Re: GO SOLAR (formerly heating) (FWD)
From: Fred H Olson WB0YQM (
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 94 04:41 CST
ROGER_DIGGLE [at] NEWSLINK13.COM is the author of this message but
due to a listserv problem it was posted by the COHOUSING-L sysop.

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 ti 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 biok 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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