Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Green Home Economics

An excellent article about the real costs involved in going green in your home, from someone who believes in green and has been involved since the beginning.

A good read.

An excerpt.

“Much of the debate about ways to create a landscape of green homes today has focused on the new tax credits for residential energy efficient windows, solar panels and geothermal options. Passive solar and other design methods which make more sense have yet to qualify for tax credits. If history is any guide, this is an error that may take us down the wrong path.

“Yesterday And Today

“To best understand the direction of today’s green movement, let’s remember the first green era, when the Carter Administration offered a 50% tax credit to solve our energy consumption and pollution problems. The most prolific of the tax financed energy saving devices were unsightly rooftop solar water heaters that marred the suburban landscape. Those solar units cost $5,000 or more installed (1983 dollars). So you, the tax payer, financed $2,500 per home. Unfortunately the heaters had a short life span. Over a decade most wore out and disappeared. The good news was the developed landscape looked better without those things … the bad news was the tax payers likely paid billions for systems that quickly failed.

“Back then, I too was a participant in this green era. I built a 1980’s state-of-the-art home: Passive solar, earth bermed, with a 10kW Bergey Wind Generator, of which the tax payers reimbursed me $13,000….

“In 1983 this home cost about $121,000. Twelve years later it was appraised at $186,000. It’s architectural oddity severely limited it’s resale potential. In those years of good home appreciation, had it been a conventionally built, the nearly 4,000 sq.ft. lake front home should have been worth a minimum of $350,000. I had lost nearly $200,000 by going green. In fairness the loss was due to the underground construction and lack of curb appeal, and had nothing to do with its passive solar design, which is why we used passive solar again on our new home.

“Late in 2008, I found myself building Green again, this time as a requirement of a land purchase I made from the City of St. Louis Park, Minnesota. I had to agree to build to MNGreenStar certification, a derivative of LEED modified for severe cold climates.

"This time, in a similar situation to the ‘80s, the housing market downturn coincides with an increase in energy awareness and we have a government controlled by the Democratic Party. We have not found any new Green solutions that simultaneously reduce both initial housing costs and energy consumption. It seems that higher an EnergyStar rating on an item, the more expensive it becomes. The option today still remains to pay more now, for the promise of reduced costs later. …

“Why Passive Solar instead of Geothermal?

“Since Passive Solar is a very low cost design method and our home has a large unobstructed southern exposure, it simply made sense. This first winter the passive solar was inoperable because we discovered Anderson delivered the wrong glass, reflecting the suns energy out, not letting it in. Regardless, our first gas bill for the January 2009 winter (most days the high was below zero) heating period bill was only $200 at a nice and toasty 72 degrees . We used a conventional 95% Bryant HVAC system with a 3 phase air exchanger, plus a separate gas heater for the garage, a 14,000 BTU Fireplace, and three separate gas cooktops – and 3,600 sq.ft. to heat.

“Considering that the average home sells every 6 years, a home buyer is not likely to recover the initial investment on a $20,000 to $60,000 geothermal system, leaving the cost benefit a future home buyer. There is likely to be a significant long term mortgage on the home, so the interest on a $40,000 geothermal system might eventually add up to over $100,000.”