When is Zero not Really Zero?

It’s no secret that I don’t really care much for politicians. Sure, I understand that they are necessary and all because we can’t have complete anarchy (though a little bit might be nice). Maybe they could just get their nose out of everything and we’d be okay.

But I try and keep up on what’s happening here and there, just so that I’m not completely bogged down in what’s happening to totally tick me off with where they’ve decided to get involved that they shouldn’t. For instance, one of the very first entries on the blog (#6) talked about North Carolina having a state insect and how that might be a little over the line.

When they decide that zero isn’t really zero is when I just have no clue.

The headline read “1st zero-energy Habitat home in NC may see power bills under $60”.

Before you wonder where I’m going, I get the idea. It’s an efficient house. Just bear with me.

The big thing is that very little in this world is zero-energy. Even typing this entry takes energy. It probably takes more energy than it should because of all the typos I have to correct. So the first issue I have is that “zero-energy” isn’t really correct. And the politicians may not have been the ones who coined it – there are plenty of sites out there that popularize the term. It just means that the house generates about as much energy as it consumes. Again, I get it. I’m complaining about the usage, not the idea.

In this case, the house was built by Habitat for Humanity. A great organization, to be sure. But the materials cost somewhere around 33% more than normal ones. I’m sure lots of people would argue that we have more money than we have energy or water or aluminum or paper or whatever – but that’s not always the case. Not for everyone. While in this case it was a good idea, I’m not sure it makes sense for everyone.

Finally, the new homeowner has a power bill under $60 per month. Frankly, that doesn’t seem that great. This is a four-room (not a four bedroom, but a four room) house. $60 for a house that size isn’t very good. Our typical monthly bill for the entire house is just $120, and our house is not energy-efficient and it’s at least twice the size (perhaps more). So what’s the big deal here?

If I’m going to pay 33% more for materials, I’d expect to see a heck of a lot better savings. And if I live in a “zero-energy” house, I’d expect my energy bill to be pretty dang close to $0. Is that really too much to ask? What do you think?

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