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July 02, 2008


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Unfortunately, my HOA won't allow us to install solar panels on my rooftop or windmills in my yard. I would gladly do so, even without tax credits. But because our laws give my neighbors too much power over what we do, we're expected to just keep on living like we did in the '90s.

I believe in the free market. If it saves me money first, then I'll pay to be MORE environmentally-friendly. The best thing we can all do is just cut back on our energy use, drive less, and invest in more efficient hardware when it makes sense. The recent runup in gasoline prices has everything to do with supply and demand, not greedy oil companies and speculators (investors). If we just cut back on our driving and stop buying SUV's the price of gas will stabilize.

Free market aside, unless energy becomes a national security issue, the things we want to do on our own will become victims of NIMBY syndrome and the hyprocrit environmentalists. They would all rather us become like the Amish rather than build another nuclear plant, or go after the oil we already know is there, on land we already lease, or refine at facilities that already exist.

The first thing I would do is push to restrict the power of HOAs from preventing solar panels from going up on my rooftop. Give me that petition and I'll sign it right now.

Regarding learning about wind power, I've found the following site particularly informative:

I've ran my numbers and while I find a difficult financial justification for cutting my electric bills w/ PV or wind, combining a sized-up installation with an investment into an electric vehicle conversion results in far better payoff times.

"Unfortunately, my HOA won't allow us to install solar panels on my rooftop or windmills in my yard."

One more reason I'll never be part of an HOA...

I'd like to eventually have a home which is powered by alternative energy, at least on average (eg. produce extra during the day, powered by the grid at night).

I currently power my entire home using alternative energy. My electric company offers a program called Pure Power in which they buy the equivalent of my monthly usage from Green-e Energy certified renewable sources. It costs 1.5 cents per kWh extra, but it's worth it in my opinion.

On the otherhand, I wish I could afford to install alternative energy generators in my house. We get a great ratio of sun to rain, so having some solar panels and a grey water tank would be ideal. At this point, the cost is to prohibitive to install anything.

I would love to use solar on our next home since it will probably be the one we live in for 25+ years and we'd likely recoup our investment. But we'd have to extensively research the costs first - and plan on doing so a couple years down the road.

I think (hope) the next few years will bring big advancements in this area though, so who knows what things will cost - both in terms of solar equipment going down and traditional power going up - by then.

"Unfortunately, my HOA won't allow us to install solar panels on my rooftop or windmills in my yard."

Courts have routinely ruled against HOA in these situations. You should check it out. People usually give in because they don't want the fight with their neighbors. The same precidence has been set with sattelite dishes and the like. The HOA does not truly have the power to prevent you from doing that or solar.

With that said, we've been contemplating solar power for our detached garage. It is completely off grid now with zero electric. To run just some basic lights and a garage door opener, solar was expected to run about $1500 versus $500 for conventional wiring to be run out there. I'm sure the payback is quite long, but it's a perfect application of solar.

The question that no one seems to be answering is this one: What about developing countries like China and India? Yes, the US needs to cut back its consumption, and we are doing so. But what about the rest of the world? I read that in a few years, China will be driving as much as, if not more than we are right now. Ford is developing a cheap car for sale in India, which will put thousands and thousands of new drivers on the road.

So, why don't I read about people clamoring for the Chinese and Indians to cut back the same way? I'm not trying to absolve us of blame, but it seems to me that the energy debate is being framed more often than not as "America's Problem" and not "the World's Problem"...

Justin, the reason we aren't clamoring for the Chinese and Indians to cut back is because when we do so, they rightly call us hypocrits for consuming far more of the world's resources than our population justifies. They are just trying to reach the standard we have set. Time for us to set a new standard!

Regarding the question at hand, my husband and I are looking into geothermal energy, for both cost and environmental reasons. My husband, who is less concerned about the environment than I am, first suggested the idea. The problem is that the initial outlay is $12,000. (DH does think it will be worth the cost; we don't plan on moving anytime soon.) We don't have enough saved up for that, and I refuse to borrow the money for it. So, it could be a while, or it may not happen at all....

Small windmills are practical in some areas. DOE has a site on the topic:
They have consumer guides specific to many states. Looks like wind power might work for the areas of Michigan bordering the lakes.

I've looked into solar myself, but even with very substantial state tax credits plus federal tax benefits and utility rebates its not quite financially practical in my area. Whether or not solar is a good idea financially depends on how much sun you get and the tax & utility rebates available in your area.

I get 100% wind power for my homes electricity through my electric utility company. I got it partially because I think wind power is a good way to improve our energy independence and also cause the utility locked in my rates for 5 years. I figured it was a given that our rates would go up in 5 years and I was correct, the standard rates already have and I'm now getting windpower for less than normal electric rate.



The reason is that we don't live in China or India, and our nation/government doesn't have authority over China or India. When we begin to think we have authority over other nations, we get into trouble like the Iraq War.

No, let's focus on our own country, and be the best country we can be. The best place to reduce energy use is yourself, not some stranger in India.

Oh, and by the way, people are clamoring for China and India to reduce energy use. But as Kate said, their usual response is to simply call us hypocrites for not practicing what we preach.

While I don't have viable alternative options, as we fix our house we have invested in quality energy saving products. We bought a fixer upper ten years ago. The first improvement was the windows, then a tankless water heater, energy efficient appliances, and energy efficient gas heater and air conditioner. The intake valve for the gas heater was HUGE!

A representative from the gas company came around a few months ago because people were complaining about prices. I found out that my neighbors are paying almost 400 a month. My bill is 30 - 40 dollars, that also goes for my electric.

So I think alternatives should be invested in but we can also make a lot of progress in being more efficient.

You might want to check this out:

Basically, you can rent your solar panel system instead of paying the big upfront costs. I need to read through it all more carefully - if it's as good as it seems, we'll be signing up.

Honestly, I only invest in my house in terms of energy savings when it economically benefits me. I think that is the way it is for the majority of Americans as well.

As for stuff I'd install on my house, there's a strong "Plasma TV effect": the technology is changing so quickly and prices coming down so quickly that it doesn't make sense to pull the trigger until it absolutely makes sense. For me, that'll be when I get a plug-in hybrid that needs the extra electricity; we currently use very little.

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