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Energy Reduction Suggestions

Posted by middlemike Ohio (My Page) on
Thu, May 22, 08 at 8:58


New to the forums but a long time lurker, what a wonderful resource all of you have been!

Right now my family and I are on a footprint reduction course and Im looking for cost effective ways to reduce our energy consumption and waste generation. So far weve:

Insulated the ductwork in the basement (it was open and bare)

Installed CFs in pretty much every socket except two immediate use/short duration lights

Set the thermostat to 80 during the summer weekdays when were not home and 75 when we are home in the summer, with corresponding reductions in winter for heating.

Isolated phantom loads and put many of them on power strips with a switch on the wall to turn them off when were not home. Going to hook some of the more forgetful strips to an X10 controller as my kids are not quite at the "remember anything" stage of life yet.

Use a late model iMac instead of a PC whenever possible (which is most of the time), as it consumes only 25W of power as opposed to the 450W demon PC consumption.

Installed ES ceiling fans in all of the upstairs bedrooms, useful for both summer and winter heating/cooling cost reduction.

Installed weather stripping on ALL of our windows. Added insulation behind every light switch and plug in the house which drastically cut down on the draft wed feel in winter or when running the AC.

Reuse our plastic bags like they were going out of style.

Started a 3x3x3 compost pile (1) in the back yard.

Gotten a push Reel mower (me-powered) and electric weed wacker and dumped the old gas mower and gas trimmer.

Ride the bicycles to close destinations weather permitting. Also have a motorcycle (55 mpg) and a Vino 125 cc scooter (75 to 85 mpg, and it goes 55 mph if on a downhill slope, heh) we try to use instead of cars whenever possible.

Drive cars only when necessary. Combine tasks to conserve fuel by doing as much in a single trip as possible. Drive in a very fuel sensitive way using all of the tips and tricks out there, which means I actually get the mileage on the vehicle that it theoretically gets according to the sticker when you buy it (most people never get that kind of mileage in real life).

Started recycling plastics (its not mandatory in our area).

So far so good. On the agenda for this summer are the following items:

Set up a rain barrel/rain water collection system for the garden next week. If I prove to be a handy plumber type of person with this project then I will expand it to a more grand scheme of a thousand or two thousand gallon collection system based under our deck (homeowners association has a thing against large projects being visible, and yes, I hate them).

Our house faces directly south. Directly. And we have two very large windows in the front of the house. Im buying retractable awnings and installing them along all of the windows in the front for summer time use. The amount of heat generated by these windows is enormous, weve known this for a while but didnt think to get awnings (busy kind of people the last few years) until recently.

Adding more insulation to the attics soon (theyre single layer R-19 right now). Also going to experiment with a radiant barrier. Probably adding some more soffet vents and ensuring we have a natural convection going on adequate to moving hot air out of the attics (we have two attics). If that doesnt work out, adding fan(s) for ventilation purposes, possibly solar vent fans.

Working on a ventilation scheme for the garage so it doesnt heat up so much in the summer, preferably a small solar powered arrangement from a small 10W or smaller panel.

Building a vermicomposting setup. My son is psyched about that one, lol.

Put ourselves on the list for a 2009 Prius, which is rumored (by Toyota) to go up to about 80 mpg when its released next spring.

Probably some more things Im forgetting right now.

My questions are:

1. Am I missing something really obvious here in a "Quick and cheap with big payback" sense? We have money to spend but I want to hit the obvious things before trying to eke out the more minute details in this plan. Consider that every step Im taking is being soft sold to the wife. Shes warming up to these steps when she sees cost savings (the CF/insulation really made her happy from a bill standpoint), so things like "Well, move into a straw house" probably wont fly, lol.

2. The radiant barrier I see hardware stores charging pantloads of money for what I consider rather dismal coverage by commercial radiant barrier insulation. Im wonderingIf we had a home project that consisted of lots of aluminum foil being glued to poster board (and/or cardboard) shiny side out, letting it dry, then stapling it shiny side out in the attic (not on the floor of course), would this work? Seems to me that kraft paper backing on aluminum foil is all that the really expensive stuff is, wouldnt my alternative work as well (and be a whole lot cheaper)?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Energy Reduction Suggestions

You're probably ahead of 90% of Americans.

I would have planted deciduous trees rather than use the awnings- was that not an option?

Any way you can use the solar gain from the windows in the winter?

Do you use a clothesline instead of a dryer? IMHO, the delicious smell of clothes dried on the line is one of the real pleasures of life.

RE: Energy Reduction Suggestions

Hi annebert,

Planting a tree too close to a home results in a lot of problems once the tree matures which is something most to nearly all people don't think about (including landscapers, ugh). There is a tree in the middle of the front lawn, yes, but it is nowhere near large enough yet to act as an effective leaf umbrella. Awnings look really nice and I think we'd be one of the only homes in the neighborhood that had them (no "rules" against them thankfully). The wife is ok with them, we're contacting the company and having them send us swatches to ensure that we pick the right color to match the house.

The windows are in fact used to help heat the house in winter, kind of by default. While they're weather stripped they are still solar heaters of a sort. My son and I are going to make some actual solar heaters for this winter and try them out in the downstairs window since it has a sizable ledge to put them on. Just for fun of course, unless they work well, in which case we'll make some bigger ones for upstairs and downstairs both.

Clothesline sounds good, but it will require checking the HOA "rules", I have a feeling they may have something against them, nobody around here seems to use them at all. Or not, again need to check, it may be that the neighbors just don't use them out of habit.

There was no HOA when we built, they snuck it in a few years later once everybody had bought a house. We're going to inherit 40 acres out in the country in a few years (it's in a will, in a family with no strife) so HOA's may soon be a thing of the past for us.

At that point, solar panels go up on the new home's roof, windmills get installed and I may tap the creek that runs across that property for hydro as well! :)

A guy can dream right?

RE: Energy Reduction Suggestions

I learned radiant barriers (i.e., Eagle Shield "=NASA radiant barrier") need to not touch other materials to work best. IOWs they should not be attached to insulation, boards, etc.
The stuff is very expensive tho. Has anyone had this stuff placed in their attic?

RE: Energy Reduction Suggestions

I'm all for using less energy as long as it doesn't require me to spend more money, or money I wouldn't otherwise spend anyway. I wish people would talk about this kind of thing with a different title, like "using energy in smarter ways" or something. The whole "green" label is a turn-off to some types, and a lot of people just don't accept concepts like global warming as fact. Please don't jump all over me, I'm not saying that's me, just pointing out that in areas, like where I live now, people will make "anti-green" choices just because of the label put on the choice. It's a fundamental attitude issue that needs to be addressed before comprehensive cultural changes can manifest.

Actively finding things to buy to save energy can be self-defeating when you consider the resources and energy used to make the thing you bought and the energy you used to go get it and cart it home. There's also the old stuff or thing that now needs a new home or space in a landfill. Some of these things are worthy, especially in terms of longevity, some not. You have to think it all the way through.

Anyway, about clotheslines and dryers... I have one in my yard and tried using it a few times for towels & blankets. Yes, they were dried for free, but I had to wash them again to remove the bird poo, and one time there were ants crawling on some things. And it's a huge chore to lug that stuff outside. I can't pick up anything heavy and would end up all wet, lots of lost time. And no way am I going to hang my underwear on a rope in my yard. So what I do now is use the dryer until things are mostly dry, then hang everything up inside. If you are lucky, you have a door near your dryer. Hangers usually will hang on the top jamb of most interior doors. I use the dryer about half as much and don't have bird poo on anything.

This winter I never turned on our furnace. We used 3 electric hot oil heaters for the rooms we actually use and let the rest go cold. I ended up spending about the same money but when we used the furnace in previous years and set it around 68, we were frozen all the time. With the heaters, we kept our occupied spaces at about 75 for the same money and were so much more comfortable. So we didn't really save or conserve but the same money and energy allowed us to be comfortable instead of miserable for those 3 months.

Make sure your freezer is packed full of something, freeze water in plastic bottles or jugs if you don't stock that much food, especially in the summer time.

I'm also a big fan of turning everything off & leaving the house whenever possible. I love the CFL bulbs! I started buying only these about 15 years ago and although I've left a few in previous residences, I've only ever had to replace 2 of these.

Not convinced buying a Prius is truly beneficial. First, your old car will still be out there, so you've only added a car to the total out there. Say you drive 400 miles per month and your car which gets 20 mpg is paid for. Then you spend (no idea, just using an arbitrary round figure) $30,000 on a new car that gets 80 mpg. No doubt you are using less gas, but here's the math:
Old car = $80 monthly gas (400 miles, 20 mpg, $4 gallon)
New car = $20 monthly gas (400 miles, 80 mpg, $4 gallon)
By saving $60 per month, you would need to drive your car for 500 months (assuming you paid exactly $30,000 with no interest or taxes) to break even. So a new Prius is not an economically feasible way to use less energy even though it uses a lot less gas. Not all families fit in a Prius. When it is bought in lieu of a different car, this is a great decision. But just running out and buying a new car of any kind purely to save money on gas is a farce which should not be perpetrated.

RE: Energy Reduction Suggestions

Hi all

I must say I was very impressed with all the creative ideas you have come up with in regard to reducing energy consumption, and like primemover wrote, I too would love to know how the original poster is getting on with the carbon reduction plan. I know the majority of this thread focuses on free or cheap ways to reduce energy consumption but there is only so much energy you can reduce free of charge. With all the tried and tested methods of reducing energy consumption, it might now be the right time to invest in an energy reducing technology that guarantees savings and has an acceptable pay back scheme (given that gas and electricity prices are continuing to rise).

There are now some great products on the market that will guarantee energy savings, perhaps the most popular one being PV solar panels, though these can be somewhat expensive if purchased privately. Another cost effective way to tackle electricity consumption and also reduce your carbon emissions is through voltage optimisation. A unique device that lowers the incoming voltage to your property to more accordingly match the electrical start up of your appliances. Is this something you guys have heard of before?

RE: Energy Reduction Suggestions

If you can get over your concerns about roots (and you can find some that this is not a concern), you can espalier a tree to the south facing wall of your house. That way you get the full sun in the winter and shade plus evaporative cooling from the leaves in the summer.

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