How Legislation Could Affect our Plans

It probably seems odd for me to be looking to Congress to help determine some of our plans for the house, but it all comes down to one technology.

Geothermal heating and cooling.

You see, geothermal– which is an incredibly efficient and green method of heating and cooling– currently benefits from some very nice tax credits.  However, those credits are set to expire at the end of 2016, and we won’t have even broken ground by then much less have the system installed to be able to qualify.  If we could take advantage of those credits– which amount to 30% of the cost– then the added expense of geothermal over a conventional HVAC system would be significantly decreased.

I think the energy savings of using a geothermal system might still justify the upfront cost, but with that tax credit, it seems to be a no-brainer.  Unfortunately, with just over a month left in 2016, the window of opportunity for Congress to extend the credits is closing quickly.

People in the geothermal industry have, as would be expected, seen significant jump in business because of the credits, and are saying that it is arbitrary and unfair that other green technologies like solar and wind did receive extensions of their respective tax credits while geothermal was left out.  They continue to lobby, but who knows what is going on behind closed doors that will ultimately dictate what happens.


In the meantime, we will wait and see.


Why, Elon Musk, Why?!

Why does Elon Musk have to come out with such appetizing products?

I already desperately want a Tesla car, but Elon made quite a few people scream, “Take my money!” when he recently showed off some pretty amazing designs for solar shingles in conjunction with an upgraded Powerwall to store extra energy.

While building a green home is not the most important goal of this project– we’re not willing to use a technology just because it is green if it doesn’t make fiscal sense or ruins the look or function of the home– we would love to be able to incorporate it as much as possible.  If we had more land, I would totally consider installing a solar array away from the house, but we don’t have that option.  And the previously available roof panels don’t give the look we like and would very possibly not be approved by the design review committee of our neighborhood anyway.

But the new shingles shown off at Tesla’s press event on Wisteria Lane (yes, they are only available for Desperate Housewives for now) look like normal high-end shingles from the street.  It’s only from more direct angles, like the angle the sunlight would hit them, that the underlying panels become apparent.  Quite an awesome design that they report loses very little energy.

Of course, this was just a preview and who knows how they will actually look or perform in mass production.

And there’s that little issue of price.  Really no details were shared on this issue other than to say that they expect (or maybe hope) that the added cost of these solar shingles will be offset by the savings in electricity.  Unfortunately, that’s way too vague.  If it is 5 years to break even, then it probably would make sense.  After all, normal roofs are expected to last upwards of 30 or more years.  Of course, since they will have electronic components– and we all know how quickly electronics makes leaps and bounds– owners of these roofs may need and/or want to “upgrade” them much sooner.  But if I’m expected to front a big cost that I wouldn’t recoup for a decade or more, it would be a lot harder to bite.

It will be very interesting to see more of the details as these get closer to production to see how many people they really make sense for and how they actually perform.  I imagine it will be like Tesla cars: very high-end and almost a novelty to begin with and trickling down to more average consumers over a few years.

In our case, they won’t really be an option, though, because they likely won’t be available till late 2017 and we better have a roof on our project before that.  Plus I don’t think I would want to be a day 1 adopter of something like this that will definitely command a premium price.  It will be very appealing as an upgrade down the road, however.

Now, about that Powerwall…