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Thread: Going Green only for the wealthy

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    Gold Member daveob's Avatar
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    Going Green only for the wealthy

    A few days ago, I was finishing off the refurbishment of a wooden window frame. It has, on and off, weather dependant for sanding, varnishing and glazing, taken about 6 weeks. Now I was figuring that after I complete the overhaul of the other 12 larger frames ( all cottage panes ) that I would have to start again with the first one. The light afternoon shower helped make up my mind that aluminium was the route to go. But I'm straying from the path here ...

    During all this relaxing home-work time ( fabulous for clearing the head and having some contemplation time, btw ), I've been pondering ways to save some of our nearly R2k monthly utilities bill. It is high, but we have 2 adults ( full day working from home ), 2 kids, and an elderly tenant in the flat ( also home all day ).

    So this got me thinking about 2 main options :

    1. rainwater harvesting
    2. solar geyser

    so I whipped out the hose (garden hose, that is) and shoved some water down the gulleys that the gutter downpipes go into.

    A side note to all : if you expecting a rainy season ahead, time to start clearing out the sand and leaves from the water drainage system.

    Anyway, our property has a decent slope and it turns out that all the rainwater from the flat, garage, carport, and half the house all drain out through one large blue pipe into the garden just below the level of the pool.

    Great, I thought. I can place a medium sized 1000 liter tank ( JoJo tank ) and catch all the water from the blue pipe. Add a few float switches and a 50 l/min pump, and pump any water in there back up to a 4,400 liter tank behind the carport - the highest point in the property. From here, there's a good 4 meter drop down to the house, so should be able to plumb this in to the toilet cistern and use it for filling the pool, all gravity feed.

    Now if you are even thinking along these lines, there are 3 types of calculations you need to do :

    1. how much water can I harvest, can I store it, how much will I save on my utilities bill.
    2. how much will the system cost.
    3. how long will it take to recover the cost.

    The first section was really exciting, as I estimated a saving of around R 200 per month on the water and sewage disposal rates. Besides that, I really like the ideal of going green.

    The "how much will it cost" needed a bit of homework at the local builders supply depot. Total bill for 2 tanks ( 1,000 and 4,400 l ), pump, switches, piping, connectors, cost for concrete slab and sundries, weighs in at a bit under R 9,000

    Then came the interesting bit : the pay-back / recovery :

    Assuming that I am going to fund this project from my bond, I would need to pay back R 9,000 @ 8,25% interest @ R 200 per month -- a total of 4,5 years.

    Now if I add the solar system at around R15k ( want to replace the 2 existing geysers with a 250 l model ), and my saving is R300 pm, that adds another 5 years repayment to the bond.

    So I can "go green", but between the 2 projects, the saving of R 500 per month has to go straight back into the bond for the next 4,5 to 5 years.

    Yes, I know water and power costs are on the increase so the savings will be greater in the long run, but is it worth it ? Is "going green" only an ideal for the wealthy ?
    Watching the ships passing by.

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    i agree...one of the reasons i havent gone this route yet...it is way to expensive and takes too long to get any return worth talking about...dont forget the maintenace cost...and pump running cost...and dont let the water stand in the tanks for too long.

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    Gold Member Dave S's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daveob View Post
    Is "going green" only an ideal for the wealthy ?
    Put simply, yes, but this is only my opinion.

    About 3-months ago my geyser burst so I said to myself... "Self, now is the perfect time to go 'green'". I got quotes for water reticulation (bath water, etc. stored for watering the garden), quotes for a solar geyser system, and rainwater capture system. The total bill would have been R117 900.00. The council would have given a small rebate on my electricity and my eletricity and water usage would drop by about 15 to 25%. An estimated total saving would have been approximately R750.00p/m, just above half the additional repayment on the bond would be.

    From year 7 or 8 the new systems would start paying for themselves and I would start to see a saving, but after 8-years what would the condition of these system be? Now repairs and maintenance would start to become an issue and these would eat up my saving, in short, the systems will not be more affordable for me.

    If one is building a new house and the "green" systems were installed at construction, it would then be affordable - long term, but not as an upgrade to existing property.
    Last edited by Dave S; 10-Sep-10 at 07:32 AM. Reason: Corrected a typo
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    Diamond Member tec0's Avatar
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    There is nothing green about going green it is just another overpriced industry. Look we need the technology so that we can run our households without the need of Eskom and all that but if you work out that you are actually paying MORE not less for your FREE power then you are right for thinking that “YES I am paying R50000 so that I can run my TV from nature” how is that free?
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    Disclaimer: everything written by me can be considered as fictional.

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    Gold Member daveob's Avatar
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    Update :

    three things I didn't factor into the original calculations that would have additional effects :

    1. the rising cost of water / power would mean my saving would increase annually, making the bond repayment a bit quicker.

    2. maintenance - this would quite probably wipe out the increase of savings in point '1' above.

    3. insurance : would the insurance company that covers the bricks & mortar ( and existing geyser ) also cover the solar system, and at what additional premium ?

    I'm tending to agree with Dave S and Murdock here - it is a wonderful ideal, but unless it was built and cost added to the original building price, the retro-fit just doesn't seem to make financial sense.

    But then again, if the systems were already in place when we made an offer for the property, we might just have placed a better offer ( closer to the asking price, by equal to the cost of the systems ), for the perk of having reduced utility accounts. So if we were willing to pay a bit extra at the time of purchase, why wouldn't we pay that bit extra now ? This brings it down to a psycological (sp) thing. For example : buying for R1.1m "all in" and working, or paying R1.05m and spending an additional R50k to retro-fit.

    Would I have paid 1.1m for this house ? - yes, without hesitation - because I wanted this house with this view. Any existing green systems would just have been a bonus.

    I think the difference is that once we have bought, we've got the bond, the monthly re-payments are constant and we are loath to take cash out the bond and change our comfort zone.

    I say that it's so much better for the environment, but ideals are only for the wealthy. On the other side of the coin, maybe I got to start thinking a bit broader.
    Watching the ships passing by.

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    Very few of the "green" options make sense at the moment, financially speaking. They do afford you the following potential benefits, each of which will actually cost you:

    - The feel good factor of doing something about environmental issues.
    - The ability to not have to rely on a potentially increasingly erratic supply from your local municipality.
    - The ability to remain calm when the municipality cuts off your water/power because they calim you owe them R10 billion and they will only discuss the possibility of a clerical error once you pay the bill.

    Consider the extra costs as insurance and for peace of mind - not to save money .... yet.

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    the house i purchased a little while back was valued at 1.2...i put in an offer for 650 and we agreed on 700...so i thought why not take an additional bond for 200 to fix up and make the place look just the way we wanted it...

    we did a couple calculation and decided to rather fix as we go and pay cash...the additional cost was just not worth it...some people say but a bond is the cheapest interest rate...correct but what about the 20 years you end having to pay off the amount...its like buying food on a budget credit card and paying it over 6 months...bad move unless you are absolutley desperate.

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    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daveob View Post
    So this got me thinking about 2 main options :
    1. rainwater harvesting
    2. solar geyser
    I think you're starting with the wrong projects. The problem with rain water storage is that you can't store enough to impact your municipal water bill in the dry seasons. Irrigation system uses about 30 litres per minute whilst a station is running so a ten thousand litre tank (which is about the max size you will want in your garden) will only run an irrigation system for about 5 1/2 hours. If your irrigation runs an hour each day then this is less than a weeks water.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave S View Post
    ....quotes for a solar geyser system....... An estimated total saving would have been approximately R750.00p/m, just above half the additional repayment on the bond would be.
    I agree this doesn't make financial sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by tec0 View Post
    There is nothing green about going green it is just another overpriced industry.
    There are many companies that have sprung up to make a quick buck on the green bandwagon but there are also realistic and financially viable things you can do to reduce your resource consumption.


    Quote Originally Posted by BusFact View Post
    Very few of the "green" options make sense at the moment, financially speaking. They do afford you the following potential benefits, each of which will actually cost you:

    - The feel good factor of doing something about environmental issues.
    - The ability to not have to rely on a potentially increasingly erratic supply from your local municipality.
    - The ability to remain calm when the municipality cuts off your water/power because they calim you owe them R10 billion and they will only discuss the possibility of a clerical error once you pay the bill.

    Consider the extra costs as insurance and for peace of mind - not to save money .... yet.
    This seems to be the general opinion. No offence meant but I'm not as surprised to hear this from a financial guy as I am from the engineering oriented members.

    I'm going to be devils advocate on this one. I apologise for the long post in advance.

    This is some of the energy efficiency improvements I’ve made at home along with the savings they’ve realised and the resultant payback times.



    1. Replace low voltage halogen diachronic down-lights with pendant fittings which utilise CFL lamps.

    45 x 50watt downlights went in the bin and the transformers were sold on Gumtree for R700.00. 13 pendant fittings installed. The pendant fittings take 2 x 14watt CFL lamps each.

    Cost;
    13 Pendant fittings at R420.00 each = R5460.00
    Installation was DIY but realistically for most people would be around R3000.00.

    Savings;
    My internal lighting was costing me 380 units per month (R266.00)
    I reduced the lighting load from 2.25Kw to .364 Kw which is 16% of the original figure.
    Savings in Rands = R223.00 per month.

    Payback time;
    R8460.00 / 223 = 37 months.

    Just over 3 year payback (less with pending electricity price hikes) is a worthwhile exercise. This is also ignoring the R700.00 beer money from the Gumtree transformer sale.

    ________________________________

    2. Replace external halogen flood lights with LED flood lights.

    4 x grotty looking 500watt halogen flood lights were replaced with nice LED floods.
    The floodlights are on a day / night sensor and run for around 10 hours each night.

    Cost.
    4 x LED floodlights R3800.00
    Installation R1000.00

    Savings
    Running costs reduced from R434.00 per month to R21.00 per month

    Payback Time
    R4800.00 / 413 = less than 12 months.

    ________________________________

    3. Install geyser blanket and insulate hot pipes where accessible and cold pipes for 2 meters.


    Cost.
    1 x geyser blanket and 15 meters armourflex pipe insulation R500.00
    Installation R00.00 (do it yourself)

    Savings
    Reduced electric units consumed by HWC from 556 to 497. This equates to R41.30 saved each month

    Payback Time
    R500.00 / 41.3 = less than 13 months.

    ________________________________

    4. Install geyser timer clock switch.

    Timer installed and geyser turned of from 9pm-4am and 9am-4pm.

    Cost.
    1 x timer 7 day 16amp. Plus 1 x enclosure 150x200x150 R400.00
    Installation R300.00

    Savings
    Reduced electric units consumed by HWC from 497 to 411. This equates to R60.20 saved each month

    Payback Time
    R700.00 / 60.2 = less than 12 months.

    ________________________________

    5. Pool and irrigation pump optimisation.

    When the pool was installed I was told that the pump must run for 6 hours each day lest the world as I know it will end. The irrigation had an 8 station set up running 30 mins each day per station. After much tweaking and twiddling I found that the pool will run for 2 hours each day with no detrimental effect or extra chemicals. The irrigation is on 5 mins per station in winter and 15 mins per station in summer and the garden is still very much alive and kicking..

    Cost.
    Nil

    Savings
    More electricity is saved in winter but taking the summer figures only the two .75kw pumps combined running time has reduced from 310 hours each month to 124. The electric cost has gone from R162.75 to R65.10.
    It’s worth noting that if I was using council water for irrigation the saving in water and pro rata sewerage costs would also have been considerable.

    Payback Time
    N/A (cost was nil)

    ________________________________

    6. Roof insulation

    I included this in a recent house renovation. 40 mm isofoam (high impact polystyrene panels) and isotherm sheet (reflective silver membrane)

    The improvement in living standard is remarkable. It’s a pleasure to arrive home to a warm house in winter and a cool one in summer.

    Cost.
    190 sq meters Isofoam and isotherm R14000.00
    Installation took ½ a day R1000.00

    Savings
    Difficult to quantify but the four air-con units and the three underfloor heating systems are now redundant. No air-con is needed even in the middle of summer and the only heating is three wall mounted panel heaters.
    Best guess is we’re saving around R250.00 per month on heating or air-con power alone. We’re also saving the price of the equipment as well but if I work on power savings alone then R3000.00 per year.
    .

    Payback Time
    R15000.00 / 3000 = 5 years.
    I think this may be a little on the conservative side but even at 5 year payback time it’s money well spent. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to stroll around the house at night in winter clad in nothing but my jocks :-).

    ________________________________

    Out of all the examples above, the only one which may warrant a bond extension is the roof insulation. Even at a five year payback it is a good investment. The interest you pay on the bond extension would be easily offset against predicted power price increases over the coming years so I’m not agreeing that the cost of credit would be a hindering factor.

    I agree that after a point the outlay costs involved in realising further savings would become more and more prohibitive and payback times would become longer and longer the further down the green road you go. Maybe set up a system where you accumulate the savings your making in an account and use it to fund some energy saving exercises that wouldn't warrant a bond extension from a financial payback point of view.

    Every house is different so some of the suggestions may not be suitable for some premises but often if you look carefully at where you power is being consumed there will be alternative ways to reduce consumption.
    Last edited by AndyD; 11-Sep-10 at 02:29 AM. Reason: removed html characters which confused the board
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    BusFact (11-Sep-10), Dave A (11-Sep-10), daveob (11-Sep-10), desA (20-Sep-10), SilverNodashi (19-Sep-10), wynn (13-Sep-10)

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    Diamond Member AndyD's Avatar
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    As I mentioned in another thread I've reduced our electricity consumption by about 60% and to the point of being classed as a low consumption user and qualifying for free units each month.

    There were other changes we've made which have also contributed. Many of these changes I don't have hard figure calculations for but the combined effect is considerable.

    Replacement of 8 CRT PC monitors and 3 TV sets with LCD or LED equivalents. This has been ongoing over the last couple of years. All pc’s are also set to hibernate when inactive.

    Electric hob was due for replacement and we opted for LPG gas model.
    This is kinda robbing Peter to pay Paul, I’m not sure if it’s a greener option but it is cheaper to run by about 30% and maybe more with the recent LPG pricing legislation. We opted to stay electric with the separate oven we purchased but the oven is only an occasional consumer.

    I replaced all the hot water tap washers. A few of them had a tendency to dribble when the kids used them. They needed a firm hand to turn them off properly. New washers and the seats re-cut made them much lighter action.

    The kids used to sleep with the landing light on all night, apparently it reduced the chance of the bogey man coming. I've managed to wean them off this habit. Other bad habits included running water whilst brushing teeth, using the hot tap in the kitchen when cold water was required, switching off lights and panel heaters when their use is unnecessary. We had a small education program and introduced a one Rand sin-tax when the kids (and adults) forgot things. The kids got an LED flashlight each (part of a deal for the landing light being off at night) and dog has been the proud beneficiary of new bedding from the proceeds but the deposits into the jar has now slowed to a trickle.

    The tumble dryer has become persona non grata. I made a new undercover area for the washing line and cut the plug off the tumble dryer. We haven’t used it in a year and a half and it’s heading for the Gumtree classifieds.

    When we renovated we went with a lower consumption shower head and lower volume flush toilets. I tested many models of both and would advise others to do the same. There are a lot of systems on the market which have sacrificed functionality for lower consumption; even some of the well known brand names were guilty of this. That said, the units we settled on have considerable reduced water usage. Our water+sewerage bill is way under R100.00 per month for a family of four. The reduction in hot water consumption also carries with it a corresponding reduction in electricity consumption.

    Finally I toyed with a solar hybrid system for a couple of months but it turned out to be a very tricky retrofit on an existing hot water cylinder from an engineering and logistics point of view and it wasn’t giving the results I was looking for with the Cape Town winter climate.
    I still have an ongoing project to make my retrofitted hot water system a heat pump / electric hybrid. The prototype is finished and it’s in full use. I now want to improve the control system and then rebuild the whole project from the ground up and make it a lot prettier now the problems are ironed out. I might even post it on one of my websites as a DIY project for others to try if I have time.
    This kind of project isn’t for everyone. Working with a very small budget meant all the equipment was second hand and generally makes for hard work. There was also a lot of welding, braising and complex electrical work required. Commercially built units are available but I don’t know the payback time on these and they don’t offer a retrofit option for an existing cylinder. I couldn’t bring myself the throw out my perfectly serviceable copper cylinder after the eighteen years faithful service it’s given us.
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    Gold Member daveob's Avatar
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    I just had a thought occur to me ( yep, I'm at home, and the lights just came on ), and after further consideration, it may just indicate that we're all barking up the wrong tree ( or maybe I just can't see the forest for the trees ) :

    everyone seems to associate "going green" with saving money and focused on the pay-back period.

    After looking at many options, ideas, the green band-wagon suppliers, etc, I am starting to thing that "Green" is a lifestyle choice related to saving the environment - it is not about saving a buck - it's all about caring for nature and giving the planet a chance ( now I'm starting to sound like a tree-hugger ).

    So maybe going green really is only for the wealthy ( at least, definately not for the poor ).

    Saving on the utilities cost is for everyone, but it's not automatically "green".

    Be that as it may, I have to repair a pool this month, so next month I may just take the plunge and 'go green' with a rainwater catchment system (for topping up the pool, garden water and toilet cisterns), and a solar system to pre-heat water for the geyser.

    Yes, I understand that over time the cost is likely to be more than the alternative wasteful existing way things are done ( like using expensive drinking water to flush the loo ) and especially with the equipment life span, maintenance, etc, it stands only a small chance of saving on the utilities.

    I'm not wealth, but I do care about our childrens future, and enough so that I would spend a bit to help make a difference.

    Is this the right attitude ? Yes, well at least to me it is, so here goes a trip down the path least travelled ....
    Watching the ships passing by.

  15. Thanks given for this post:

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