Selling ''energy efficient'' home upgrades - what is the market like?

Ol'DudeOl'Dude Posts: 11Registered Users
My wife and I are now into our seventies. We were living in out 'last house'. We spent $$$ putting in energy-efficient doors and windows, and a full-blown Geo Thermal ground return heating and cooling system. Then after 5-6 years. we decided to move closer to our children. And we discovered .... THE PUBLIC IS IGNORANT!!! Couldn't find an agent that gets it. Even Zillow is unable to account for these expenditures as home investment.

Even worse than the return on things like swimming pools and saunas, so far, after several months listed with a broker, NOT ONE person or couple going through had any hint WHY they (or we!) might want something energy efficient.

While we only dented any return on our costs, not being there long enough, we did cut our energy bill around 60%, so there has been at least some return on the investment.

But it sure highlights some considerations I wish we'd made BEFORE taking on expenses like that.

1) might be best to spend first on things you can take with you! Solar panels and controllers and inverters and batteries, for example.

2) rather than upgrading your home or insulation, might work out cheaper to over-size your energy generating capability.

3) assume any potential buyers will not care one whit about energy efficiency - then what would you do?

Looks like we are simply going to pay about $25,000 for this learning experience.

Comments

  • zonebluezoneblue Posts: 1,218Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Not everyone is like that. Maybe hang in there til you find the right buyer. If you can.
    1.8kWp CSUN, 10kWh AGM, Midnite Classic 150, Outback VFX3024E,
    http://zoneblue.org/cms/page.php?view=off-grid-solar


  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Posts: 3,962Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Right around the time you were doing these energy upgrades the mini split air source heat pump (in North America) really took the last reasons for a ground source heat pump away.
    At least you are not offgrid, that can really lengthen the time to sell. Good Luck!

    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • Ol'DudeOl'Dude Posts: 11Registered Users
    Right around the time you were doing these energy upgrades the mini split air source heat pump (in North America) really took the last reasons for a ground source heat pump away.
    At least you are not offgrid, that can really lengthen the time to sell. Good Luck!

    Thanks, Dave

    I know you write about a pretty remote off grid existence. My house is in a medium sized town in Kansas. There's major food production for miles around. There's oil and gas production virtually under the town (not that it's any cheaper, just that it's sourced) Beyond that, the area is full of Amish/Mennonite self sufficiency types. Many farms are ''old order'', no electric and there's work horses instead of tractors. Should be interesting to see what happens if the grid does go down. Many of them have never been connected!

    Anyway, re: air sourced/sinked heating/cooling, while breaking something like an air-to-air system into smaller pieces makes installation easier I don't see how it makes it any more efficient. Granted, not having to drill a well or two is a major saving, there is still the higher efficiency you can get by doing so. While I haven't seen residential systems broken down into smaller units, there's no reason why it couldn't be done. Two or three geo thermal heat exchangers could be run off one well. Assuming some place to dump the water. Although, on the surface in a place that gets well below freezing could be a problem in the winter! Ice all over the place!

    I would say in general that you get twice the efficiency, or generate your needed X BTU's at half the energy cost, using water-to-air over air-to-air. Cost of installation is obviouosly higher, but as in many things, you sometimes get what you pay for. I tried to keep installation costs down. But did not figure on selling the place. It's that part that's becoming something of a surprise.Instead of for example $300 for energy (gas & electric) to see $140 in bills should be understandable, you'd think. Nope. General public has no clue!

    My next step, had we stayed, would have been the alternate energy sources to RUN the thing. Funny to mention, the town has a Seimens plant, employs maybe 300, putting together megawatt sized wind generators. But they are for utility company wind farms, not individual homes. One thing I was looking for was knowledge and means to tie those smaller home systems together into a micro-grid, if only for safety in case of system break-downs. Another way for neighbors to help sustain neighbors. Wouldn't work out in the country, due to the amount of wire needed. Total redundancy in equipments is probably the only viable option there. but in small clusters of houses, settlement sized, might be an option. Strength in numbers and all that.

    Bill
  • sub3marathonmansub3marathonman Posts: 300Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Ol'Dude wrote: »
    And we discovered .... THE PUBLIC IS IGNORANT!!! Couldn't find an agent that gets it. Even Zillow is unable to account for these expenditures as home investment.

    Even worse than the return on things like swimming pools and saunas, so far, after several months listed with a broker, NOT ONE person or couple going through had any hint WHY they (or we!) might want something energy efficient.
    ...
    Looks like we are simply going to pay about $25,000 for this learning experience.

    I thought you could get a "green mortgage" on such an energy efficient home. What that does for a buyer is allow them to buy more house than they normally could because the utility payments are so much lower. So if you're saving $150/month on utilities, the buyer would then qualify for a mortgage $150 beyond what they would qualify for in a typical house. I know that in Kansas, as surprisingly it is here in Florida too, finding somebody in banking who is also knowledgeable about this might be difficult, but maybe you could find somebody who'd at least be enthusiastic about doing a bit of research.

    Your real estate agent should have been able to figure some of this out too, so maybe you want to look around for another agent. I can tell you it definitely makes a huge difference who your agent is, with us it was the difference between selling a house and the unknown, as she had to work out major problems with right-of-way issues due to it being a private road, and it took months because the private road owner was (IMHO) a jerk.

    I agree too with Dave about the mini-split, as I too was on the cusp of the breakout, but still that little bit too early so I paid a huge amount for an 18SEER A/C system. The mini-split has a huge jump over conventional A/C because of the duct losses with the conventional A/C, and of course that is just the beginning of the benefits.

    Now, down here in Florida, it is geothermal cooling, and my mom looked at a house where a guy had done it. BUT, he had the pipes running through the ceilings, which raining inside is definitely not good if the pipe leaked, and the system was so complex it wasn't even working when he was trying to sell the house. So in that situation, it was actually a negative for the house.

  • BB.BB. Posts: 27,788Super Moderators admin
    For ground sourced A/C systems--From what I have seen, the pump needed to circulate water through the tubes in the ground (buried/vertical well type, etc.) can actually be quite significant. One person here was looking at 1-2 HP motor just to move the heat exchange medium.

    I don't know if that is typical or not--But I suggest that you research the "other costs" (cost to bury piping, water pump power usage, antifreeze costs, etc.) as part of the overall system costs/efficiency.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Posts: 3,962Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Home Power mag did a recent in depth on what I have learned from my 2 clients who did this about 10 years ago. Ground source only competed in efficiency in 1 out of 4 of the categories. When maintenance,construction, and energy were factored in it was not something that one would do. The Air source EER for heating is getting 3 to 1 over electricity (near 5 to 1 on SOTA units) and SEER of 30 on a 1 ton unit is getting common. Simple to install and have a spare for. Cost is coming down now also.

    With solar costs really down these days it is just a complication to the home that a buyer might pass on. A ground source is a nice thing to have but if it looks complicated a buyer might keep looking.

    When I see some of the plumbing that Richard is doing in these huge projects on "This old House" I just shake my head. I like the "less is more" because most skilled handy people can figure it out.

    I understand why Bill did this in those days. I also paid quite a bit for solar panels back then. You do not want to know what I paid for used solar in 1992!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • Ol'DudeOl'Dude Posts: 11Registered Users
    BB. wrote: »
    For ground sourced A/C systems--From what I have seen, the pump needed to circulate water through the tubes in the ground (buried/vertical well type, etc.) can actually be quite significant. One person here was looking at 1-2 HP motor just to move the heat exchange medium.........

    Actually, the cost of the 1/2hp pump (water is less than 30 feet down) is included in the cost of operation. I took total energy bills, natural gas (former furnace, still used for replacement (almost new) water heater and for the stove) PLUS the electric bills and simply added to get a monthly total.

    Energy has to come from somewhere if you're going to use it .... I wanted to find out what we were using. Then consider what could be done away with, and what could be alternate sourced. Since it's Kansas, wind is plentiful! The neighbor uses solar water heating for his indoor pool. If you can get to the aerial view, your can count the panels on his roof (he's the house to the right of ours).

    ----> http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/312-W-19th-Ave_Hutchinson_KS_67502_M87998-12074

    And BTW, if your an interested, experienced, home buyer (meaning been there, done that) contact me directly 620-757-6111 if you wish.

    Bill
  • Ol'DudeOl'Dude Posts: 11Registered Users
    Home Power mag did a recent in depth on what I have learned from my 2 clients who did this about 10 years ago. Ground source only competed in efficiency in 1 out of 4 of the categories. When maintenance,construction, and energy were factored in it was not something that one would do. The Air source EER for heating is getting 3 to 1 over electricity (near 5 to 1 on SOTA units) and SEER of 30 on a 1 ton unit is getting common. Simple to install and have a spare for. Cost is coming down now also.........

    Hi Dave; I must be missing something. Here's my view of the situation. You have excess heat you want to get rid of, or you need to acquire some heat from somewhere. Except for those ''perfect'' days and nights where temperature and humidity don't need any messing about with.

    I found using water pumped out of the ground, then dumped back into the ground, provided the cheapest and most efficient medium to transfer what I needed to transfer heat into, or out of. At far higher cost, if necessary, you COULD bury pipes and build a closed system.

    What I came up with has proven to return over a thousand dollars a year in energy bills savings. It cost around $20,000 to install (using professional contractor - I didn't know how to do it myself). Not a great return on investment, but maybe twice what banks are paying. And low in part because energy, instead of climbing, year-over-year, has been driven down in some sort of economic war I don't really understand. Will there be any winners?

    Admittedly it would be hard to factor in the energy efficient windows we put in, which positively contributed to the savings, and would have done so even if we hadn't put in the geo thermal unit. So in all, we're about $40,000 into improvements. Which for some reason don't figure in the real estate valuations.

    But I never thought about the 'green' thing as applies to loan ceilings. I'll have to talk to the agent about that!

    Bill
  • jeffkrusejeffkruse Posts: 205Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    I’ve been on both sides in the last few years. Just recently I bought a house. During the search we saw houses that had solar electric systems. The sellers may have stated the costs that THEY paid for the systems to justify the bump in value of the house. To me, this left a sour feeling about the sellers because today that same system brand new and installed would cost half. If I really wanted that property I would have had to argue the actual value of the system. That being said the system did have value, just not what the owners were claiming.

    My suggestion is to assess the value of your older, used equipment and price it as such. In my case a $20K 7 year old solar electric system is only worth $5K today. I can’t speak about your other energy saving equipment.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Posts: 3,962Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Good suggestion Jeff! The house is only worth what a buyer will pay. The similar house next door that does not have solar will be the baseline. You would add the current solar cost to determine the value.

    The same with Bill the OP here! If a buyer could add $3K of air source heat pumps to get a similar energy bill, why would he want to pay Bill $20K for a more complicated ground source cooling system. The other improvements only count if similar homes do not already have those improvements and, the buyer thinks they are valuable!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • westbranchwestbranch Posts: 5,087Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    I would not use a 'run of the mill' Realtor, I would search out one conversant with solar and other energy saving/efficient improvements, so that he can explain the benefits to prospective buyers... Similarly he must be knowledgeable about the current costs to install such improvements as explained above, ie current costing, otherwise sell it yourself... you are the most knowledgeable person about the features of your property...
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge,
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • Ol'DudeOl'Dude Posts: 11Registered Users
    Good suggestion Jeff! The house is only worth what a buyer will pay. The similar house next door that does not have solar will be the baseline. You would add the current solar cost to determine the value.

    The same with Bill the OP here! If a buyer could add $3K of air source heat pumps to get a similar energy bill, why would he want to pay Bill $20K for a more complicated ground source cooling system. The other improvements only count if similar homes do not already have those improvements and, the buyer thinks they are valuable!


    Couple of things here .....

    1) can you tell me where to find solid information about $3K of air source that can do what a 3-1/2 ton, single stage but variable speed, ground source water-to-water open system is able to do? Somehow, you are asserting something I have not seen. At my new home, there's water around 50-60 feet, but the drinking water well is at 260 feet. Not sure about why. But I've got to come up with something. We have LP gas wall heaters and an air-to-air 2009 system by previous owner. Horrible! Since we're on rock, unlikely closed loop is even possible. LP was going for 99 cents a week or two ago. As long as that lasts, we're okay as far as wasting it. I guess.

    2)If you go by Zillow, they seem to calculate house prices based on the local market over time, and what you paid initially. AND, how effective you are with your local tax board! In my case, I paid $143k, Zillow shows a ''now'' price of $155k. Using either one, and ignoring a number of improvements including newly finished oak hardwood almost everywhere, the vintage (small) 1''x1'' stuff, enclosing an open-front shed with a garage door, etc etc, there is NO place to even include $40k in energy-efficient improvements. Doesn't raise the taxes.

    That means, to me, what I'm asking ($169k) will maybe return me 1/3 or 1/4 of what I spent. All I'm suggesting is, before spending serious money trying to ''save'' energy costs, it might pay to consider what happens if/when you gotta move. Solar panels have gotten a lot cheaper. Geo Thermal units as far as I've seen, haven't.

    Bill

  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Posts: 3,962Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Three 1 ton units on Amazon less than $3,000 including $500 for the refrigeration tech to evacuate the line sets and certify. I am sorry but technology moves on. It was a good plan at one time and now it has to be a labor of love because it does not make financial sense. I am on your side because it is a very cool thing to have a good water source heat pump. It just is not as valuable as it was.
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • JohannJohann Posts: 240Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Selling a home these days is a slow motion thing. There are a lot of folks that do not buy right now. Most folks just do not care and do not want to know about efficiency or they just do not know about it.
    As long as the heat works and as long the AC works, folks will be happy, but they do not care where the cool or the heat is coming from.
    But for most buyers, the selling price is what makes or brakes a deal.

  • Ol'DudeOl'Dude Posts: 11Registered Users
    Three 1 ton units on Amazon less than $3,000 .......................

    Dave

    Can you give a link to exactly what you are talking about?
    Besides the problem of selling my Kansas house, I really need to come up with something at the new place.
    I can not find anything air-to-air that comes anywhere near (ie within even 150%) of the therms from a water-based system, per dollar.

    I sized the Kansas Geo Thermal system where I did because it can be run entirely off a 5kW generator. Along with not much else.
    That house has natural gas, and it's locally produced (within a few miles). So that's one option for electricity. A conversion kit for a
    generator runs maybe $125 and will allow running off natural, LP, or gasoline. I'd back it up with a 100 gallon vertical LP bottle. And
    a spare generator. And parts. For maybe under $3,000 you could be assured several weeks; more if the natural gas keeps flowing.

    Because electricity from solar panels is ''free'' I consider some waste in using it okay, but not from STORAGE because batteries
    are very expensive. 5kW of solar panels can be had for maybe $3500 these days, MPPT controllers (w/ backup spare) about $1000
    but it takes around $10,000 to store several days at 5kW usage (say 20 to 30 kW hours per day).Plus assorted types of inverters.
    (Nobody has mentioned Sola yet - they made really good ones!) A few hundred bucks steel channel and rail and welding. Forgot wire.

    We shouldn't ignore the real reason (to ignore cost) for ''off grid'' in my opinion.

    When the time comes, you either provide your own or you MOVE....maybe with only a suitcase. They'll tell you where.

    Bill
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Posts: 3,962Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    I have been doing my Offgrid business for 23 years and I always try and help with general advice but I bill for specific advice. I am in business and I do help folks in the third world with keeping the lights on gratis. I am sure that you can search Amazon and find all kinds of mini-split heat pumps. If you think I ignore the cost of being offgrid with over 80 offgrid homes now, it is your opinion and I think you are wrong. Most of the people I work with would never want to be anywhere near the grid and are happy about that. I wish you well!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • Ol'DudeOl'Dude Posts: 11Registered Users
    I see Dave and I are talking past each other. He's talking off-grid for the esthetics of it. I am not.

    For everyone else ..... http://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/ductless-mini-split-heat-pumps

    They just don't work where it's around or below freezing for any length of time.
    And unless you protect the outdoor part, a single SEVEN cent .22 round can shut it down.

    At least geo thermal can be entirely within your dwelling. Nothing exposed. No noise. No fumes.
    Now, where or how you power it is something else again.

    Time to be thinking security. First, second, and last.

    Bill
  • peakbaggerpeakbagger Posts: 341Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    In my region there is a general real estate slump due to a loss major manufacturing jobs. Our region is about an hour outside of the southern NH/Boston second home radius. Houses stay on the market and generally sell at a discount. The towns rely aggressively on property tax and even the tax assessors cant justify adding value to a home for energy efficiency. Houses get sold on line where photos are the curb appeal. To the majority of the population and real estate brokers, photos of energy efficient doors, windows and heat pumps are not going to get a potential purchaser to want to see a home. Energy efficiency may factor in as a secondary selling point when two roughly equivalent properties are compared but I expect andupdated kitchen and bath will outsell a heat pump.

    When I bought and installed my equipment, I assumed that it wasn't a home improvements rather the systems were ways to reduce the ongoing cost of home ownership.

    My plan is if and when I sell, I will look at the market and decide if I want to take the equipment down. The two arrays will come off the house and the mounting holes patched in about 2 days, one if I have help. My wood boiler and 550 gallons of hot water storage is another story. The system is probably paid for by now but getting it out of the basement will require a bit more time and effort.
  • Ol'DudeOl'Dude Posts: 11Registered Users

    When I bought and installed my equipment, I assumed that it wasn't a home improvements rather the systems were ways to reduce the ongoing cost of home ownership.

    My plan is if and when I sell, I will look at the market and decide if I want to take the equipment down.

    I think I agree with your second statement more now than ever before.

    I planned that Geo Thermal system to be able to run off a 5Kw genset. And choose a soft-start motor for the same reason. No reason to ''need' a 15Kw unit just to get the thing started! It is a Trane. I did keep the generator with me. And the transfer switch. And LP gas/ Nat Gas conversion kit.

    Next step would have been solar panels and wind generator - planned on a vertical one. There's an example about 1/2 mile away, other side of the State Fairgrounds. Hey, it's Kansas - there's ALWAYS wind! Since I didn't get around to building the solar units, that's still in my future.

    I'm now looking at 4 panels mounted in welded together iron channel, easily replaced, mounted to maybe truck axle for rotation. Planning to use 4 panels, two-up by two side-by-side, another axle across for tilt. Computer controlled tracking, I've got a bunch of Arduino ARM-7 boards around. BUT ... this stuff is all removable. So I can (if needed) take it with me! Assume 1Kw per quad. Need four or five unless efficiencies go up as predicted.

    Big unknown right now is storage. Probably batteries, although one local (to Kansas) guy is really hot on using compressed air. I think he's still looking for an underground salt cavern ... they are all over the place. And there are also several underground missile silos in the area.

    How ever one looks at it, we're still making an investment. The question is, how to maximise the return, AND be able to recover something if any pieces have to be left behind.

    Any West-Coasters looking to move inland might consider the place. They'd be getting the Geo Thermal and super insulation and windows for basically FREE! It actually has a lot going for it, but we wanted to be closer to our kids. In fact there's already some former Californians already found the town .... 


  • softdownsoftdown Posts: 1,879Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Need to keep it very, very simple for most people. Cab you show before and after energy bills? Does this stuff need maintenance? We are all bombarbed with terrific claims every day.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • Ol'DudeOl'Dude Posts: 11Registered Users
    Can you show before and after energy bills?

    Sure. Didn't save local temperatures etc but enough data exists covering six years or so (plus several BEFORE we made the place ''efficient'') to show what it's done. Anyway, my understanding re: an energy audit is that the auditor can verify and/or estimate the approximate savings. Forgot to mention, but owning this house has shown that real brick (as opposed to a facade) actually helps, too. Not quite the mass of a cave, but sure better than wood frame. Not to mention, wouldn't pass any pesky stray projectiles very easily, either! Well, except the windows probably would.

    If you have power, you'd have water (2 wells) but without power I'm not sure the municipal sewer system will be working. There was a septic system, but I think they filled the tank and probably ruined the drain field.

    Bill

Sign In or Register to comment.