Zero-energy house breaks ground in Ballard

Updated with contractor and designer information: A new kind of house is being built in Ballard – a house that produces more energy than it uses. We’re told that this zero-energy house is the first of its kind in Seattle.

After looking around Ballard for a house to purchase, but were not excited by anything they saw, Eric Thomas and Alexandra Salmon came across a vacant lot. “We were driving back from an open house, and we saw this big pile of dirt with a hand-made for-sale sign on it,” Salmon says. “We called the number thinking it was probably the dirt that was for sale, not the land.” But they were pleasantly surprised. “Mount Ballard,” as the neighbors called it, was sitting on an empty lot that the couple decided to buy.

Last Saturday they broke ground on their new zero-energy house at 612 NW 60th St. The home is designed by Zero-Energy Plans, LLC and being constructed by TC Legend Homes. The house will have a well-insulated and airtight shell made of structural insulated panels that will be assembled on-site. There will be a rooftop solar panel that will produce nearly 6,000 watts, enough to power the home’s electrical needs. Water will be heated by an electrical heat pump that is also powered by the solar panels. No oil or natural gas will be used.

The cost to build the home is similar to purchasing an existing home in the neighborhood and because they won’t have any power bills, they’ll be saving hundreds of dollars each month. On top of that, Washington State has an incentive program that will pay them nearly $1,000 each year for the next nine years. They’ll also receive a 30-percent federal tax credit on certain portions of the energy-efficient amenities.

“We’re hoping to spread the word to people in Seattle and elsewhere who care about saving energy and saving money that this sort of house is not out of reach,” Thomas says. “Green building is often seen as a luxury, but we’re trying to prove that it doesn’t have to be. We want to encourage as many people as we can to demand more when it comes to energy efficiency. If we can do this with a little creativity and very limited funds, just about anyone can do it.”

(Photos courtesy Eric Thomas)

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

93 thoughts to “Zero-energy house breaks ground in Ballard”

  1. Very cool – not to be whiny or anything, but it seems like a key piece of info here would be WHO the builder is. I’d very much like to know.

  2. A 30% “credit”?! Is that correct?

    Assuming construction costs of $250 a sqf and a modest house size of 1700 sqf, they’re looking at $437,000 in costs. You’re claiming the feds will essentially give them $131,000? That can’t be right.

  3. I wonder if they took into account the energy required to build a house from scratch. Does the savings they’ll get when it’s built offset these costs?

  4. The 30% is only on limited pieces, like the solar panels. They might get credits for the heat pump and super-insulation, but I don’t know how those programs work. Considering that the solar installation alone will cost around $30-$45K, they’ll still have a tidy refund.

  5. That point is moot since it’s probably a similar amount of energy to build a brown house as a green one. If you were talking about comparing the footprint of living in this new house versus one that already exists, then consider that this new one has a one-time building footprint coupled with a negative energy footprint. It still looks pretty good. The footprint shrinks the longer you live in the home. An already existing house will have a footprint that was large to start and only grows.

  6. There’s no such thing as a “green” single-family detached house. Such buildings, which have energy-sapping exposure on five of their six sides, can’t compare to an apartment building, which has shared walls and ceilings to conserve energy. Yes, this house supplies its own power, but it uses more than it needs to. If these same techniques were applied to a traditional apartment house, the savings would be much, much greater.

    In addition, the sprawling spread-out design of single-family house neighborhoods is anti-green, encouraging automobile travel for every need. This effort is simply trying to “green” its way out of a fundamentally un-green lifestyle.

  7. There’s no such thing as a “green” single-family detached house. Such buildings, which have energy-sapping exposure on five of their six sides, can’t compare to an apartment building, which has shared walls and ceilings to conserve energy. Yes, this house supplies its own power, but it uses more than it needs to. If these same techniques were applied to a traditional apartment house, the savings would be much, much greater.

    In addition, the sprawling spread-out design of single-family house neighborhoods is anti-green, encouraging automobile travel for every need. This effort is simply trying to “green” its way out of a fundamentally un-green lifestyle.

  8. What a dumb comment. So a house that requires no electricity, oil, or gas to operate isn’t green, but an apartment building is even though they suck on the electrical, oil/gas teet.

    You sound like someone without the resources to own a house or a car so you knock those that do.

  9. I own both a house and a car.

    Please try reading my comment again. Better yet, read some books on the subject of urban design so you can avoid looking stupid. If an apartment house was built using the techniques used in this house, it would use half or less of the energy of this house per unit of occupation. Suburban-style single-family houses are not green, not sustainable, and not reproducible in mass quantities without destroying vast swathes of suburban land. Dense cities like New York and San Francisco are much “greener” than sparsely-settled Western-style cities, per capita, no matter how much dubious green construction goes on in the latter.

  10. Anyone have any insight into what happens regarding electricity when there is a long stretch of dark, cloudy days? If they’re not even going to have an electricity hookup for backup, they’ll need some other sort of backup such as a diesel generator, a big stack of storage batteries, or thousands of local rats running on tiny generator wheels.

  11. Rather than arbitrarily dividing housing into only two sorts, “green” and “not green”, it’s better to specify the details as they have in this story. There are also other lifestyle considerations other than “green”-ness; after all, being a living human is not “green”, but that doesn’t mean we all need to rush out and commit suicide :)

  12. Let’s have more of these. I would love to see this and other high efficiency homes moving in some of the infill development instead of McMansions. There was another take on this in the parking lot at Phinney Center. I don’t think that one was necessarily dependent on solar tax credits as this one seems to be. Small footprints, high efficiency, and greener designs are the way forward.

  13. “I own both a house and a car” hypocrisy at it’s finest.

    How can the apartment savings be greater if 100% of the houses electrical needs are met by solar power? There are no additional savings even if the apartment uses less electricity per person. What are you saving? a few of the suns rays?

    How does this single family home destroy a vast swath of land in a densely populated urban area? I don’t think ELF will be burning down this one.

  14. i’m not sure this should be discounted so readily. while the “green” house might be better than the “brown” house, calling it zero energy is a misnomer. once built it might not use energy, but there is definitely energy needed to excavate the lot, run the bulldozers, cut down the wood for the house, etc.

    plus, the discussion seems to be that their only two options were to build a green house or build a brown house. how about buy an existing house? what’s the carbon calculations on that (which they could upgrade) vs. buying a new “green” house.

  15. That’s a good point, and one we’re really concerned about. (My wife has severe asthma.) The house will have a exhaust fan system, which sucks air out of the dampest parts of the house–the two bathrooms and above the stove–and brings in fresh air through a HEPA filter. We also chose not to have a basement, which can be hard to keep dry in this climate.

  16. That’s an excellent question. The house will have what’s called a “grid-tie” system, meaning the house sends power to the city’s electrical
    grid when the sun is out and draws it during the night or on cloudy days. (Contrary
    to popular belief, the Pacific Northwest is an excellent place for solar.)
    Averaged over the entire year, the panels produce more power than the house
    uses. (No rats on wheels required, though that would be cool.)

  17. yeah… except for the energy used to run that earth mover

    ….manufacture and transport of the new building materials, etc, etc, etc

  18. I didn’t say zero-energy. I said negative energy. As someone else stated, the house produces more energy than it consumes. Though initially it consumed a large amount to be built, over time it will pay this back with interest just by existing.

    In response to your second point, I reiterate my second sentence:

    “If you were talking about comparing the footprint of living in this new house versus one that already exists, then consider that this new one has a one-time building footprint coupled with a negative energy footprint.”

    To wit, living in an already-existing brown house has a growing footprint, while the green one has a shrinking footprint.

  19. Despite Fnarf’s customary brusqueness and iconoclasm, he happens to be 100% right here. There is simply no amount of “green” building that can compensate for poor land use or instilling in generation after generation that four walls and a yard is what they “want” out of life.

    In stating that he owns a house and drives, Fnarf is admitting that his choice to live in Seattle, a city with little well-executed density and a really bad public transit, makes him part of the problem. No hypocrisy there.

    The hypocrisy is in the feel-good environmentalism that seems to flourish in West Coast cities whose fundamental modus operandi is contrary to the environment.

  20. Six thousand watts doesn’t seem like enough to cover heating, cooking and refrigeration. Anyone have any idea how they estimated their electrical needs?

  21. That said, Eric seems both nice and thoughtful. It’s not productive to lambaste him or his motives. My only desire is for him to reflect on why, as someone committed to low-impact living, he still feels the overwhelming urge to have a house. Where did that desire come from? And is it as immutable as spineless American politicians make it out to be?

  22. So, your a sesquipedalian.

    I would disagree. In the context of his original post he claims a “saving” of energy when comparing the per capita energy usage between a solar powered apartment complex and a solar powered house. Does an apartment, when surrounded by other apartments, use less energy for heat? Yes, but the fact that solar power is perpetual and free so there is no saving.

    I would say that someone who extolls apartment living over single family home ownership and lives in a house is a hypocrite.

  23. When a culture is inclined to favor apartment living, walkability and public transit improve, the environmental costs of moving goods and resources decline, and less rural land succumbs to development pressure.

    Eric isn’t “No Impact Man.” As long as he intends to consume goods and services produced outside of his home, his choice to partake in the homeowning culture has an impact that must be understood.

    Fnarf’s point, whether or not it opens him to accusations of hypocrisy, is valid: if you live in Seattle, are middle class, and want to have a family and a decent quality of life, houses are for the most part your only option. Our “density” mostly consists of very expensive studios for the single and affluent or flophouse-grade studios for the poor. And Belltown, Pioneer Square, the I.D., the U District, Capitol Hill, and even (to a lesser extent) central Ballard have a concentration of drunks and junkies that can be oppressive at times and that the middle class are inclined to avoid.

    But a European city, one with thousands upon thousands upon thousands of high-density apartment buildings for every income bracket, every family situation, and every point on the urban-volume spectrum, doesn’t force such a choice. You can live your entire life with shared walls and never feel like your quality of life has been impinged.

    That’s the point he was trying to make. And it’s correct.

  24. I’ve solved the problem of not being called a hypocrite by embracing my gas-guzzling house and simply not giving a sh*t what you people think. It’s quite liberating actually. Even had AC put in.

  25. But a European city”

    …you always know you’re going to get an earful of bs when a Seattleite starts a sentence with that…You’re correct except for major detail. Most European cities are at least 1000 years old and were designed and built, for the most part, before mechanized transportation and in countries with much higher population density and much higher land prices. Get around all that, and yes, we could build Amsterdam on Puget Sound in another 500 years.

  26. Depending on the manufacturer of the panels and inverter, they can get a pretty nice kickback on all the energy they produce until 2020. There is a Washington State solar photovoltaic incentive program which most likely will drop the payback on their system under 8 years. After that, they’ll have recouped the cost and with no moving parts, it’s all profit. They’ll probably need to replace an inverter after 10-15 years, but that’s a relatively painless swap out for a few thousand in todays dollars. As far as it being a mold-fest, it shouldn’t be if it’s designed and ventilated properly. I’m studying this stuff now, live in the neighborhood and would love to check it out as it goes up. Way to go Eric and Alexandra! No solar thermal water though??

  27. In deciding to go ahead with this house, we realized that we’d have to remove that tree, which would have blocked too much sun from the solar panels on the roof. Even though we are planting five new trees around the lot to make up for that one, we were still sad to have to cut it down. And completing this project will probably require us to do other uncool things that we haven’t foreseen.

    We decided to build this house because we are concerned about the environmental impacts of our current home energy use. In Seattle, much of our electricity is clean-ish hydroelectric, but that has its own impact on precious resources. Damns threaten salmon populations, which in turn threaten the orca population in the Puget Sound. The petroleum we burn to heat our homes releases climate-changing carbon dioxide, increasing the prevalence of wildfires in Washington and threatening habitats and people everywhere.

    Not everyone agrees on what the right way to minimize one’s environmental impact is, even very thoughtful people who are working toward similar goals. We certainly don’t pretend to have the answer, but we believe that creating a house that will produce its own energy indefinitely justifies the trade offs.

  28. @b8fb4510042be651dfa3a84300fb7969:disqus solar power cells have high energy production costs initially and contain toxic materials that make disposal energy intensive. Moreover, if this house is off the grid they will need lead acid batteries to store the energy they will be using when the sun is not out, unless they are willing to go without power at night and on cloudy days. Lead-acid batteries also take an enormous amount of energy to produce and are toxic when disposed of. And if they are ‘on the grid’, then they will be using fossil generated electricity when the sun inst shining.

    In the grand scheme of things, the house might be marginally more green than the traditional one, but it is still bad for the planet.

  29. Sorry, solar is not perpetual nor free. Panels cost money and energy. The storage of that energy costs money and energy. Solar is marginally better than fossil, but it is still bad for the environment.

  30. beyond the energy consumption, will this house do anything for on-site water absorption, such as rain gardens or planted roofs?
    or at the very leat a system of rain barrels or cisterns to off-set irrigation?

    cool house! I would’ve cut that tree down, too.

  31. Thanks, @41a9abaafc830b9e91e2336f8443ec21:disqus . Yes, we’re installing a rain garden to catch all the runoff from the roof. We’re also hoping to use something permeable for the required driveway, like gravel or woodchips, since we don’t own a car and won’t be using it much. I don’t think I can post a link here, but you can read about the rain garden and some of the other things we’re doing with the house by searching for “Top 10 Things That Make Our House Sustainable” at ZEROHOUSE DOT WORDPRESS DOT COM.

  32. Again, two cities with completely different histories and politics that are completely irrelevant to any discussion of Seattle. Seoul Metro area has a population of 24 million people (Seattle 3 million), half the entire nation’s population, with one of the highest population densities in the world. How did that happen? Politics. Concentration of most of South Korea’s political power in the region that funneled government spending, and therefore people into the city. And like SIngapore, it wasn’t a democratic political system that led to the massive concentrations of people (and poverty until the early 1970s) into both Singapore and Seoul. It’s why Koreans continue to migrate from Seoul to Seattle and not the other way around.

    So again, completely irrelevant to any discussion of Seattle and if you’ve ever been stuck in a Seoul traffic jam, you’d understand.

  33. Yes it is perpetual and free in the context of my discussion which was there are no savings between an apartment and a house when both use solar power.

  34. Not to lend support to Gg (because I think he’s a bitter, hypocritcal, and cowardly troll who’s fine owning a toxic computer but poo-poos solar panels) but there is a point there. Solar just isn’t ‘there’ yet.

    Seattle is so mild that extreme insulation coupled with a hyper efficient woodstove is arguably a greener way of heating one’s house. That large Maple would have easily been enough wood for three winters if burnt in one of Qaudrafire’s or Drolet’s models. And the heat off incandescent bulbs (I don’t like all the mercury in the cfls) would help in the dark winter month’s too.

    Why no gas Eric?
    Electric ranges just suck for cooking, greener or not.

  35. I’d be interested to know if they’re planning on earning any green building certification such as NW Energy Star, Built Green, LEED for Homes. There’s a lot of legitimate discussion (and that does not include all the comments below) about what’s green and what’s not, and rating systems can help us measure and compare different buildings.

  36. Hey Eric,
    My class just completed a project somewhat like what you’re doing, we even had a 6k solar system installed in our design too. What we found was that by using the sip panels and making the structure tight AND choosing selectively the types of appliances … the house could be a net-zero home. We actually had an excess of energy by the design and projected energy load. Be sure to install a heat-ventilation recovery system too … and really, the best designed structure won’t be zero-energy unless you’re careful with your behaviors. That’s always the wild-card.

  37. Well-said, and thanks for responding to the posts here. I will try to follow this as you move toward completion, as it sounds like a great adventure!

    Minor quibble: Seattle’s own hydro dams fortunately don’t threaten salmon, as they were all built upstream of a natural choke point that prevented salmon from swimming and living upstream of it.

  38. Gg: Why don’t you piss in your own corn flakes instead of everyone elses’s. While solar power may not be perfectly green, it’s certainly better for the environment than your sh*tty demeanor.

  39. Any mention of “green” in building and the conversation gets silly. Yes, it takes resources and energy to create solar panels, yes, it takes resources and energy to make anything…but the point here is that what is being made has a lower environmental impact over the long term and that should be everyone’s goal whether they’re building a house or buying a computer. Everyone’s going to live their life and have an impact doing so. It’s nice to lower that impact where we can and building a house better today only moves the rest of the building industry to build the next one even better. It’s an evolution from the simple resource intensive old house to a future where all houses will eventually be energy negative and we’re not going to get there if we don’t try. I’m glad they’re building this house to be eventually energy negative and hopefully they share what works and what doesn’t so that the next houses can do even better.

  40. Zero energy is nearly impossible in the Pacific NW. Photovoltaic is not that efficient, and there will not be enough surface area in such a small lot. Wind power is too noisy to be allowed, and solar water panels alone don’t get hot enough for a shower. It is worth shooting for, but only where there is more sun or wind, and a larger lot, is it really possible.

  41. We don’t have McMansions in Ballard, we have Megahouses. The key difference is that a Megahouse uses every inch available of the property permissible by the code for the house while the McMansion just builds a big ass house on a large suburban lot as cheaply as possible.

  42. If you used no energy to build a house you wouldn’t have a house. The key here is that if you’re already building a house you might as well make it energy negative over the long run by making it highly efficient and able to generate energy from the sun or wind. If the house uses less energy than it generates, then it will eventually offset the energy used to build it effectively leaving it with no energy footprint.

  43. We should all just live in huts created from downed tree limbs. That’s the only we can be sure we’re not consuming anything. Of course, I still have to eat and shart… oh well, I guess I’ll just end it all.

  44. Uh huh. Yup. Sparse American development totally happened in a vacuum. Absolutely no government intervention whatsoever.

    [Google “Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.”]

    Because what we’re trained to want must be what we’ve “always wanted.”

    (And migration to the United States is more prevalent than in the reverse direction because we more readily allow it, to our credit. It’s not because our “way of life” is inherently more desirable. And it’s CERTAINLY not because it’s more sustainable!)

  45. “Sparse American development totally happened in a vacuum”

    No, it happened in a democracy that forced development to be spread beyond just the capitol to other regions. Korea was not a Democracy until the late 1980s; development (highways, schools, hospitals etc. ) spending all mainly went to Seoul. Where the money went, the people followed, roughly half the Korean population (imagine 150 million people living in Puget Sound area). I mean, if you don’t know any Korean history, why would you make comparisons between Seoul and Seattle?

    So again, Seattle is not like Seoul or Paris or London; different history, politics and culture. If you want to make comparisons, try Austin, TX, or Sacremento, CA. I know you think you’re all cosmopolitan because you make flip comparisons with ‘Europe’ and ‘Asia’ but Seattle has its own history. If you want Seoul-like density or think it’s even achievable (which is laughable) in Seattle, you are, quite frankly, an idiot.

  46. Solar works here because we have very long sunny days in the summer. In the summer this house will generate way more electricity than it needs, then in the winter will probably draw more than it generates. Over the year it should even out or be a net positive.
    Would this much solar be enough to power a more typical house or older home? Probably not entirely, but the key here is that this house has been designed to be especially efficient so that these solar panels would be enough.

  47. I think its fantastic that this featured project is happening in our backyard!

    A “similar” home has been built in Seattle. A recent project called Courtland Place Passive Project in Rainier Valley has been completed by Dan Whitmore with Black Bird Builders. Same building technologies as Net-Zero, but on steroids perhaps. Super insulation techniques, top of the line windows, and 2-inch foam under the foundation are key. Oh, and then there’s the passive ventilation.

  48. And you are, “quite frankly,” too convinced of your own cleverness (for someone who has now thrice missed my point).

    The “different culture” — the homeownership-obsessed culture — has followed the politics. And not the other way around. You can bloviate all you want about American exceptionalism, but you will still be wrong.

  49. “”different culture” — the homeownership-obsessed culture ”

    Well, over a 1.5 million Koreans (nearly 4% of the population) have voted with their feet and moved to the US. Around these parts they settle in Lynnwood and Federal Way, where they can own a single family home, have cars etc. They don’t choose density and apparently like American Exceptionalism (I know I did when I moved to this country).

    I’m sorry you hate the American Dream of home ownership but I’m sure there’s a 800 sq foot apartment waiting for you and your family an hour commute by packed train outside of Seoul that you can snap up for $400K.

  50. “a European city”?

    Phrases like that make me think you’ve never been outside the US.

    Ya know, ’cause Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, and Rome are all soooooo alike.

    By the way- London isn’t in Europe. It’s in the United Kingdom. Or Britain if you prefer. Hope that helps.

  51. Yeesh, “Dear Leader.”

    Your circular logic is starting to make me dizzy.

    I pointed out that density need not equate to poor quality of life (though in Seattle it often does). And so I noted Europe.

    “Seattle is too new,” you said.

    And so I pointed out the VERY NEW density that is widespread in Asia.

    “Seattle is too… Democratic,” you blathered.

    And so I noted that our high-car-use, high-land-use habits of the past 60 years have far more to do with top-down policy than bottom-up demand (or anything resembling organic market forces).

    But then you accuse me of “hating the American Dream.” So we’re back where we started, when I told you a dozen comments ago that, in the absence of appealing density, no one will desire to live in density.

    BTW, what about the hundreds of thousands of Chinese who have “voted with their feet” to Vancouver in the last few years? Which has responded with well-built density and a very high quality of urban? How does that fit into your hair-brained, circular argument?

    And “Guest,” I’m not even sure who you’re attacking here. I never mentioned any cities by name (our friend Il-sung did.) And I didn’t have to, because every one of the cities you mention is packed full of “high-density apartment buildings for every income bracket, every family situation, etc.,” just as I said. (And yes, I’ve been to each one of those places.)

    Oh, and your semantic pissing contest just got all over your shoes. The UK is situated upon the European continental shelf. It belongs to the European Union. Only a moron would proclaim it “not in Europe” like an excited child reading a factoid off a cereal box.

  52. Chinese who have “voted with their feet” to Vancouver in the last few years”

    Yes, and they’ve built wonderful, edge to edge McMansions throughout Richmond.

  53. “Only a moron would proclaim it “not in Europe” like an excited child reading a factoid off a cereal box.”

    Actually, the majority of Brits would say it’s not a part of Europe and, unlike you, I say that as a Brit.

    You’re the one who seems to get all his facts off the back of cereal boxes. Maybe you should travel and live overseas a little?

  54. You do realize that you’ve now both implied the you immigrated from Korea and stated that you’re British .

    Either way, you’re a logically impaired troll, you have failed to make your point that low-density living is somehow inherent in Seattle, and I’m done with you.

  55. Never said or implied I immigrated from Korea. Only hinted that I immigrated, the res was your imagination. I have, however, been to Seoul at least a dozen times for work. How many times have you been? You seem to know a lot about the city, you must have been even more than I have.

  56. failed to make your point that low-density living is somehow inherent in Seattle”

    Well, as I sit in my single family 2500 sq ft home in Ballard, and look out my window at all my neighbors living in single family homes, single family homes that dominate 65% of Seattle (you know what ‘most’ means right) I think I can say they are ‘inherent’ to all of Seattle’s history.

    Enjoy your rabbit hutch.

  57. Population density of Seattle = 2500/km²

    Population density of Seoul = 16,700/km²

    Seattle is 370 km²

    To make Seattle into your dream city, Seoul, you’ll need to add roughly 5,500,000.

    Good luck with your urbanist dream.

  58. You might want to look up the definition o
    f “inherent.”

    That which is exists ≠ that which would exist under any given circumstances.

  59. You might want to look up the definition of “inherent.”That which is exists ≠ that which would exist under any given circumstance.

  60. Exactly Kim. I’m from Glasgow (Newton Mearns to be exact- watch that make B’s head explode).

    Ahem, the UK IS NOT part of Europe you zenophobic retard. Sorta like Mexico isn’t America. Is that easy to understand?

    Claim “contintental shelf” status all you want. Any of us from over there will laugh at you.

    And as all those cities being “soooooo alike”, again, my feeble-minded friend, I was referring to your cultural measure , not their respective flats, or as Yanks like to say “apartments”.

  61. What, like saying it’s ‘inherently stupid’ to compare Seattle with ‘European’ cities, or Seoul and Singapore, when your idea of being exposed to the world involves traveling to Epcot Center with your grannie in 1987?

  62. Oh, wow.

    Firstly, it’s “xenophobia.”

    Secondly, voting for the Conservatives does not actually change your geographic status. But it likely means YOU’RE the xenophobe.

    Thirdly, Mexico IS part of North America.

    Fourthly, you are both idiots and assholes.

  63. Sweet Jesus you’re tiresome.

    When traveling to, say, the Yucatan do you say to your friends (big assumption there) “Hey, we’re headed to America! ” Or, do you say that you’re headed to … Mexico?

    We’re all fully aware that Mexico lies within North America. What you’re apparently too dumb to understand is that no one (save idiots) refers to Mexico as America. Just like…. no one (again, save idiots) refers to the UK as Europe. Do we need to draw you a f##king diagram?


    Is that clear enough?

    This is priceless. A Scotsman living in the PNW is being called a xenophobe by an untraveled Yank who isn’t even aware that Brits don’t self- identify with Europe.

    God Bless the Internet!

  64. Yes, bless the internet, where anyone can claim to be from anywhere for any reason.

    Wherever you’re from, your brain has been stuck in small-minded Seattle for too long and has turned to haggis.

    Enjoy whatever bullshit you choose to write in response, because no one but you will be reading it.

  65. You’re now implying I’m “pretending” to be from Glasgow simply to illustrate your own lunacy?

    Get some help, loser.
    Weather, food, costs, education of populace, absolutely shite for housing,etc.

    I got my degree from the Royal Acadamy and an off-the-cuff estimate would be that 65% +/-  of my class fled the UK and headed to NA. I jumped at the chance to work in CLEVELAND first. CLEVELAND. Do you understand that? Cleveland is better than  your “high density european cities”. I could have worked in any of “those”. But I would rather be here.

    You’re so retarded.

    Let me spell it out for you.:

    NO ONE WANTS TO LIVE IN A TINY, CONCRETE, FORMER TENEMENT BLOCK, 4 STORY WALK UP-  when the same money can get you your own house, yard, car and shed in NA  for a fraction of the cost. And a better climate. And without the binge drinking violent factor. Serioulsy, you know fuck all.

  66. If they add more panels and a battery array they can disconnect totally from the system. An additional help is to add hot water panels and a 250 gallon hot water tank. Add better quality PV panels will pay them back. 30% efficient panels are available and 50% is used on spacecraft.  The payback is much faster than you think. 
    If you can disconnect while  saving the gas and electric costs the payback is quick. The cost of the system is built into the house over 30 years. The $50,000 cost turns into $50 per month on the mortgage.
     If it is workable for them, they can get a Tesla sedan or another car with a range. If you add the total savings in gas, natural gas,electricity, it could be $1000 per month. This is being done on Indian reservations here and there.
    You can build a self powered home and not live any differently than anyone else. That self powered home can pay you to live there.

  67. I got weary of the infighting here several pages of comments ago, please forgive me.  I am the designer of this house, and I feel the need to set the record straight on a few things.  First of all, the gentleman who suggested that an apartment house could achieve higher efficiency than a single family house was right… up to a point.  You need a lot of clear, south-facing roof area to have enough solar panels to get to net-zero-energy, and most apartment houses are too tall to have the required aspect ratio.  A typical city street, with 50 foot wide lots, and 35 foot wide houses, properly oriented with south-facing roofs, provides a very adequate setting for net-zero-energy homes.  When the Thomas’s decide they need a car, their home is designed to hold an additional 4KW of solar panels. which our calculations show will power a Nissan Leaf, or other similar electric vehicle more than 8,000 miles per year.  Our calculations on a similar home in Oregon were wrong… we though we would get about 5,300 miles per year, instead we have actually racked up 3,400 miles just in the first three winter months of operation, and we anticipate more than 12,000 miles per year.
    Regarding the battery array, that is a very wasteful way to achieve net-zero.  We don’t yet have batteries that are efficient enough, long lasting enough, or clean enough in their manufacture to compete with the efficiency of simply loading your excess power onto the grid for others to use, then simply drawing it off again when you need it.  My friends and colleagues know me as “Mr. Green”, I know what I am about, thank you!
    Regarding the solar hot water system, this was a very difficult calculation.  Since we are using an air-to-water heat pump, capable of heating water to 120 degrees at about 300% efficiency, we calculated that we can provide the electricity to run the heat pump at a lower cost, and higher productivity using PV panels than to heat the water directly with solar hot water panels.  I will let you know if we were wrong.
    Besides designing and building net-zero-energy homes, I teach Green Building Science for a living.  I would love to have you all in my class one day, all of you are very keen on this idea.  We need people like you all, please keep up the dialog!
    Ted L. Clifton

  68. Hey Ted,  Thanks for responding with some key data about your project’s energy supply and forecasted use.  We are also building a high performance home in Kirkland targeting LEED for Homes Platinum and Built Green 5 stars.  Its been a learning journey for the entire project team as new technologies and building processes evolve.  Each project provides designers/builders and consumers with the opportunity to support more responsible ways to build and live on this planet.

  69. Hey Ted,  Thanks for responding with some key data about your project’s energy supply and forecasted use.  We are also building a high performance home in Kirkland targeting LEED for Homes Platinum and Built Green 5 stars.  Its been a learning journey for the entire project team as new technologies and building processes evolve.  Each project provides designers/builders and consumers with the opportunity to support more responsible ways to build and live on this planet.

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