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Archive for Sunday, September 30, 2007

Energy-saving home generates $0 electric bill for owner

September 30, 2007

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Jeffrey Ward explains rerouting the hot water pipes to run through his wood stove at his Farmington, Mo., home. After reading energy magazines about solar panels, he decided to install them. His efforts have begun generating more power than he needs, leading the city to purchase the surplus.

Jeffrey Ward explains rerouting the hot water pipes to run through his wood stove at his Farmington, Mo., home. After reading energy magazines about solar panels, he decided to install them. His efforts have begun generating more power than he needs, leading the city to purchase the surplus.

This set of solar panels cost Jeffrey Ward about $8,000 after tax credits. Ward says the savings they've generated so far will mean the panels are paid off in five to seven years.

This set of solar panels cost Jeffrey Ward about $8,000 after tax credits. Ward says the savings they've generated so far will mean the panels are paid off in five to seven years.

— Jeffrey Ward has taken total control of his energy bill with the installation of three solar panels in the backyard. He has achieved not just zero electric use, but he generates more power than he needs and feeds it back to the city, which purchases it from him.

Ward started his crusade against rising energy costs with the usual steps. He put more insulation in his attic and walls. He insulated his pipes and water heater.

He switched all his light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs and started drying his clothes on a line instead of the dryer. He has wood heat, which keeps the air dry, so the extra humidity from drying his clothes inside during winter doesn't cause mildew.

"It helps make it feel warmer if the humidity is right," he explained. "And it saves about five kilowatts per load."

He also put appliances like his television set on a surge bar so they could be turned off when not in use.

'Energy vamps'

He explained such devices are "energy vamps." They draw power, even when off, to retain programmed settings and time displays that aren't truly essential.

Turning off the power to those optional features can save as much as 5 percent on power usage, according to many energy experts.

He's re-engineered his water pipes, running them through his wood stove to preheat water in winter before filling the water heater.

"The water is actually hotter going into the heater than it is going out," he said.

He also placed a Plexiglas tank painted black on the south side of his house to preheat water in summer.

Finally, it was time to try something bigger. He had read about installing solar panels in many of the energy magazines he subscribes to. That, he decided, should be the next project.

Since 2003, Missouri laws allow homeowners to connect power generating devices into the electric system and get credit for the power. This requires a permit from the city and a net-metering contract.

The solar panels Ward purchased cost $11,000 - but the actual cost was less than that. He got tax credits from the state and federal government of about $2,000 for his purchase.

At a rate of zero energy use, it won't take long to recoup the remaining cost. "If you save $100 a month, you'll be done paying for the panels in seven years," he said.

He did have to connect the panels into the electrical grid in a particular way, which he said was not difficult. He followed the instructions he had read in resources about the subject such as Home Power Magazine, Mother Earth News and the National Electric Code, Section 690.

'Learning curve'

Since no one else had ever done this in Farmington before, some kinks appeared.

At first the city was charging him for the power he was generating. Ward was not pleased when his electric bill increased because the city was counting the power he generated against him.

City Administrator Greg Beavers explained Ward's power usage was exceptionally low for an occupied home so they had installed a digital meter at his residence instead of the older type that has a dial. The digital meter wasn't able to credit Ward for the power he was generating. In fact, it counted it against him.

"This is the first time anyone has done something like that here," Beaver said. "There was a little bit of a learning curve."

City workers put the old-style meter back and used a meter on Ward's solar panels to credit him for the power he had been generating, Beavers said. Now they are paying him at cost for any excess power he generates.

Ward uses about six kilowatts a day and had been making between nine and 13 kilowatts with his solar panels in March. The number will go up as days get longer and down as they get shorter.

That doesn't quite cover the flat $11.60 customer charge for electric service - but it makes Ward feel pretty good that his bill reads zero on the line for electric usage.

In some states, he would get paid market value for any extra power he feeds into the system - but in Missouri the most he can get is wholesale cost.

Statewide efforts

He hopes that will one day change. Last year a bill called the Easy Connect Act was sponsored in the Legislature and 52 lawmakers backed the bill.

Information about the bill is available at morenergy.com.

"A monkey could do this," he said, when it was suggested his system might be above the ability of the average person. "We all have to take some responsibility and do our part."

He is satisfied with what he has done so far, but Ward is far from finished with energy improvements.

He has been looking at solar-powered refrigerators and windmills. He is interested in the latter at this point.

"Cloudy days are likely to be windy ones," he pointed out. "That might even things out and keep my power generation going."

Comments

Marion Lynn 6 years, 6 months ago

The fall radius of the tower on which the turbine must be mounted for one thing. If thing falls in a storm or earthquake, it must fall INSIDE your property lines. Since such a tower would have to be around 50-75 ft tall to be effective, you must have at least that much avaiable space for 360 degrees around the tower.

Kind of hard to do on a 50 x 100 ft lot.

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XTC 6 years, 6 months ago

Currently wind turbins are not allowed in the City of Lawrence. Why???

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Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years, 6 months ago

In some states, he would get paid market value for any extra power he feeds into the system - but in Missouri the most he can get is wholesale cost.

Does anyone know how it works for Kansas residents?

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Nick Yoho 6 years, 6 months ago

Anonymous user

Pogo (Anonymous) says:

The article begins noting it was a "$0.00 electric bill:.". Reading more closely he still has a bill. ($11.60 customer charge). Westar has a similar charge because they've been permitted to have it.

reading even more closely reveals that the 11.60 is partially offset by his electric production.

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Agnostick 6 years, 6 months ago

Godot (Anonymous) says:

"Can we at least agree on one thing, and that is to discontinue using the worn out 'elephant in the room, ' or 'gorilla in the room' cliche?"


Hey, I'll make a deal with you!

I'll refrain from using those cliches as long as you refrain from blaming every evil on "liberals."

Agreed? Good!!

Agnostick agnostick@excite.com http://www.uscentrist.org http://www.americanplan.org

P.S. I fully expect to be able to go back to using my cliches within 24 hours--LOL!!! :p

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Marion Lynn 6 years, 6 months ago

notnowdear wrote:

"I think every household should have a wind turbine, of course, if there is wind at your house."

Marion writes:

You "think" this because you don't know anything about wind turbines.

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notnowdear 6 years, 6 months ago

I think every household should have a wind turbine, of course, if there is wind at your house.

Sat. dishes used to be huge, but they are not anymore. Every household can have one, if they do desire. I think the same can be done with wind turbines.

Of course, Pinnacle does want each home to have a small turbine. They ideally want us to remain trapped, subservient to thoughtless, greedy energy companies, like Westar, that pollute and destroy the earth, as they do in N. Lawrence (if that is who owns that dubious major polluting plant now, for it keeps switching it's name for some reason).

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Godot 6 years, 6 months ago

Can we at least agree on one thing, and that is to discontinue using the worn out "elephant in the room, " or "gorilla in the room" cliche?

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Marion Lynn 6 years, 6 months ago

jrill:

Both hedge and locust are very rich in tars and creosotes and require extremely hot fires to burn away those byprocusts of combustion or they will condense in the chimney liner and vitually ensure a chimney fire. Chimney fires are intersting things as they function like a pulse jet engine; igniting, going out, igniting, going out and all at the rate of several hundred times a second. Chimney fires literally shake the chimney to pieces, usually burning down the sruounding structure. Systems in which such woods re used require much more frequent cleaning to prevent disaster.

Catalytic cumbustors are a must on modern systems to minimise wood smoke pollution which has far worse characteristics than second-hand tobacco smoke.

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logrithmic 6 years, 6 months ago

Well said Agnostick!

BlowHunter and the other neanderthals need to realize that traditional energy sources are getting ever scarcer and the rightwing admin in the White House is looking to start another war over oil - this time against Iran - all the time masking it as a "war on terror."

Mr. Bush will go down in infamy throughout history as being the first president to lie us into two wars of our own making against countries who have never attacked us. Welcome to the new world order....

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Agnostick 6 years, 6 months ago

Global warming aside, you still have the issue of "renewability." Coal, crude oil and other fossil fuels are non-renewable resources. We use them up exponentially faster than "Mother Earth" can replenish her limited supply of them. Not so for wind, solar, annual plants etc.

Unless there's an early apocalypse, we'll run out of fossil fuels long before we run out of sunlight.

--Ag

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Sigmund 6 years, 6 months ago

Bozo, you to can take your $11,000 and invest it in expensive panels and save the planet from a climate that changes. But just exactly when in geologic or recorded history has the climate not changed from cool to warmer, and vice versa, because I forget. But since your faith based ideologically demands that human caused global warming is a fact and that warming shall lead to apocalyptic consequences for mankind, I suppose you have little choice.

But I would have thought that now that George W. Bush and the rest of the Elephant leadership have jumped on your band wagon, you would have had have jumped off, or at least had second thoughts. Myself, I distrust both Al Gore and W's scientific judgment, but not their political savvy nor your unshakable belief in the tenants of your faith.

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Bowhunter99 6 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for making my point agnostick... I could have not made it any clearer myself... other than rambling, there is not much you add to anything.

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6 years, 6 months ago

Thanks LJ for giving me the links to the Missouri act. What about info on how to do and tax savings acts for KANSAS!

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gr 6 years, 6 months ago

"Reading more closely he still has a bill. ($11.60 customer charge)."

Which equals about $139 for the year just to have the "opportunity". There should be some rule which states if you sell more than a certain percentage, they pay you a "customer charge"! I bet he pays an initial charge for having a second meter, too.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Of course, investing in any electric utility ignores the elephant in the room-- global warming. But since you are ideologically required to ignore that elephant, I'm not surprised, Sigmund.

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jrlii 6 years, 6 months ago

Firewood: Hedge (Osage orange) and Locust, either black or honey make great stove wood and are darn near impossible to kill: Cut one and the roots will send up a dozen in it's place, no human intervention required. They work great in stoves and furnaces, even if they do pop too much to be safe in fireplaces.

The last time I checked (It has been a while) the coop north of town (LJEC) was charging $0.10/KWh and paying $0.015/KWh for solar or wind generated electricity fed into their grid. At those rates, you would have to generate a honking great surplus of electricity to just cover the customer charge.

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Sigmund 6 years, 6 months ago

Agnostic. please accept my apologies. Please to put $11,000 of your won money to work and prove me wrong. It seems you are the only one who is ranting. And feel free to choose an electric utility of your choice. I picked on Westar because it was local, but there are tons of electric companies that will offer the same benefit, for those less ideologically bent.

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Agnostick 6 years, 6 months ago

No joke, Bowhunter. There's nothing "funny" about a blathering idiot like yourself, with a one-track mind:

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/images/larson_what_dogs_hear.jpg

Like it or not, bozo raised a relevant point yesterday--a point made startlingly clear by recent events in Myanmar. After all, do you remember when the Iraqi people protested in the streets, against Sadam... before March 2003?

I suspect that, like Sigmund, you rail against "welfare" for "libs" and any other individuals you deem unworthy of such help--but you cheer loudly every time another multi-million dollar batch of corporate welfare is shoveled out to a big multi-national conglomerate.

If anyone is deserving of such federal assistance, it's Jeffrey Ward. Give the man a federal research grant or two to study which of his innovations is most easily portable to urban areas, and the rest of the population. Which of his ideas and inventions can be made more accessible to folks not as mechanically-inclined? Are there "plug-&-play" versions Ward can come up with? Who knows, this guy might be the next Dean Kamen... !

You can sit around and whizz on anything and everything that doesn't follow your narrow-minded, right-wing extremism, Bowhunter. But not all of us are lemmings. ;)

Agnostick agnostick@excite.com http://www.uscentrist.org http://www.americanplan.org

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i_tching 6 years, 6 months ago

Whose idea was it to forego the development of energy efficiency, alternative energy, lower emmisions, etc., and instead start a costly invasion and occupation of Iraq? Was it some politician with oil interests?

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Bowhunter99 6 years, 6 months ago

We seem to be missing your pathetic jokes Agnostick... perhaps it's your mindless rambling and your lack of substance.

Besides hijacking the thread, you add less value than others such as Merrill. Perhaps you two are related. Same amount of self-worth and ignorance.

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Agnostick 6 years, 6 months ago

Gee, Sigmund, I guess Dave Wittig has you to thank for some of his hidden millions, huh? When you tithe your income over to Westar and personally deliver it, do you go down on one knee... or two? :)

If Westar was a branch of the federal government, you'd be stumbling over yourself to separate yourself from them... and probably calling for the mass execution of all Westar employess. But... because it's a corporation, we're supposed to bow down in worship... and continuously remind ourselves how lucky we are to have them, huh?

Ken Lay and Andy Fastow built an empire on the backs of suckers like you and Bowhunter! LOL!!!

How pathetic... but such is the mindset of the extremist crowd. The disease runs especially rampant on the Right.

Agnostick agnostick@excite.com http://www.uscentrist.org http://www.americanplan.org

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Sigmund 6 years, 6 months ago

If this was even remotely economically viable they would be sprouting up everywhere. Why? Because people are always seeking bargains, operating in their own self interest I might add, and would be sprouting up everywhere. In fat, there would be so many it wouldn't be news.

Take that same $11,000 and buy 450 shares Westar Energy Stock. with a yield of 4.4% that would provide $40/month in dividends, not to mention the potential for capital appreciation. That might not cover your electric bill (including your refrigerator I hasten to add) but you won't have to maintain or insure it against hail, your neighbors won't complain how ugly it is, the zoning board won't be hounding you for building permits, your real estate taxes won't go up, and the Lawrence Traffic Safety Commission won't be wringing their hands that the glare of the sun might blind bicyclists, whatever those are.

This isn't the future of energy for urban areas like Lawrence, its a Mother Jones 60's flashback. A fugly, inefficient eyesore that best left for the more rural folk.

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Godot 6 years, 6 months ago

I will do my part and put up a clothesline. We'll see what the neighbors say.

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Pogo 6 years, 6 months ago

The article begins noting it was a "$0.00 electric bill....". Reading more closely he still has a bill. ($11.60 customer charge). Westar has a similar charge because they've been permitted to have it.

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Agnostick 6 years, 6 months ago

Wanna do something for yourself, Bowhunter?

Get you own gun...

Get your own ammo...

Get your own transport to the Mideast oil fields...

Get your own kevlar...

And go shoot some ragheads for yourself. :)

Otherwise, I kindly ask that you quit your pointless, incessant whining about "libs," and "STFU."

Thank you kindly, you waste of human protoplasm. :))

--Ag

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Bowhunter99 6 years, 6 months ago

typical whinning from the liberals... complain about the war and expecting handouts along the way.... They don't want to do anything themselves unless the govt pays for it.

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Sigmund 6 years, 6 months ago

Think most Homeowner Associations, Neighborhood Advocacy Groups, Historical Neighborhood Busy Bodies, not to mention Planning Commissions, and Building Inspectors are going to allow you to put solar panels in the yard or on the roof, let alone install wind generators on your own property?

Yeah, right. You haven't met the "Progressives" on the Planning and Historic Commissions, have you?

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imastinker 6 years, 6 months ago

Logarithmic,

I'm woefully out of touch because I didn't know you heat with wood? I was just saying that this is not a left vs right issue, using myself as an example.

give me a break!

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herbalife4life1 6 years, 6 months ago

Batteries to store energy are a crock of sh!t unless you are living completely off the grid...wire the damn thing directly back into the grid and use the electric company as your "battery"...

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Marion Lynn 6 years, 6 months ago

Pace:

There is no reason for you to be such an a++hole in response to my post!

People often think that such systems are simple and cheapo when in point of fact, they are not and most are well beyond the abilities of the average homeowner to construct and install.

In no way am I being "negative" about such systems,; it's just that many people think, "Well, I'll just set up solar and sell power to the electric company!" and that is NOT the way that it works!

I was doing solar hot air, hot water and heat storage systems even as far back as the mid 70s, did a lot of solar heating panels in the 80s when there were tax credits and designed a number of very successful heat storage systems, some of which are still in use after 20 or more years.

" This requires a permit from the city and a net-metering contract."

Marion writes:

Sure does and if youare going to do your own electical work, that work must be inspected by the responsible authority and most homeowners today can't wire a wall socket, much less a complete solar generating system!

You want to store electricity for night-time use?

Let's start talking about a very large battery bank, very expensive sine-wave inverters of if you want to get really cute about it, let's talk about double wiring in your house; one group for 110/220 VAC and the other for 12VDC to run 12 volt appliances and lighting!

Then we can talk about the environmental cost of making the storage battereis and the fact that they must be housed in a free-standing building which must in turn be maintained at the optimum temperature for the batteries to operate most efficiently...shall I go on?

All I'm saying is that these systems are great but I am also saying that the design, construction and installation are beyond the abilities of the average homeonwer and that such systems are NOT cheap and that many houses would require so much retrofitting that you'd be better off starting with a dedicated structure; that is, one in which the system is integrated into the design from day one.

Such systems will eventually be mandatory but will cost the homeowner as there is no free lunch.

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herbalife4life1 6 years, 6 months ago

BP is the largest producer of solar panels you idiot!!! Do you think that all that money is just spent on things that will not ensure the solvency of the energy companies(read not just hydrocarbons anymore!)

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Mkh 6 years, 6 months ago

Great article, this guy clearly has his act together and is leading the way in his community. Fortunately people all over the nation are doing the same thing. I have to agree that this is a great example of how to "do it yourself". This is what we should all be doing. And yes the little stuff that most of us do already is good too (conservation lightbulbs, unplugging appliances, recycling water etc), but that is nothing compared to installing solar panels.

In Colorado, where solar power is an incredible power source there are thousands of homes putting solar panels on, some in very nice urban neighborhoods as well.

We should NOT wait for government to make solar, wind, and geothermal available to the masses. We cannot and should not rely on the government for our energy future. Likewise we should not wait for BP and other corporate gaints to monopolize the green power industry for their own manipulative profits.

As this man in MO has shown, there are plenty of small energy businesses out there who can provide you with the necessary equiptment and knowledge for a reasonable price.

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pace 6 years, 6 months ago

gosh it is fun to listen to people whine about liberal or right wing but good for this guy. I like people who do things worth doing. Poor little Marion with his sense strangled with what could he say negative, he says, well most people couldn't do this it would cost $50,000 and would need to be done by professional, while the guy who actually did it said ""A monkey could do this," he said, when it was suggested his system might be above the ability of the average person. "We all have to take some responsibility and do our part."

Maybe Marion hires someone to switch off the light when he leaves the room.

This is a great story and while it looks hard it isn't hard to start doing something. One of the most energy smart people I ever knew was a rabid republican little old lady.

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herbalife4life1 6 years, 6 months ago

The only ones standing against imperialism are on the left?!?! Are you a stand-up comedian now logarithmic? Do you not know who Ron Paul is and what he believes in? Check him out if you want real hope and a real solution to this countries problem, not 24-28 years of Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton.... Baa, baa you sheep!

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logrithmic 6 years, 6 months ago

Stinker,

You either are woefully out of touch or simply delusional.

I have access to plenty of wood on my property and I will use it to heat, but I do not cut down trees to access it. Branches fall and trees die. That is the source of my firewood.

Regards my electric bill - all my power comes from electricity. I have no gas bill or kerosene or any other heating or cooling bill. My bills over the last year ran from $147.92 in March of 2007 at the highest to the lowest of $57.08 in October of 2006. My energy usage this year fell 14% over the previous year and my average payment was $92 a month. I expect it will fall further as I plan to now use my wood burning stove to heat my home in the coldest months of the year.

So actually, I'm doing better than you Stinker.

Now, regards the Austin program, you'll notice that this is being done in a "blue" city. And it is only possible because the city itself owns the utility. Therefore they can subsidize investments in solar panels for homes. Which is a sh*tload better than investing in the next Wal-Mart.

And yet you can stand there without shame and say it is not a right left issue? Bush has repeatedly denied global warming, has used our military force to conduct an illegal invasion of a sovereign country to take its oil, and the only ones standing against this are on the political left. Related to this is the right's attack on science.

Sounds like a ditto head to me....

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herbalife4life1 6 years, 6 months ago

The world is a passive solar heater... What would the world be like if everyone looked past their own desires?

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herbalife4life1 6 years, 6 months ago

Actually burning wood is carbon neutral because of the work the tree has done in removing CO2...if anyone wants to check out these resources:

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/ Photo-votalic(solar panels): http://ascentsolar.com/ Wind: http://www.fuellessflight.com/windturbine.htm External Combustion: http://cyclonepower.com/ Passive heating(solar): http://www.wbdg.org/design/psheating.php

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 6 months ago

What will the world be like, when it becomes a solar panel?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

If you live in a fairly sparsely populated area, with abundant wood, and you (or your supplier) replant as much as you use, then burning wood for heat is a relatively ecologically neutral source of heat.

If you are using wood that has to be transported fairly large distances, and live in an urban area which already has an air pollution problem, then ecologically, it's hardly a perfect source of heat.

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Hoots 6 years, 6 months ago

How does the War make it into almost every discussion around here. I don't get it.

I like what the guy is doing. It will be great if the cost of doing some of these things come down a bit. My only real worry would be damage to the solar panels from hail or wind arond here.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

"Bozo: why are you trying to evade YOUR responsibility yet instead shift the burden to the the government? Do something about it."

Why is it you assume that I'm not doing something about it?

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imastinker 6 years, 6 months ago

ALSO - i've been told by many people (liberals) that heating with wood is filthy and disgusing because I am putting out lots of CO2 and cutting down trees at the same time.

Those same people don't seem to care that

1) trees are a renewable resource 2) the trees I burn were going to be cut down anyway (I get them from a tree service) 3) using electricity, natural gas, or heating oil put out just as much CO2.

I think it's easier for people to justify in their little minds that all problems must be republican vs democrat, right vs left, and blame all their problems on the other guy. Whatever lets them sleep at night I guess.....

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imastinker 6 years, 6 months ago

logrithmic - this is not a right vs left problem.

I have done everything this guy has but the solar panels. I pay minimums only on gas and about $100-$120/month on electric. Water usage for a family of four is 2300-2800 gallons/month. I have even done some things this guy hasn't, like using outside water runoff from gutters in a cistern for outside watering.

All the things I have done have a payback period of about 5 years. I am also a "rigt winger" according to you. Why don't you post your electric bills, and bozo too! Maybe you guys are the ones that are all talk.

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logrithmic 6 years, 6 months ago

Take a look at what Austin, TX is doing. Wouldn't it be great if Lawrence went this way?

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/09/28/4186/

http://www.austinenergy.com/Energy%20Efficiency/Programs/Rebates/Solar%20Rebates/index.htm

And to Bowhunter, seems you don't have any problem with us paying huges sums to support the military industrial complex. Seems you rightwingers like to talk a good talk, but it belies the fact that we are taxed to support multi-national oil interests and then you claim we should make your homes green on our own nickel to boot! Let each of us have the 50% in taxes that is used to create weapons of mass destruction and drop them on relatively defenseless populations and then we WILL "green" our homes....

Rightwingers - stupid is as stupid does....

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Marion Lynn 6 years, 6 months ago

Readers should remember that this guy is a Class A Do-It-Youselfer and that a similar system installed by professionals carries a cost of $50K and up.

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Bowhunter99 6 years, 6 months ago

Bozo... why are you trying to evade YOUR responsibility yet instead shift the burden to the the government? Do something about it. replace all of your lightbulbs, etc,etc,etc.... don't expect the government to come to your house and make your house green.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

This is what our energy future looks like, and it's achievable right now-- if we just get the political will, and quit wasting $trillions on wars that are nothing but desperate attempts by vested interests to cling to their obsolete, but extremely profitable (to them) energy systems.

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