Re: GO SOLAR (formerly heating)
From: Roger Diggle (
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 94 14:50 CST
On 11/17/94,  Ross M Donald wrote:

> Subject: GO SOLAR (formerly heating)
> From:  cohousing-l [at],Internet
> To:  Roger Diggle
> Re: New View Cohousing, Acton MA
> Dear List People,
>      I've been letting the discussion on heating systems
> pile up in my files for a while now.  ...and, well, if
> nobody else is going to be the advocate for dispersed
> solar, site specific renewables, and small scale
> sustainable energy, I'll try.  
>      Jim, Nancy, and others (?) from New View are
> mightily interested in heating systems.  The group, I'm
> sure, has hired competent design help, so I won't debate
> their opinions.   Also, I do not want to carry the whole
> weight on this topic, or be the sole spokesperson for
> saving the planet, as if, I cared any more than anybody
> else about these matters.  ("...we're all doing what we
> can." - J. Lennon)

In going back through some of the discussion on heating issues, I stumbled
across this post again and feel moved to air a concern.  In light of the
paragraph above, I'm somewhat confused by Ross Donald's decision to change
the subject heading.  I feel that the former subject heading,
"Energy/Heating/Design Issues", was appropriate to the discussion and
certainly includes use of solar energy.  All these remarks would be
appropriate to the former subject heading.  If anyone wished to begin a
thread strictly to advocate for solar issues, that would be fine.  I'd expect
to join the discussion.  I'm unhappy with the fact that the heading of the
ongoing discussion was changed unilaterally to something much narrower,
something which shouts at me in capital letters.  I'd be more comfortable if
a decision to change the heading had been made by all the participants rather
than one, and a new one at that.

>      I would, however, like to share with the list what
> I'm hearing and what I've experienced.
> =>   ...enery efficiency, the chance (eventually) for
> =>some households to go off-grid, the use of renewable or
> =>at least lower-polluting energy sources...
>      Stewart Brand has a book out about How Buildings
> Learn, which is most interesting - about evolutionary
> design, rather than visionary design.  Nevertheless, it
> has been my observation that well-intentioned owner-
> builders and new house builders, who "outfit" their
> construction to be "solar ready" (pipe runs to the roof,
> etc.) NEVER get around to adding the collectors later,
> "when the cost of collectors comes down," or "when we can
> afford it."
>      This halfway approach is usually intended to
> accommodate the "environmentalist" in the group (the one
> spouse or building partner, who wants solar).  I have
> NEVER in twenty years seen such a lukewarm commitment,
> fulfilled with a completed system EVER.  On the other
> hand, those who have managed to scrape together the
> initial installation costs up front, have enjoyed a
> positive return on the investment in subsequent energy
> savings.  
>      Solar energy systems up and running since the 70s
> and 80s have been, now, in 1994, bought and paid for long
> ago, and are actually delivering, after all these years,
> the free solar energy that everybody wants.
>           Ross

This has not been my experience.  I know of a couple of installations that
were completed on "solar ready" houses.  The owner/builders decided, rightly,
I believe, to put all the money they could into the base building's
insulation, siting, glass and other difficult-to-modify items.  Because these
buildings were well constructed and thought out in the first place, it has
virtually never been necessary to run back-up systems that the banks forced
them to install.  One of the houses had solar hot water installed a year
after moving in, the other in three years.  Neither owner had much interest
in photovoltaics at the time, and, though I haven't talked to either one in a
few years, I suspect that neither would be that interested now, because they
were interested in saving energy $$ rather than in a solar-only ethic.

Both these people built their houses somewhat on a pay-as-you-go basis.  They
had small incomes, with more time than money available at times.  If we wish
to accomodate people of all income ranges, some of us, me included, will
sometimes be forced to make choices we'd rather not.  I *know* I'm not going
to be able to borrow enough money to do everything I'd like to do with my
future home.  I'll have to do some of it pay-as-I-go.  If my commitment to
solar energy seems lukewarm because of this, so be it.

Roger Diggle

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