April 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Dear Earth Day, Happy Birthday to You

120421-earth-dayToday is the 43rd Earth Day, so thank you Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI)!  How should Burbed celebrate Earth Day?  Let’s talk green houses. 

Hold your stones, I don’t mean glass houses.  I mean green, as in sustainable.  Green as in energy efficiency.  Green as in non-polluting, or at least less polluting.  And green as in whatever you left in the fridge is no longer before its time.

Berkeley architect attains enegy [sic] self-sufficiency in 1,800-square-foot home

Michael Freeze, BlockShopper.com, on SFGate.com
Sunday, April 15, 2012


When Chris Parlette, an architect by trade, went green with his Berkeley home, holding back wasn’t an option.

Parlette took his 800-square-foot home, built in 1920, and turned it into a solar-powered building that spanned more than 1,800 square feet. He described his idea of green residential living as a way of pushing the envelope to energy efficiency.

"Being an architect, I spent of lot time thinking of what I wanted to do with other clients’ houses," Parlette said of his home, located at 1147 120421-camelia-kitchenCamelia St. "Gelling these architectural ideals I had, I wanted to put it into practice with this home with mainly solar and green ideas."

A 3.2-kilowatt photovoltaic solar electric system in the form of panels brings power to the home, and it actually provides more electricity than Parlette needs. Aside from the abundance of power, the home, he rightfully noted, also is aesthetically pleasing.

There’s glass aplenty in this Berkeley home, and you’ll definitely hit the solar panels if you toss rocks at the roof.

120421-camelia-outsideYou can see more about the home over on the agent’s website, and there are even more pictures if you head over to Redfin and admire the listing.  But rather than splat out the nitty gritty details ($799K), let’s just use this house to start a discussion on how energy efficient your own home is, or is not.

Newer homes are not necessarily greener, either.  Not only is a lot of new construction done with shoddy materials and plenty of corner-cutting, but isn’t it greener to move into an existing home rather than have a new one built for you?  There are over 1.1 million empty dwelling units in California per the 2010 Census.  That’s 8.1 percent of all California homes.

Are you considering any energy improvements such as better insulation or putting in solar panels?  Is your house a lean, clean, green machine or is it a giant carbon sink?

Discuss your home, or particularly good or bad examples of sustainable energy in homes, or how you’re celebrating Earth Day, or anything else you’d like in this Open Thread.

Comments (14) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

14 Responses to “Happy Birthday Dear Earth Day, Happy Birthday to You”

  1. Petsmart groomer Says:

    > The image of panels standing on top of a house hasn’t helped the solar industry, but I’m trying to rectify that stigma.

    That was not difficult on a 2-story house with a flat roof. Anyway, this house looks cool.

    I’m always ‘amused’ by houses with solar panels and yet yards that need a huge amount of water. Lawn should be outlawed. Palo Alto, I’m looking at you.

    Next time you drive the Cayenne to Summerwinds because you suddenly need more exotic plants, consider Yerba Buena Nursery instead.

  2. nomadic Says:

    These guys built a house in Santa Cruz that requires only 800W to heat on the coldest day of the year. The heat is provided via solar water heating on the roof that’s run through a heat exchanger to warm the air in the house. No furnace at all. The roof system provides all of the hot water needs as well.

  3. Jb Says:

    Check out Rana Creek nursery as well – in Carmel Valley – for lawn like grasses that cut water use. Kids and I enjoyed our energy audit with this cool device we checked out from our local library to see what different appliances draw – turned off and on. Love our toto toilet. Family of 4 in 1,000 sq feet neraly 100 yr old bungalow has got to be green!

  4. madhaus Says:

    The cost of solar panels have come down substantially in the last 5 years. Most of them are made in China, but the solar installation industry in the Bay Area is going gangbusters because of it.

    This article (subscription required) suggests that’s going to lead to a big shakeout throughout the entire industry (not just installing). There’s plenty of solar R&D, manufacturing, and accessory businesses as well.

    No, I don’t have a subscription to SF Business Times. If anyone does, please summarize as this looks interesting. However, I found a number of solar stories in the free content area showing some of the shakeout.

    Here’s another article from the same journal about a company with 150 employees in Oakland that’s reducing 2,000 positions worldwide. They said they can now produce panels for about 70 cents a watt.

    Other links inside these articles to related content suggest a coming escalation of protectionism between the US and China over requirements for domestically-made solar panels in government-funded projects.

    Solar Trust of America (also in Oakland, subsidiary of German firm Solar Millenium) filed for bankruptcy earlier this month. Germany has been the country spearheading solar development and now it is also facing industry contraction due to falling prices for solar panels; the same problem that did in Solyndra. Another German company, Q-Cells, with a small subsidiary in San Francisco was sideswiped by falling prices and the end of German incentives. Q-Cells is also supposedly near bankruptcy.

    Brightsource Energy, also Oakland-based, canceled their IPO plans for $182M of equity a week and a half ago.

  5. madhaus Says:

    As to today’s house, this picture is just begging for the Unhappy Hipsters treatment.

  6. Crissa Says:

    Mostly what I think about when I get offered these things is… A house with sun in Santa Cruz is expensive. Our doesn’t get any – which cuts our cooling cost in the summer to nil – and so we can’t choose any of these solar options to heat or power our home by much.

    I had installed solar panels to our backup power system, but alas, the system I installed failed last year – a panel cracked (efficient glass type) /and/ the inverter decided to go kaput. You get what you pay for, but a panel breaking is really the pits when you only have five panels.

  7. Schultz!!!!! Says:

    What with global warming and the great weather in California, who needs heating anyway? If you’re looking to cool off in the summer, just jump into the grey water tank and splash about a bit before rolling on the grass – thereby drying off and conserving water by watering the lawn in the process. As a bonus, the grass stains will just show how “green” you are.

    Win win!

  8. The Gilroy Alex Says:

    Too bad gardens are outlawed in so many areas. Want to go to jail? Plant a garden in front instead of a lawn.

  9. Petsmart groomer Says:

    > These guys built a house in Santa Cruz […]

    And what about the grow house?

  10. madhaus Says:

    >> These guys built a house in Santa Cruz […]

    > And what about the grow house?

    Groomer, that should have been mentioned on Friday.

  11. Petsmart groomer Says:

    I don’t think we have to limit that to 4/20. I was replying to nomadic after all, the patchouli master.

  12. nomadic Says:

    Would you guys want to live in a grow house? That’s what a backyard shed is for. Of course, there’s plenty of space in the LG Mountains for those crops too.

  13. SEA Says:

    Right side of wrong streets:

    564 Santa Rita Ave, 94301

    “Jul 07, 2000 Sold (Public Records) $2,625,000”

    With the automatic right side of wrong streets 94301 price double, one might expect this place to be listed for $10M. Nope.

    $2,500,000–yes, under the 2000 sale price some ~12 years later.

  14. Schultz!!!!! Says:

    Lawn should be outlawed.

    Water conservation is really more a matter of keeping the Cali population down rather than banning gardening.
    A good excuse to raise taxes again.

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