137: Homestead – Building a New Net Zero Home

Matt and Sean discuss planning for energy efficient home-building and more about Matt’s one big regret. 

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “My Biggest Regret Building a Net Zero Home”: https://youtu.be/i4aqEjIwBwo?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi7FwYRnWkpCSkAeFOzrgh5h

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Hey, everybody on today’s episode of Still To Be Determined, We’re discussing headaches. I mean home building as usual. I’m Sean Ferrell. I’m a writer. I read some sci-fi. I read some stuff for kids. I’m also curious about developments in technology and luckily for. My brother is Matt of undecided with Matt Ferrell.

How are you? Matt?

Ferrell. . I’m very good. Sean Ferrell. How are you? I’m doing

well. Before we get into today’s discussion, which is gonna be talking about home building, wanted to share some thoughts on some of our previous episodes such as this, which was from our recent discussion about wireless charging of cars.

Daniel Boger wrote in to say, ironically, Nicola Tesla was somewhat famous for his experiments with wireless electricity transmission. And that was something we talked about, We laughed about last week, the idea that Tesla as a car company does not have wireless charging, and yet that’s what Nicola Tesla really, really wanted to get us to, to latch onto back in the day.

Yeah. So yeah, we’re finally catching up with the, the originator of the. There was also this from Alan Tupper who wrote fuel production of some kind, Probably not hydrogen due to long-term leakage Using seasonable renewables seems like the optimal strategy for variable production. Fuels always allow you to decouple production consumption facilities from storage, which will likely be key.

I’m personally keen on electrolysis of high energy materials like magnes. Which can release a lot of energy under certain conditions. He continues. I feel like the big challenge with ubiquitous wireless charging power grazing isn’t going to be so much technological as administrative. Figuring out a widespread agreement on who pays for the energy consumed and how to bill it could be a big hurdle, and I agree with that.

Yeah, that’s something I’ve seen here in the city as we have wireless stations that are being put in by the city. In public spots, and I do not have a car. I do not have an electric vehicle, but I find myself wondering, what’s the charge for charging? Who are you paying? And I do not know. I do not have any of these answers.

I think it’s great that the stations are going in and I do fully embrace and support personally this being a public good. So I do think that. Starting point for this is a public push, a governmental push to actually make these things viable by putting in stations themselves. But that is not a widespread argument that you’re gonna hear a lot of people making, not even here in New York City.

So, yeah, I dunno about you, Matt. Have you seen a lot of the. Public dollars being used in this way, or do you think it’s still where you are still private money that is pushing these things forward?

Oh, it’s, it’s overwhelmingly private money. It, it’s, I’m surprised when I come across the public ones. Uh, like our parents, they live in a suburb of Rochester, New York, and I was downtown with them having dinner at a little local restaurant and there were public chargers installed by the town they live in, free to use.

Completely free. And I was like, surprised. I was like, I have never seen one of these where I live. What is this strange device they’ve got? So it’s, I, I see private stuff far, far more. And when you look at how much it costs to charge a car at these private. Chargers. It, the, the charge, the amount they charge is dramatically higher than what the electricity actually costs.

Which was gonna

ask you that, How much you’d expect

that. Yeah. Cause they have to, they want to get their cut, you know, they, they’ve installed it, they’re maintaining it. It’s the charge for them doing that. So it’s like, I would expect it, but sometimes it can be double. The cost of the electricity. And it’s like, that seems kind of on the excessive side.

I can’t if, if electricity is, you know, 20 cents per kilowatt hour, why are you charging 40, 45 cents a kilowatt hour? It’s like that, that, that seems a little high on the high side and kind of defeats the purpose of electricity is cheaper to fuel a car than gasoline. And when you overcharge like that, it starts to push the, push the cost of charging closer to what a gasoline car might cost you.

So, . It’s

frustrating. Do you think those private companies are looking at it as well? People are still saving money, so they’re still gonna be willing to get that electric vehicle.

I also think it’s the Wild West right now. I think that’s part of what it is. I think as more chargers get built out and there’s more competition, I think we’ll start to see those prices get more in line.

Mm-hmm. with something that’s acceptable. But right now I think there are some places where you’re the only charger in town and you can charge whatever you want. Mm-hmm. . So it’s like, I think it’s a little bit of that wild west that’s going

on right now. It’ll be interesting to see if those prices do fall as more competition develops.

Especially if you end up with, and again, this can happen with public dollars. Yep. Public chargers that charge at cost or just above cost of the electricity would help force those prices down. Yep. So, but onto today’s discussion, which is going to discuss Matt’s most recent video. This is from September 27th, 2022.

My biggest regret building a net zero home spoiler. His regret teaser is timing. .

Yes. Horrible timing. .

So in middle of a pandemic, by the way, is not a great time to start a house, is that what you’re saying? No.

Well, what’s funny to me is I, I, the house I currently live in, I had horrible timing with this. We bought this house right at the bubble of the, um, housing market before it crashed last time.

So we bought this house, premium price market explodes, and then we’re sitting here in a house that is. Way less than what we owed in our mortgage. We were like so far under water on this house. So it’s like, and here we go again, deciding to build a house. And we’re so far in, it’s like, well, we can’t stop now.

Oh, but, But prices keep rising. They’re still rising, right? Mor rates are going up. The timing of building this house was the worst, absolute

worst, right? So the timing of building a net zero home when you started, are you going to end up with a net zero, 10? Yes,

with a solar panel on the side of the, with a solar panel

that’s attached to a wagon that you just kinda wheel out in the morning.

Andrey Greeky. Greeky. Yep. Pull it back in at night. Use it as a blanket. This most recent episode of yours is generated quite a bit of discussion amongst people who are doing lots of different projects in different directions. Yeah, and I think that’s one of the key things about your video and you shared your colleague Rick.

Who has his own channel? And remind me of the name of Rookie’s channel. Twoit DaVinci. Twoit DaVinci. Yeah. So he’s taking a different path, and that’s one of the key things about your video and his channel. There’s not a one size fits all here. We have millions upon millions of homes in this country and around the world.

Nobody is arguing, tear ’em all down, start from scratch, build more efficiently from scratch. That in and of itself would be prohibitively expensive and impacting the environment and a waste in so many different ways. So, In some cases, building like you are from scratch with net zero on your radar is great for some people.

For other people like Ricky, it’s gonna be taking an existing home and how do you maximize that? And a lot of the comments. In this video revolved around people taking multiple approaches. One that stood out to me was this one from Rick Neil Jr. Who wrote, I’d be very interested in seeing more videos about security and privacy hardening on your smart home.

Generally, homes heavy on OT have a huge number of security vulnerabilities because home use products are not very secure. I’m interested to see how you plan to address this for your family. So, There’s a take on what you’re doing, which is about the, the hardware. You talked in the video briefly about the smartware that you’re looking to get invested into your home.

Perhaps you’ll have a video about your plans for that in the future.

Yeah, I, I definitely can go into that in more detail and he’s a hundred percent correct. I, I, my current smart home, I’m very cautious about the products I buy because if I have any kind of inkling of like, I’m not, who owns this? Who’s running this?

Are they maintain the software? Well, I won’t even buy the product. I stay away from it for the new house. I’m planning on setting up a home network that is going to be, it’s called Virtual Lands. So it’s gonna be like, imagine like three tiers of. Access within the home. So there’ll be a tier of devices that I don’t trust and I wanna lock down, and the only thing they can see is basically themselves.

They can’t see any other devices on the network. They can’t see the internet. Then there’s gonna be a tier that can’t see any of my home devices. But they, they can see limited access to the internet, so they can phone home if they have to get software updates and things like that. And then there’s gonna be the tier, which is like my home computer, where it’s like you have full access to the home network, everything like that.

So there’s gonna be different tiers of security for who can see what and who can do what. And that’s the way you can really dial in and try to make your home network super secure so that things aren’t phoning home. Without my knowledge, things are locked down and I have full control over what has access to the internet and what doesn’t.

There are ways to do it. Yeah. It gets kind of complicated, but you


do it. Yeah. One of your commenters actually weigh in suggesting that you make sure you use Linux for that as opposed to. Windows because Linux has more inherent security to it. Is that mm-hmm. also your experience, is that where you’re gonna be going or are you taking a different.

I’m taking a different approach. I’m using, I’m gonna be building a whole network off of a company called Ubiquity that has some really good network routers and switches and things like that, that can handle all this. I think they’re basically built on top of Unix or Linux. Um, I think their software is that, but it’s, it’s definitely not Windows

No way. There was also this comment about the building of the structure itself, Binomial wrote in to say, you should definitely consider a barrier. As part of your air tightness requirement, they pressurize a house with an airborne sealant that fills in cracks up to point 70, fifth point 75 of an inch.

Mm-hmm. , Matt Reiner has a demo of the improvements to air tightness and it’s very impressive. So is this literally, Yeah. They pump your house full of dust that then all the cracks and crevices and then adheres and seals them. ,

basically think, think about, think about it like it’s a ca that gets basically vaporized into the air.

Mm-hmm. and then they’re, they’re over pressurizing your house, so it’s higher pressure than the outside and then all that missed basically just tries to escape the house and it’s trying to escape through all those cracks it’s building up. And so basically it’s caulking up all of the little cracks and crevices that you might not have.

Right. Really cool stuff. I’m not doing it. I’m not planning to do it cuz I wanna see if I need to do it. And if I like, after the house is built and constructed, if I can’t achieve that ACH I’m wanna get to, then I’ll talk to my contractor about, Hey, can we look at this, pull this in and see if we can use this to get it even further.

So I’m not taking it off the table, but I’m kind of avoiding it if I can, cuz it’s an additional cost. Like I said, timing wise, cost of this house, it’s already super expensive. I’m only gonna do it if it’s absolutely necessary. Right. But it is a very cool technology.

I assume that you don’t wanna be inside when you do this process.

No. You’re not inside when this happens.

just sitting there smoking a cigarette like my lungs are getting caught off. . Ready when you are chief. There was this comment from John Pelletier. Who wrote, My wife and I built a certified net zero home in Massachusetts. It was also built in a factory. We have no regrets with that choice.

Let me know if you would like to discuss our experience. All the best with your project. So yeah, and just some simple feedback from one of your viewers saying, Yeah, this works. It’s, mm-hmm. . Gotta be reassuring to know that you’re not alone in the path you’ve chosen.

Oh yeah. I’m not like, where I’m actually building my house.

My neighbor, who I’ve talked to a lot, like we were talking to him before we bought the property, uh, cuz there was another comment that somebody pointed out, Oh, you’re right on a train track. I’m hoping you’re taking that into account that there’s trains that are gonna be going by your house. And it was like we talked to our neighbor about the noise level, what it was like with the train.

We were actually there during a train going by so we could see what it was like the whole thing. His house was a factory built house. It wasn’t a, it’s not a net zero home as far as like, Uh, air tightness and things like that. But he has a factory built house and he was extremely happy with his choice for what he did, for the same reasons.


and does he have a paintball gun? And will you be getting a paintball gun for those trains as they go by?

will be putting lots of coins in the train tracks.

I also like this comment from Gier Frog Gier. Life. Love the username. Gier writes, Thanks for all these videos, Matt. Your channel has single-handedly made. My wife and I go with geothermal for our new Barndominium home. We’re going to be building in Minnesota next spring. We are going full off the grid and using mainly solar and some supplemental wind generator for our power needs.

Your videos have been a huge help in guiding us. Thanks, and I looked up. Barn Dominium. I had not heard that term before. And it is exactly what it sounds like A barn. Dominium is a barn that’s been converted into a living space, and when I looked it up, I found some very, very charming looking homes that really looked interesting.

And the way that they’re laid out, the way that they use the space barns, of course, are enormous on the inside. Yeah, so these are really very, very, uh, love. Homes. Spacious and spacious. And also because of where Barnes, of course, are typically built. You’re in beautiful landscape, beautiful country. Yeah. So very interesting.

Thank you for sharing that Geer. Yep. And then there was this from W JM who responded to Geer for a, who wrote, I love my geothermal heat. I’m planning on using radiant heat for my new home. But we have geo in my current house. It was my second choice for the new house. Went with Radiant only because it’s basically a cement house, which will provide a lot of thermal mass.

Wow. So Radiant will be more stable and efficient, so, Yep. I love the fact that it’s, We’ve reached a point where it’s not, Oh, if you’re building a house, you get this kind of heater. If you’re building in this municipality, it’s gonna be gas over here, it’s gonna be oil over here, it’s gonna be electricity.

People are really being given a lot of different options. The ability, like Geer deciding to live off the grid and relying on solar and wind and geothermal versus other people who may live in a neighborhood like you’re moving into, but being able to rely on a mixing and matching of their own components.

I think that’s really remarkable. That’s,

that’s my favorite part about this. There’s no one right way to do this. There’s like a, like I’m doing factory. Walls. What you could do was called structurally insulated panels, or you could do icf, which is for people who know what ICF is. It’s basically styrofoam where you pour concrete in between the styrofoam.

It’s like there’s all these different hempcrete. It’s like there’s all these different things you can do, and it’s really about like what are your, Where do you live? What are your goals? What are the things you’re trying to achieve? Oh, here’s selection of 12 different things you could do. Take a pick.

It’s like, I love that about it. So I, I, I hope when people watch the videos, I’m gonna be releasing over the coming months about my house and I’m gonna try to drive this home. I am not suggesting what I am doing is the right way to do this. It’s the way I chose to do it. But there are so many other cool ways you can do it.

Like that barn dominium and the HVAC’s a great example. I could have done radiant floor heating. Mm-hmm. , we decided not to because there were aspects about our house and the way my wife and I live. It wouldn’t have really been conducive to what we were trying to do. So we decided not to do radiants. So it’s like, but it could be a perfect for, for somebody else.

There’s so many choices. It’s really cool. I, I love hearing the stories about all the other people, what they’re building. Mm-hmm. and I’m gonna reach out to some of these people cause I wanna find out more details about their homes. It’s really cool.

I’m wondering, what’s the one thing about your home that you chose to go with that you’re most excited about?

What is the thing that you’re just like, I’m really glad I chose to do.

Uh, it’s, it’s . It’s basically the insulation value and the air tightness of the house. Um, I’m probably the most excited about the rv, which is people have mentioned this in the comments of like, Well, when you make a super airtight house, it’s not safe, and it’s, that’s.

I understand their thinking, but in Erv, you’re controlling how the air comes in and out of your house versus a leaky house where it’s like you have zero control over how the air is permeating through the walls and the cracks. So you get contaminants that come in and outta your house out allergens that come in and outta your house, pollen coming in and outta your house.

You’re losing so much heat and humidity that you might wanna control. It’s like an rv. You have complete control over that. So these houses are quiet. They’re super comfortable. People with me like allergies. I have bad allergies. It’s like my seasonal allergies should be pretty much licked, , as long as I’m in the house.

I am super excited about that aspect of it. That’s probably what I’m most excited for. Mm-hmm. ,

and just out of curiosity, you don’t have to put a dollar value on it, but how many times more expensive would this house have been if you had gone with, Yep. Here’s my wishlist and I’m going with each and everything on my wishlist.

Here’s all the things I wanted to do. Oh, uh,

it would’ve easily added 25 to 30% of the cost to what I’m currently paying. There’s so many things I was like, wishlist and it was like, Nope, , no. Can’t do this, can’t do this. So it’s like I had to cut out a lot of stuff I wanted to do, um, just to try to get it to, as something I can actually

afford to do.

Right. Well, the next task you. You’ll be .

Yeah, no, you’ll be doing, this is it.

Next house you build, build it with all the things you scratched off of this list. But don’t include the things that did make this list. Well, there you go. There you go. There you go. So it’ll cost the same and it’ll be the anti house

So listeners, what do you think about all this as far as plans to. build your next home. Would you find yourself on a path of refurbishing something that exists and pushing in directions like we’ve heard from some of our commenters, like a barn dominium, or something similar? Or are you more inclined to follow Matt’s path and say, start from scratch?

I want it all to be brand new, and I want it to be cutting edge. Let us know in the comments. As always, you can jump into the comments on YouTube directly below the video, or you can find the contact information in the podcast description from wherever it was that you picked up this podcast. And when you’re going back to find that information, leave a review, subscribe, share us with your friends, all that really does help the channel.

You can also click on, they become a supporter button here on YouTube and you can go to still TBD dot f. And from both of those locations, you’ll be able to throw some coins at our heads. It’s different angles, but they both are within sight of us and the bruises are appreciated. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to us, to share your thoughts with us and to check us out next time.

We’ll talk to you soon.

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