I had the pleasure of having a house fire in 2012 that destroyed everything in the house with exception of the structure. This gave me the chance to utilize energy efficient construction on my old 1941 house in an economical way when rebuilding. Though half the windows are still single pane originals, I was able to reduce my energy consumption to less than half that of an average new home of comparable size. I utilized this by using an engineered energy efficient HVAC system designed by Harry Boody of Energy Innovations along with a closed crawlspace, flash and batt insulation within the roof cavity, radiant barrier heat shield, and solar panels (by Accelerate Solar). I’ve installed a Clipper Creek Phase 2 charger to my house that charges my B-Class Mercedes Electric Car (which will soon be replaced by the Tesla Model 3). You’re probably thinking, “well that’s great but that sounds expensive and probably costs way too much to be worthwhile”. Assuming conservatively that no one buying the home would appreciate these things and therefore adds no value whatsoever to the house, the payback on the solar panels is approximately 8 years, the payback on the upgraded insulation is about 5 years and the engineered HVAC is about 8 years. Obviously there are many factors that can effect these numbers such as future energy costs and added resale value, but it was a “no brainer” decision since we plan on living in the home for at least this long and will recoup the investment. Not only that, the comfort and better indoor air quality of a well designed HVAC system is something hard to put a value on.
My average monthly electric bill which includes cooling and heating (no gas) is $131. About $40 of this is used to charge my electric car, which gets me about 1000 miles in a month. The 8.9 KW solar panels help keep the bills lower. Unfortunately North Carolina legislators have recently taken away the state tax credit and the federal tax credit will be phased out slowly over the next 10 years (pending any other changes in legislation or tax Code) but the price of solar is even cheaper than when I had it installed so it is still worth looking into.
Charlotte News & Observer did a write up on my house and that can be found here. Read the article for more information and photos of the house. (More solar panels have been added since the article so the numbers quoted in the article are now different.)
As a homeowner considering new construction, it is in your best interest financially to pay attention to good design and energy efficiency. The “it’ll cost more” argument is a poor one and doesn’t usually consider the return on investment. We at IDE have to be knowledgeable in building science and in most cases energy efficient construction equates to good building science and performance. If you are looking for a resource of knowledge to understand all this, the internet can be overwhelming and confusing. It’s best to consult with a company or organization that specializes in energy efficient design and understands these concepts and can incorporate them in the design considerations. These companies can also evaluate existing construction and retrofitting. Below are some links to some reputable companies that service the Charlotte and surrounding area. I have personally met and worked with the owners of these companies. They know their stuff.
~Written by Mike Gervais, P.E.
December 9, 2016