Thursday, May 14, 2009

If I were you, would I go for the solar panel option on the i-house?

I dunno. I'm not you! It depends on so many factors. But I'll tell you what I think...

I’m writing this for some of you, who may be ruminating over the value or possible mistake, of buying solar panels for the i-house. This is just my opinion, how I’ve worked things out in my own mind.

Search for other opinions. I didn't pull all my figures out of the blue, but I did fabricate a set of figures for future energy costs in the next thirty years. No one knows what these will be. I tried to take a middle road between two extremes.

Try to find blogs, video and articles from people using the technology. There’s a book, SOLAR POWER YOUR HOME, FOR DUMMIES, that you can find in a library. I had physics course in solar energy in college, but it has been so long, I had to figure what a kWh is, all over again. It is simple when you think of it in terms of solar panels. I'll try to explain it later in this post, if it didn't sink in from watching the videos in my last post.

Purchasing solar panels is not a way to save lots of money. The money spent on solar panels is more likely a break-even situation, unless you use them more than 20 years. Then, some real savings could kick in.

There is another kind of savings though, especially if you are in an area where the power is generated from coal. The burning of coal is polluting. Having solar panels will allow you to burn half as much coal (coal burnt at the local plant), and pollute half as much.

Find your last month’s electricity bill. Where it gives your meter reading for the month, pretend it says 1000 kWh (kilowatt hours) which at .10/kWh would give a bill of about $100 (ignoring the taxes and fees they add on.) So, that is a hundred dollars per month, so $1200 for a year.

This could be an average bill for a family that uses an electric clothes dryer, or electric hot water, or an air conditioner, or an electric space heater during cooler months, or has an electric well pump. (If you are on city or town water, you are not using a well pump.) $100/month electric bills would probably be low, if you live in Phoenix or Florida and use air conditioning, or if you have an all-electric house.

For the average of 1000 kWh/month use, ($100 monthly bill),that translates into burning 800 pounds of coal. Isn’t that incredible? So, at the coal plant they are burning 800 pounds of coal just to power a house for a month.

So, opting for the 2K solar panel, you’d avoid putting the pollutants from 200 pounds of coal burning into the atmosphere for a single month, and 400 pounds, if you opt for two 2K panels. (4k total)

Let’s say your electric bills are only $50/month. With 4K of panels, you would still save burning of 400 lb. of coal (at the power plant) and also save the same amount of money.

Let’s get back to basics.

A 2K panel is a 2000 watt panel. Under fairly sunny conditions, a 2K panel generates an average of 8kWh/day. That is, it generates 1000 watts for 8 hours. One kWh would be 1000 watts for one hour. kWh stand for "kilowatt hour."

You are thinking, how come it generates only 1000 watts, if it is a 2000 watt panel? That is simple. The 1000 watts for 8 hours, is just an average. When the sun is coming up, it may be generating only 200 watts for one hour, and the next hour 300 watts, and during the few hours of the day when the sun is shining brightly on the panel, it could generate near the full 2000 watts for each hour. Cloudy days and rainy days are factored into this average.

Using power during the day is when it is most expensive. That is when your biggest savings can come from using solar panels. The power company charges more for power during the day. You can see this on your bill. There are usually three different rates per kWh, depending on when you are using the power.

And what power you don’t use during the day, is credited to you, back in the grid at the higher daytime rate. I’m speaking about a grid-tie system only, which will be the thing most people get. People off the power grid, of course, opt for an off-grid system with batteries. They are not hooked to the power company at all.

Thanks for the comment below which answers my question about the inverter. Panels convert the sun's energy to DC and need an inverter to convert it to AC. Ready Solar, the panels used in the i-house, if you order them as an option, uses a special built-in inverter with each panel. So the inverter is included in the price.

The Clayton i-house official site blog -- just that portion of their site -- is down for a while. It got bombarded with hundreds of questions on May 7, the day of the AP article. If you didn't get your question answered, they'll probably get to it, or you can call them.

For the sake of simplicity, I am going to use a .10/kWh rate of electricity across the board. This is probably two cents than most of you pay. In places like California, it could be two cents less.

Picture using a 1000 watt microwave oven for one hour. That would cost 10 cents at the rate of .10/kWh.

Here is the scenario I’ve set up. You buy your i-house in January of 2010. You opt for the full 4K of solar panels for $26,800.

Here is the next 30 years of your energy bills, predicated on you using 1000 kWh/month, AND, electricity going up one cent/kWh each year of the next decade. Some might think this is a modest estimate of increase. Others think that electricity, in twenty years could jump to ten times its present rate, to $1/kWh. I am trying to do a reasonable estimate, somewhere in between.

Savings from Solar Panels on Yearly Electric Bills for Three Decades beginning in 2010.

2010 @.10/kWh $600 Saved $600
(without solar, your bill would have been $1200)
2011 @.11/kWh $660 Saved $660
2012 @.12/kWh $720 Saved $720
2013 @.13/kWh $780 Saved $780
2014 @.14/kWh $840 Saved $840
2015 @.15/kWh $900 Etc.
2016 @.16/kWh $960
2017 @.17/kWh $1020
2018 @.18/kWh $1080
2019 @.19/kWh $1140
First decade savings = $8700 (half your bill)
(Without the panels your bill would have been $17,400)

With coal shortages and inflation, energy prices go up in 2020, with a 02.kWh rise every year, instead of just up .01 every year.

2020 @.21/kWh $1260 Saved $1260
2021 @.23/kWh $1380 Etc.
2022 @.25/kWh $1500
2023 @.27/kWh $1620
2024 @.29/kWh $1740
2025 @.31/kWh $1860
2026 @.33/kWh $1980
2027 @.35/kWh $2100
2028 @.37/kWh $2220
2029 @.39/kWh $2340
$18,000 (this decade)
+ $8700 (decade 2010 to 1019) = $26,700 savings
So after 20 years, the $26,800 you paid for 4K of panels is paid for. (A 2K panel would also be paid for after 20 years.)

For the third decade, you get all the electricity from your panels for free.

2030 @.42/kWh $2520
2031 @.45/kWh $2700
2032 @.48/kWh $2880
2033 @.51/kWh $3060
2034 @.54/kWh $3240
2035 @.57/kWh $3420
2036 @.60/kWh $3600
2037 @.63/kWh $3780
2038 @.66/kWh $3960
2039 @.69/kWh $4140

In the third decade you have saved $33,000, free and clear, your solar panels. Of course, $33,000 won’t be worth all it was back in 2010.

But, in the last three decades, you will have avoided burning over 140,000 pounds of coal through the use of your solar panels. Because of solar use, you will have not sent the emissions from the burning of 70 tons of coal into the atmosphere, or created the equivalent in nuclear waste, if you get your power from a nuclear facility.

Also, consider that in ten years, you could very well be driving an electric car, and adding more solar panels, saving substantially over gas prices, AND polluting less.

Do panels have a downside, other than just the initial investment, or a risk that a source of cheap clean power may be discovered in the future, such as nuclear fission-fusion reactors?

They do have a downside. In order to function optimally, they have to be cleaned every once in a while (hose off the dust), and if you are in an area with some snow, the snow has to be swept off them. Plus, instead of having a nice clean roof surface, solar panels are mounted there. They may get leaves or other debris stuck around them, or trap snow and ice.

Something might happen to a panel. A tree might fall on it, or it might get vandalized.

Solar panels degrade, but lose only one quarter of one percent of efficiency each year. Also something I learned from the video. When they heat up too much, they lose 10% efficiency. So, they work better in cool sunny areas, than they do in hot sunny areas. But that shouldn’t be as much of a consideration, compared to how many sunny days you have per year. In New Mexico, it is as sunny as most of California.

Opting for a smaller or more energy efficient house, in itself, is choosing to reduce your impact on the environment.

Here are the two basic reason to buy the solar panels:

1. You would like to use some clean power.
2. You have the money to pay for the solar panels.

If you are paying a mortgage on the i-house, well, opting for the solar panels probably won’t work out, as far as saving money goes. However, they could be seen as a possible wise investment, if you had to sell the house five or ten years down the road. I wouldn’t buy them just for investment purposes though. In ten years, they may come out with a generation of cheaper and more efficient (convert more of the sun’s energy to power) solar panels.

People get a deep satisfaction from using solar panels. The satisfaction is in not polluting, in using clean energy.

I don’t have solar panels. I wish I had money to buy them. I wish I had bought them when I did have money, instead of investing it in stocks that failed. There is so much sun here. It would be great to use it to power things in my little house.

Panels contain an amount of embodied pollution, in their manufacture. In other words, it is polluting to dig for the raw materials used, and use energy to make them in a factory. However, that is made up for very quickly in their use.

A wood stove can economical for heating, especially if you live on wooded property or in a wooded area. However, wood is very polluting. At least wood stoves have become more efficient in recent years, and are not as polluting as they used to be. Wood stoves with a catalytic unit don’t pollute, but the catalytic part has to be changed every few years. It is expensive. It is a good option, in terms of the environment, if you can afford it, and have plentiful wood to burn without having to cut trees down.

Are there other alternative energy alternatives? Sure. There’s wind, if you live in a windy area. And many power companies offer an option to purchase solar power through them. Your money goes toward building their giant windmills or solar facilities. It is a few pennies more per kWh.

Here’s my favorite from a company right here in Santa Fe. It is a hybrid solar/windmill. Click on the link, and watch the video.

Bluenergy Solarwind Turbine

It is not commercially available yet. So, when the sun isn’t out, it works as a windmill, and during the day when the sun is shining it can work as both, or it spins just from the solar cells. No wind or no sun, it would need battery backup or grid. They expect it to retail at around $20,000 I guess.

It might be one of those things that makes someone want to wait for a few years, to see if it might not be THE NEXT BIG THING.


Passive solar, can be important in cutting heating bills. You can save a lot in heating bills during the winter by siting the i-house, so the side with all the windows is facing south. With the big window/door units on each end, it would also allow some latitude in that.

Some people might feel the I-house doesn’t have enough windows. As good as Andersen windows are, in terms of quality and energy efficiency, they are nothing like having wall, especially on the north side of the house. So, I think the i-house people did the windows just about right. Plus, they have a few optional windows you can add, if you want.

I don’t like houses with too many windows. The light can be blinding inside. It is impossible to get away from light reflection on a computer screen or TV, if there are lots of windows on three or more sides of a room. Then again, the sun is very intense where I live. During a day of temperature in the 20's, I can turn off the heat in the middle of the winter, and my house warms up from the sun coming in three windows on the south side. I have no windows on the north side. Zero. Not even little ones, like the i-house.

Lastly, back to solar panels. A factor you may consider is that presently there aren't any government rebates to help pay for such things. In Australia, they had a program for a while, offering large rebates.

You can always add solar panels to your i-house later, since Obama might institute some kind of rebate or tax incentive on their purchase, within the next few years.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Active solar, how it works in the Clayton i-house, or any house

For those of you unfamiliar with solar energy. There are two primary types associated with houses; passive and active. This post is on solar panels, an active system, since they come as an option on the i-house.

Solar energy is in a special category of "renewable energy," since using it, doesn't take away from the source. Think of solar panels as an investment in energy, as well as a way to assume environmental responsibility.

The first two videos are very short, the second two long. The longer ones might be interesting, even if you have no plans to buy the i-house, and just want to learn all about how different home solar systems are set up.

Watch the second two in full screen, or you won’t be able to see what they are posting on an overhead projector. So, after starting the video, click on the box-in-a-box icon, one of the icons in the lower right hand corner. (Press the Esc key on your computer to exit full screen mode when you are done.)

I chose these among several I watched. Too many videos are aimed at hawking a specific product.

I like the first video especially, because you can watch it once or twice, and really understand the simple principle of how a solar panel converts the sun’s photons into electricity.

How Solar Energy Panels Work (Very Short, simple, understandable explanation of very basic way a solar panel works.)

Solar 101 (Short, more basics, includes more about systems)

My own Solar System (One hour, beginning is terrible, but gets better . A Google executive lectures about his own home system.)

Learn about Solar Energy (One hour, similar to above but makes some things clear)

Just a reminder that my old blog posts, including the one before this one which has a nice video, can be accessed at the right, under BLOG ARCHIVE.

Monday, May 11, 2009

More video of the i-house, and how modulars are made

More video of the i-house CLICK HERE, "Understanding Modular Homes." It features the i-house in the beginning.

Start the video by pressing on the center arrow. After it starts, make it full screen by clicking on the double arrow symbol in the lower right hand corner.

This is a 37 minute video, from the Nachi home inspection website, a link sent to me by a kind reader. Thank you!

After the introduction of credits, the great thing for me was seeing the outside of the i-house in natural lighting for the first time. The two tone on the outside of the core house didn't look right in indoor lighting. Outdoors, it looks perfect.

It starts off with big Dave, Marketing Director of Clayton, in a Core 1 (1 bedroom unit), talking about various aspects of the i-house. I learned a few things from this video and liked it so much I would have liked more of a tour.

I wanted the Nachi guy to say "Dave, show me the bathroom." After they leave the kitchen, they focus on the structural and mechanical aspects, since, after all, the interviewer is an inspection guy.

Still, you can see some nice things. The quality of the kitchen, the counter tops, the faucet, the back splash all look good up close.

Dave, who speaks very well, and looks like a Nick Nolte type from central casting, does a good job, but he's so tall, perhaps he dwarfs the impressive height of the i-house living room a little. The interviewer is more Danny DeVito size.

Stop the video at the opening, if you want to look at the pier foundation of the i-house, by pressing the space bar on your keyboard. The home has no skirting on the core unit so you can see how it is set up. Start the video again pressing the space bar again, or the button in the left lower of the video.

I like the plane landing at the airport across the street while they are on the roof deck.

The interviewer asks a good question about snow load, and the butterfly roof. Dave says they are eventually planning on a different roof style for areas with lots of snow. I'm just guessing, but if you are in an area that gets more than 4 feet of snow on the roof (we got nearly three, once here) then this gradually sloped butterfly roof isn't for your area. Thanks to the Nachi guy for asking that question.

Dave opens up a closet to show the point-of-use hot water unit and the first thing I notice, it is a Rinnai. Hmmm, website says they are using Rheem. Well, no matter, both are top brands.

Dave mentions that bamboo is green because it is sustainable and can be recycled. Of course, the unique thing about bamboo, which makes it "sustainable," is that it grows very fast, unlike oak, cherry, etc.

After about 9 minutes, the rest of the video is a factory tour with the Clayton production guy, who describes all the processes. Let me remind the viewer that the homes shown in production aren't all i-houses. The last one is one of Clayton's modular models that is sold under the Norris name.

The i-house has 2" x 6" exterior walls and R-21 insulation. It is a good tour though and describes the extra gluing that manufactured homes go through, which indeed gives them greater structural integrity than stick-built. Instead of just nailing or screwing, I-houses get nailing or screwing AND gluing. Stops things from coming loose in transport.

For a few of you who may be confused when he says OSB. That is oriented strand board. It's an engineered structural board that replaced plywood or fiberboard, in nearly all construction over twenty-five years ago.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Marketing the Clayton i-house

Yesterday, my free blog taught Clayton Homes, the billion dollar industry giant, a lesson.

Promotion-wise, Clayton did the important thing just right though. They introduced their revolutionary i-house, the first affordable green manufactured home by a major manufacturer, at the Berkshire-Hathaway (owned by Warren Buffet) shareholder’s conference last week. A conference that had huge media coverage. There, the i-house caught the attention of Fox News and CNBC, which led to an article by the Associated Press.

The AP article was picked up by dozens -- soon to be hundreds -- of newspapers, including the article topping yesterday’s Yahoo News’ “most emailed” list.

So what did I do, a mere blogger, to teach them a lesson?

Well, when the AP article about the I-house was being viewed by thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands, Clayton’s website for the i-house got overwhelmed and many people couldn’t connect to it. They searched in Google or elsewhere for Clayton i-house and my blog site is at the top of the search list. I’m not sure how long it’ll be there, but who knows.

Let me give you their official i-house website site here, as today you shouldn’t have a problem connecting:

Back to my story. Clayton didn’t make any real mistake. People who had their interest piqued by the AP article -- especially those who consider buying such a home -- are going to be more interested than ever.

Of course, Clayton, could have taken some of the sting out of people not being able to reach their website, by hosting their Virtual i-house Tour on a few different servers, so people could have at least seen what the house was about, in this culture of RIGHT NOW.

After all, I predicted months ago, that the i-house could be the Prius of homes. Because of the name, “i-house,” the media is fixated on comparing it to the ipod. I’m sure that’ll work too, for publicity purposes especially. "I-house" sticks in people's minds better than calling it a Claytongreen or a Claytonius.

But, let’s face it, the i-house is more comparable to Toyota's introducing the Prius, than things done by Apple. People’s reaction to it is similar to what was said about the Prius.

People say things like:

“It’s a waste of money.”
“Wake up! It’s a trailer!”
“I saw the house and I absolutely love it!”
“It will never sell.”
"This looks good and seems to be too good to be true for the price."
"You'd have to be crazy to pay $ for son could make the same thing for $15,000." (Okay, I just made that one up but there are comments in a similar vein.)
“I’ve been waiting for something exactly like this!”

I'm feeling the same as the last comment. And I felt the same about the Prius too. The Prius had millions of people who didn't think it would ever sell. Even the GM guys smirked, maybe a little uneasily though. Other people were open to the idea, read about it, and found that the people who bought them, loved them. It lead to a whole new shift toward hybrid technology.

Can Clayton do the same, with the i-house, making an affordable, well-built green manufactured home catch on with the public? A home manufacturer doesn’t have the advantage of people seeing homes all over the place, as people see cars on the road, but there’s another way… It's my big idea, and if you can suffer through some other rambling, I'll get to it. Or, just skip to the end.

Clayton, like Toyota, has come a long way just by introducing the i-house. Already, there’s a whole new wave of interest, by many people who have never considered buying a manufactured home. That is, people wanting to make a big change in their life. Live in something that is energy efficient. Get some power from the sun. It appeals to frugal people. It appeals to environmentally conscious people. And it appeals to people wanting quality and style, for the money.

Wealthy people, who are most able to afford an efficient, green home with solar panels, have not taken the lead in green home buying, at all. About five years ago, when Toll Bros., the largest builder of McMansions, offered an upgrade to higher wall and roof insulation, less than two percent of buyers opted for it. What do they care about heating bills, right? Other people can't be impressed by insulation, like they can with granite counter tops (they do add value), or a dome on an eighteen foot foyer.

Things are changing gradually, whether it is people being proud that their Prius looks different, so people can see they are environmentally responsible, or Jay Leno talking about his wind turbine. The green revolution is going to take place among more average people, just as it started with the counter culture. With Obama, green is going mainstream, and fast.

Clayton did a smart marketing thing in separating the i-house website from their main Clayton Homes website. As the largest manufacturer of homes in the country, Clayton offers a lot of models, which can be confusing, and for me anyway, their main website is awful. The website for the i-house works better, looks better, and needed to be on its own.

Clayton isn’t alone in being a manufactured homes company that has a bad main website. Nearly all manufactured home companies do. For years, two of my favorite brands, Karsten (now owned by Clayton) and Solitaire (plain, kinda boxy outside, well made, inexpensive), didn’t even feature a single photograph of most of their homes. What did they have instead? Architectural drawings, and for some models, no drawing at all, just a floor plan.

To begin with, the manufactured home industry, and their dealers, were late in coming to the web. To this day, most smaller dealers of manufactured homes do not have websites that list inventory or salesperson contact numbers.

Alvin Toffler wrote a prescient book called FUTURE SHOCK (1971). He theorized that computer technology would create a third wave in changes in society. The first wave was agriculture, and the second wave, industrialization.

Toffler conjectured that the third wave caused by computers would throw society into the future at a speed never experienced before. The advancement of technology, the way people do things, such as learn, communicate, do business, would be turned on its head.

Consider the change that have taken place in the last two decades. Children and young adults who grow up in the computer age often have more facility with computers than their parents. Many jobs rely on ability and understanding of computers.

Along with Toffler, I had a similar sense of the importance of computers when I was 17 and went to college back in 1971. As a music major, I hated punch cards, and late nights spent in the keypunch room trying to type up a program. I struggled through a few courses, and many more later on, to learn what it was about. It wasn’t until I got one of the first home computers, that it became exciting. The web was was the best of all, since I've always loved information and learning, just not school so much, not enough to finish graduate school anyway.

Before the computer wave, parents with the same educational level as their children, were more skilled by virtue of life and work experience. That isn’t always true now, and this is the first time in history something like this has happened.

Computers have changed marketing too, with each advancement in computer speed, memory, and software. Things like the EBAY, Amazon, Craig’s List, YOUTUBE. They are changing society, the way we learn, work, buy, not to mention entertain ourselves.

Invariably, the blinding speed at which things change leaves old school marketing in the dust. Instead of being on top of the curve, or ahead of the curve, large companies lag behind these changes like just-tranquilized elephants.

How many self-made multi-millionaires were there fifty years ago, kids fresh out of college, or in the case of Bill Gates, dropping out of college, to be titans of industry? In the old days, unless you were handed family money, it was rare to make a big success until age forty or fifty.

Companies like Clayton tend to cling to what they are used to. When given the opportunity to display all kinds of detailed information on the web, at first they tried to make their websites like brochures, but on the web. Glossy and enticing.

I have no background in business, no MBA from the Wharton School or years experience running a business. But, I know what I want as a consumer in the way of information from a company when considering purchase of their products. Whether it is a new laptop, or a manufactured home, I know the kind of information I want before I buy, or in the case of a home, travel fifty miles to go see. And I don’t think what I want is that much different from what other people want.

I like a website that is easy to use, and there can never be enough photos of a home via a link. I also want video tours of homes. If it is a home that is new, an exciting concept like the i-house, I would like to see a complete video tour of the house, and a house that is set up in a real natural setting.

Why is that important?

At a dealer, the homes are jammed together on a lot, or right on a highway. It isn’t the best setting to see a home. But, come on, in a video, wouldn’t it be nice to see an i-house, not inside a building?

To be honest, I was seriously considering buying a manufactured home about five years ago, and then my stocks dropped, and I pulled out. Before that, I’ve had a long interest in them though. I’ve been reading about them for years, long before the internet.

So, what is my cutting edge idea for marketing the i-house?

Have one set up on a nice property, with an articulate greenneck like myself in residence, to blog life in the home every day. Maybe some live cam hours of everyday life in the i-house, or hours where people could be taken on personalized interactive video tours using a remote cam.

Of course, I would like to do this. But, the point is, even if I weren’t selected, I would like to see someone else do this.

How many of you out here would like that? How would you like to be able to ask questions, interactively, to a person who is living in the i-house, or read about their daily or weekly i-house related experiences on a blog?

Any people who want to contact me, aside from leaving comments on the blog which are always welcome:


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Another article, and some thoughts about the i-house video by Fox News

Of the handful of i-house stories last week, this one from The Washington Post via Associated Press, is the most noteworthy:

Clayton i-house is giant leap from trailer park
(Click on colored text for link to article.)

(My own photo)

They mention that the i-house weighs 52,000 pounds, the heaviest house Clayton has ever produced. I assume the weight comes from the thicker walls, heavier insulation (R30 in floor and ceiling, R21 in walls), and heftier windows, doors and even heavier gauge roof.

In the article, Kevin Clayton mentions that he thinks the i-house could quickly grow to be ten percent of their sales.

Also mentioned is that the i-house’s V-shaped roof was inspired by a gas station awning! Many great homes were inspired by gas station architecture, or not.

I like the video tour of the i-house from the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting in Omaha (blog post below). The short tour is packed with details, a few I’d like to mention.

For people who may not know, Warren Buffet bought Clayton Homes in 2003 for 1.7 billion dollars.

Read about Buffet here in wiki if you want.

And Clayton Homes wiki here.

Here’s Kevin Clayton in a long (40 minutes) interview, if you would like to hear more from the CEO of Clayton. He comes off as a chipper, down-to-earth person, especially for a CEO, perhaps because he didn’t have to claw his way to the top of the business world.

The 35,000 shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway showed up at the conference to hear Warren Buffet speak and on display were a sampling of products of the companies he owns.

During the tour of the i-house, Liz-the-Fox-Business-News commentator likes the i-house and is aghast at the low price. She says, “By New York standards, this is amazing.”

I’ll explain what she means by that. New York apartments are small and expensive. It is common to find couples earning over $200,000/year living in an 1000 sq. ft. apartment, and unless they had it renovated recently, chances are it wouldn’t look nearly as good as the i-house.

Manhattanites, given their small spaces, put a lot of effort into making the space look stylish, and the i-house interior definitely has the look. That is, simple and beautiful, and unique with the clerestory windows and sloping ceiling. An upscale New Yorker might spend over $100 sq. foot just renovating their co-op apartment.

Considering the i-house is inside a huge building in this video, and had several people standing around in it, along with the shaky Blair Witch camera work, Kevin and Liz look like they are standing in a nice modern apartment, or house.

Near the end, Liz the commentator is enthusiastic about wanting to see the solar panels on the roof, and she seems relieved they are installed. Perhaps the presence of Warren Buffet in the building might activate them. Too bad they couldn’t take people up on the roof deck of the flex room to see them. They were probably afraid of a contingent from the crowd of 35,000 stampeding the roof, causing it to collapse.

I can see the headline:

“Three die and 42 injured… trailer roof collapses at Berkshire Hathaway conference… Fortunately, no BRK-A holders were involved.”

BRK-A stock holders own stock that is $95,000/ share. They are VIPs and get an extra scoop at the Dairy Queen, also owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

In his informative patter with Liz, Kevin mentions something about butterfly roof rainwater catchment being “greywater.” Actually, it isn’t. Greywater is water that is reused, from sink to toilet, or shower to toilet, or sink and shower to tank for watering plants or grass outdoors.

But, I’m being picky. The water catchment roof is great for arid areas like NV, NM, CA, and AZ.
Traffic to my blog site here has taken a leap. It is the way Google works. Search engines prioritize according to number of links on other pages, not number of "hits" as they did in the old days. So, my blog comes up at the top of the hierarchy of pages when searching for Clayton i-house.

I'll remind readers I'm just a guy, very interested in following the development of the i-house. In a few weeks, I'll be seeing one here in nearby Albuquerque, taking lots of photos, including close-ups, and of course giving you my honest critical opinion. Power to the people, right?

The place to take virtual tours, get i-house pricing and ask questions to the sales people is the official Clayton i-house website:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Video tour of Clayton i-house w/Kevin Clayton

Take a VIDEO TOUR of the i-house below from a Fox News interview with Kevin Clayton, at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder's meeting in Omaha.

After clicking on the arrow in the center of the screen to start the video, in the lower right corner of the video click the icon, 2nd from the right, to get a full screen. Then, if you want to see the video in high quality, click on the "HQ" in the lower right.

Also, there's a beautiful 360 degree tour of this larger of the core units on the Clayton i-house website in my post below.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Clayton announces i-house pricing and floor plans

Today, May 2, 2009, is a big day for the i-house. They begin their national roll-out. Clayton has the various floor plans and configurations/pricing for the i-house at their website above.

1. Go to Clayton's website (link above), and sign up for a login, if you don't have one. Then click on the "My i-house" tab to get to the configuration page. If you aren't interested in the details of pricing on various options, there are other ways to explore the house without logging in.

2. After clicking on the "My i-house" tab at the top, you are prompted for a zip code. It checks for availability in your area, and is also used to calculate shipping charges to your area. If you are in the U.S., and it isn't available in your area, you will get a message to call, to see when it will be available. They are doing a gradual roll-out, so it is quite possible that it will be a few months before you can get one, if you live in Maine or upstate NY and elsewhere.

However, if you just want to see the floor plans and prices, just enter a zip code where it is available. Shipping here to Santa Fe is only $500. If you are just curious about the plans and pricing, and don't want to call them yet, and it isn't available in your zipcode, hit the back button, and try using Clayton's zip code, 37803.

3. Select the base unit. It comes in a one bedroom model, or a two bedroom model. The base price for the least expensive one bedroom model (723 sq. ft) -- no flex room -- is $74,900.

The separate flex room costs about $27,000 extra, although more if you buy a porch (deck), depending on the size of the porch.

4. Next, you select the layout options in the upper right corner of your screen. (Press arrow key below the three displayed for more.) There are many to choose from depending on what kind of flex room you want -- if any -- and also how it is oriented, and the size of porch between. For example, there is a two bedroom flex room, so with the one bedroom base unit, you could have a three bedroom house. With the two bedroom base unit, a four bedroom house.

5. Finally, you are prompted to select the optional features.

You can start by looking at the standard features, with the list of options on the right. The standard featured floor is laminate. Bamboo is a $2100 upgrade on the one bedroom base unit. 2kw of solar roof panels is priced at $13,400. The roof deck for the flex room, is $6000 extra.

I suspected that the bamboo flooring was going to be an upgrade, but it surprised me that the tankless water heater is an $890 upgrade. I'm just giving you an idea of some of the pricing, most of which I think is reasonable. For example, I looked at an 800 sq. ft house once where an upgrade to laminate flooring was $1700. And that was a few years ago. The i-house has laminate standard, and the bamboo seems well-priced as an upgrade.

Consider that you could buy the smallest base model, one bedroom, loaded with all the extras including solar panels, for under $100,000, whereas a similar size house from some makers of energy efficient manufactured models, such as Michelle Kaufmann, could cost $230,000.

So, with none of the upgrade extras, you can go from a 723 sq. ft. one bath, one bedroom base model, from about $75,000, to a 1643 sq. ft. 2 bath, 4 bedroom configuration, with every available option, including two sets of solar panels, for about $185,000.

Lastly, there is no specific option in the configuration, if you are considering a flex room only, as an addition to your existing home, or a guest house. However, you can call Clayton, as they have said it is possible. Also, they've said it would cost more than the price of the flex room when bought with a base unit.

Don't quote me on any of these prices and options. Just check them out for yourself and discuss it with the Clayton sales people.

Keep in mind, my blog is the place you can make ANY comment you wish. I'm especially interested in what people like and don't like about the i-house, their REAL feelings and honest opinions. I'm interested in all aspects of the i-house: social, aesthetic, function, green, architectural, and commercial.

Although I expect to tour and photograph it soon, when a model of the i-house comes to Albuquerque later this month, I still invite people to leave detailed comments here, of their impressions on touring it. You can leave comments here in total anonymity, without having to sign up or anything.

Thank you,