Maxed Out 

When all roads lead to Hell

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The road to Hell - assuming it still exists - is paved with good intentions. So, apparently, is the road to utopia, assuming your utopia is a greener-than-green, carbon-neutral, zero-waste community.

Unfortunately, the road to reality is often a different sort of path altogether.

In a form-over-substance announcement last week, we were trumpeted with the good news that 36 B.C. communities, including our very own, had signed on to a new building regulation designed to bathe us all in solar-heated water. Assuming the regulation goes forward, all new single-family homes in the 36 communities will have to be "solar hot water ready." What that means is they have to be plumbed to facilitate the installation of solar panels on the roof that heat water whenever the sun shines.

Fortunately, it doesn't mean people have to put the panels and other expensive mechanical infrastructure in their houses. You'd have to be a fool to do that in Tiny Town.

Lest you think I'm, once again, simply ranting off the top of my head, I'm not. For I am such a fool.

There is, on the roof of my Rainbow duplex, a solar hot water panel. There are any number of ways to describe its usefulness but none come as close to the mark as that old standby: like teats on a bull.

It was apparently pitched as a part of a green package for the WHA duplex - disclosure: I wasn't involved with the original purchase - that included, among other things, much more efficient windows. I believe it was strongly hinted the "payback" on the system would be in the neighbourhood of 20 years. The immediate payback, of course, would be basking in the self-righteous glow of being part of the solution, doing the right thing, being ever so more greenish.

After living with the cutting-edge technology now for 15 months, I can safely say the real payback is some number of years beyond infinity. This turkey will not only never pay for itself, we'll likely wear it with the same feeling of pride the Ancient Mariner felt for his albatross.

Let me give you an idea of how my solar hot water system (SHWS) works. A panel on the roof gathers heat gain from our friend, the Sun, and heats liquid flowing through a maze of pipes inside the panel. The hot liquid flows from the roof through a hot water tank in the mechanical room and heats the water inside; the hot water tank looks like, well, every other water heater you've ever seen. The mechanical room is larger than it would be otherwise because it has to accommodate the system's increased infrastructure.

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