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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    Default Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    Good evening! We're trying to choose between broad options to reduce our overall electric bill (wind turbines, solar photovoltaic cells) or focused options to reduce individual components of our electric bill (geothermal heating, higher quality windows and doors, solar water heating, tube skylights).

    If we chose every option, we would need ~$80,000; we have ~$24,000. We've researched numerous websites, but have not found one resource that outlines which individual option provides the highest return relative to other energy efficiency options. Most of the information we've seen only relates one energy efficiency option to its not-so-energy-efficient compliment (such as how much more efficient a low-e window is compared to a window without low-e coating).

    Considering our limited knowledge and limited budget, how could we rank these choices?

    Thanks for any help!

    Paul
    St. Louis

  2. #2
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    Jun 2009
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    Default Re: Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    Do you not think that if GREEN alternatives to conventional electric power were in any way shape or form COST EFFECTIVE as compared to how the utility company is currently generating its power - then the electric utility would adopt their use? You better believe they would! Actually, when making the comparative decisions you mention - wind vs photovoltaic, etc. the biggest variables are the conditions of the given SITE. Therefore, you will find commercial wind farms up on open hilltops looking over the Pacific Ocean, and you will find large photovoltaic farms in the sunny southwestern deserts. Where you live, I would venture to say that your $24,000 could be spent on, say, 50% conservation measures (either better insulation, less air infiltration, more efficient shade tree planting, etc.) and 50% just pay the electric bills for another 10 years and wait for thechnology to catch up with politics or the other way around, whichever comes first. Don't forget, there is no better green tip that this: keep it SUSTAINABLE!)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Derry, NH
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    61

    Default Re: Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    The best solutions are the simplest. Better windows, better awnings or shades from sun, better insulation and something that will heat water with better efficiency without a large over all cost. I have heard of some success using solar heaters for supplemental hot water. Keep in mind if you spend $20-30,000 what return are you expecting?

    So far no wind technology can produce enough electricity consistently for residential use that I have seen that would pay for itself or make life even remotely improved.

    A supplement heating source such as pellets or coal have some advantages but all the alleged GREEN technology I have seen have expenses that aren't immediately recoverable if ever with the present technology.

    I use one light in my house at a time...always have. NO tv anymore accept to use as a view screen when I rent movies.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    OKC
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    Default Re: Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    i would recommend geo-thermal with the state and fed tax credits it should pay for itself in five years or less.
    HOPE THIS IS HELPFUL!

    Oklahoma City, OK

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
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    Default Re: Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    The green technology just isn't there.

    Geothermal takes approximately 3 years to balance, maintenance is expensive and cost recovery just doesn't seem to be there.

    Wind generators require an almost constant 11 MPH wind to be viable, very few locations in this country for that.

    photovoltaic with proper storage is viable but and to do an average home would cost about $25,000.

    One place you can save is on one of the biggest energy hogs in the home and that is the water heater. Although tank-less water heaters are great if properly sized to provide unlimited hot water I don't see them saving much in energy under normal usage and have a high upfront cost that is not likely to be recovered. You can though go to a high efficiency WH like the Marathon if you have an electric WH.

    It seems to me that the simplest solutions are what saves the most energy and money and have the quickest pay back like those mentioned by Jkirk or adding a storage tank with a simple solar heated exchanger in it to preheat water before it goes into the WH. Using lower wattage lights, putting electronic equipment such as computers or TVs on power strips so you can turn the power completely off when they are not in use. Cloths line is another energy saver that pays for itself very quickly. And don't be afraid of the dark, turn off all those all night security lights.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  6. #6
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    Jun 2009
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    Default Re: Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    All good recommendations. JLMcDaniel - never heard of Marathon water heaters; thanks for the tip.

    On that note, I've also read about using solar or tankless water heaters in sequence with a regular hot water heater to either compensate for the cloudy & cold days or to get hot water more quickly than a tankless typically allows. So, could I "create" a more efficient multiple-component system by adding a solar hot water heater in line with a traditional water heater, adding a tankless in line with a traditional water heater, or both? Is that overkill?

    Thanks, again, for all the comments. I've already done most of what you've alluded to (shade trees, Icynene insulation, CFLs, all Energy Star appliances), but want to continue to make our home energy efficient.

    -Paul

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
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    5,557

    Default Re: Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    Tank-less WH are expensive and as far as I can tell will require replacement before payback.

    You might want to check out http://www.motherearthnews.com/ for ideas on solar collectors etc.

    If you can build a solar collector, put a large tank inline with the water heater and install a heat exchanger in the tank. The heat exchanger could just be a coil of soft copper tubing. Use the solar collector to pre-heat the water going into the WH.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
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    1

    Default Re: Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    The largest return depends on how the house was built and its physical properties. As a builder/remodeler who is also certified to perform energy audits, I recommend spending a few hundred dollars to perform an energy rating of your home (find raters at www.natresnet.com). Check to see if the rater has a background of remodeling since they will be able to help determine cost factors as well. Once the rater has established the baseline from a site inspection and testing, they can model the home through their software to determine where you get the greatest return for your money. Efficiency upgrades are far more important initially and then move towards the higher $ improvements as the prices come down with greater competition. I always explain it this way: is it smarter to keep putting gas into a gas tank that is leaking 30-40% of the gas before you try to get better gas mileage? Plug the leaks first (keep your conditioned air inside) and then move your focus to getting better mileage. With the budget you've established, combined with the right advice, a goal of reducing your energy usage by 50% is attainable. www.theavenuebuilders.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    1,387

    Default Re: Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    Thanks, again, for all the comments. I've already done most of what you've alluded to (shade trees, Icynene insulation, CFLs, all Energy Star appliances), but want to continue to make our home energy efficient.

    -Paul[/QUOTE]

    Howdy, window insulation , several options, hold in heat in winter and keep it out in summer. Does your state give any tax rebates incentives?
    If you have AC a mister over the condenser to reduce costs. Solar videos on Utube is giving me more ideas for my place.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    3

    Default Re: Green options - what gives the biggest return on investment?

    Here's a good overview of the 2009 legislation on home improvement energy tax credits:
    http://bit.ly/2BdcQ0

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