“How much would this house cost if you didn't build green?“ If I had a quarter for every time I've been asked this question, I could probably buy an electric car! All right, I'm exaggerating, but I would like to explain why this question irritates me. When building a house, using green practices does not necessarily add to the cost of the house. If I install a compact fluorescent light bulb instead of an incandescent bulb in a light fixture, I will be paying more for the bulb. However, (according to Wikipedia) a CFL has a 6,000-hour lifespan whereas the incandescent has a 750- hour lifespan. That means that I will be buying eight incandescent bulbs or one CFL. Since CFLs don't cost eight times more than incandescent bulbs, I would rather spend a little more and buy the CFL. Also, CFLs use less energy so I'm also saving money by using less electricity. So if I don't take the green (CFL) option I am actually spending more money!
Here is another example. In our previous yard, I had St. Augustine grass and a sprinkler system. Installing the sod and the sprinkler system was more expensive than installing the native plants and mulch that I have in my current yard. I also used more than twice as much water than I am currently using even during this drought. When I added up the extra costs (and pollution factors) of mowing, weed-eating, and fertilizing that old St. Augustine yard, I decided to choose a cheaper and greener option for my new home. And then there is the aesthetic value -- even in this heat, my yard is blooming instead of being brown and crispy.
So let's talk about solar panels. Here in Texas, we had 80+ 100-degree days with no rain or clouds. (We're thankful for the bit of rain we got this week.) We have also had ERCOT requesting that Texans reduce their electricity usage during peak times of the day. My solar panels have been generating more electricity than I can use during the day so my surplus has been going back to the electric grid to be used by others. I haven't had to pay an electric bill since March. (Yes, March!) My neighbors are all spending $200+ per month. I think that it's reasonable to assume that here in Texas, we will continue to have hot sunny summers. Even if I assume that the cost of electricity will stay the same, I will have recouped the installation cost of the solar panels in about seven to eight years. Since I plan on living here at least that long, I feel that I am saving money and providing electricity to others. Plus this is renewable energy -- I am not polluting the environment.
I could provide more examples about the choices we made in building our home -- spray foam insulation, overhangs, low-e windows, and so forth -- but you get the idea. Building a green home doesn't have to be about buckets of money, it just means looking at the whole picture.
How much would it cost if I didn't build green? It would be a lot more expensive as well as incredibly wasteful. I believe I have saved money and reduced my carbon footprint. It's too expensive not to build green.