Thursday, July 30, 2009

World's Greenest Houses - self-indulgent hobbies for rich people

Saw my first episode tonight, and it was pretty much as I expected, that is, fantastically expensive homes of very well-off people with a lot of greendressing thrown in.

I'm going to focus of the house in San Francisco.

First thing I'd say about it is - it was wonderful!

I'd seriously consider killing someone for that place.

Now I realise that it is the wealthy who often blaze the trail when it comes to innovative new ways of doing things, and that for many of these the real costs come down over time if they are more generally adopted.

So some of what the series showcases may very well prove to have long term and wider applicability to housing and help to make houses that are more energy and resource efficient.

But dear oh dear, the program has middle-class posturing and moral smugness to burn.

I'd be very interested in the results of real cost accounting for many of these places and to see just how money saving they really are.

As an example of the often naive assumptions and refusal to properly account for real through life costs, there is the wind turbine attached to this particular home.

The first we lay eyes on it reveals the conundrum of these things. It was still.

So no wind means it is producing no power.

This means it is not producing savings in electricity consumption to help pay for its cost.

And what a cost! Between $20,000 and $30,000 just for one domestic grade windmill. (How much did the entire house cost? Most of the homes I saw tonight would easily have cost much more than an average family home.)

The rather annoying host of the program happily informs us that it will eventually pay for itself.

However, the operative word here is eventually.

I seriously doubt this figure would be recouped by the time the owner had grown old and died.

This of course points to the general problem with wind power. It is not as the compare said "free energy" at all. Compared the conventionally generated electricity, the power produced by wind turbines is actually very expensive. Once you factor in all the actual costs.

That's because they are very expensive to make, install and maintain and all for intermittent electricity generation totally dependent on the wind blowing.

Oh, and dependent on the wind not blowing too hard, when turbines have to be turned off so they don't suffer any damage and don't produce too much electricity that may overload the system.

(On a large scale, this is why Great Britain has spent over 2 billion pounds on wind farms that produce little more than 1% of the country's net energy needs.)

I also suspect that the turbine would have to be replaced or have a major overhall long before it started to produce any net savings to the home owner, and thus set her back to pretty much where she was originally.

But such is green economics within what is still essentially a religious movement for wealthy dilettantes.

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldnt agree more. This TV series is so far away from demonstrating viable green intiatives in domestic building to be laughable. Most of the homes presented on this show are typically giagnatic with two semi retired adults wandering around in its cavenous volume.
Just once I would like the host to undertake a true green economic audit of one the houses. The carbon footprint must be huge.

My family and I still watch the show but now view it as a comedy. Just listening to the dumb atempts to justify what they have built and try to make it sound like they are saving the planet cracks us up.