Each month we feature a different home from the 2020 Metro Denver Green Homes Tour. This Genesee Mountain home on Chief Hosa Road is owned by Barry Rosenberg and Lee Fisher. It is all-electric—no propane. The architect was Peter Ewers, who specializes in Net Zero Energy homes, and this is one of them. The solar panels (grid-tied) provide all the electricity to heat the home, cook, provide hot water and everything else, including charging their Nissan Leaf. The home has straw bale walls with stucco on the north and east sides of the house. The foundation was poured using Durisol brand ICFs (insulated concrete forms). The well water is purified using UV light. You’ll learn a lot from this home! See my video at www.GreenHomeoftheMonth.com.
The first Saturday of October is when the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour happens, and this year the tour is better than ever because it’s virtual. What that means is that instead of having to visit some or all of the homes between 9 am and 4 pm on a single day, you can watch short videos of each home. It’s possible you could “visit” all 16 homes and the one business in just one or two sittings at your computer and likely learn more about their sustainable features than if you had visited them in person. That’s what I call a green tour of green homes!
Since I shot all those videos myself and thereby learned all those homes’ sustainable features, you can consider me an expert on what’s new and exciting as well as what’s old and proven when it comes to making a home sustainable.
The theme this year is the Best Homes From the Last 25 Annual Tours. The home owned by Rita and me is on the tour, and since I just turned 73 I’d like to share with you how making our home sustainable also secured for us an affordable retirement — if and when I retire!
It all starts with solar power. Nowadays you can install enough solar panels on your home for under $20,000 so that you never pay Xcel or your other electrical provider more than the cost of being connected to their electrical grid. With Xcel Energy, that’s under $10 per month. The electricity you use is free, created from the sun.
You need to be connected to the grid, because the grid functions as your “battery.” Your electric meter runs backward during the day when you’re creating more electricity than you use, and it runs forward at night. Your goal is to have it run backward more than it runs forward.
Plan ahead and buy enough electrical panels so that over time you can replace your gas-fired appliances with electrical ones — a heat-pump water heater, a heat-pump system for heating and cooling, and an electric range — and replace your gas-powered car with an electric one. Now everything in your life is sun-powered!
You can buy a used electric car for under $30,000 or even under $10,000 (Google “used electric cars” and see for yourself) and never buy gasoline or pay for an oil change or tune-up again and probably never have an expensive car repair either. Buying a used electric car is smarter than buying a new one because there’s hardly anything to go wrong with an EV — no transmission, timing belt, motor or hundreds of other expensive parts that could fail. See the article at right about our electric vehicle event. It’s the only in-person part of the tour.
So there you have it. Once you’ve paid off your mortgage (or transitioned to a reverse mortgage), the only costs of living in your home will be your property taxes and water bill, plus $10 per month for being on the electrical grid.
Be sure to “attend” this year’s tour of green homes. Register at www.NewEnergyColorado.com/home-tour. It’s free, although you will be asked for a donation. Another feature of the tour this year is three video presentations.
Hear Bill Lucas-Brown from GB3 Energy on “Reducing your Carbon Footprint with an Electric Mini Split”; John Avenson, from PHIUS.org and Steve Nixon from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory discussing “New Home vs Renovation: 2 alter-native Paths to Zero Energy”; and Peter Ewers from Ewers Architecture Golden presenting “All Electric Buildings, the Key to our Energy Future.”
Below are twelve of the videos in the YouTube playlist which you’ll get to view when you register for this year’s tour.
The typical American home is powered electrically but heated by natural gas, propane or other fossil fuels. You and I can generate our own electricity with solar panels, but there’s no way for us to generate natural gas or other fossil fuel energy, so the transition to a “net zero energy” lifestyle necessitates turning away from fossil fuels and going all-electric.
Fortunately, technology has advanced — just in the last decade — to the point where going all-electric is totally practical, affordable, and a way you and I can mitigate climate change
At Golden Real Estate, our office was heated with natural gas until November 2017, when we installed a heat pump “mini-split” system and had our natural gas meter removed. With 20 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic panels, we were able to eliminate our natural gas bill but not increase our electric bill. We continue to pay just $11 per month to be connected to the electric grid (which functions as our “battery” thanks to net metering), but we are generating all the electricity needed to power, heat and cool our office building. We even have enough electricity from the solar panels to power our four electric cars without buying any net electricity from Xcel Energy. We hope other businesses will follow our lead.
Making the switch to all-electric at home is still in our future, because — like you, I suspect — we prefer gas cooking, gas grilling, and having a gas fireplace.
If, however, we can get beyond those preferences, it is possible now to heat our home and domestic hot water using heat pump appliances, and to cook our food with electric or induction cooktops and ovens. Electric grilling is also available, although not as attractive from a taste standpoint to most of us.
All-electric homes was the subject of a talk by architect Peter Ewers at last week’s meeting of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s Jeffco chapter. You can view an archived video of Peter’s talk at www.cres-energy.org/video.
Once we have removed gas service from our homes (and gas cars from our garages), we will have also eliminated the risks of explosion and carbon monoxide poisoning, too. Wouldn’t that be great?