Comfort equals useful square footage Having done an energy retrofit, another benefit is added USEFUL square footage. Our Flagstaff 1977 spec home had two very cold north bedrooms. My wife is a painter and used the dining room for her studio until I re-insulated walls, stem and attic, cutting energy use by 60%. This also made the north bedrooms comfortable, year round (less than 4 degrees cooler) and she now has her studio in one of them and my office in the other. One could say we added over 300 square feet to our house without changing the footprint. Our kids, who grew up in those bedrooms, used to complain about seeing their breath when they woke up on cold winter days. Now they complain about why we waited until after they moved out to do this.
Posted: 11:19 am on September 9th 2013
Get rid of the point system and the awards The point system and the awards have become meaningless. That is one of the reasons I have never participated in LEED. I have been building sustainable homes that perform to the highest standards since 1992. Another reason I never went with LEED are at the first formative meeting for an Arizona chapter, over half of the people present were from the HVAC industry. They were there to protect their jobs, of course. The other reason was when the LEED for Residential checklist came out I ran a search for the word solar and could not find it. It was on the second iteration but it only talked about PV. I think they finally came around to the idea of passive solar but I had abandoned them by that time. As to the point and award system, I have seen people do dumb stuff just to get points. I know of someone who put a recirc pump on his tankless water heater, just because he could get points for both. I have seen folks with all of the whiz bang technology on a house that had a $400 gas bill in January. Meanwhile, my 1977 crappy ranch spec home had a $98 bill that month. I have done common sense retro fitting so that my bill last January was $46. The checklist has a purpose and that is to be a guide for building a sustainable home. It should incorporate more on the philosophy and direction a home should take for a specific locale. The idea is to be sustainable, not be recognized for doing something we should all be doing, anyway.
Posted: 10:14 pm on October 23rd 2013
Added Square Feet I have said this a few times on GBA, comfort is worth the retrofit. With our house, even though we did not change the footprint, we gained more usable space. Our north two bedrooms were COLD! Our children told us they could see their breath on a cold Flagstaff, AZ morning. We can get down to -10 easily every winter. I did the same thing to our 2X6 walls. Fixed insulation and added 2" of rigid foam, creating a thermal break. Foamed the attic at the sheathing. Not only did we cut our gas bill in half, the north bedrooms get no more than 4 degrees cooler than the front room where the gas heating stove is located. We figure that we gained more usable space because my wife, who had for years, set up her studio in our dining room, now uses that far back bedroom, year around! We spent $45k, including Pella triple panes and new cherry kitchen cabs, plus all new plumbing fixtures. Had to get rid of the nasty acrylic and fiberglass. I did most all of the work myself except for the $4k rock facade on the front. Now my kids complain, why did we wait to do this after they moved out?
Posted: 11:08 am on March 16th 2016
Go all electric I was nearly tarred and feathered in 2009 when I suggested that PV would replace thermal solar and NG. The ones who protested the most were folks who had been heavily invested in solar thermal since the beginnings in the 70s. Having removed a couple of systems, it was clear that pv powered hot water was the future. I now make hot water with a Stiebel Eltron tankless and a grid tied 2.8KW PV system. Next, up, all electric cove heaters (most of my heat comes from the sun along with a tight, well insulated envelope) and an electric car. Right now you can get a 3 year old Nissan Leaf for under $8k. Batteries are getting way cheap and much better. No reason to stick to the fossil fuels. Actually I have been on a vendetta to shut down the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant since before it was built. Currently there is no plan for what to do with the waste generated there or any other plant in the world. That wast remains active for several hundred thousand years. What does it cost to guard that stuff for that long?
Posted: 11:50 am on May 17th 2017
Keep it simple The simple step is to buy an EV and charge at home from your rooftop solar. I just bought a used Nissan LEAF a couple of months ago. My PV had produced about 30% extra last year and in Arizona the laws allow the utility, APS to pay me next to nothing for the excess. I now choose to use that excess for my car. Got it just in time to dodge the $3/gal price. Whew! The 2013 model I bought for $12,600. Even though it has 38k miles on it, the gauge shows I am still at 100% life on my battery. If you shop for a used EV make sure the dealer fully charges it so you can see battery life. I got a used car that is almost brand new! I use it for around town only. It has all the modern bells and whistles. Keyless entry, bluetooth, etc... No trip in Flagstaff is more than 15 minutes. This around town driving is 80 to 90% of our total driving. The car would not be able to make a trip to Phoenix as the nearest charging station is over the 85 miles I get on a full charge. For us, we have a second car, a 2013 CRV. Other options would be to rent a car, which is probably cheaper than owning a second car. So, I don't worry about charging stations at all! Never have needed one. My carbon footprint is very small, considering my house is near net zero and now the other half of my foot print is near zero! Not a solution for everyone, of course. Some drive a huge number of miles everyday to work. But if you can, keep it simple!
Posted: 03:04 pm on May 16th 2018
Best locations for chargers Being an EV owner, I have thought about where I would charge, and, as noted by me, above, I charge only at home. But, I have thought about where I might need a charging station. I bought my EV in Phoenix but live in Flagstaff, 150 miles away. Being uphill, from 1000' to 7000' I would need to stop for a 15 to 30 minute fill-up at least twice. So the interstates are where these charging stations will be needed the most. Currently there are none along I17 so part of the deal in buying this car was that the dealer arrange towing up the hill, which they did for $150. Why would I stop at some lonely rest stop with just a bathroom and a vending machine when I could stop at a Starbucks for a coffee and a break from the road in a soft chair and a magazine to read? The gas station across the street hardly makes enough off gas to keep the lights on, they depend on you coming in for some chips and soda to make money. They might be glad to eventually, some day, get rid of the gas pumps. Private enterprise will start installing charging stations when EVs as a percentage of cars on the road hit a critical mass. The Starbucks down the street from my house won't be installing charging stations because I am going to charge at home where it is nearly free (from my rooftop solar). No need for any government installation or even subsidies to install charging stations.
Posted: 09:30 am on May 17th 2018
Why not electric heat Hard to understand that with the low cost of solar, why would any house, especially a passive house, need to create carbon in our atmosphere for heat. I am running both my Nisan LEAF and electric cove heaters at my house off my grid tie solar. Also heating my water with a small tankless electric water heater.
Posted: 03:11 pm on June 20th 2018
#5Retrofit as many existing homes as possible to achieve near NZ We have over 100 million existing homes in this country. That should be the main focus if we want to reduce carbon. Also, we probably have ten times the square footage of homes that is commercial/industrial. Time to get busy!
Posted: 10:41 am on July 4th 2018
The key word in my statement is "near" Armando, As a builder and one who has taken my own 1977 spec home I bought in 1988 to "near" net zero, I understand some of what you say. I drive around town and see the remodels that miss the mark by not adding something as simple as foam when they re-side. A crying shame. I don't get cable TV but it seems that those shows could do a great service to show folks how to include a tight, well insulated envelope and other energy efficient features to create a home that is comfortable and will not cost more in energy in it's lifetime than the sticks and bricks. Not sure what you mean by "not easy" or "not affordable". How much is climate change costing us and how easy will it be to solve the problems it brings?
Posted: 01:39 am on July 6th 2018
Steve Knapp, I sell them on COMFORT. Energy efficient homes are very comfortable. That is something everyone can wrap their head around and is an aesthetic value, just like a granite countertop.
Posted: 02:00 pm on August 15th 2018