Saturday, November 21, 2009

Druid Zoning

Denver's new zoning code is on track for approval in February, after about five years of hard work. In the last few days, many folks have rallied in support of "passive solar access". It's a big enough groundswell that it has gotten everyone's (except the Mayor's) attention for the moment.

At first blush, it sounds like a great idea, but only one person has attempted to quantify what it really would require in terms of zoning.

Bernadette Kelly of MOA describes "block sensitive height limits" as a solution. Similar to how the context sensitive front setback is calculated, it would regulate building heights based on the current status of what's on the ground. She cites an English "right to light" law that derives from the Druid civilization. To paraphrase: "if a structure has had access to the sun for at least 20 years, it is illegal to ever block the sun from that structure".

It does solve the problem, would satisfy most solar advocates, but it is a bit impractical to implement, and would greatly diminish your neighbor's current property rights. (Full disclosure: the author is a solar advocate, but hopes to profit from the ability to increase density in transit neighborhoods)

It's doubtful that this proposal will see the light of day in this version of the zoning code, but it's not without merit. Some neighborhoods of one story homes and large side setbacks may want to STAY neighborhoods of one story homes and large side setbacks, and there are no tools in Zoning Code draft 3 to help preserve that context. Two story homes have always been allowed everywhere in Denver, and CPD has thus far refused to change that.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Rubber is Starting to Meet the Road for Smart Grid City

The Smart Grid pilot project in Boulder is now well enough along for the peak period re-pricing to be released.

This article missed answering an obvious question:

If you own a PV system that contributes to the grid during peak periods, will Xcel credit you at the higher peak retail rate?

My guess is yes. It's only fair. But this issue should be openly addressed soon because it will make your PV system pay off much quicker

Friday, November 6, 2009

LED Lighting Update

Yes, CFL's suck.

So, we've been waiting for bright, affordable LED lighting to become available. Sam's Club has recently introduced 1.5W LED bulbs for $5 each. I believe Xcel energy is subsidizing some of this cost based on a flyer displayed in the aisle. If anyone knows more about that, please post a comment.

Anyway, 1.5W is only producing about 78 lumens, which means you'll need roughly six times the number of bulbs more than "normal". This is a daunting problem that will keep most folks out of the LED replacement business until a market solution or even brighter bulbs are introduced.

In the meantime, we developed a hack using "Medusa" floorlamps, which can be found for as little as $20 and will convert a standard octagon ceiling box into a fixture with five medium base openings. An added bonus is that you can direct the lighting to where you need it.

Let's say you have rentals or are doing fix and flips. You already know that fluorescent lighting and CFL conversions do NOT add value, even though operational cost is lower. The light quality of LED's and even lower operational costs SHOULD add value to your project. Don't be cheap - the $20 marginal cost per fixture is only a couple hundred $ for a house.

Edit: photo posted above

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dual Flush Toilets Now Affordable

If you've been too cheap (like me) to get a Toto or Caroma Dual Flush Toilet, now you have no more excuses. For a long time, these toilets have averaged $400, making them difficult to pay for themselves.

Sam's Club is stocking the Alexis HET (high efficiency toilet) 1.1 gpf liquid, 1.6 gpf solid dual flush toilet for $99.

Since Denver Water is giving a $125 rebate for them, this is a real no-brainer.

Go get one while they still have 'em.