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Instant Energy Savings

The latest issue of Mother Earth News has an interesting article on ideas to reduce your carbon footprint:

8 Easy Projects for Instant Energy Savings

Some of them are going to be familiar to everyone here, but others may not be. This is what the author achieved:

Here are the details: We cut our total energy use from 93,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year to 38,000 kWh per year. This is saving us $4,500 per year in energy costs, and has reduced our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 17 tons! Our rate of return on the money we invested in this program is more than 50 percent — tax free.

Altogether, we took on 22 different projects, including two solar heating efforts that have already appeared in Mother Earth News. (See Build a Simple Solar Heater, December 2006/January 2007, and Solar Heating Plan for Any Home, December 2007/January 2008.) You can find details about all the projects we’ve done at our home in Montana on my Web site. But those I’ll explain in the following pages are the fast, simple ones. These eight easy home improvement projects cost us about $400 and will save us at least $9,000 over the next 10 year

Here were a couple of the projects I found most interesting:

1. Personal Computer Power Management

Computers and all their related equipment, such as printers and wireless routers, consume a lot of power. Together, our two computers and related equipment used 270 watts whenever they were switched on, but we found there was an easy way to reduce this amount. We put all the computer junk on a power strip, so that at night we could turn off everything with one flip of the power strip switch. We also started using the energy saving settings on our computers. During the day, we have the computers set to hibernate if they are inactive for 15 minutes so that the computer stops consuming power. This saves a total of 1,780 kWh per year, 3,560 pounds of greenhouse gas, and $178 per year! Recently, we also started using a new gadget called the Mini Power Minder that automatically powers down all our peripherals when the computer goes into hibernate. At only $15, it’s a bargain.

Energy savings/year 1,779 kWh

Initial cost $20

DIY labor 1 hour

CO2 reduction 3,557 pounds

$s saved/year $178

Energy source Electricity

1st year return 890 percent

10 year savings $2,834

This next one was something I had never heard. I have had my dryer accidentally vent inside the house, and it steamed everything up. But I guess if you are in a dry climate, and you have an electric dryer, it may make sense:

5. Vent Dryer Inside During Winter

We have started to route the clothes dryer heat vent to the inside of the house in the winter. We live in a very dry climate, so the added moisture is a benefit, not a problem. There are two major advantages of venting inside. First, you recover the heat that was added to dry the clothes (about 2.2 kWh per load). Second, you avoid bringing in cold outside air to make up for the air that the dryer is pushing outside. To vent to the inside, you need to have a dry climate, an electric (not gas) dryer, and a way to catch the lint in the dryer exit stream. The cost of this project was $20 for some tubing and a lint filter.

Caution: Gas dryers should never be vented inside, since toxic combustion products are in the vented air. Electric dryers should only be vented inside if your climate is dry — be alert for any moisture problems.

Energy savings/year 630 kWh

Initial cost $5 to $20

DIY labor 2 hours

CO2 reduction 286 pounds

$s saved/year $63

Energy source Propane

1st year return 315 percent

10 year savings $1,002

The article is a good read, and at the end the author lists his next 8 projects. There is probably a bit of something useful in there for everyone.

February 7, 2008 Posted by | global warming, green building, greenhouse gases, sustainability | 421 Comments

Building Green

At some point, I hope to own a zero energy home. (My wife is not as enthusiastic, so I have some persuading to do). Until then, I will cheerlead for those who are building green. I have previously written about my friend Jerry Unruh’s solar home in Colorado.

Now here’s a very low energy home in Fort Worth. You may have heard of Heather’s Home, which has been featured in numerous media publications and has won lots of awards.

The home’s features are:

  • Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)
  • High Efficiency Heating and Cooling System
  • Solar Hot Water System
  • Energy Star Doors, Windows, Appliances, Lighting
  • Fluorescent and CFL Lighting
  • Non VOC Interior Finishes
  • Green Sustainable Products – Trim, Countertops, Floor Coverings, Finishes, etc.
  • Fiber Cement Siding
  • Passive Solar Design
  • Proper Shading of Windows and Doors
  • Attic Fan for a “Thermo-Siphoning” Effect
  • Metal Roof
  • Organic Landscaping
  • Rainwater Harvesting

I would really like to know more about that heating and cooling system, but I couldn’t find anything on the site. Maybe one of those news articles talks about it. The site says her average heating and cooling bills are expected to be about $15 for this three bedroom, 2,000 square foot house. It can get terribly hot (and humid) in Fort Worth in the summer, so it will be interesting to see how she fares then. I suppose with a couple of solar panels, she may have been able to have a truly zero energy home. That would be an incredible achievement in that climate. I wouldn’t have thought you could do it without being miserable.

You can find a wealth of information on building green, including best practices for various parts of the U.S., on the Department of Energy’s Building America site. Even if you can’t afford to do everything at once, there is a lot of good information on projects that can reduce your energy usage.

January 21, 2008 Posted by | green building, sustainability | 278 Comments