Building a new home with state of the art energy-efficient technology
or "greenifying" an existing home?
It seems to me that you're never going to get as much efficiency out
of a renovation, since you can only do so much, and you can't tear
down the walls, but then efficiency becomes less of a concern if
you're getting most or all of your energy from renewable sources
(assume a 4KW PV system on a 1400 sq ft house, for argument's sake).
For argument's sake, let's say the new, energy efficient home costs
350K and the existing 50-year old house costs 250K, leaving you 100K
in renovation money. From an environmental friendliness perspective,
is that 100K better spent on the renovation or the new home?
As I mentioned previously, the renovated house will never be as
efficient as the new home, but you could install a PV system that
supplies all of your energy needs (even though you may be using more
of it, but at that point, who cares, you're still net zero).
If you wish to live in an economical home in an area of high energy
dependence, then abandon the new home and build a new one of just the
right size. I cannot speak of the USA in general, but here most homes
are way oversized. Our population has not changed in 100 years, but the
size of homes have grown to silly proportions.
Build a right-sized home.
I assume you mean locally. But you are quite correct---family size
hasn't increased, and has probably decreased, so McMansions are an
insane exercise. Of course they are useful if you are running some
kind of human trafficking operation......
Is the environmental point of view the only subject you study for your
house? If it the case, I would suggest you to invest fully in the new
house. You will never reach the same characteristics as the new house
(with the old house). If environment is not the only thing you care
about, you might think `Do I really want to leave this house?' or ask
yourself other questions, as leaving a house might also mean leaving
memories, or events.
Good question, but you have to be more specific. Are you talking
about cost cost or 'net energy consumption plus environmental impact
If you do at least some degree of recycling of the materials, tearing
down an old house and using the foundation/improvements should be the
most efficient in terms of environmental impact.
I'm talking about net environmental impact over time (say 20 years). A
newer home is going to consume less energy, no doubt, but a renovated
home with a PV system could theoretically compensate for the lack of
efficiency and still result in net zero consumption . . . I think.
I would think tearing down the house and rebuilding would be cost
prohibitive . . . and you'd still have to consider the impact of
consuming additional resources to build the new one.
I live in Minnesota, USA. My house is over 100 years-old. It was far
more cost-effective to have this house made energy efficient than to
build a new one in this location. Keep in mind that is is damned cold
here most of the year.
I've no worries whatsoever of my energy bills. They are hardly a blip on
the financial chart.
Water, on the other hand, is a resource that I cannot build against. The
cost of water is escalating. We have huge lakes around my place, and the
Mississippi River running right past us, so we will probably be fine,
but you all who depend upon an aquifer or source upstream have far more
to worry about. Water is the most critical resource. People who draw
from critical sources are in deep doo-doo. Water sources are the least
Of course, but again you have to distinguish between how much it costs
you and how much energy you use and the environmental impact. From my
experience, you have to do either a minimal amount or go all the way---
in between gives less value on investment. So if you buy a poorly
insulated house, you could re-side and add insulation on the outside
for 10K, and get some nice new windows for another 6K, and improve the
heating system for 4K. But that's the max I would do on an old
The real problem, ta, is that being energy in-efficient is not going
to lower the price of the house you are buying that much, so your
price comparison doesn't work very well. Sad, but that's the way it
Throw in another 15-20K for a PV system and doesn't the inefficiency
become somewhat moot? As long as the energy you're using is clean, the
efficiency becomes somewhat secondary, doesn't it? I would think you
could heat and cool a small house in a temperate climate with 100%
solar, but admittedly haven't run the numbers.
And what if the hvac system was a brand new 15 SEER electric heat
I've now had some experience with a slab foundation with perimeter
insulation only. On balance, I would suggest that rather than in-floor
radiant. Since he is getting a wood stove, I would also just get wall-
mounted electric radiant.
The slab works really well in the summer---cool with no energy
expended, since it is at the thermal equivalent of 4' deep.
In the winter, at ta's latitude, it will serve as a nice thermal
source on the occasional actually cold day.
I was actually looking at a basement foundation:
Radiant floor heating didn't seem worthwhile to me in such a small
Trying to get a HERS score in the 45 range. Geothermal heat pump will
go a long way toward achieving that I think.
Depends on dollars at hand.
I'd start off setting up a power system in the older home. From there
then a lot will naturally follow if you have a hands on capacity. I am
guessing you will not be less concerned about efficiency but only
concerned about efficacy after this. It is hard to be really 'green'
minded without getting dirty handed.
In West Virginia back during the day it was common for people (of a
certain type) to buy old abandoned one room churches in the middle of the
woods. Some were able to heat these with one small wood burning stove
after insulating the walls, installing new windows and much caulking.
At this point I think 'state of the art technology' is near meaningless.
What you may want is to stay artfully stateless to more easily adapt
technologies as they change state.
To me, "Greener" means a home that will last for many generations, and will
not need serious maintenance issues as the years go by.
It also means one that uses significantly less energy to heat or cool, to
light, to obtain standard services like water and sewer, with minimal effect
on the land. (grey water, or sewer aquifier solutions-water catchment,
etc.)It also means one that is easily accessible for the owner to go to
town, or have visitors come to visit.....
Ease of transportation to and from.
Fire protect should be naturally landscaped.
flood and or storm constructed.
Area for recreation nearby......
The list grows, and I guess if I or we could meet anyone of these above
issues, we would be greener....
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.