Or perhaps you invest tens of thousands of dollars into solar panels, figuring you'll get some of that eco-investment back from your government because that's probably the only way you'll ever see that money again in your lifetime, but it feels so good.
No, seriously. A buddy wrote to me the other day to say this:
"Last week, I had a solar study done on my home. The investment of $23,500 will save me $900 a year (yes, a mere $900!). However, the payback is estimated to be less than four years! Here's how they do it.
"First, the State will give me a rebate of $7,000. Then there's a 30% Federal tax credit, which gives me another $5,000 or so. After that, we have this nebulous SREC (renewable energy credits), which will throw off about $2,400 during the first year, and then reduce to three percent per year thereafter. It's pretty much all voodoo economics.
"What does this mean? Not too sure, but watch out for the voodoo associated with carbon credits/trading and the like. It's all about making value without having any underlying assets, or based on any sound financial underpinnings. If Wall Street likes it, watch out for your wallet."
There you have it. It's simple economics, 21st Century- style, and if you look too closely at that, you're liable to become concerned. That's why I like Eco-Bling. It's about feelings, and feelings are playing a part in what's keeping this new-energy business moving forward during these tough economic times. If folks want it and can afford it, I say give it to them. Besides, the irony of some of this is just too delicious to pass up.
This is from one of guys who regularly visits HeatingHelp.com. He posted this on the Wall bulletin board. Bling!
"I work for a company that does a lot of high-end homes with radiant floors and at least a high-efficiency modulating-condensing boiler, or a geothermal heat pump with mod-con back up, or supplementation, as well as the mod-con doing the indirect domestic-hot-water load.
"So we install these cutting-edge heating systems that have control panels so sophisticated that you just open the door and then shut it right away. You don't want to stare too long at all those control relays, fuses, switches, time-delay relays, A419s, and a myriad of control wires inside there because it can make your head spin. Put it this way; we have a Controls Division.
"Anyway, about these geothermal systems. They cost a lot to install. The units we use have very nice, and very heavy stainless-steel cabinets. They use heavy-duty compressors, which are relatively quiet for a heat pump. They look great and they're super efficient, but I cannot for the life of me understand why we install these systems in houses with average insulation.
"No matter what anyone tells you, the most significant investment you can make if you're looking for energy payback is a solid building envelope. It requires little to no maintenance and has an immediate payback. The builders generally put in bare-bones insulation, and most even neglect slab insulation. When we try to tell them about the importance of it, they look at us like deer in the headlights, and then they walk away.
"The significant financial investment to upgrade to a geothermal system over, say, just a mod-con for radiant floors could be much better spent on a more heavily insulated house with less air infiltration and heat losses.
"As a guy who works for a heating contractor, I don't make any money recommending more insulation in place of a more sophisticated heating system, but to me, it just makes more sense. Are these geothermal systems just a feel-good measure? Sometimes I really think they are."
Hmm. Good point, don't you think? Lately, I'm noticing that those who go for the Eco-Bling often have no idea what they're doing when it comes to construction. They just want what's hip, Hollywood, and of course, noticeable to their friends and neighbors. Oh, and they also love those rebates from our government, which brings up another controversy.
In Florida, there's some argument going on right now because last December, the Florida Public Service Commission told Florida Power and Light that it must reduce its energy use in the next 10 years by 3,082 gigawatt-hours, which is more than three times what the utility had proposed. That put the utility in a fix. They now have to move toward this ambitious goal, and they're doing so party by encouraging their customers to invest in solar panels, for which they will give a rebate.
The problem with this, of course, is that only their wealthier customers can afford the initial investment in those solar panels. The poorer customers are going to be subsidizing the Solar-Bling that the rich folks will be getting. This is because the rebates are coming not from FPL's stockholders, but from all of FPL's customers, including the poor ones. All the poor folks get are bigger bills.
That's not fair, and the groups representing those poor folks are making their voices heard. It will be interesting to watch which way this goes.
And then there's this: Last March, CNNMoney.com reported that builders were saying green technology costs more to include than it adds to the resale value of a house (which explains the insulation situation).
They reported, "Appraisals for newly built green homes do not fully reflect the cost of green technology, and the lower appraisal values mean buyers often cannot get the full financing they need from banks.
"That discourages developers from using green technology, in turn diminishing the market for more green products.
"'We can't get lenders to appreciate the value, and if we can't get the values recognized, manufacturers can't justify moving these products forward," said Bill Nolan, a Florida home building consultant.'"
Florida, on the other hand (being God's Waiting Room), may not be the best place to ponder long-term ROI, but I digress.
The Let's Save Energy market is gloriously wacky right now. It has more angles than a protractor factory, but it sure is interesting to watch. As a wholesaler, I say go for those who are looking for the Eco-Bling - the feel-good stuff - because those folks seem to know just what they want (whatever's trendy) and they're the least complicated of all these days. They just want what they want.
So give it to them..
But I should end with beer.
I recently read an article about the sale of Energy Star-rated refrigerators. People are buying these Watt-squeezing fridges to save money on electricity, sure, but also because helping the planet makes them feel good
A survey, however, showed that the Energy Star buyers aren't tossing or recycling their old fridges. Nope, they're putting them out in the garage to chill some extra beers.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.