Why We Went Geo August 16 2016

Several years ago I inherited some money and started looking for an appropriate investment for it. I wanted to invest in green technology. After considering several green business stocks and mutual funds I felt stymied. I could make money or I could lose it...

The clincher came when my financial advisor, a former stockbroker, told me how there was always a flurry of mutual fund trading into more “socially approved” stocks during the last week of every quarter. This snapshot made them look better for the quarterly reports. Meanwhile, you didn’t know where your funds were invested the other 12 weeks…

I wanted a more tangible asset. I wanted a guaranteed return on my investment. I wanted …

Then it occurred to me: I could support green technology companies by buying their products! This is the best way to support any business. Buying their products provides income and viability to the company and encourages others to buy also. It strengthens their market position. If they have stockholders it encourages others to invest in their business. Unlike stocks, buying the products fills the company’s coffers with earned income—money they don’t have to pay back.

And, let’s be brutally honest here, if I’m using fossil fuels in my home or business I am investing in them—and fracking. Almost all gas and oil wells use fracking chemicals nowadays according to the American Petroleum Institute. So heating without fire became a moral imperative for me.

We needed a new house. So we looked at what there was on the market. It was a buyer’s market, but still felt we would have to redo the new house to make it green.

A “new” house, to me, is better than the old one. It operates differently, is more efficient, more comfortable, designed more for function, greener. It can also involve expanding into uninhabitable spaces within the footprint or even enlarging the footprint itself.

So we embarked on a whole-house renovation. Considering I had done nothing (not even painting!) to the house in 15 years but replace the siding and roof, it was way overdue for a home makeover.

Now, I know most people are not in the position to rebuild their homes. But there are many things they can do to essentially have a “new” house without tearing the old one down. I am not talking about making cosmetic changes. For our house this would have been putting lipstick on a pig.

We wanted to expand our living room into the garage. That meant moving the oil boiler into the barely accessible crawl space. That meant improving access to it. That meant spending money. If we were going to move the boiler, perhaps this was the time to switch from heating oil to gas…

The gas utility would only extend the main a hundred feet for free. Our house was a little farther and that extension would cost us, but not belong to us. We were also planning to add central air conditioning to our home. With both of us working from home this became a necessity as we had to decamp to the beach or an air conditioned space due to the heat buildup in the house.

So we compared the cost of getting gas to the house, buying a new gas furnace (why have both ducts for central air conditioning and baseboard heating when you are rebuilding?) and adding central air conditioning. Estimates ran from $14,000 to $22,000 and we’d still be dependent on a fossil fuel. So we chose to go with a geothermal heat pump. Although the upfront cost was higher, the operational and maintenance costs are way lower.

Now we have a comfortable, clean, green living and working space. Every month we receive a low electric bill—our only heating and cooling bill. The difference between what we used to pay heating with oil and what we pay now is the dividend on our investment. Our total utility bill is over a third less than before the renovation AND we have central air conditioning. In addition, our home now has a higher resale value.

Just think, we could have bought stock in solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra and lost all our money when it went bankrupt in 2011…

I think we made a great choice in investing our money. Since we save about $108 a month, it’s like getting a tax-free dividend check every month regardless of stock market fluctuations! How much do your stocks, bonds and mutual funds pay you?

PS I am now a renewable energy consultant who specializes in geothermal heat pump systems and solar PV, as well as energy efficiency.

Billii Roberti
Green Choices Consulting
Huntington, NY