Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What renewable energy products on the market today are capable of heating a Boston brownstone in winter?

The title started as a rhetorical question. Turns out it is actually quite easy to give a practical answer.

Step 1: Hire an architect house with experience in energy efficiency retrofits on old New England houses, such as the folks at http://zeroenergy.com.

Step 2: Bring up the insulation rating of the house up to the Passive House standard. Think of it as LEAD Silver, one step higher. Check out http://nypassivehouse.org/. This costs around $200 per sqft.

Step 3: Reap the savings. After the retrofit, heating costs are reduced five-fold, from $8 per sqft to $1.50. This has a Return-On-Investment period of 10 years, afterwards the energy savings are money in the bank.

Step 4: Generate the energy needed to heat the passive house by buying shares of a windmill coop. You will need one-fifth of 1/6000 of the Berkshire Wind Power Coop project, which is a one-time cost of around $2100 plus a few cents for maintenance.


The only reason people don't do this is because, either (1) they actually enjoy giving oil company their money (ah!) (2) they don't own their house, or (3) they don't know that the technology is available today, or (4) they cannot stomac the 10-year investment horizon.

If you are in that 4th case, keep an eye open. There are banks that specialize in doing these sorts of investments, Solar City does it for solar panels, for instance. But overall they are few and hard to find at the moment. Still, it's totally worth doing.

This article at ft.com talks about some folks in New York who did just that.