Rooting for Working Americans

| 2/4/2011 1:26:22 PM

Kosmer Solar House Project 

Our conversation should begin by struggling to define what mainstream American workers and homeowners want in the way of housing and energy. Feel free to chime in anytime with your thoughts.

Foremost, many of us want this whole increasing energy cost thing to just disappear. Find some more oil and gas fields. Dispel the peak oil argument. Make my stuff more energy efficient. And just leave me alone so I can continue to do what I’m doing like I’ve always done it. That would be nice. But I’m afraid it’s not going to happen.

Second on the wish list is a magic bullet that will instantly (almost) make existing homes super energy efficient at an affordable price. While I am rooting for us on this one, I don’t see it on the horizon. It is an understandable wish considering the amount of existing homes in the US. That is why so much effort has been going into retrofitting homes instead of building new super energy efficient homes. The business of retrofitting is huge compared to building new homes. That statement would have been true enough before the homebuilding market collapsed. It’s absolutely true now.

Worse, I have seen estimates that the maximum savings you can expect to achieve if you retrofit everything correctly is in the 20% - 40% range. Let’s say 50%, so we don’t have to quibble. In the 21st century, that’s not good enough. I have said elsewhere, “Existing 20th century homes are obsolete energy sieves that will take Herculean measures to bring up to speed in the 21st century.” “Herculean measures” means tons of work and money and “up to speed” means a home that at least produces as much energy as it consumes, if not more.

LEED homes, PassiveHouse homes (of German origin) and Solar Decathlon homes pop up in the press all the time. I just read about a net zero energy 4800 sq. ft. home built in the Hamptons that received a LEED Platinum certification. After I made a call it turns out the home came in at roughly $300 a sq. ft., or under 1.5 million.

Violet West
7/22/2012 8:42:53 PM

"My long-term hope is that my original solar house project becomes one of the most inefficient homes in America." You mean efficient, right?

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