Hedging One’s Home Energy Bets

Will the concept of hybrid cars, powered by dual energy sources, give rise to “hybrid homes?”

In a sense, modern homes already are hybrids — at least by one definition.

power_gridSo, at least in the Twin Cities, it’s typical for the appliances and central air to be powered by electricity, while the furnace and hot water heater rely on gas (washer/dryers can be either electric or gas).

Of course, hybrid cars can alternate between electric and gas power.

Gas and/or Electric and/or??

While I don’t foresee furnaces that can switch back and forth between electricity and gas with the flick of a switch, I do see homes — especially higher-end new construction — integrating more, and more variable, energy sources.

One example is using geothermal energy to augment — and in some cases replace — the home’s heating plant.

Another example is relying on solar energy to supplement (gas-powered) hot water heaters.

And, at least in my neighborhood, more homeowners are seeing the virtue of gasoline-powered backup generators to insure against sustained power outages due to storms (earlier this Summer), and an increasingly creaky, overtaxed electric grid.

Back-Up Generator Math

windWhile last night’s outage in and around St. Louis Park’s Fern Hill neighborhood was blissfully brief (less than 90 minutes), by my count there have now been at least 3 power outages in the last 2 years lasting longer than 24 hours.

The grandaddy of those was earlier this Summer, when much of the same neighborhood was without power for as long as five daysSee, “Generating Electricity — and Annoyed Neighbors.”

How expensive — not to mention inconvenient — is that?

I suppose it depends on such variable as insurance deductibles, fridge and freezer capacity (spoiled food), and the homeowner’s threshold for freezing* (or boiling) Upper Midwest temps (necessitating a temporary hotel stay).

Not to mention how valuable one’s time is, professionally and otherwise.

But, assume conservatively that the aftermath of each two-day power outage is a few thousand dollars.

woodburningIt doesn’t take many such events before $5k (estimated) for an integrated, gasoline-powered backup generator becomes economically viable.

P.S.:  The missing link for both widespread car and home alternate energy sources?

Cheaper, longer-lasting batteries.

*For those who have wood-burning fireplaces, there’s also that very low tech but reliable fuel source:  logs.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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