Who needs Science? I’ve got Walmart!

19 Aug

As you probably already know, my family is building a new house. Now, it’s not your “ordinary house.” It’s an extraordinary house, because we’re using garbage and recycled components to build it? Yep. That’s exactly what we’re doing.

Why? Because it’s affordable, it’s efficient, and it’s within our grasp.

I bet you thought I was gonna start preaching some “tree-hugger” namby-pamby, psycho-babble about living GREEN, saving Mother Earth, helping the environment, and making the world a better place for our children. Admit it. You did, didn’t you?

Well… Incredibly, I just did… and ALL of those things apply, here.  Imagine that? All this time I was a “latent tree-hugger.” Nah… It’s just a couple of facts we share… Don’t worry, I’m not gonna start wearing tie-dyed T-Shirts or … uh-oh… Wait. I DO wear tie-dyed T-Shirts. They have a “Star of David” on them, but I’ll be damned if they ain’t tie-dyed…  Oh crap…

Anyway… This house is capable of providing shelter, providing power, providing incredible comfort, and providing me with $9.95 for every tourist within 100 miles, who wants to see a house that would make a hippie swell up with pride. LOL!

We’re currently taking applications for “a swollen hippie.” And… okay, I’m just kidding about the $9.95 part… or am I?

[Warning: Political Rant, but just a short one…]

We’re not big fans of Al Gore around here. Frankly, I suspect that Al Gore is trying to ride the “Global Warming” train back into the White House, the first chance he gets. Hell, he’ll probably run with Leo DiCaprio as his VP…

His own house uses over 20 times the amount of resources that the average house uses. And that’s a conservative estimate. This is even after the “renovations” (which coincidentally occurred after he got “busted” as an energy waster…) his own home is still a monstrosity against all he preaches.

And don’t get me started about his private jet… Gulfstream’s don’t run on Bio-Fuel… “And I invented the Internet…” my ass…

[End of “Political Rant” Warning… go back to whatever you were doing…]

But, Al Gore made one point my family agrees with. It made good sense to think about our exposure to the outside world… That’s right, a world more evil than your mother-in-law (or Hillary Clinton in the White House…) ever could be… the POWER COMPANY!

[April Fools! Okay, NOW it’s really the end of the Political Rant…]

We aren’t concerned with being “good neighbors.” The way we see it, “Good Fences make Good Neighbors…” If we get our wish, we’ll live on a few “fenced” acres, and don’t be surprised if you have to sign a waiver of liability before you cross the minefield, to get to the main house… LOL!

The grant we’ve applied for allows us to have a few acres outside of town, to use as agro-residential property. It also allows us to have some livestock, and a small “Gentleman’s farm” operation. I don’t know where my wife will find a “gentleman” to live there, but until she does, I’m gonna fill the wedding bed, and be thankful for it… LOL!

When we started thinking about the house, we started building walls, right along with the bridges. You see, we’d like to have the opportunity to divorce some of our “relatives.” You know, relatives that we hear from every month, who always seem to have their hand out for our hard earned cash. In fact, they show up EVERY month, regular as a Swiss Clock! Relatives like the Power Company, the Water Company, and even the produce market.

And we decided that we were going to do our best to sever relationships with them. After all, they’re just money-hungry mooches, who always take, and seldom “give.” Try calling them up to explain why your “payment” is late, and see just how “giving” they are…

So, we decided that we’d use some of the money we’re saving on the shell of the house, on systems that will make the house more livable, and our co-existence more symbiotic…

And over the next few posts, I’m going to explain our thinking, and give you guys and gals the opportunity to see just how intent we are on getting really reclusive.

Ready? Please fasten your seat belts, extinguish all smoking materials, and put your trays in an upright position. Here we go…

After a strong roof, the next thing on our list was dealing with power. Electricity makes the world go round, right?

Well, actually, the Earth, the sun, and all the other planets of our solar system formed within a dense region of a drifting interstellar cloud of gas and dust (called a ‘nebula’).  The region where our solar system formed in this nebula wasn’t motionless, therefore as the sun and planets gradually accumulated more and more nebular material they also accumulated a share of the cloud’s motion (law of conservation of momentum). The axial rotation of the sun and planets continues today, although Earth’s rotation is slowing by 2.2 seconds every 100,000 years. Now, I could explain it in greater detail, but that’s another post…

(Actually, I probably couldn’t. I swiped the above explanation from a really bright guy named “Mallard” at “Yahoo Answers.” I thought it was because of an asteroid collision, and gravity… Sheesh… I used to know this stuff…)

Anyway, we need to make power, and we need it to be stable and reliable. or else, what’s the point? Right?

Enter… that scourge of electric company beancounters and power-mongerers everywhere… “Photovoltaics.”

I learned about Photovoltaics, by watching Walmart…

Now there’s a couple of words you don’t combine in the same sentence every day. Or do you? Hmmm?

We wanted a house that would help us live, by providing some or most of our power requirements. And, we didn’t want anything that required a Ph.D. in Rocket Science to understand. So, instead of reaching for Popular Science, we turned on the TV, because watching “Spongebob Squarepants” can be inspiring… LOL!

Actually, we started learning about photovoltaic panels, and grants that help pay for them. At first, it seemed really challenging. The panels are pricey, the installation is difficult, and the buy-back (payoff) is still out there looming on the horizon. But, if you figure that you’re already spending a few hundred dollars a month on power, and getting nothing but your kids MP3 Player booming in the background, it’s an easy choice to make.

With new building-integrated solar technology, state rebates, federal tax credits, and energy-efficient mortgages, it became obvious that it’s a great time to look into solar electricity.

And building a “solar” home means you get a better home, one that is more energy efficient. The process of building a home like this helps insure that you get a more comfortable, and cost efficient place to raise your kids, while arguing with your wife about the vegetables she’s served with dinner…

(Gawd’s breath, I’m so sick of corn…) LOL!

Your new house will help preserve the environment, and that helps the nation. And you’re not unpatriotic are you? Because if you are, we’re gonna trap your IP address, and send some Homeland Security thugs to your door, to help you see the error of your ways…

People are actually afraid of solar energy. It’s an “unknown” that just doesn’t have an adequate bridge built to it, yet…

But it’s all around you already, and you may not even know it.

You go to Walmart, right? Walmart is the largest company in the world, now. And it is the largest corporate consumer of energy in the world. Only the US Government buys more power than Walmart.

And, I’m just gonna say it. I hate Walmart. It’s the neighborhood killer. They come into a town, and before you know it, all the family owned businesses for miles die a terrible death. Because you can’t compete with the buying power of a superstore, if you’re a “Mom and Pop” kinda store. It’s just not possible.

But, you can’t get mad about their logic. Sam wanted everybody to live better, by buying better, and smarter. And, he wanted to make some money, along the way. You have to admit that he accomplished a lot, before he passed away. You gotta love the guy, if your “bottom line” is the bottom line.

It’s not the face you picture, when you’re thinking of “cutting edge technology,” is it? But despite what you might think of a guy from Kingfisher, Oklahoma, this guy changed the world. And these  Walmart guys aren’t afraid to “think out of the box.” They started building huge stores, that used less power, and operated smarter. It increased their profit margins, and made their operation simpler. In concept, it’s what we all strive for.

Pay attention here, folks. I’m actually using Sam Walton and Walmart, to illustrate an example of a “good thing.” You’ll probably never see that from me, again! Now excuse me, while I go take a hot shower… Suddenly, I feel like a cold, icy wind just blew right through me! LOL!

So, where were we? Oh yeah…

Walmart started doing something called “daylight harvesting” that got my attention. The skylights they use actually allow them to control how much lighting gets used, on a day to day, hour to hour basis. Sensors measuring sunlight actually control the store’s lighting systems.

That saves money. And the stores are all hooked together, thru the main office, so the big execs can see what’s going on, in each store, any time they want. If you leave a cooler door open for a half hour, they’ll call you up and ask you why. And, you’d better have a good reason, or your butt’s gonna be in a sling…

Talk about “Big Brother…”

So, where is this all heading? Well, Walmart is starting to put photovotaic panels on the roofs of their stores, to provide power. They’ve already started doing it in California, and in test stores in several other states.

Why would they do this? Because this power is cheaper than buying it from local power companies. “Everyday low cost” equals “everyday low price.” And we go to Walmart, because of “Everyday Low Prices…”

Walmart does this, because photovoltaics are finally starting to make sense… The efficiency ratios of the panels are starting to get really stable and reliable, and the payback is close enough to make sense.

Walmart estimates that they’ll start rolling photovoltaics out to the national store chain next year, at 400-600 stores per year. The estimated “buyback” is about ten years. Ten years.

Imagine having a system like this in your house. Almost no power bill. Maybe even zero.

(Oh, stop rolling your eyes!! Your face will freeze like that, and you’ll look stupid forever… If you don’t believe me, go ask your Mother.) LOL!

Of course, this stuff isn’t free. Far from it, I guarantee you that your mortgage will go up a little, because you had to pay the piper to install it, but that gets amortized out over 30 years. And that is a LOT less than $250 a month, lemme tell you…

We estimate that our note will go up about $107 bucks a month, once we “add in” all the systems we’re deploying, to cut ourselves off from the neighbors. That translates into about $140 a month, back in our pockets. Now, I know that isn’t much, but when you’ve gotten used to living day to day, paycheck to paycheck, it adds up quickly.

Plus, you’re gonna get tax credits, and grants, and attention. Lot’s of attention. I’m gonna let people tour the house, for a nominal fee… I’m thinking about $9.95. LOL!

You can build a photovoltaic system for your house, for about $10-12,500.00 installed. Prices have fallen to about $2500 a kilowatt, if you’re really careful, and you learn enough to know what you’re doing. We figure that “all the way through” we’ll spend about $20,000 on power generation.

But, honestly, I didn’t do any of that. I just recruited some “know-it-all’s” of my own, with impressive credentials after their names. Guys that went to “geek school” at places like MIT… Man, I love geeks. Give geeks a challenge, a couple of pizzas, and a case of cold beer, and they’ll revolutionize the world…in a week-end. I’m not kidding…

We figure we’ll need at least a 5 kwh system, to power the house. Now, for that price, you’re gonna have to do some of the work yourself, but I see this as a good thing. If you help install it, you’ll also increase your understanding of it… At least that’s what the “geeks” are telling me…

And next time, we’re gonna take a look at these systems, and how they work.

Stay tuned…


3 Responses to “Who needs Science? I’ve got Walmart!”

  1. Poonam August 20, 2008 at 1:18 am #

    Well, you can say that again about Al Gore (I agree to T) and Walmart! Don’t bother if people complain about political rant. This blog is your space to express.

    P.S: These last two sentences came out in reaction to the last post.

    And I see that you have changed to white 🙂

  2. Jessica August 25, 2008 at 7:52 pm #

    Wonderful ideas! I’m an architecture student, and really admire those of you who realize you don’t need “geek school” to build your own home. Almost every construction ‘revolution’ was made by ordinary people just looking for a better way to do things.

    I also want to say that I love your writing style! Seriously. When you finish your home, I hope you write a book or five about it. I’m sure they would sell, and a humor as sharp as yours deserves to be published.

    Great Job!!!

  3. renaissanceronin August 25, 2008 at 8:41 pm #

    Wow, Jess…

    I WENT to “geek school.” I graduated and everything! It’s amazing what a slacker with a “well-placed” pipe bomb can achieve.

    I have a diploma and everything… Sure, it’s in crayon, but it’s valid in…um…er… never mind…

    But I have to plead guilty to “ordinary.” But, I draw the line at “homely.”

    (Where the hell did “that” come from?) Oy!

    And usually, people don’t use the word “published” around me. Now “prosecuted,” they use that word, a lot!

    And I’ll probably be dead by the time I finish this home! I’ll be lucky to squeeze in time to write “my last will and testament.”

    Thanks for insulting me, you made my day…
    (Good thing it’s over! Compliments like this would give me a complex…)


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