Monday, January 28, 2008

Very Smart Neighbor

I was visiting with my neighbor across the alley earlier today. He is about fifty, a construction worker who lived in this same house for about twenty five years, mortgage free for the past five.

This past summer he installed a 2000 watt grid attached solar power system. He literally spins the meter backwards getting a check every month from the power company...although he didn't share the amount any time they pay you it is good. In his shop he has eight 12 volt Trojan deep cycle batteries kept fully charged, in case the power goes out at night. The power system was in large part funded by a large tax credit and the rest covered by the power company checks.

He took out a small home equity loan last year and installed large south facing windows on the second floor of his house and also installed a huge sun room along the south side first floor. Plus he re-insulated the entire is an old two story average city home. Being a construction worker he was only out the cost of material.

The roof of the sun room is a large solar water heating system that will be used during the summer to preheat water stored in a large insulated tank in the basement. During the winter he heats the water with an ultra efficient wood burning furnace installed in place of the old natural gas forced air system. It has a water heating coil that preheats the water during the winter. If the water temperature is not quite hot enough he has a small electric on demand water heater that gives it a little boosts.

He drives this old flat bed construction truck which pulls a large trailer. Lately he has been thinning out overgrowth around the high dollar homes in the foothills. There have been some large forest fires in the past few years and he is capitalizing on that fear; getting paid for thinning the trees and gathering free firewood in the same act.

He even converted his fiberglass hot tub to use a wood burning convection heater.

My neighbor said he wanted to retire early and not needing to worry about utilities just made sense to him. I was very impressed to say the least. This summer he is going to try and get a permit to install a cistern to keep his garden watered, but doesn't think the city will give it to him. I wish him luck.


theotherryan said...

That is a pretty darn good setup from an energy perspective. Urban dwellers can do a lot if they set their minds to it.

BigBear said...

And he might have had a nice food stock and some guns stuck back somewhere.

Anonymous said...

I like the way that you neighbour thinks. By setting up that solar panel set up as he said, that's one major bill in the future he won't have to worry about.

His set up is one that I am dead set keen to do. The thing is with the property bubble I can't even get my foot in the door without taking out a foolishly large loan.

If you see him tell him I'm impressed. Energy (electricity) costs could skyrocket tomorow and he'd still be sitting pretty. Nice work

BigBear said...

Apparently he borrowed a small amount before the big downturn. Plus his house is paid off.

If everyone would have done this during the housing boom this country would be in a different place today.

Think about retiring like that I love the idea.

Helena Mattsson said...

I like this, I will be off-grid soon and I look forward to that.