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What about the South?

Jasa713 | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

I see quite a bit written about energy efficiency in regards to the cooler climates but not nearly enough about the south, specifically South Texas. The wife and I want to downsize when we retire. Being on a budget we want to go green in order to save money on utility bills. I am really interested in ICF but is it worth the extra cost versus tradition wood frame standards? Also would like unbiased information on solar usage. Any help would be appreciated.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Q. "I am really interested in ICF but is it worth the extra cost versus traditional wood frame standards?"

    A. Not from an energy standpoint -- there are cheaper ways to build a wall. Moreover, ICF walls aren't particularly green (because of the high carbon footprint of all that concrete). But if you want a home that is hurricane-resistant and tornado-resistant, and you are willing to pay the upcharge, ICF walls can make sense. (Note, however, that your house needs many other details, not just ICF walls, for wind resistance.)

    Q. "I would like unbiased information on solar usage."

    A. I'm not sure what you mean by "solar usage" -- using electricity produced by solar panels is similar to using electricity produced by other means. Perhaps you are asking, "Is a photovoltaic (PV) array a good investment?" If that's your question, the answer is, "It depends."

    The first step is to ask your local utility about what type of net-metering agreement the utility offers. Some utilities provide a full credit for every kWh of solar electricity produced, with the credit equal to the retail cost of electricity. Other utilities credit your solar production at a different rate, or insist that your credits be wiped away every month. These details matter.

    If your local utility credits you for the full retail cost of your electricity production, and allows credits to accumulate for a full calendar year, that's a good deal. Under those circumstances, a PV array is an excellent investment.

    Q. "What about the South?"

    A. You might want to read this article: "Hot-Climate Design."

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