200: Home-Build Part 2 – Viewer Questions


Matt and Sean revisit Matt’s net zero home build and your questions about it. There were A LOT of questions!

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Hey everybody, welcome to Still To Be Determined. This is of course the podcast that follows up on the main channel, which is Undecided With Matt Ferrell, which features my brother. He is that Matt of Undecided With Matt Ferrell, which of course focuses on emerging tech, its impact on our lives. And I am his older brother, Sean Ferrell.

I’m a writer. I write some sci fi. I write some stuff for kids, and I’m just generally curious about technology. So luckily for me, I’ve got a terrific resource in the family. I’m talking, of course, about my mother. No, I’m not. That’s right. My mother. Yes. I am talking, of course, about Matt. So. What we usually do is we dive into a conversation around Matt’s most recent episodes, but we’re doing something a little different this week.

This week we have a follow up conversation around Matt’s home build. There has been a lot of feedback from Viewers and listeners, both from his main channel and from this program, asking Matt to follow up on some more specific HomeBuild questions. And that could be anything from, what product are you using in this place?

Like people, Matt, you, you shared with me that people were identifying things as particular as a set of headphones in the background of a shot. Where the point of the video wasn’t even these headphones, it was you were showing something else and people were saying, Hey, what headphones are you using? Are you an audiophile?

Yeah. So I guess we’ll jump right into the, uh, home building questions that we’ve received from many of you. And we’ll start off with, well, first of all. We’ll start off with this one from James Marrota, who wrote, Matt, since you just went through a new home build, I would love to see a short list of improvement improvements slash new construction techniques accessible to the average person defined as a person seeking to build a 300, 000 home, maybe a top 10 list of techniques that offer the best value for money and get a person 75 percent of the way to energy self sufficiency and sustainability.

And before you. Jump into your answer, and this is not a jump, I’m sure this is a wade into an answer. Uh, Matt and I have talked on the program practically every episode. We’re gonna say context matters. So, the question, thank you for the question, first of all. But a big part is where do you live? Where, yeah, like what was the context that you’re living in beyond context, if we remove the dollar value from his question and you approach it of, from a perspective along the lines of somebody who’s not looking to break the bank or have the most expensive home in the neighborhood, there are two paths.

Do you see an easy, doable path for somebody to say, I’m going to buy an existing home and I’m going to do everything I can to improve it, to bring it up to that self sustainability? Standard that I’m hoping to reach, or do you think that the better approach is to start from scratch? So I’ll let you Oh, yeah.

Take it from there. .

Yeah. I mean, that ties into what, uh, James’ question was. Uh, if you’re, if you’re renovating it, the, the, the lowest hanging fruit, the places that everybody should start is, uh. Insulation and airtightness, those two things are going to be the cheapest, and I put that in gigantic air quotes, the cheapest method that will have the biggest bang for your buck short and long term, um, because a lot of existing houses are not well insulated.

And they also are leaky as all get out. So if you, a lot of states in the United States, and I think the same, there’s areas in Europe that have similar things. I know there is something like this in England as well. You can get an energy assessment of your house where somebody will come in and do a full like test of your house.

They’ll look at where your insulation levels in the attic are. They’ll even try to check, do little test pilot holes in your exterior walls to see what kind of insulations in your walls. They’ll do a blower door test sometimes. And all of this is sometimes covered. at cost by your local government and they’ll give you an assessment of here’s your house’s energy effectiveness and here’s the things you could do that would improve it.

That’s the first thing I would do. It’s like a no brainer because oftentimes it’s really easy just to add a little additional blown in insulation in your attic and inside your walls. Do a little caulking around areas around windows that might be a little leakier than they should be. Replacing door jam.

Like sealing and you, you will be shocked at how much money that will save you. And it doesn’t cost that much to make those updates. Um, if you’re building a new house, uh, the techniques that kind of like are no brainer to me are around the same things. It’s making sure that you obviously, when you see a house being built, you’ll see sometimes that home wrap that’s put around the outside of the house before they put up the siding.

It’s like this plastic looking white, like wrapping around a house. Um. Making sure that’s done properly, making sure everything is sealed up properly and taped so that you make the house as airtight as absolutely possible. These are not things that will break the bank. They’re not things that should throw any contractor out of line.

It’s something that anybody knows how to do and should be able to do. It’s just making sure it’s done. Um, you don’t have to go absolutely crazy above and beyond like I did, where you’re building a house that has walls that are 15 inches thick. Um, you don’t have to go that length, but it’s, it’s, those are the areas I’d be looking at first are just making sure that you have the proper insulation for your region.

You know the context matters. You’re not gonna wanna put R 65 value insulation in your attic if you live down in Florida. That’s gonna be just overkill. So it’s like making sure that you’re going above what’s typically required. ’cause oftentimes, standards in your area for construction may not be quite where they should be.

So like find out what the standard is, go a little bit above and just try to hit that target.

There’s also going to be. A lot of research necessary on, as you mentioned, finding the standard, but also finding out if there are standards and certification in your state for the quality and caliber of your contractor.

So if you find somebody who’s like, Oh, I can do that for you for, you know, like next to no money, or it’s not going to, it’s not going to break the bank. Make sure that there is not something in your state or local, uh. Ordinances that maybe indicates like, oh, there should be a standard here. This person should have this type of training, this type of certification.

You don’t want somebody coming in and doing either a scam job on you or a poor job, having somebody come in and do something wrong isn’t going to benefit you. And if you notice you’ve had work done and the cost of your. Annual heating bill doesn’t go down or your electric usage doesn’t change in any way, shape or form.

Really begin to question why, you know, I’ve seen comments in many of your videos and our videos where we’ve had conversations around this where people say, Oh, I did a thing and it had no impact. And it always makes me wonder, uh, did you actually do the thing? Did somebody know what they were doing when they gave you that new installation or put that thing in your home to make your hot water heater more efficient?

Are you actually getting what you paid for? Uh, that would be the first question I would ask if I didn’t see the needle move in any way, shape or form. Another question that we received from Stoffel Chaos. Who wrote in to ask, do you recommend more than one form of battery for energy storage? Either thermal, mechanical, and or electrical, and if yes, which and why?

I think the question here is basically energy storage and battery storage, as you’ve mentioned in so many of your videos, they don’t all have to be a chemical battery. They are different. Types that are available. So taking that approach, do you mix and match or do you find one ring rules them all?

Uh, it depends on context, which is just like the last answer.

If you’re talking about for like home use, it’s, it’s chemical battery. Every which way right now, that’s pretty much the best option. Uh, but at the same time, there are heat storage systems, energy storage systems that are becoming available for homes. Like I’ve just actually been diving into this recently.

There’s a company that actually has one that they’re coming out with that you can get for your house that would Uh, where I have a geothermal heating and cooling system, this would actually be something similar but it’s basically just kind of like a gigantic thing of sand that is buried in your yard and then has piping that goes into it and you’re basically just like sucking away the heat into the ground into this big heat battery and then you’re pulling out of it later.

Um, so I would say it’s a combo because they have different purposes. A heat battery is going to help you with heating and cooling your home, producing hot water, and then you’d have Uh, Energy batteries that would help run your lights and your electric appliances and things like that. So it’s, it’s not one or the other in some cases, it’s both.

Um, if you’re talking about utility scale, that’s where you get into, it could be mechanical, it could be chemical, it could be whatever you’re talking about, whatever’s right for the job. Because like when you’re talking utility scale, you need megawatts and megawatts, gigawatts of storage. And like pumped hydro storage is just a mechanical, a form of mechanical energy storage.

And that’s already in use around the world today. That’s a great, great option. So I, I’m not, um, I don’t, I’m not a champion of one over another. It’s always comes down to use case. It’s like context is key.

A question from the Uk, from Stefanward-bradley and More of a comment than a question, but it did spur on a question in my mind. So I’ll read his, his comment, and then I’ll share my question. Stefan writes, I’m in the UK, fitting solar panels over here has a much longer payback time, but the cost of electricity means I’m tempted to get about a thousand watts worth of panels and to wire them directly to a water tank immersion heater.

And I want to set up a bypass on my heating system to run the water. through it if it gets higher than 60 degrees Celsius. A battery puts solar completely out of my price range, but a water tank would be a few hundred pounds including a heating pump controlled with a temperature sensor and the bypass valves are already used.

By heating systems, which you can choose to heat hot water radiators or both. The motivation for me is the cost to commercially fit panels and tie them to the mains is thousands of pounds, but a solar panel with an inverter, which is independently connected to a heating coil would not require this. This is a lot of work.

This is a lot of like DIY like thinking. So my question as after reading this comment was. There’s obviously interest in people wanting to have an impact as solar panel becomes more and more widely used, but not everybody has access to either putting them on a roof, such as me, where I’m in a building where I do not own the building, I could not put panels up here.

Right. Or people like Stefan, who for the context that they’re in, in the UK. Very expensive to put panels in, battery storage doesn’t seem to be an option because of finances. So the question becomes, do you know of any collective solar options that allow people without the ability to have their own panels to be a part of panel expansion and to gain some kind of benefits of being a part of that while maybe not directly resulting in, oh, I’m heating my home or I’m storing my own energy.

What would you suggest for people who want to do that?

Well, first, I think, uh, Stephan’s, what he’s doing sounds actually ingenious, very clever and a really great way to be super cost effective. Bravo. Do that. And if you do it, let me know how it works out. I’m very curious, uh, but for kind of the, if you don’t have aspect, uh, access to that kind of thing, it’s too difficult.

Community solar projects are springing up. All over the world and it’s becoming more and more popular and it’s a really, really great option. And basically the way it works is kind of, um, it’d be kind of like buying a condo in a way. It’s like you’re kind of paying for part of a massive solar farm and depending on what percentage you’re buying, Dictates how much of the energy that that array generates that you get credit for.

And then that community solar project works with the utility to basically credit that off of your, your bill, right? So there are ways that you can just direct get instant access to the benefits of solar without having to install it yourself. So like you, Sean could do this , right? If you wanted to. ’cause I know there are community projects around New York City and New New Jersey and areas like that that you can buy into.

Um. That would be what I would recommend hands down, because one, it’s not that expensive to get into, you can just pick however much you want, and you start seeing the benefits of it, like, right away. Um, the one caveat is that you have to read the fine print, because every one of these things does things differently, so it’s like, sometimes there might be a, I don’t like the way this is working out, I’m not saving as much money as I wanted, I want to get out.

Um, there might be penalty fees for leaving the array before like you signing a contract like 15 years or something like that. If you want to get out early, sometimes there’s penalty fees. The good ones don’t do that. So like if it’s just, you know. A small fee to sign up and then a small down payment. And then there’s no fees to leave early.

Those are the ones you want to look for. Uh, here in the U S um, the company EnergySage, which is a company that I’ve, I pitch a lot. I’m a partner of theirs just for full transparency. They actually have a great community solar kind of finder. So you just put in where you live and it will find you community solar in your area.

I haven’t found any kind of central resource like that for other areas, like in Europe or. The UK or Australia or other places. They do exist though. These community solar projects do exist. So I would just say, just go to Google, search community solar, your location name and see what comes up. Um, that’s definitely where I would be looking.

Those are

very good tips. And as a co host of this, I find myself thinking like, why haven’t I already looked up EnergySage? That’s what you said it was. EnergySage. com?

EnergySage. com. Yes.

And we are sharing that now without any kind of paid promotion. That is not. What is happening here? Correct. There was also a question from Mayhem, not the spokesperson for the insurance company.

Uh, given the higher interest in smart homes, Why aren’t all new builds optimized for the task? For example, why aren’t rooms oriented to the sun? Why aren’t battery rooms a thing like media rooms? Why aren’t garages built with extra fire protection for EVs? I think I know the answer. What’s your answer to this?

Uh, my answer is, uh, technology and advances like this move faster than policy and what, uh, the construction industry is used to. So it’s, it’s, it’s literally like We’re outpacing what people are expecting. So a lot of contractors don’t know stuff like this exists. Um, so that’s one of the big problems. I ran into this with my HVAC installer and mechanical engineer that designed my HVAC system.

They did a great job, but I had, I wanted to add smart to the ERV, they, the ERV that they suggested for my house, it’s a good ERV, but it’s dumb, it’s just, it’s just dumb. You just set it up and it’s like, you pick a low running speed and a high running speed and create the balance, and it’s literally like, you have to put a screwdriver in this thing and turn this thing to adjust it, it’s like.

Bare your bones. And I wanted to add smarts. So I worked with a company called Shelley to get a little relay to figure out how I could add this to the thing and add some smarts. And then suddenly my smart home can kick it on and off at will. And like, I can do all these crazy automations around it. And when my HVAC installer was here, I asked him, Hey, could you help me hook this up?

And he was like, what is this? I was like, and I gave him the spec sheet and I’m saying, this is how you hook it up. This is where you have to hook it up to. And he hooked it up for me. And he was like, what is this doing? And I explained it to him. He was like, his mind was blown. He’s like, yeah, I wish I knew this exist.

It existed. It’s like, I have so many installations where we don’t have a good way to run lines to different areas of the house. And this would solve that problem. And so now he and my mechanical engineer are talking to Shelley to see how they can come up, kind of roll their own smart home solutions for.

All of their installations going forward. Right. It’s just because they didn’t know. They didn’t know this stuff existed. And now they do. And so they’re going to make it kind of a part of their normal approach for how they design their systems. Yeah.

And there’s standardization is very hard to talk about.

I mean, globally. Like, how would that even begin to, to happen? And in a country as big as the United States, not only are you talking about standardization across 50 states, but within each state, they’re not always across the board standardized. Building in New York City has New York City specific standards that are different from outside of New York City, in other parts of New York State.

There’s like, sometimes a state does have a statewide And there are very uneven expectations across the board of what does it mean to be energy efficient? What does it mean to be affordable? What does it mean to have a safe home? And so to follow up on the question of like, why isn’t this done is sort of a call to the public to say, maybe start advocating with your.

Regional governments, your local governments, your state governments asking for that, pushing for that. And I’ve had a lot of conversations with Matt about the fact that his new home, when he decided to build it where he built it, he did not realize that there was going to be an issue. Do you want to talk a little bit about your internet issue?

Okay. You

mean my crappy, crappy internet? Yeah. My town, in their foresight, decided to sign a contract with Comcast. Which is here in the U. S. is one of the major cable providers where they basically sign their soul away. And they did this to save money, and I understand why they did it. But when I was moving into my house and building here, and I was like, I came from an area where I had Verizon, Fidos, optic, you know, fiber optic, internet, beautiful.

I was finding that there was no good options where I was moving, when I was moving into, and there was like Comcast or nothing, it was really bad. And the consumer lines are not only expensive, they have bandwidth caps, all that kind of stuff that I was going to blow past because of my job. So I looked into the town.

Meeting notes for the past history and found when they signed this contract with Comcast, because Comcast said, oh, we’ll build fiber optic lines through the center of the town and we’ll feed off to these, uh, industries and colleges and things like that in the area. But it wasn’t going to benefit the residents.

It was only going to benefit some of these key industries and it was not going to be fed elsewhere. And so they did this thing where it was like, we’ll cover the cost of that. And the city was like, great. And signed it. And now we have a basically a monopoly. And so I ended up having to sign up with this monopoly and pay for a business line, which costs three times the cost of a consumer line, just so we don’t have a bandwidth cap.

And they can charge that kind of rate because of the only game in town. So I have no other options. So it’s one of those. Towns can sometimes make decisions that seem great in the short term because you don’t have to increase property taxes or go to the population and say we need more money for this because hey, this corporation is paying for it but you’re actually screwing over your residences in the long term.

Um, that contract here in my area is running out soon and I’m planning on going to Town meetings, making, making my opinion known. Um, cause I want to make sure that those doors get blown open. Cause this is ridiculous. Um, but yeah, that’s a big problem. It is,

it is a perfect demonstration of, and we’re talking about a town.

We’re not talking about the state. We’re not talking about a nation. We’re talking about a town. And Matt is in a town that is surrounded by other towns that all have better options than the one he lives. So that’s the kind of uneven. Disparity that you’re going to find and why advocacy with your local government, your regional government, your statewide government is so important.

Having the information, doing the research. And I think what Matt just described is a context where a company like Comcast is going to out lawyer and out think. The local city council, the town council is probably made up of well meaning people who were given a sales pitch and didn’t realize that behind the person doing the talking was probably a room full of lawyers who figured out exactly what kind of doublespeak to use in order to convince them that they were getting a good deal when they were actually being handed the dirty end of the stick.

So But to add on to that though, it’s not even just the big business. I also ran into issues. With my battery installation that I’m getting installed in my house, I wanted to get a battery system of a certain size and found out that went over a cap here in Massachusetts. And once you go over this cap, you have to get, if it’s indoors, you have to get a sprinkler system installed.

You have to do all this crazy stuff because I went over, I wanted to go over, I think it was 25, Kilowatt hours of battery storage. I wanted to get like 30 and I was going to have to spend like five to ten grand getting like extra fire suppressant systems put in and all this other kind of craziness. I was like, okay, that’s not worth it.

So I’ll just keep my battery under 25, which is not what I wanted, but it’s good enough. It’ll be fine. But when I was looking into this, it’s kind of like, This is just across the board. If you have a battery in your house because lithium batteries are scary and they catch fire so they’re trying to protect their residences.

Not understanding that there’s not all batteries are created equal and different chemistries have different risks. And I’m getting installed a lithium iron phosphate battery, which are exceptionally safe, far less prone to fire. It’s not going to burn my house down.

They’ve used a broad brush.

Yeah. But, but here’s the thing.

My Tesla has a battery in it that’s like 65 kilowatt hours. And it’s the kind of battery that if it does catch fire, it’s going to go nuts. So it’s okay for me to park a 65 kilowatt hour battery in my garage. That could be a risk to install over 25 kilowatt hours of fixed storage. That’s extremely safe. It’s just, that’s just too much.

You can’t do that. It’s because they don’t know. What they’re talking about. They don’t understand the technology. Yeah, correct. They’re just creating rules that just go across the board, very broad swath and it ends up kind of creating a suppression of what would actually be a good benefit for a home or the community.

It’s just, it’s short sightedness. It’s people not understanding what they’re dealing with and probably not talking to the right people. It’s a shame. Yeah.

Question from Philly fan who wrote in to say, Was building a net zero super tight house worth it? The added complexity, cost, maintenance, and potential mold risk seems like it could outweigh the simplicity of an old leaky home.

I included this question despite the fact that I really kind of scratched my head as I read it because I’m not sure exactly what Philly Fan is talking about. What mold risk is there?

When you, when you build an airtight house, if you’re not properly ventilating it with an ERV system, humidity can build up.

And you get too much humidity in a space like this and you will get mold. And this is something that comes up a lot and it comes up from builders who build houses in this method that don’t know what they’re doing and they improperly size an ERV system. And oftentimes they’re installing ERV systems that are attached to an HVAC system.

And the problem with an H doing that is that an HVAC system is not running constantly. Oftentimes it’s like the fan will run for 15 minutes, hits temperature, then it’s off for an hour and it’ll come back on again and then it will go off again. And it’s not ventilating the house at the rate it needs.

And so typically in houses like this, you need an ERV system that runs at a low level constantly. And if you do that, there’s no mold risk. You’re going to be totally fine. Just to make sure that the humidity level stays below, you know, that 60 to 55 percent kind of like level. Yeah. If you’re below that, there’s no risk of mold.

So it’s not that it’s a problem. It’s only a problem when people don’t know what they’re doing and they try to build an house. If you do it properly. There’s no risk of mold. Uh, so my house is not going to have that problem. Uh, to answer the question, was it worth it? Um, I’ll have to get back to you on that because I’m, I’ve only been here for a few months and I’m going to kind of give it some time to see what it’s like, but so far.

I would say yes, just from a comfort factor alone, this is the most comfortable house I’ve ever been in. The temperature is like within one to two degrees of every room. It’s like, it’s the most uniform feeling house. The air always feels fresh. It doesn’t feel stale or dusty or smelly. It’s just like a very fresh, comfortable house.

I love it. Just for that alone. Whether that’s worth the cost, I’ll have to get back to you.

There’s this question from Kevin Tierney, which covers similar terrain as the first question we started with, which is there are a lot of resources often conflicting about weatherization, energy savings, and return on investment.

What sources would you recommend starting with as we try to meet, we try to triage medium term energy savings in our 1940s, no insulation Seattle home. I’m really sorry, 1940s, no insulation Seattle home. You’re dealing with some big energy bills there. If you have X dollars to work with, you should prioritize Y first.

So a little bit different than the first question. First question is what could you do to remodel? Versus New Build. You gave some very good suggestions, I think. And Kevin, I think that you should pay attention to those first question. The first question, the answer there, I think, will hit a lot of the right notes for you.

But to drill down deeply into a specific thing that Kevin asks, what resources would you suggest? What places would you suggest that people go to to be able to research more of

this? Honestly, it’s starting with like, uh, The Washington State’s government website, Seattle probably has some documentation online.

Um, what you’re wanting to do is find out if there’s like one of these, uh, like home assessment services that’s available in your area to kind of come to your house and they will, these are people that specialize in this. Oftentimes you’re looking for something that’s called a HERS Rater. It’s an acronym H E R S.

I can’t remember what it stands for off the top of my head. It’s like home energy. Something. I can’t remember what it is off the top of my head. But you want to look for a HERS Raider. These are the people that specialize in this. And they will come and they will take a look at everything about your house and tell you what you can do.

And they’ll tell you roughly like what it would kind of cost to do each thing. And they’ll help you prioritize that stuff to hit the stuff that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. And kind of tied to my first answer, it’s going to be Insulation and air tightness. Those are going to be the first two things that they’re going to focus on.

Um, and in your house, since it has no insulation, you’re most likely going to have to probably install insulation around the outside of your house. It’s probably the most com, uh, the most, uh, cost effective, which means taking siding off. You’re putting basically like probably a foam board up and then you’re putting new siding back on again.

It’s kind of like, um, adding a. Uh, what do you call them? Like one of those thermos kind of like things around the outside of your house, right? Adding a shell to the outside. It’ll make your house look beefy. Yeah. It gets a little thicker, but it’s going to be very great. Has your house been

working out?

Has your house been going to the gym? Because it’s looking pretty, it’s looking pretty thick. You look great. You look great house.

Yeah, that would be where I would want to start. Um, there really is no good central, like off the top of my head place to go. Um, like I talk about EnergySage, which is great for solar.

And they’re starting to get into things like heat pumps, but there’s no like really good central resource for things like this yet. It tends to be very regional. Um, but there are YouTube channels like Matt Reisinger. Um, he’s a fantastic, he’s a constructor. He knows this stuff backwards and forwards and has tons and tons of videos about stuff that can be done to homes, either building new or retrofitting.

So just going to watch his channel and seeing what’s out there can kind of help raise awareness. So you know what to ask for, what kind of contractor you want to look for. Yeah,

and Matt has had some long term conversations, long form conversations with Matt Reisinger, which have appeared on his main channel and they’ve appeared here.

So You can look through our history of videos. You’ll see the long conversation that Matt had with Matt, and you’ll also on his main channel on Undecided, you’ll find the more focused and edited version of those conversations. So you might start there and then jump off into Matt Reisinger’s channel directly.

And just so you know, the video is called, Why Do American Houses Suck? That’s Yeah. That’s Which,

again, a 1940s Uninsulated Seattle home. I mean, I’ve been to Seattle, beautiful city, lovely city, but the weather there, I can imagine you are, you’re not going to deal with a super, super cold, but you get damp, you get, you get a cool and, and I can imagine you’re probably ceiling, seeing some expensive energy bills.

So I can understand your interest in trying to tackle that best of luck. And if you do make progress in that, please. Just jump back, reach out to us, let us know how it went. We’d love to hear what you, what you came up with to solve your problems. Question from 2001 Pulsar who wrote, how is the price of battery storage considered in return on investment calculations when the cost of grid electricity is so much cheaper in comparison over the normal life of a battery


Thank you. This one’s kind of. Complicated? Um, the way that this stuff is typically done is something called the Levelized Cost of Energy or LCOE. Um, and this can apply to anything. Energy storage systems, it’s LCOS, Levelized Cost of Storage. So in an LCOS, what it does, it takes into account The cost of installing the battery installation, the cost of running the battery installation, and the cost of taking it down and disposing of it.

It’s the full life cycle of a battery storage system. Those LCOS numbers help people determine if it’s going to be valuable or not. Because it’s like, okay, this LCOS, this battery system is going to work for 15 years. Here’s how much it’s going to cost to run and build and take down. And then they can, they can crunch the numbers and see what value they’re going to get out of it.

So that’s typically how that’s figured out. Um, and then when you’re talking about LCOE, that’s for like solar panels, wind, coal power plants, things that are generating electricity. That’s typically when you do LCOE. So those two numbers can be calculated and you can figure out. Am

I right in saying that also looking at ROI specifically for battery storage versus grid might not be the best comparison because you’re dealing with battery storage is going to be a companion to some form of energy production that you will have locally, correct, where you’ll have a solar panel or you’ll have some other means of getting electricity that you’re storing.

You’re not going to be getting a battery. Simply to store the equivalent of grid energy.

You will. Here, here’s the thing about batteries that kind of breaks the way we think about energy today. The way energy works today, you have a power plant, pumps out those electrons, and if those electrons don’t get used, that’s a bad thing.

So like they have to constantly be fluctuating how much they’re producing to try to mimic the actual demand that’s happening on the grid. It’s very complicated. We’ve gotten really good at it. With batteries, you can do energy management, which means If the demand is falling below production, you can just kind of keep the production going a little bit, store that extra energy and let it kind of ramp down.

And then if there’s a sudden spike in usage, the battery covers that usage and you don’t actually have to ramp the power plant back up again because you’re, you’re helping to kind of levelize how much the, Power plant has to go up and down and up and down. You’re kind of like flattening it out, and it makes it much more cost effective to run the power plant.

So it’s like by installing that battery system, you’re making it potentially cheaper to run a coal power plant, or you’re making it cheaper to run these different power plants because they have to do less fluctuations. And then the other side of it is because of the demand, prices of electricity vary minute to minute, hour to hour.

So, imagine this, oh, electricity prices are really kind of cheap right now. Well, let’s store a little extra right now because it’s super cheap. The electricity prices have gone up. They’re really expensive right now. Okay, let’s pump that cheap energy we’ve stored and get it out and we can get more money for it.

So you can basically, it’s like, it’s like a stock market. It’s like buy high, buy low, sell high. It’s like, that’s essentially what you can do with batteries. So batteries. The ROI of a battery is way more complicated and like lucrative than you might think. Because an example of this is the Tesla Hornsdale power plant, uh, power reserve that they built in Australia.

And I can’t remember how much money it cost, but it was like millions of dollars to install. And in the first year it paid for itself. And all that system was doing was this energy management trickery, you know, like by, you know, Buying low selling high. That’s all it was doing. And it saved millions of dollars in the first year.

So it’s like printing money at this point for what it’s doing. So the ROA of batteries is for especially utility scale is way better than you may think.

I’m glad I asked my follow up question. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Yeah. This comp, this comment from Steven Rickstu who jumps in on the new home build.

And as we’re recording this. The East Coast in the United States is gearing up for our first big winter storm, not just of 2024. Of course, we’re in the first week of 2024, so that’s easy to, to meet, uh, but effectively of the, the season in general, we haven’t really had anything major, but something is brewing.

And so it’s possible that Matt might end up with some snow today. So Steven’s question is. More battery powered snow removal techniques, please. Power brooms, power shovels, snow throwers, for instance. I used my leaf blower for the last dusting, maybe with some drone shots. So that’s something for you to keep in mind for upcoming videos.

Do you have in your garage waiting for a snowfall? Do you have anything interesting that you haven’t used yet?

Uh, not yet, but there will be like right now I have a two stage ego, a battery powered snowblower that I freaking love that thing. And I have it set up in my garage right by the garage door.

Batteries are all charged. I’m ready for the snowfall. That’s about to hit. Uh, but I’m actually talking to a company to get an exam, a test version of they have a robot snowblower. I’m talking to them about getting to test, which think about it like a Roomba inside your house that vacuums, except it does your driveway.

It’s like, I’m really eager to try this out, but of course it requires one, having it and two, getting enough snowfall to make use of it. So I don’t know when that video will come, but I’m working on testing out a device and doing stuff like that. And the snow, the little like snow brooms, the little electric ones, I’m planning on getting one of those.

That would make it really quick and easy to kind of do the front walk or like the back deck. Um, so yeah, there’s definitely stuff like this. I want to. Do more

about, you know, when the robot revolution comes, Matt’s going to be the first victim.

Yes. It’s going to

wake up with three Roombas on his chest and they’re going to be like, we’ve got a bone to pick with you.

Another question on what can you do when you are remodeling a home from Daryl Thomas. Who wrote, I have enjoyed your trials and tribulations in your build. For most people, we are not building from scratch and we’ll be retrofitting what we do. What is the best bang for your buck? Insulation, solar, water heating, solar power, battery storage, smart power management, or something else.

Some subsidies make expensive cheap. But might distort benefits over time. Any insights would be gratefully received. I think that you’ve covered a lot of the terrain of this question, but I do want to talk. You’ve, you’ve mentioned again, again, twice before airtightness and insulation. Daryl brings up things like a water heater, uh, maybe an HVAC system.

Like what would your post? Air tightness and insulation. What would the next thing you want to check off your list if there were no regulations prohibiting it or enforcing certain standards and you were just like, okay, I know that this is going to really improve the long term return on the investment of my home. Um,

it’s two things I’ll wrap into one because it depends on your situation, which one is closer to needing to be replaced, you need to replace it.

And that would be a water heater and an HVAC system. And my answer is heat pump, all the things. So get a heat pump, water heater, and get a heat pump, whether it’s air source, ground source. I don’t care. Heat pump, air conditioning system, heating system. Those are the most efficient ways to create hot water and to create hot air or heating in your home.

Um, and there’s things and heat pumps are available for like in floor heating systems, radiators. It doesn’t matter that it’s whether you’re forced air or not. It’s like there are heat pumps for all of it. Um, and you can find what’s appropriate for you, but that is absolutely the next thing I’d be looking at because it will save you.

Money in the long run and then oftentimes right now there are incentives on some of those like here, Massachusetts There’s incentives for heat pump water heaters that knock. I think it’s like a almost a third of the cost off of the cost of a heat pump water heater

And then for air source, heat pump systems, there’s rebates. And then for ground source systems, like I got, there’s not only state incentives, there’s also federal incentives for that kind of stuff you can tap into. And I don’t think it distorts the value you get out of it long term at all. Um, it just makes it more affordable for you as the homeowner.

And then you get these really much lower costs of running just as long as you live in the house with those devices. So it’s, it’s, um. That’s where I would be focusing next.

Final question here from Brandon Brooks who wrote, What made you choose the brand WaterFurnace Geothermal over other


WaterFurnace has been around, it’s one of the longest, oldest, uh, geothermal systems out there. They’ve been doing Geothermal systems forever. Um, in the Northeast, there’s a company called Dandelion Energy that does geothermal systems and they’re trying to revolutionize it to make it cheaper and cheaper and cheaper to do.

Um, they’re, they’re really popular in New York. They do stuff here in Massachusetts as well, but, uh, I looked and considered them, uh, but for me, it was kind of like at one point, Water Furnace was actually supplying the equipment to Dandelion at one point. Now I think Dandelion has their own that they created.

Uh, but when I was kind of pricing it out, the prices weren’t radically different. And I liked Water Furnace’s reputation and how long they’ve been around. And I had made contact with them. I was able to talk to them and talk to people over there, um, in person. Um, that’s mainly the main reason why I went with them.

But. When you look at all of the geothermal systems that are out there, they’re all pretty much equal. If you get a good installer, it really doesn’t matter which one you get. You could get Carrier, you could get Water Furnace, Dandelion. As long as it’s installed by a good installer, it’s going to work great.

Um, so they’re all about on par as far as that’s concerned. That’s

all really useful information and I hope it It is useful for our listeners and viewers who are maybe on a path themselves, like our friend in Seattle who is looking to shore up a older home or for people who might be considering building a new home.

Thank you so much, everybody, for your questions and your comments. They, as I say this every week, but no truer than it is this week, uh, your comments and questions really drive the content of the show. And they also help feed information into the mothership, which is of course, Undecided with Matt Ferrell.

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