space at all as they are wall hung.

Geothermal unit...water tank on the side is a storage tank for pre heated hot water coming off of the geothermal system....desuperheater makes inexpensive hot water in the winter and free hot water in the summer.

The ductwork is used to circulate the warm or cool air throughout the house. We added a manual control for the fan so, when the wood stove is on, we can circulate the heat to the back rooms in the house for more even heating.

Pipes going down to the wells...they are 4' below grade so completely invisible from the surface....and no ugly outdoor compressor for the a/c. Switching from heat to a/c is only flipping a switch on the thermostat upstairs...

Solar inverter is also wall hung

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 9:03PM
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Thanks very much Annie, that is incredibly helpful. Did you opt for ducts (instead of say radiant floor heat) because of the need for air conditioning?

As I mentioned elsewhere, it won't make sense for us to put in geothermal right away, as we won't use the cottage in the coldest 3 or so months of the year and we don't need air conditioning in summer (I'm hoping that cross breezes and ceiling fans will be enough). Plus electricity is plentiful and cheap for now, but it won't always be I know, so I want to ensure that we plan for eventual use of geothermal.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 6:09PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

We opted for ducts for a number of reasons

. it does both A/C and heat
. we can use it for circulating heat from the woodstove to the rest of the house
. we have a heat recovery fresh air exchange system so we can inject fresh air into the house without losing too much energy and that's done through the duct system. (We can completely change the air in the house every 3 hrs if we want). We also use that system to vent the baths as required by code
. we were very concerned about material for radiant floor heat...we didn't want stone or tile everywhere as it's too hard on the feet, and have seen wood floors that were damaged by it...warped and separated. We also can't see the logic of radiant under something like carpet. We wanted (very expensive) vinyl flooring and didn't want the radiant to dry out the glue.
. we did put electric radiant floor in the master bath which is very nice under porcelain tile.

Also cheap electric really makes geothermal inexpensive as it's fueled by electricity...the pumps that circulate the fluid to the earth and back are run by electricity...that's why we put solar panels on our house as our electric is $$$$ and the solar offsets the cost of the electricity used by the geothermal.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 8:17AM
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Thanks again, I really do appreciate it.

My first choice is wood floors, but am considering concrete for two reasons: ideal for radiant floor heat, but also if we want to take advantage of passive solar in winter, the concrete is ideal for thermal mass. I agree with you about how hard it is on the feet though. I typically wear indoor shoes indoors (feet issues), but other family members don't.

We have an air exchanger in our current home too. Great points about moving warmth from your stove with ducts.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:32AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Yeah, we're barefooters, esp in the summer, so what I walk on is really important to me...I think flooring materials is one of the things that gave us and our architect most distress....he was SOOO anti-vinyl and soooo pro hardwood until he saw thing we know, he's putting it down in a restaurant remodel he worked on!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:59AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Another point, we keep the main part of the house at at least 69 degrees all winter. Of course it gets much warmer when we light the wood stove. Cost comparisons aren't equivalent if, as I find more and more people do, keep their homes at 55. A friend of ours keeps his entire home at 55 and they have a separate heat zone in their mbr which they keep more temperate and where they essentially confine themselves all winter...they put their jackets on to go to the kitchen to cook.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 7:53AM
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Annie - wow, I just did the calculation from fahrenheit to celsius (I'm Canadian, we use celsius) - 55 is COLD! I cannot tolerate being cold I'm afraid, I'm quite spoiled. I keep my temperature set to 21C at home (69.8F) and to be honest I'm happier with it set at 22 or 23C! Not very green of me I'm afraid.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 10:47PM
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In 2012 I paid a total of $1,113.94. I have an all electric house, so that's everything. I have a 1,600 SF home, plus a 800 SF basement (2400 total). So, it's smaller than yours. It's definitely not a tight house, because it's very drafty in the winter, especially around the original builder's aluminum windows. I live in Ohio with HOT summers and COLD winters. I heat and cool with a 2.5 ton heat pump. I keep the temperature at 71 in the winter and 75 in the summer (71 at night).

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 11:49AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Sounds good clg. Only thing is we have the highest electricity costs in the nation...I suspect yours may be quite a bit lower.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 6:00PM
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what size is your home Annie?
it all sounds great. love the desuperheater!

having a utility bill under 100 year round
is a great thing.

we do a lot of ceramic tile or exposed concrete floors
here in La. thermal mass. once it is
warmed up (or cooled off in summer) it holds the
temp, causing lessened load on hvac.


best of luck.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2013 at 11:54AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Your energy needs are quite different down in LA...we don't have your heat but a few days a year.

Our house is 2100 sq ft on the main floor and about 1/2 of the basement is finished space....

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 6:20PM
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sorry I missed that in your first post.
to keep your home comfortable for under
$100 a month is an accomplishment.

glad to see that it all worked out for you.
I know you did quite a bit of research.

best of luck & stay warm!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2013 at 6:28PM
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I'm happy to see that solar energy becomes an important subject in the US.
Thank you for sharing this and to give us your experiences


This post was edited by panneau_solaire on Wed, Jan 16, 13 at 5:18

    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 5:17AM
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That's really interesting to see so many people are going green. Solar energy is getting popular among masses and the best part is people are aware of the current scenario and are taking positive steps.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 1:04PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

Looking forward the price continuing to drop when it will be more feasible for the masses.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 10:12PM
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