Resourceful Guy Builds Solar House, Solar Power, Solar Car (145)

pm145_550John Weber’s Boise, Idaho house with south-facing windows rarely needs heat and never air conditioning. Meet a man who has built a passive-solar house with solar electric power and solar hot water; plus a solar-powered electric car — and who rides a bike! With photovoltaics tied to the grid, he sells surplus electricity back to the power company. John shows how he converted his “Sun Car” from a junked Festiva to all-electric, with added solar panels on top to extend its range. Ride with us – and hear how quiet it is! Episode 145.

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  1. Always great to hear of people doing things like this.

    It amazes me that more people don’t take advantage of solar passive design when they build a new house. In general, a good solar passive design costs no more than a non-solar passive design.

    Guess it mostly comes down to education.

  2. Stuart M. says:

    I am also truly amazed by John’s many achievements. We’ve all got to get moving on installing solar electricity in our houses. It pays for itself in so many ways, not just money but also lower greenhouse gases. Yes, the upfront costs are expensive, but I notice many people don’t hesitate to plunk down $30K+ for a new car. “Solarizing” your home also increases the value of the house, it’s not like the money is out the window.

    The electric car was wonderful and brought back so many fond memories for me. Back in 1992 I bought a used Ford Festiva much to the merriment of my friends, coworkers and family. It got 40 mpg in suburban driving and was so fun to drive. With the back seat down, big items could fit through the hatchback door that wouldn’t fit into normal trunks. “That car is a death trap,” strangers would tell me. I answered, “If everyone drove a car like this, instead of your SUV, it wouldn’t be less safe, would it? Besides, all that money you are paying for gasoline to feed that monster is going straight to the Middle East to fund terrorism which makes us less safe.” “Get real!” they would laugh.

    I was interested to hear John say he was next going to look into bicycling. It’s true that any place you can reach within 13 to 20 miles with an electric car can probably be reached with a bicycle almost as easily. Bicycling saves money, the environment and you get so many health benefits, too.

  3. Hi Janaia & John,
    John, it’s great to see what you’ve done so far. That’s really showing personal commitment at the highest level. It would be good to see a follow up in a few years to see how it’s all going. It’d be hard to find a better example of a totally integrated post peak setup. As everything looks so brand-spanking new I am wondering how it will be after the sharp edges have been knocked off. There’s nothing quite like a veggie garden for softening the view. With your plan to grow vegetables you will have all bases covered and it would make a great follow up to this interview. Many of those that want to revert to a low energy lifestyle go low tech and eschew technology, which is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You show how science and technology can be used to advantage and have a positive impact at the same time.
    Great stuff.

  4. Clay & Annelie Vancouver says:

    Hello to everyone! I am just about to convert my 1986 Pontiac GT Fiero into a “Charger Junkie” too! I chose the Fiero for it’s rear mounted engine. It helps in maintaining the original weight distribution once the new batteries and electric motor have been installed. I would like to have both worlds (plug into my home grid and a home based solar station to). But living on the “Wet Coast”, I am not sure if there are enough hours of sunshine in a year to validate the cost?

  5. In addition to Janaia’s comments:

    The car was purchased for $100 at a tow lot. To get it into shape, including the paint job, 4 new struts, used 5 speed transmission (the other one only had 3 gears working), EV parts, labor, panels, and all was about $5-7k.

    The house solar PV was $20k 3 years ago before any tax incentives. The current price would be less because the price of panels has dropped a lot in the last 4 months. Also, the federal tax incentive is much greater. The solar for hot water was $5k. The ROI for solar is currently running about 7 percent which is much better than most other investments. I cashed in all retirement accounts to pay for the solar. Looking back, it was a much better investment than not paying for the solar and leaving the money in those accounts.

  6. In the program, John tells us he paid $5-7K for the car, including labor he had to pay for. He works at an automobile repair shop and is single. I’m guessing — we’ll have to ask him — that the panels may have gotten financed along with the home construction.

  7. Thomas Jefferson says:

    so he converts his car to all electric. Used car probably cost him 2 grand. converting at the cheapest cost possible still will run you 7-10K. Install enough panels to run your whole house, that will run you between 10 and 20K depending on his power load.

    So we are looking at a price tag between 19k to 32K.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have the minimum of 19K to put down on such an endevor. If the government coughs up some doable rebates, then maybe.

    What does this guy do for a living? does he have kids and if so how many?

  8. Deb simpson says:



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