AuthorTopic: Net Zero McMansion  (Read 6065 times)

Offline Eddie

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Net Zero McMansion
« on: July 01, 2018, 12:11:37 PM »
I don't really live in what I'd call a McMansion. The house in the canyon has nearly an acre of land, and a view up and down Barton Creek Canyon for miles. I think of it as the Hollywood Hills of Austin. Or our  equivalent of Laurel Canyon. Unique geography, not easily carved up into .25 acre lots with public sewer mains. It's not quite a suburb, and never will be. But it's uncomfortably close to the urban sprawl. From my decks and pool, I see, not McMansions, but real mansions. The ten million and up kind, that rich lobbyists, tech zillionaires, and successful business and real estate people build now. I have the crappiest house in a very high end neighborhood.

I have a small garden that could be be made bigger. In a collapse whereby the local powers that be just go away, I'd radically change my grey and black water systems to put the waste water into growing things, and the current large evaporative septic field could be repurposed to grow food. I could  fairly easily catch and store enough water to live on with current rainfall levels and no water mains, although I'm no where near doing that as of yet.

But it is a big house, about 3000 sq ft, and it has the requisite two heat pump AC's to cool it, and a pool pump and two hot water heaters. One eV car to charge every night. It isn't unusual at all to use 100Kwh in a day in this hot summer weather.

Tomorrow, I have a meeting set up with a local solar installer. Here, there are decent energy rebates that will pay for maybe half of a modest grid tie (it used to be a 5Kw system would max the free bennies but maybe that's higher. Probably is, maybe 10Kw now. We'll see.)

I told them already on the phone I don't want a modest grid tie. I want to build what maxes my available roof space and that my goal is net zero. We'll see what that costs, to get the  Austin Energytm anointed PV installers to do that. Or if it can be done. I think it can, but I'm not sure.

I put on a new roof last year, and if I'm going to install a solar PV system on this house, I need to make it happen somehow. I'm starting this thread to discuss whatever I find out. I hope I can find a way to make this happen.

A big part of my decision-making these days is around when to cash out of this house and downsize.....or whether to do that at all. My three stated goals for retirement are:

Keep taxes low

Make most of my own energy

Grow as much of my own food as I can.

If my real estate is paid for, those three expenses are the biggest and most critical ones I foresee...... other than sick care, which is something I can't particularly predict or plan for, other than to accept that old people do get sick and die 100% of the time. I've paid a real fortune for health insurance in my life, and I wish I had the money back. I never used it much. I'm almost to Medicare now, fwiw.

I have lived a fairly healthy existence, having never used tobacco, drunk much soda, have been a runner through most of my middle age, and gone for decades without consuming alcohol. I HAVE been exposed to many carcinogens and too much sun, and I have certain inherited issues, like my high blood pressure. I might drop dead, but I might live to great old age.

The taxes on the canyon house are high, but the way Austin and Round Rock and the surrounding area is headed, the taxes there are looking better all the time compared with those inside the various municipal districts. I am in what's called the 3 mile extra-territorial jurisdiction of Austin, and I pay no city taxes. A house of the same size within the city would be much higher. There is a cap for over-65 citizens of a 10% rise in taxes per year. The missus is now about to turn 65, so I think we're there.

The taxes on the stead are FAR lower, over 90% lower. They would go up a little if I built a new house, but it's a rural county and the calculus of taxes is generally  far less onerous and is likely to continue to be so. The lake cottage taxes are high because it's waterfront. If you live on water here, you can calculate your taxes just from the length of your waterfront, almost. Fortunately, I have a pie-shaped lot. If you want to own waterfront, you should remember that. Short side on the water is what you want from your waterfront lot. Still it also is in a rural county, so it's better than Austin waterfront, by a mile. Still, the taxes out there are going up a lot too.

The loose plan has been to cash out maybe 500K in equity out of the canyon house and use part of that to turn the lake cottage into a nicer place to live in our last years, with a real boat house, which I don't have. Now we have this new deal, this great small house in the city we found. It's almost too nice to put into rental. I find myself doing the math on possibly downsizing into it, which the missus and the kids are not opposed to.......choices, always choices.

I'm happy to have choices. My problems are definitely the White Man's problems. So what? I'm grateful for that.

But I think my energy and food requirements could conceivably be met while still living in the canyon house. And even if I do decide to sell, I think a net zero status would make selling the house a breeze. Not sure how much value it'd add, but it would be measurable.

More tomorrow, after I meet with the solar installers.



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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2018, 04:10:45 PM »
Quote
But it is a big house, about 3000 sq ft, and it has the requisite two heat pump AC's to cool it, and a pool pump and two hot water heaters. One eV car to charge every night. It isn't unusual at all to use 100Kwh in a day in this hot summer weather.

There's your problem.  What efforts are you making to use LESS ENERGY?  I have a small house, no AC, no pool, small hot water tank (240 L) kept at 50 C, no EV car and I use 7.2 kW.h/day in summer.
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Offline Nearingsfault

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2018, 05:18:25 PM »
I don't really live in what I'd call a McMansion. The house in the canyon has nearly an acre of land, and a view up and down Barton Creek Canyon for miles. I think of it as the Hollywood Hills of Austin. Or our  equivalent of Laurel Canyon. Unique geography, not easily carved up into .25 acre lots with public sewer mains. It's not quite a suburb, and never will be. But it's uncomfortably close to the urban sprawl. From my decks and pool, I see, not McMansions, but real mansions. The ten million and up kind, that rich lobbyists, tech zillionaires, and successful business and real estate people build now. I have the crappiest house in a very high end neighborhood.

I have a small garden that could be be made bigger. In a collapse whereby the local powers that be just go away, I'd radically change my grey and black water systems to put the waste water into growing things, and the current large evaporative septic field could be repurposed to grow food. I could  fairly easily catch and store enough water to live on with current rainfall levels and no water mains, although I'm no where near doing that as of yet.

But it is a big house, about 3000 sq ft, and it has the requisite two heat pump AC's to cool it, and a pool pump and two hot water heaters. One eV car to charge every night. It isn't unusual at all to use 100Kwh in a day in this hot summer weather.

Tomorrow, I have a meeting set up with a local solar installer. Here, there are decent energy rebates that will pay for maybe half of a modest grid tie (it used to be a 5Kw system would max the free bennies but maybe that's higher. Probably is, maybe 10Kw now. We'll see.)

I told them already on the phone I don't want a modest grid tie. I want to build what maxes my available roof space and that my goal is net zero. We'll see what that costs, to get the  Austin Energytm anointed PV installers to do that. Or if it can be done. I think it can, but I'm not sure.

I put on a new roof last year, and if I'm going to install a solar PV system on this house, I need to make it happen somehow. I'm starting this thread to discuss whatever I find out. I hope I can find a way to make this happen.

A big part of my decision-making these days is around when to cash out of this house and downsize.....or whether to do that at all. My three stated goals for retirement are:

Keep taxes low

Make most of my own energy

Grow as much of my own food as I can.

If my real estate is paid for, those three expenses are the biggest and most critical ones I foresee...... other than sick care, which is something I can't particularly predict or plan for, other than to accept that old people do get sick and die 100% of the time. I've paid a real fortune for health insurance in my life, and I wish I had the money back. I never used it much. I'm almost to Medicare now, fwiw.

I have lived a fairly healthy existence, having never used tobacco, drunk much soda, have been a runner through most of my middle age, and gone for decades without consuming alcohol. I HAVE been exposed to many carcinogens and too much sun, and I have certain inherited issues, like my high blood pressure. I might drop dead, but I might live to great old age.

The taxes on the canyon house are high, but the way Austin and Round Rock and the surrounding area is headed, the taxes there are looking better all the time compared with those inside the various municipal districts. I am in what's called the 3 mile extra-territorial jurisdiction of Austin, and I pay no city taxes. A house of the same size within the city would be much higher. There is a cap for over-65 citizens of a 10% rise in taxes per year. The missus is now about to turn 65, so I think we're there.

The taxes on the stead are FAR lower, over 90% lower. They would go up a little if I built a new house, but it's a rural county and the calculus of taxes is generally  far less onerous and is likely to continue to be so. The lake cottage taxes are high because it's waterfront. If you live on water here, you can calculate your taxes just from the length of your waterfront, almost. Fortunately, I have a pie-shaped lot. If you want to own waterfront, you should remember that. Short side on the water is what you want from your waterfront lot. Still it also is in a rural county, so it's better than Austin waterfront, by a mile. Still, the taxes out there are going up a lot too.

The loose plan has been to cash out maybe 500K in equity out of the canyon house and use part of that to turn the lake cottage into a nicer place to live in our last years, with a real boat house, which I don't have. Now we have this new deal, this great small house in the city we found. It's almost too nice to put into rental. I find myself doing the math on possibly downsizing into it, which the missus and the kids are not opposed to.......choices, always choices.

I'm happy to have choices. My problems are definitely the White Man's problems. So what? I'm grateful for that.

But I think my energy and food requirements could conceivably be met while still living in the canyon house. And even if I do decide to sell, I think a net zero status would make selling the house a breeze. Not sure how much value it'd add, but it would be measurable.

More tomorrow, after I meet with the solar installers.
I'd love to hear what they propose for solar Eddie...
I know what my choice would be; Small house in town as a pied a terre and the stead... As long as the stead has water. Swale the bejesus out of it. I don't like waterfront property myself even though I make my living off it. Too pricey, too noisy and where you are too much big weather. I'm not a boat guy though.  Have fun with your white guy problems...
Cheers,  David
If its important then try something, fail, disect, learn from it, try again, and again and again until it kills you or you succeed.

Offline Eddie

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2018, 05:21:31 PM »
There's your problem.  What efforts are you making to use LESS ENERGY?  I have a small house, no AC, no pool, small hot water tank (240 L) kept at 50 C, no EV car and I use 7.2 kW.h/day in summer.

Not even you could live on that here. Trust me on that one. You could survive, and that's about it.

I make no bones about the fact that I waste too much energy. But let's compare apples to apples. I have had ten people living here in the recent past, which makes 100KWh per day into 10KWh a head which isn't much more than your level of consumption....although we are suddenly down to three again here lately, through no fault of mine.

I've tried to make the best use I could of this big house I bought when I had four small kids and nobody but a few climatologists had a clue about warming.

And I'm emotionally attached to it, as stupid as that sounds. It's a house that's always been full of light, art, and music, and laughter. It's been a refuge for several friends who needed a place to live, some of them for years. I love the view. I love to dance with my wife on the deck outside my living room when the full moon is in the southwest. I'll miss that.

I could live on far less than I do. How much is the acceptable rate of consumption, Kommandante?

It's a personal decision, you see. How much to consume. You can look down your nose at people who consume more than you do, but if you insist on telling them how much is too much, I wouldn't expect anyone to thank you for that.

I know I certainly don't need some old fart who lives in New Guinea by himself in the jungle to tell me how to live.

Let me tell you something. Most people in this country couldn't even make an accurate guess as to how much energy they actually consume. They have no idea whatsoever. The closest they could come would be to tell you what their electric bill is in dollars. Or how much they spend for gas in their car.

Conservation begins with awareness. I have awareness, and I'm working on the conservation part. But this house will always be an energy hog. That can't and won't be fixed.

Too much space. Too much glass. Too many bathrooms. No thermal mass inside. Not enough insulation in the skin of the building outside.

Let's see what some temporarily and artificially low priced PV's can do. It's an arbitrage opportunity. Trade some over-valued USD's for some underpriced miracle technology that won't be around forever. Is that cheating, Comrade? I don't think so.

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Eddie

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2018, 05:33:57 PM »
I'd love to hear what they propose for solar Eddie...
I know what my choice would be; Small house in town as a pied a terre and the stead... As long as the stead has water. Swale the bejesus out of it. I don't like waterfront property myself even though I make my living off it. Too pricey, too noisy and where you are too much big weather. I'm not a boat guy though.  Have fun with your white guy problems...
Cheers,  David


I'm the king of my tribe but we govern by consensus. So that makes all these decisions hard ones. But at least once they're made, nobody has room to complain much. Every time I try to make an executive decision, I pay for it sooner or later. :)

If it were just up to me, it'd be the stead, and I'd buy the local bank building in the ghost town nearby and turn that crossroads into some kind of art community. Live in the bank and make the downstairs a gallery. I see so much potential out there, just 20 miles past the edge of the edge of the city now, really. Somebody WILL do that, if BAU persists a few more years.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Palloy2

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2018, 05:56:17 PM »
Why are you so defensive, calling me Kommandante and blaming me for telling people how much to live on, when I didn't do any such thing?  I told you what I live on in a hot and humid climate.  You know my choice is to live alone, why should that upset you?  You ought to be thanking me for telling you what can be lived on.  I asked you what efforts are you making to use LESS ENERGY? - and all I get is abuse and defensiveness, because you are going to make NO EFFORT to use less.  Instead you are going to PAY professionals to do it all for you, and BUY energy-intensive solar panels and inverters and copper wire in a ridiculous attempt to stay in the same wasteful lifestyle. 

THAT won't be a net zero solution, so why bother even thinking about it?
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Offline Surly1

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2018, 06:33:08 PM »
Why are you so defensive, calling me Kommandante and blaming me for telling people how much to live on, when I didn't do any such thing?  I told you what I live on in a hot and humid climate. 

FWIW, it's the height of nerve to start clutching pearls about "Kommandante." You've been wearing Eddie's ass out for the last couple of weeks because he's been reasonably candid about the choices he's made and the purchases he's undertaken. All of this carping seems to omit that the choices he makes are made in the context of an extended family unit. He carries a responsibility that affects a lot of people, an extended family, and he is fortunate to be able to generate the FRNs to pay for his choices.

None of us who have drunk deep from the bounty afforded by generations of ancient sunlight can call ourselves innocent because our carbon footprint is infinitesimally less than another's. Looks like class envy to me. It certain is hypocrisy.

And I'm the resident Bolshevik.

Eddie sure doesn't need any help from me. I'm just tired of reading and feeling my gorge rise.

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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2018, 07:03:12 PM »
Quote
FWIW, it's the height of nerve to start clutching pearls about "Kommandante."

No it isn't!  It was a deliberate attempt to cast me someone who orders others about.  That is something I didn't do, in this case or in any other.

Quote
Looks like class envy to me. It certain is hypocrisy.

That's absurd.  I don't envy him in the least.  He has to avoid every thought of imminent Collapse because of his GIGANTIC DEBT and totally unsustainable 100 kW.h lifestyle, plus all the baggage and responsibilities he believes he has. He COULD take my life as his example, but there is no hypocrisy in pointing out how stuck he is in BAU while wanting to be "net zero".

I don't know what's come over you recently.  My posts are exactly what needs to be pointed out.  If you think it is too close to the truth to be said out loud, then it's YOUR problem.
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Offline Agent Graves

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2018, 02:58:55 AM »
Criticize Eddie getting electricians to install things, as required by regulation? Im actually laughing because its funny enough to get card carrying socialist Surly started on right wing, 'makers and takers' rhetoric.

On the larger question, I believe installing solar increases the value of the house at least as much as it costs. House prices are going down now with the interest rates rising. Think about what house prices were when rates were last high... that could be where its heading back to. So sell if your family dont mind.

Dont half ass prep for collapse light if you can do more. I first tried that myself in a home sounding very similar to what you describe. In the hills, million dollar mansion assholish neighbors, all big blocks on slopes, huge place. I put rainwater tanks beside every downpipe. Looked at using the pool as a fish pond and reservoir etc, ripped out the back lawn and tried to garden. Stacked up half a supermarket. Its better than nothing but far from the best option.

Better to pay off your stead and spend on the things it needs, including labour if needs be. If you can make it there on weekends but its over an hour from the city, thats perfect. If your'e doing it all on your own, its a conundrum. Either you work away and nothing gets done, or your'e there full time but cant pay for things you need, like the pickup truck, and would end up carrying pigs in the back seat of a sedan.



« Last Edit: July 02, 2018, 03:30:46 AM by Agent Graves »
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Offline Eddie

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2018, 04:47:24 AM »
I'm not reading Palloy's heartfelt advice until I have my coffee. I know what he thinks already.

 I have to use the electricians, and not just electricians, but certain one's who are on the city utility list. This doesn't make me happy, but in the case of the canyon house it's a legal requirement, unfortunately. The only good part of that is that it makes it quick and done, if I can get the money together.

Thanks for the advice, Agent Graves. Selling does make sense, but I doubt prices will fall much in this location right away. There are still 150 people per day moving here and unemployment is 2.9%. We are increasingly a beneficiary of hard times elsewhere. I don't look for that to last forever, but we are somewhat insulated from the slings and arrows of slow collapse. Fast collapse, and I'm better off with the panels no matter what.

I don't doubt your advice per the stead either, which is why I have held onto it and keep trying to make some progress out there, even though my family doesn't quite get it yet. I do wish I'd bought on the rainy side of the "dry line", but unless I sell the stead and start over, I'm stuck with the location, which is otherwise pretty good.

« Last Edit: July 02, 2018, 05:11:18 AM by Eddie »
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Offline Eddie

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2018, 04:59:18 AM »
The stead is about 30 minutes from the very edge of the outer burbs now. It was further when I bought it. Damn city keeps getting bigger.

But it is tucked away down a private unpaved road between several larger ranches, off the beaten path. Half a dozen independent neighbors. Not collapse aware, particularly, but resourceful country people. I could have done worse. Climate is the biggest enemy, imho, not people.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Palloy2

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2018, 06:48:12 AM »
Quote
AG; On the larger question, I believe installing solar increases the value of the house at least as much as it costs.

You just don't get it, there's an ENERGY problem, not a $ problem.  I don't care whether it makes sense from a $ viewpoint, its the use of energy to try to solve a potential energy shortage problem, especially when it's all grid-tied anyway, that bugs me.
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Offline Nearingsfault

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2018, 07:22:51 AM »
The stead is about 30 minutes from the very edge of the outer burbs now. It was further when I bought it. Damn city keeps getting bigger.

But it is tucked away down a private unpaved road between several larger ranches, off the beaten path. Half a dozen independent neighbors. Not collapse aware, particularly, but resourceful country people. I could have done worse. Climate is the biggest enemy, imho, not people.
where you are I assume they will propose a single central inverter and depending on sun probably not even maximizes.  If down the road you want a battery component outback and schneider both do ac coupled features on their inverters. You trick the grid tied inverter into thinking a grid is present and it produces power which feed the battery inverter's charge controller. The point is you have options. Get the panels up the wire runs in the switches and permits etc what you do later with it is just a box on the wall...Some people are talking peak solar these days where panels will never be this cheap again...
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Offline Eddie

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2018, 07:34:30 AM »
Panels are panels. The grid tie is useful for now, and that part can be amended if the grid goes dark. In a pinch, I'm also able to do it myself when the time comes for that.

I only need batteries, some wire, possibly a few charge controllers and possibly a different inverter, although I could get one now that supports a battery bank. It depends on what the installers sell me. There are charge controllers and inverters that can go either way.

The ideal way to do a  stand alone back-up plan would be to stockpile dry nickel iron cells until needed, imho. As you probably know, the electrolyte is just aqueous KOH.

Remember, however, that there are three distinct power grids in the USA. One of them is the Texas utility grid, and it's the best one. Kim Young Fatty can nuke LA, and my lights won't even blink. The grid tie makes better sense here than just about any other place on earth.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2018, 08:36:53 AM by Eddie »
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Offline Eddie

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Re: Net Zero McMansion
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2018, 07:37:46 AM »
The stead is about 30 minutes from the very edge of the outer burbs now. It was further when I bought it. Damn city keeps getting bigger.

But it is tucked away down a private unpaved road between several larger ranches, off the beaten path. Half a dozen independent neighbors. Not collapse aware, particularly, but resourceful country people. I could have done worse. Climate is the biggest enemy, imho, not people.
where you are I assume they will propose a single central inverter and depending on sun probably not even maximizes.  If down the road you want a battery component outback and schneider both do ac coupled features on their inverters. You trick the grid tied inverter into thinking a grid is present and it produces power which feed the battery inverter's charge controller. The point is you have options. Get the panels up the wire runs in the switches and permits etc what you do later with it is just a box on the wall...Some people are talking peak solar these days where panels will never be this cheap again...

Maybe I  can specify those components now. What do you think about the mini charge controllers, or whatever they're called? I forget.

Micros! I remembered. (I forgot Alzheimer's when I was talking about shitty ways to go out.) Sounds like they have pros and cons, resilience wise.

Who makes components they will fix if they break? That's what I 'd like to know. Nobody, right? Thought so.....

Yes or no for a system like what I'm thinking?
« Last Edit: July 02, 2018, 08:43:03 AM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

 

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