Oct 18 2007
10:40 am
By: WhitesCreek

Negative Power bills! I like the sound of that, even though my bill is pretty low for the size of my house. I've thought about going solar.

The Roane Chamber sent this out:

We have a new chamber member, Sustainable Future, located at 2315 Sugar Grove Valley Road, Harriman. The chamber will be hosting an Open House at their place this Saturday, October 20th from Noon until 3 pm. If you are interested in solar technology and zero energy homes (and who isn’t?), please visit this 30-year old house owned by the founder of Sustainable Future. This Open House is an informal opportunity to talk to the homeowners and view firsthand the installations that have contributed to the fact that these homeowners have not had an electric bill since April 2006!

This home is located just past Ladd Landing. Take Old Centers Ferry Road past Ladd Landing, cross Centers Ferry Bridge, continue through three-way stop and the home is the first gravel driveway on the left – 2315 Sugar Grove Valley Road. Their phone number is 603-0520; or visit

Now, THAT'S cool... especially in the summer, I venture

I had thought there was a house probably very nearly this well insulated in the subdivision between US70 and US27 - backed into a hillside perhaps a block off Delozier Lane between Patton Lane and Rockwood. This house has been there a long time, as well - perhaps as long as the 30 years mentioned. It is built back into the hillside, etc.

Does anybody know how energy-efficient that dwelling is? I remember it got some press at the time it was built, but I don't remember specifics about it.

Thanks for letting us know about this. I owuld like very much to attend. The only problem is it's on Alabama football Saturday, and I'm not sure how familial relations might fare if I don't attend the group gathering for the "game."


Sherwood Lane

Hey RB,
I think the house you mean is in West Hills Subdivision. It appears to be a Spanish looking normal house. A couple of years ago when we were looking into buying in Roane County, I was looking at Repo's. We are poor and thought we might get a great house in need of some TLC in our price range. We went to look at this one posted on the web. I wanted to see the back yard and just could NOT find the back of the house! Anyway, we fell in love with it. It had beautiful spanish arches and parquet floors. The problem was the roof had been allowed to leak and humidity and mold are major issues with subterr. houses. The place was majorly molded, we had a plan to strip it down to the concrete and redo it but could not find anyone to finance it. Anyway, I called the utility company to see about cost and they did not have a bill over $40 in the 5 year period we looked at. I mean this place had a hot tub and everything. That was quite a savings. The house was bought not long after that and redone. I would love to see it. I keep threatening to knock on the door, but hubby says absolutely not OK.

We live in Holiday Shores and our lot is perfect for underground housing. When we get rid of the kid (I really mean "when the light of my life leaves us...")and the mortgage is paid off (about 5 years) we plan to look at putting one on the back of the lot. You should look on-line. There are some great sites.


Nah, not West Hills in Harriman...

I know that area well. It's at the top of the loop that comes back into Delozier Lane. As you go on Delozier Lane fron US70 toward US27, just before you top the hill and start going down the hill toward 27 and the old WalMart site, there's a street to the right. Where that street turns right again and goes downhill back t oward 70, there's a house on the left at the corner. It's built into the hill, and had quite a to-do made about it a number of years ago.


I'm going to look!

Hey RB,

I am going to do a drive by. To take a look at the house that is... No guns. Lord, what a world we live in when that small little sentence made me nervous! Anyway, there are 2 mound built house on Poplar Creek Rd and one on Joel Rd over near Oliver Springs. Seems there was quite a bit of interest in them in the late 70's and early 80's. I was just a child then and missed the commotion. Hubby and I still think they are too cool.


Great New Business

I saw this too and it looks interesting. I am going to try to make this open house, although we have a bar meeting that might conflict.

I bought a house in Rockwood which we are in the process of taking down to the studs. I am going to look into solar as an option as we rebuild. I looked into it a few years ago, and it was not cost-efficient from a purely financial standpoint. That analysis may have changed with technology and rising energy costs.

Of course, there is more to it than finances. Part of the experience would be knowing that you get electricity or hot water from the sun, rather than from the Kingston Fossil Plant.

Does anyone on here have experience with using solar?

a passive solar house

One house here is passive solar. It looks fairly normal, though, in a backwoods-cabin sort of way.

It is well insulated and faces south, with large floor-to-ceiling Hercules 'glass' double-paned windows in the front, shaded a bit by the overhang of the second floor.

During the spring and summer bamboo grows up thickly in front of the windows and shades the house; the bamboo is cut down in the winter so the southern sun can come streaming in to warm the dark-waxed, very thick concrete slab floor that is used to retain solar heat.

The bamboo works very well except about every 7 years when it does not grow back much, and during this drought when lack of water, etc., kept it from its full growth. Usually it towers over the roof all summer, shading the whole house.

The design of the house is very open. Half of the house has a cathedral ceiling; the other half has a second story. In the middle of the second story wall there is an opening to allow the cathedral ceiling fan to aid in circulating air. The fan circulates air between the floors and can be reversed as needed.

In summer, windows opened when the sun goes down bring in cooler night air; in winter, windows opened in the warmer hours help reduce heating costs.

The house has no built-in heating system other than its passive solar features. Usually space heaters are used for one or two months a year, sometimes not even that. Last year, however, was colder than usual.

There is the problem each October and early November of what to do with the bamboo. It makes great hides and blinds, fishing poles, furniture, and bean poles. It does have to be cut about 1/2 inch below the surface of the soil, however, since the stalks are like iron and if the little stumps are left above the surface it becomes unwalkable.

-- OneTahiti

I looked at a low energy

I looked at a low energy multihome project in Nashville that was well done and researched. Without going deep into the gains and costs, it came down to the first 40% of energy savings adds about 3-4% to the overall cost and pays back in 3-5 years, and the next 20% doubles the cost and may not pay back.

High efficiency appliances and super insullation are the biggies and give the most reward. I plan to ditch my current water heater and go tankless based on what I saw.

I have gleam in my eye for a cabin on a pieceof property I own and may go solar and off the grid for that one.


I've heard the same thing -- that insulation can make a huge difference. As we have been tearing out drywall at my new place, we have found that they did not believe that in the 1950s (when house was built as best I have been able to tell). Most of the exterior walls have R-zero insulation. Apparently they opted for a aluminum-foil-like sheet instead.

How do you do that?

I may know a fair bit about some technology, but I'm not so well educated in this aspect. How does one go tankless?



tankless water heater

Several years ago I got a tankless water heater for my "upcabin"--my other house across the creek and up the ridge that I bought so no one would run a wood stove there--and it worked out well.

It did require a small upgrading of the electric wiring since the rudimentary original wiring did not have enough circuits or power to handle the load.

Although the tankless heater did need extra electricity, it hardly ever uses it, just when the hot water is actually in use.

I can definitely recommend it! It is very small, very economical, and very unobtrusive. And you never run out of hot water.


How bout dis, OneT?

So WHEN the thing is heating water, it uses a LOT of juice, right? How bout showering... does it keep the water coming got the whole shower? Family of 3 showering... run the bill up much?

I'm assuming that this works (economically) by being more expensive per use, but even with uses like dishwasher, showering, it still costs less per month because it is completely off when water is not running?


RB: tankless water heater


Before getting a tankless water heater one needs to calculate the desired flow, and get one that will handle that flow. Whitescreek's nice link ((link...)) discusses this.

Yes, it does save a lot of $$ because it is off except when the hot water is running. Tank water heaters stay heated all the time, while tankless ones heat the water as needed, on the fly. My tankless heater might use a tiny bit of juice for the control electronics, though; it has been a while since I did the calculations. If it does use any for the control electronics it is trivial compared to that used by a tank water heater.

As for whether you have enough water to "keep it coming out," that is more a function of your cold water supply than it is of the tankless heater. Obviously you have to be able to supply the tankless heater with enough cold water to meet your hot water needs. :)

-- OneTahiti

Your about right, RB.

It pretty much costs the same to heat water up to a given temp, though the heater itself is more expensive for an on-demand heater because of the greater BTU. output requirement.

But water heated and stored in a tank cools off and may have to be reheated several times before it's used. By eliminating the reheating you save money.

Depending on the size of the heater, you spend more at installation than a traditional(in thwe USA anyway) water heater, but you get paid back in lower bills for the next 10-20 years.

These are the rule in the rest of the world

In the rest of the world?

Sheesh - I didn't know that. I'd love to find out how prevalent it is.

But in any case - that's good info and thanks for it!


Sustainable Future

I attended their open house a couple of weeks ago and was impressed at the various active and passive energy technologies that they are using. They are open about what works well and what are still challenges, so are a good information source for those of us who enjoy saving energy (and money). I checked their web site, and picked up a few more ideas.

Thanks for covering this solar energy initiative in roaneviews.


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