Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Green Workshop Part 2: Energy

When I think of energy, I wonder why new homes don't come standard with solar power. It seems like the right thing to do. After this workshop we decided to divert our kitchen remodel funds to solar power.

- This one is easy - Compact Flourescent Light bulbs. Change as many as possible to CFL's simply put, they take a fifth of the energy traditional incandescnets do, and last ten times longer. Our big question was if we should wait till the other ones burn out... the answer, and this was from the experts, was no. Don't wait one more minute. The earth’s resources are already so depleted that we cannot afford to use electricity in excess especially if there is a way to use a fraction of it. I guess this is also the case with anything that saves water - so we replaced the toilet even though it could last another few years - it was wasting water and that's what mattered most!
- Use task lighting instead of the larger overhead light. Makes sense. Need one for my desk.

- Unplug all unused appliances, even your TV and VCR. Apparently, there is this thing called phantom energy which is the energy that is used when your appliance is idle or in standby mode. So this means everything with a remote. Appliances are waiting attentively for a signal from your remote so they are definitely on - this idle time accounts for 93% of what we are paying for! For answering machines and cordless phones, it's 98%! (Alan Meier of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) When I told my sister about this, she immediately started unplugging things around the house. The best thing to do is to have the VCR and TV on a power strip so that it is easy to turn off when not in use.

Heating and Cooling:
- This was easy. We set our thermostat to 78 degrees when we had the AC on this summer. Seemed like no big deal but apparently it will save us 3-5% of our energy bill with each degree higher. My friend Jon was shocked when he saw that his energy bill dropped to approx $50 this summer from $150 last summer after changing his thermostat one degree from 77 to 78 . Crazy.
- Got rid of our electric space heaters. They gobble up so much energy.
- Installed ceiling fans this past spring after last summer's heat wave. They're perfect all year round.
- We’ve recently installed more tinting of our windows to keep the UV rays out and create more insulation. Window tinting can block up to 50% UV rays.
- We’ve also opted for more blankets and sweaters instead of the heater which I will do gladly after these last heat waves.

Washing Machines and Dishwashers
- Run washer only when it's full. They use the same energy with a full load or half load. Turn off the drying cycle in the dishwasher and let the dishes just air dry.
- I love these dryer tips directly from my sustainable works book. I think I want to print them out and tape the washer dryer.
- line dry when weather permits: I’ve been line drying the easy to dry t shirts all summer. I put the rest of the wet clothes in the dryer and set the time to half of what I would usually set it to.
- clean the lint filter before each load – if lint is allowed to collect, drying time and energy consumption increases.
- dry full laundry loads but make sure not to overload the dryer
- do not over dry – I was amazed at how little time it truly takes to dry clothes.
- dry continuously – energy is spent warming a cold dryer.

As we remodel our home we will be
- only purchasing Energy Star products
- looking to eventually install solar panels
- also looking into a tankless water heater


Anonymous said...

Perhaps new houses do not come equipped with solar power because middle class families could hardly bear the expense. Wouldn't it be nice if we were all so lucky to afford solar power? Do you realize how expensive the cost is when you consider the flat cost of purchase, installation and maintnenance? Wow! Take a step back and think about what you are saying...

emilyn said...

i see your point about installing a solar system separately. Prices have lowered greatly, but it will still probably cost you about $15K to set up a basic package. But, if it were to be part of a developer's plan to subtract garden tubs, double sinks, fireplaces, and most excessively, the amount of square footage for an average family, i would absolutely see it as an opportunity to be a great model for efficiency ultimately saving the homeowner the cost in energy and getting refunds from the electric company. For those purchasing solar energy for an existing home, there are actually quite a number of options now for any bugdet. The website www.solarsantamonica.com even has an option for those renting an apartment.