Letters to Editor: September

Blowing in the Wind

I have looked into wind turbines both as a high-end custom residential builder, and as a homeowner, and the practicality of it is laughable. These “free electricity” systems, whether they be solar or wind, all suffer from the same two problems: efficiency and greed.

The cost examples you gave in your article (Harvesting wind power, June 2009, pg. 30) closely match the information I have received from several different manufacturers, and they are pathetic. Why you even bothered to print the article after you got those numbers is a little confusing, since you aren’t a magazine that specializes in greening everything.

Think about it: $10,000 to save 20 percent on a home’s electric bill. OK, and just to make your argument better, I’ll give you that your magic bean/windmill will never wear out, break or need any service. Since the average residential electric bill is about $100/month, your 20 percent savings gives you $20 a month. Wow! You’ll only have to wait … 500 months to recover your initial investment.

But I forgot to include those great government tax credits for the purchase (eyes rolling), so the cost was only $7,000 which means you’ll recover your investment in only 350 months! Remember too that this is only the case if you never spend a dime on maintenance or replacement. I’ve been told to expect about 15 years maximum out of a wind turbine before a major maintenance or replacement issue arises.

The greed problem stems from the fact that all of these manufacturers raise their prices to account for the government subsidies, so the profit margin works out to be roughly the same as Coke or Pepsi. A 2,000 percent profit is fine when your final cost is $1 on a bottle of pop, but not when you’re spending $10,000.

Here are a few easier and cheaper ways to save money on your electric bill:

1) Get Gilligan to pedal one of those energy-producing bikes the professor built out of bamboo and coconuts;
2) Give me $10,000 and I’ll come by your place once a month for the next 15 years, smack you in the head with a Wiffle ball bat, and hand you $40;
3) Panhandle at the [train] station once a month. You only need $21 to turn a profit;
4) Buy season tickets for the Cubs, and four times a season sell one of them for double the cost. It’s not like you’d miss anything.

OK, just kidding, but I think you get the point. I realize you were just trying to present some alternatives in your article, but something that has a practical benefit, like passive solar water heating, is far more profitable than windmills or solar electric.

That’s the kind of practicality you should be pushing as a magazine for builders, not pie-in-the-sky save-the-Earth hope for homeowners. It might seem harmless, but every time someone who doesn’t know what I just pointed out reads one of these articles, it takes a lot of my time to explain the truth, and it doesn’t make me any money.

Kurt Stetter
Camelot Home Builders
Vermont, Ill.

NAHB Misrepresented

Regarding John Wagner’s article in the June 2009 issue [pg. 14] about NAHB’s green position, I have to take issue with several points he made. First, NAHB in no way welcomes regulation. They have taken a position opposing improved energy efficiency in the energy bill working its way through Congress.

Second, only 241 buildings have been certified under the National Green Building Standard, not more than 4,000 as stated in the article. There are more than 4,000 homes that have been scored online, but of those less than 400 have been scheduled for rough inspections. Unfortunately, this article misrepresents the position and efforts of NAHB. While there are many members of NAHB who are dedicated to high-performance homes, the management continues to take an obstructionist position against improvement in the industry. This reeks of the years the auto industry fought improved mileage standards, and look where that got them!

Carl Seville
Seville Consulting
Decatur, Ga.

Other Side of the Story

First, I don’t miss your point [Precious customers, June 2009, pg. 4]. Clients (a term we prefer to customers) deserve the red carpet treatment, always. But humor me with a response in support of the lowly store clerk. You arrived five minutes before closing time:

  • Security is always an issue at closing time. Would-be robbers tend to sneak in at closing, the doors get locked and no one is the wiser. You are correct, management is serious about closing and opening times.
  • If invited to a dinner party from 4-7 p.m. and you arrive at 6:55, would you still expect a full spread?
  • Was your watch 5 minutes slow?
  • People who arrive 5 minutes before closing tend to be lookie-loos and have no intention of making a purchase. You sounded to me like a likely lookie-loo who might have thought nothing of staying until 6:30 or longer if it suited you.

Maybe that’s a stretch, but you’d be shocked how many sightseers visit stores.

But your point isn’t missed. Knowing that the competition closes at the same time, we’d always staff to stay open an extra 30 minutes. The red-carpet treatment is expected and deserved of all our clients (old and new).

Tom D. Barna
Director, Marketing & Sales
Mankato, Minn.

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Residential Design & Build
Rob Heselbarth
3030 Salt Creek Ln., Suite 200
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
Fax: 847.454.2759