or Connect
AppleInsider › Forums › Other Discussion › AppleOutsider › Zero Energy Homes
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Zero Energy Homes

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
No More Electric Bills
Well, not quite. But 'zero-energy homes' keep them low.


By Andrew Murr
Newsweek

Aug. 15, 2005 issue - Nicholas and Loan Gatai used to cringe when they received power bills that routinely topped $200. Last September the Sacramento, Calif., couple moved into a new, 1,500-square-foot home in Premier Gardens, a subdivision of 95 "zero-energy homes" just outside town. Now they're actually eager to see their electric bills. The grand total over the 10 months they've lived in the three-bedroom, stucco-and-stone house: $75. For the past two months they haven't paid a cent.

... a half-dozen subdivisions in California where every home cuts power consumption by at least 50 percent, mostly by using low-power appliances and solar panels.

... "Spectrally selective" windows cut power bills by blocking solar heat in the summer and retaining indoor warmth in cold weather. Fluorescent bulbs throughout use two thirds the juice of incandescents. A suitcase-size tankless hot-water heater in the garage, powered by gas, saves energy by warming water only when the tap is turned on.

... The rest of the energy savings comes from the solar units. Set flush with the roof tiles, the two-kilowatt photovoltaic panels unobtrusively turn the sun's rays into AC power with the help of an inverter in the garage.


This is what America must do (amonst other things). $25k for solar panels in every home is a lot, but we should view it as a capital investment just like interstate highways, electricity grids, nuclear power plants, dams, and the like. The government can kick start a solar cell economy through providing an initial mass production run of solar cells to get their unit costs down a whole lot.

Too bad it hardly thinks of it.
post #2 of 10
I currently have a summer house that I could probably run on just solar power since I'm not there all that much and was shocked to find that there didn't seem to be any kind of tax incentives for installing solar panels. One day my dream is to build a house in upstate NY with as much energy efficiency as is possible.
post #3 of 10
A lot more solar panels here where I live (central Colorado). Lots of sun here too...I don't know, something like 367 sunny days a year here.

I'd really like to do a solar home. I'd prefer passive to active (covers heat and water but not 'lectricity of course) because of the "elegance" that is passive solar design. Kind of restricts the overall house design (elevation, floor plan) though.

Might be fun.
post #4 of 10
wonder how much it costs to build a home like that compared to a standard home. Kinda useless around New England anyway, but maybe in california and florida and places like that.

Anyone?
My computer can beat up your computer.
Reply
My computer can beat up your computer.
Reply
post #5 of 10
Very nice to see this going on.

One thing though. I've heard from someone that one of the reasons solar doesn't work financially is that the cells typically last five years or less before having to be replaced. Is this true?
The evil that we fight is but the shadow of the evil that we do.
Reply
The evil that we fight is but the shadow of the evil that we do.
Reply
post #6 of 10
Quote:
Originally posted by THT

This is what America must do (amonst other things). $25k for solar panels in every home is a lot, but we should view it as a capital investment just like interstate highways, electricity grids, nuclear power plants, dams, and the like. The government can kick start a solar cell economy through providing an initial mass production run of solar cells to get their unit costs down a whole lot.

Too bad it hardly thinks of it.

I think photovoltaics are going nowhere.

Having said that, I looked into photovoltaics a long time ago before I joined the Navy to run nuclear reactors. I've also paid for a photovoltaic setup for my sister's house in Southern California, so I'm not completely in the dark about this subject.

We don't need to get the government involved in solar cell production. Prior to the current budget crisis, many states paid up to 50% of the cost of the solar generation equipment and installation cost. I don't have a reference now, but not even thinking about the time before the investment pays itself back, it probably takes as more in materials and production costs to produce a photovoltaic panel than it will ever produce.

Photovoltaics need to be done on the small scale (individual houses or housing units, local factories and industrial facilities). Yes, people need to take the mindset that solar power (or energy efficient houses in general) is an investment. The government has already tried direct subsidies with little response. At this point, the only government involvement I'd like to see are regulations and/or incentives (not necessarily direct subsidy) to incorporate energy efficient construction methods and photovoltaics into new construction.

QUOTE]Originally posted by Chris Cuilla

I'd really like to do a solar home. I'd prefer passive to active (covers heat and water but not 'lectricity of course) because of the "elegance" that is passive solar design. Kind of restricts the overall house design (elevation, floor plan) though.
[/QUOTE]

That's the way I'd like to go. Passive solar is much more cost effective than photovoltaics. For remodeling a house, solar hot water would be first and then perhaps incorporating solar hot water with radiant heating. My family just purchased a house and naturally as part of redecoration, my sisters are going to change the floors. My plan is to at least install the radiant heat tubing between the subfloor and whatever floor covering they choose and then install the heating equipment later, when finances permit.

Meanwhile, insulation and radiant barriers are the least expensive and easiest things to do. Google searches give lots on "radiant heat" and "radiant barriers", but here are places to start, if anyone is interested.

Radiant barrier paint (Haven't come across any other company with these paint products.)
Radiant barrier (reflective barrier) insulation (Lots of other companies have foil, foil-bubble wrap and foil-fiberglass, but I haven't seen anyone else with foil and foam.)
Government fact sheet on radiant floor heating
Another article on hydronic heating (In this case, I've avoided specific companies because, in general, they offer similar products. I couldn't find a diagram of the "ideal heat profile" for occupied spaces, which shows that radiant floor heat provides the most comfortable profile, when compared with forced air, radiant ceilings, or radiant baseboards, but it's commonly shown on many manufacturers' sites.)
post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally posted by Frank777
Very nice to see this going on.

One thing though. I've heard from someone that one of the reasons solar doesn't work financially is that the cells typically last five years or less before having to be replaced. Is this true?

I don't know where this comes from. The same thing was said by a student during a college class I took.

Production does degrade over time, but all the manufacturers I've looked into have a warranty of 25 years (some maybe 20 years) to guarantee that the photovoltaic panel output will be 90% of rated output at the end of that period.

If the photovoltaic system includes a battery backup system, the batteries commonly have to be replaced every three to ten years (don't remember the exact figure which, of course, depends on the type of battery).
post #8 of 10
These systems are usually made up of 3 parts, solar cells, batteries and inverters. The cells, panels are usually good for about 90% of capasity for 20 years. The inverters are also in that range. The batteries are the items that get changed out the most and it depends on your type of batteries. Solarex, now a part of BP has had a large production site in Frederick MD for a long time. As you drive on I-70 going west it is on your right hand side. From taking a tour there it seems that they make most of their money from cells that are used to power small pieces of equipment, ie. fans, calculators, road side phones etc. The big panels are used to trickle charge batteries and / or heat water for hot water and radiant heat. I can not remember what they said the cost was for each of these but they said if you lived out in the middle of no where it would be cheaper for you to build your house with the panels and have a cell phone than have all the utilities bring their wares out to you.

reg
post #9 of 10
I'm also very interested in this subject. Here in the UK Bill Dunster / ZEDfactory are pioneers of this technology & lifestyle. BedZED is about a 10 minute walk from where I live.

I'm beginning to think that urban wind power is probably the way forward rather than photovoltaics. Because it is a lot more cost efficient. Renewable Devices make a series of "Swift" Wind Turbines. which can power the average home for about $5000, are silent, and no more obtrusive than satellite dishes.

Urban micro-climates often result in high wind speeds. And having many small wind turbines in urban areas avoids the controversy of giant wind farms being built on natural landscapes.

Andrew
post #10 of 10
It takes 7-12 years to recover the initial expense over and above a conventional build -- according to that article -- which in reality pegs the real break even point somewhere between 15-20 years.

If you set out to build your own, it won't be worth the expense.

The only way to get this going is to get mid to large builders building entire subdivisions this way. But their business is in safe, secure, new, trouble free, relatively cheap to buy, (and massively profitable) new builds. They won't risk costing $25,000 more per home than a comparable site on the other side of the street.

It isn't a negligible cost in their market, not even on 20 year lands, certainly not on 5 or 10 year land.

The only way to get a real movement going would be for someone to subsidize the build so that the initial purchase price is just about the same. You could do it by getting municipalities to forego development charges when certain pre-approved heat/air/water/electric technologies are installed. Development charges are rich enough that the money is there. Unfortunately, development charges are rich enough that no municipality is going to willingly pass them up.
IBL!
Reply
IBL!
Reply
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: AppleOutsider
AppleInsider › Forums › Other Discussion › AppleOutsider › Zero Energy Homes