I recently saw an interesting article via Facebook about the potential for “net-zero” homes, in which the goal is to produce as much energy as you consume. While the up-front costs seem rather large (and are certainly out of reach of most American households), I expect that we will see more people using techniques like these to offset their energy costs as fossil fuel prices rise. Matt Grocoff, who also drives a Chevy Volt presumably powered by the solar panels on his roof, says:
The technology already exists, and it’s proven to be affordable if you look at the total time value of that money. A typical mortgage is for 30 years, for instance, so if you look at the cost over a 30-year period, going net-zero is actually far more affordable than not doing it.
But to get specific, the basic idea is this: People like to say that old houses need to breathe. And frankly, I’ll just say it: That’s bullshit. They breathe just because that’s the way they were built. They had cedar shingles on the roofs, no insulation, and they were leaky. And it’s a good thing they were because people were heating with coal-fired, pot-bellied stoves. You can only imagine the indoor air quality in those days. But today, regardless if you’re heating with a gas furnace or geothermal system, you want to keep that energy inside the house, where it can keep you warm, and then use a little bit of energy to ventilate the home.