what can I do - existing house?

feesherSeptember 12, 2005

I have an existing home, 7 years old. Gas forced air furnace, central AC, gas stove/oven, lots of insulation, double-pane windows. Generally a newer home, far more efficient and friendly than my last home which was 30 yrs old.

I have been reading the posts about "why not". I am interested in renewables.

But I ask this - what can I do? It seems like for an existing house, once you cross off "add more insulation" or "get a more efficient XYX", you are pretty much done. I think the challenge has to go to the business community for a new way for renewables to be utilized with less impact to your home. Otherwise, frankly, it just won't happen.

What am I supposed to do? By a $40k solar panel for my roof? That's just not going to do it.

Comments please? I really want to do something, but I just don't see the value proposition here. It's just not there.

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As I said in another post; curtailing your needs is far easier than supplying more via PV panels. Sounds like you've done some of the right things to reduce your usage; there are likely more. You almost have to develop a different mindset . . . . I've got a saying here . . .

If you need it, use it. If you don't, don't.

You need to learn a bit more about how you live . . find your biggest energy users . . start there and see if you can reduce usage, buy a more efficient model, or even is there another way to do it without energy ? You have to find out what your big users are. In my place; the single biggest load is . . . . the hairdryer ( not mine ) followed by vacuum cleaner, THEN the well pump. Since my system allows me to read power consumption directly; I simply ran each major device by itself and took readings. I then made a chart that shows: Using ( load "x" ) will run the kitchen light for "x" minutes . . . some surprising results. The vacuum for an hour; will run the light for 4 DAYS. Cutting back a little on a big load; makes a big difference overall. I'm NOT living in a dark cave either; have all the modern inconveniences . . 'puter, big TV, heat, running water, phone, electric garage door openers, m'wave etc.

In case you haven't yet looked into fluorescents; you can typically run 5 of them and get the same amount of light as a SINGLE incandescent. They are available in a WIDE variety of styles / shapes / sizes / spectrums now . . forget the days of the flickering, slow, yellow light. They will LITERALLY pay for themselves in electricity savings; not to mention they last ~ 8-10 times as long.

Phantom loads can catch up with you too . . all those wall warts for the phone, cell phone etc. Every one is a small but constant load. They can add up. Add in TV's, VCR's, DVD's, stereo's etc with remotes . . they are never really OFF; just "idling" away waiting for a signal from you. They are another form of "phantom" loads. Humidifiers / AC units can chew up some juice too . . run them only as needed.

Not sure where you got $40,000 for solar panels; I had and entire system installed WITH battery backup for low $30's . . . . and got various incentives / tax credits that eventually cut system cost almost in half. I can run for ~ 3 days with NO power from grid OR the sun.

I also believe that you need to look at it from more than JUST a financial standpoint . . . as it just simply does NOT pay for itself under today's conditions. But, every time rates go up ( and they're NOT gonna go down ) the "payback" becomes shorter / more realistic. There needs to be a bit of philanthropy too under current conditions . . . doing the right thing is rarely the cheapest . . . .

Hope I've given you some things to think about . . .


    Bookmark   September 12, 2005 at 7:47PM
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If you live in an area where temperatures can be extreme, then there is little doubt that the single most energy efficient and Âgreen thing you can do is install a geothermal heat pump.
No other solar project (geothermal is solar) will also provide this degree of cooling and dehumidification.

When heating and cooling is the biggest piece of your energy pie, nothing short of going Âoff-grid will provide the energy savings, comfort, and environmental benefit as geothermal.

BTW: RCMJr? Good post!


Here is a link that might be useful: how-efficient-is-it-magazine.com

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 10:54AM
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How about a solar air heater? They're cheap enough for most budgets and will pay for themselves fairly quickly. I've seen some that provide plenty of heat, aparently as much as a 700w electric heater. If you could run a 700w heater for free just 6 hours a day during the winter, your gas usage would go down a lot. That's about 4.2kw of free heat each day.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 10:59AM
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This reply is for SolarGary.

As IÂm SURE you no doubt know, two thirds of the energy in an earth energy system is free energy which comes from the ground, which in turn is continually, renewably, warmed by the sun. Any time we can reduce electrical consumption by 66% itÂs a good thing  no matter how itÂs generated. Nice try.

Here are two U.S Department of Energy web sites you may find interesting.
I encourage their reading  believers and skeptics alike!




Here is a link that might be useful: U.S. Department of Energy

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 11:01PM
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"Geothermal is solar" . . . well, so too is nuclear energy if you really wanna go there. Geothermal DOES have the capability of being a very long-lasting, low impact form of heating. It depends upon a properly designed / sized system. It also tends to be expensive at the initial install . . . . the low bills / energy usage is NOT an immediate payback in most people's way of thinking. That's too far off . . . . and that's too bad. The "heat" energy is there; a heat pump essentially collects it and you are paying energy to move the heat . . . you do not have to "create" it as when burning a fossil fuel, using electric heaters etc. Very easy to incorporate doing your domestic water heating too; and in the warmer months you have cooling capacity . . . and some humidity removal capacity as well . . . .

My original post here pretty much concentrated ( at least in my mind ) on electricity. Poster who said to derive heat directly in some other fashion is absolutely correct. Collecting PV to turn into heat is incredibly wasteful / inefficient. Collect the heat "directly" if that's what you're trying to end up with. Collect PV solely for the purpose of making electricity for use OTHER than in things that produce heat.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 6:25AM
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If geothermal is solar so is wind because the heating of the earth causes convection, etc.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 3:53PM
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