First 12 Month Legacy House Energy Results

The first 12 month’s energy consumption and cost numbers are tallied. While I was disappointed with the raw percentage solar, the projected annual cost came in just a little higher than expected for the house. The HERS (1) estimate was $950, and we ended up at $1058.67. But — (and BIG but) that annual cost includes one year of driving our electric car. Because the HERS calculations on our basis document do not include a car, as nearly as I can figure we are doing better than expected on total building energy useage, which I really thought we would. The data is below.

We do have Sense monitoring equipment on the house and on the garage, so it is possible to make an educated guess on the amount of power being used by the car. An educated guess only because the Sense gear cannot combine data from the two devices and only one of them is tracking the 20 solar panels. Very confusing. I do not recommend Sense for anything but simple single sensor installations. In any case, if we throw out the solar assuming that it was split proportionally between the car and the house, the educated guess is that the car is using about 1/3 of our juice. If that is so, the house annual energy bill is about $705 and the car annual energy bill is about $353.

The spreadsheet above shows that winter energy consumption is higher, and that central Ohio is a cloudy place during fall and winter. No big surprise on either point. We had originally planned for 24 solar panels, and that might have been a better choice, but we thought we’d wait and see how things panned out. I think we’ll wait another year before putting panels on the main house (just on the garage, now). If we do that we’ll probably go to 28.

We have made some other little changes that may show up in the next 12 months. The hybrid water heater has recently been switched from hybrid operation to heat pump only operation. We see no difference in hot water availability, and that should reduce power use. We have also switched to a renewable power generation supplier. That lowered supply costs a bit and makes us totally renewable.

-George

The Legacy House Project Wins An Award

On Thursday, February 13th, 2020, AEP and Efficiency Crafted Homes held their annual awards ceremony in Columbus, Ohio. Our builder, Dan Troth, on the right above, of GreenTech Construction (1) had the honor of taking home four awards. The one we were most interested in was for our house, Lowest HERS Score Including Renewables, (solar panels, in our case) with a HERS Score of 16. Lower is better, 100 is typical of a standard new home.

-George

  1. https://greentechconstruction.com

Steve vs Greta

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Greta Thunberg to get an economics degree before advising others as to how to deal with energy policy. (1) In doing that, Mnuchin demonstrates his total lack of understanding of the interplay of energy policy and our climate crisis. The fact is that the climate crisis is not an economic problem unless you are invested in fossil fuels and don’t care what damage you cause or who you kill to make your buck. The climate crisis is a survival problem, a breathing problem, a thirst problem, a hunger problem, a fire problem, an immigration problem, yes, but not an economic problem in the sense that we have any choice about spending boatloads of money to get it under control. Even so, you’ll find more than one real economist (not Steve) who will tell you that the technology and industrial effort required to save our planet through something like a “Green New Deal” is really a remarkable economic opportunity. (2) Would I rather dig coal or build hydro plants and install solar panels?

No one needs a degree in anything to read a thermometer or to do at least something about the climate crisis and all of us need to be active in the effort. Changing one lightbulb or planting one tree won’t help much by itself, Greta will tell you that passionately, but even such a small act helps build grassroots awareness that will be required to implement much more difficult changes in the way we live in the near future.

We are starting to build another small Zero Energy Ready house in our community with the builder of our present home. We’ll sell it, and try to build another after that. Maybe one each year if we do not lose our shirts along the line. That’s doing something that is visible on the street, something neighbors will talk about. We never planned to become home-builders, but it is something we can do, indeed, must do.

There is a list of 10 simple things we can all do at ThoughtCo. (3) You can visit the site to get the story on each item.

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  2. Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning
  3. Change a Light Bulb
  4. Drive Less and Drive Smart
  5. Buy Energy-Efficient Products
  6. Use Less Hot Water
  7. Use the “Off” Switch
  8. Plant a Tree
  9. Get a Report Card from Your Utility Company
  10. Encourage Others to Conserve

Even if these are small things in themselves, they help create the awareness and the culture we need, they add up, and you don’t need an economics degree to get them done.

Go Greta, goodbye Steve.

-George

  1. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/01/23/steve-mnuchin-tells-greta-thunberg-get-economics-degree/4551092002/
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/washingtonbytes/2019/02/20/the-economic-case-for-the-green-new-deal/
  3. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-reduce-global-warming-1203897

The Christmas Party Chat

We had a little Christmas party this week at several of the model homes in our new New Urbanist community. We walked from home to home, engaged with the builders, our neighbors, potential new neighbors, ate a few cookies, and drank a little ale. A good time was had by all.

At one of the homes, the builder asked some questions about our high performance home. In the course of that discussion, he raised four objections to American actions to reduce carbon emissions through technologies like solar panels and electric cars. Those points were:

  1. It costs more in carbon emissions to build an electric car than driving the car will ever save over a gas car.
  2. We shouldn’t have to worry about the environment because India and China are not abating their emissions.
  3. We will never see electric “Boeing 737s”.
  4. Power companies cannot maintain the grid with consumers generating part of their own energy.

Point 1. This sounds like a propaganda claim that is passed around without much thought. Facts will certainly not be found to back it up. The claim may have its tenuous roots in a 2017 Swedish study that raised serious concerns about the CO2 emissions related to electric car battery production (among other factors). That study was revised in 2019 to reflect the impact of improved production efficiencies at high volumes and the use of renewable energy in the manufacturing process. Check out the roofs of Tesla factories. (1) The revised study can be found at Scribd. (2) The 2019 CO2 estimate is about half of the 2017 study number. Importantly, the Swedish reports of 2017 and 2019 do not actually compare gas and electric car emissions, so the numbers must be used with great care and in context.

However, according to Mike Barnard, Executive Consultant, Energy and Cloud at IBM, (3) the CO2 cost of building an electric car is “. . . trivial compared to the emissions avoided due to not burning fossil fuels to move the car . . .” And, that is including the possibility that the electricity is derived from coal. This may have something to do with the fact that a combustion engine is only about 25% efficient, whereas an electric motor is nearly 100% efficient.

A better source of factual information about the emissions of electric cars is “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave” (4) by the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the source of data for Mr. Barnard’s triviality comment, above.

Point 2: We did not forgo building our high-performance home because of China’s or India’s environmental policies. Certainly not because of Trumpian EPA policies. In a proverbial sense, we do not act as fools because our neighbors are fools, although it should be noted that both China and India are working very hard to correct their problems. We built our little house because we can see the what is happening in the world around us. We let the facts be our guide. When we lack leadership, we must assume the mantle ourselves, and we did.

Point 3. We may not see electric 737s in our lifetimes. I won’t argue that we will, but I will argue that we absolutely shall be required to reduce our use of jet transport aircraft and to change our lifestyles as we accommodate that reduction. That’s the real point here. Our environment cannot continue to accept today’s levels of emissions from the non-essential jet transportation of bananas and lobsters or next-day deliveries of crockpots.

Point 4. Power companies do have a problem with local generation of power, although it is not so much the economics of the basic grid infrastructure. Solar and wind can cause rapidly fluctuating demand that is difficult to manage. Difficult, not impossible. Difficult because our present electric grid was not designed to work with these newer distributed generation technologies. The real problem with today’s slow and steady highly centralized grid is its lack of quick response storage, and the answer to this problem is not to protect the past through legislation to penalize distributed solar and wind generation, but to encourage change and adaptation through legislation in a joint government/industry effort to redesign our power infrastructure for an inevitable coal and gas free future where energy comes from a variety of distributed and nearly autonomous sources. A good read on this topic is “The Grid: Electrical Infrastructure for a New Era” by Gretchen Bakke.

-George

Edited 12/13/19 to clarify Point 1.

  1. https://i0.wp.com/electrek.co/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/01/screen-shot-2018-01-16-at-9-53-56-am.jpg?w=566&h=323&quality=82&strip=all&ssl=1
  2. https://www.scribd.com/document/438431821/IVL-Lithium-Ion-Vehicle-Battery-Production#from_embed
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2016/04/22/the-carbon-footprint-of-tesla-manufacturing/
  4. https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/11/Cleaner-Cars-from-Cradle-to-Grave-full-report.pdf

Global Cooling Prize

Each of these air-conditions is about 18% efficient (or less).

Eight Global Cooling Prize finalists have been announced. (1) The prize was initiated by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI); the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India; and Mission Innovation, and is administered by RMI, Conservation X Labs, the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE), and CEPT University. This is probably news to you. After all, we in the USA are being asked by our leaders to burn more coal, oil, and gas.

In other parts of the world where some degree of environmental rationality still exists, things are different. The Cooling Project goal is to to develop technology that will provide equivalent residential cooling for one fifth of the present power requirement. That improved efficiency can save up to 5,900 TWh/year in avoided demand in 2050, equal to 2X the annual generation of electricity within the EU, and it has the potential to potential to mitigate up to 0.5˚C of global warming by 2100.

Because our Legacy House is largely solar powered, our air-conditioning CO2 contribution is very low. We are probably doing better than the Cooling Project’s 2050 goals even today. Many people, particularly those in crowded urban environments or those lacking sufficient financial resources cannot go out and build solar houses. But if they can buy a window or house air-conditioner that is five times more efficient to run, that’s a winner from personal economic and global environmental perspectives.

-George

  1. https://globalcoolingprize.org/about-the-global-cooling-prize/the-solution/#

Electricity Use

We have four months’ data to give us some idea how the Legacy House solar plant, seen above just after installation, is working.

May 2019 — $46.48, 731 kWh delivered, 416 kWh to grid, 315 kWh net.
June 2019 — $20.40, 617 kWh delivered, 544 kWh to grid, 73 kWh net.
July 2019 — $9.50, 488 kWh delivered, 536 kWh to grid, -48 kWh net.
August 2019 — $16.48, 619 kWh delivered, 577 kWh to grid, 41 kWh net. 

It appears that we are getting a bit less than 85% of our power from the garage roof panels. That’s great, but a bit more than we really want. Unless one builds off-grid, AEP Ohio expects net-metering users like us to buy some power to pay for grid maintenance. That’s fine.

Keep in mind that the numbers above relate to the house and the electric car in the garage.

The Legacy House

It has been over a year since I last posted on this blog. There are two reasons for that.

First, I was really getting down over the stuff I was constantly writing about Donald Trump and his henchmen and henchwomen. See what I mean? Just thinking about those folks drives me right into an intellectual quagmire that sucks the hip-boots of reason clean off my body.

Second, this blog is supposed to be about doing stuff that’s good for something, not fuming and writing about stuff that’s good for nothing (which isn’t actually doing anything, is it now?). Well, we have just finished a busy year of doing good stuff, and it’s time to clear out the bad vibes. Start over.

A bit over a year ago, June 20, 2018, we had finished digging a hole in the ground at Evans Farm (1) in central Ohio.

IMG_0620

We would plant a house there. They take about a year to grow, it seems, and we are now at harvest time.

Evans Farm is a New Urbanism (2) community, or will be when it fills in around us. It was the best place we could find to put our Legacy House. We wanted a site that would permit us to walk to shops, recreational facilities, the post office, schools, and the like. We wanted something closer to our neighbors. In the long-run, a community is not sustainable if it’s made up of nothing but quarter acre patches of grass upon which are planted  ticky-tacky houses serving as a motels for the folks inside. It’s not a community if you have to jump in the car to access all your services, if you never see the folks next door. It’s not emotionally healthy nor environmentally nor economically sound. We did not want to leave a quarter acre legacy to our family when times are-a-changing. So, we did something about that, and here is what grew in the hole we dug:

IMG_1934

There is still a bit of work to do, but we are happily ensconced here and all systems are go. The Legacy House is a 2500 square foot modern farmhouse. It’s big enough to live in, functional, practical, and pleasant. Just what it needs to be, and not more. It is not a wasteful nor pretentious home, and it is ready for the 21st century.

The all-electric house stands over a ten foot Superior Walls (3) precast wall basement. The envelope is a SIPs (4) system. The walls are made of eight and six inch panels, and the roof is made of ten inch panels. The triple pane windows are by Marvin. Primary HVAC is a Mitsubishi two zone air-sourced heat pump. (6) The garage roof supports 20 LG360Q1C-A5 solar panels with Enphase IQ7+ inverters (7200 Watts). (7) Electricity costs for the last quarter came to $76.38 (including the Tesla Model 3 in the garage).

The Legacy House builder was Dan Troth of Greentech Construction. (8) He is presently rebuilding his web site, so be patient.

There will be many more posts about this building in the future. It’s great to be writing about doing things.

  1. https://www.evansfarmoh.com/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Urbanism
  3. https://www.superiorwalls.com/
  4. https://www.sips.org/about/what-are-sips
  5. https://www.marvin.com/
  6. https://www.mitsubishicomfort.com/products/outdoor-units/multi-zone-cooling-and-heating/compare
  7. https://www.lg.com/us/business/solar-panels/lg-LG360Q1C-A5
  8. https://greentechconstruction.com/