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bragging: lower energy footprint

 
Cj Sloane
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Abe Connally wrote:My municipality spends exactly 0 energy for my infrastructure, and I think that out to count for something!


That seems unlikely, though I guess that depends on what you mean by infrastructure. Will they put out a fire at your house? What's your internet connection? Kids in school?

My town will come put out a fire. They don't plow my road but I do use the other roads that they do plow. They aren't responsible for broadband. They are responsible for kids schooling.
 
Cj Sloane
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Abe Connally wrote:We use about 1.5 kWh a day, all solar. I think that's like $0.15 worth of electricity a day, or about $4.50 a month. I have less than $4,000 in my entire system.
12 VDC fridge, 12VDC deep freeze, 12 VDC lights

Solar water heating - 100% of hot water

Passive Solar and buried home design - 70% of space heating
Wood burning stove and radiant floor heater - 30% of space heating

This is similar to my setup but no solar hot water. How do you do the radiant floor heating? Thermosyphon or pump?
We have a sunfrost 12v but the fridge doesn't get cooler than 50 (the freezer works).
 
Chad Ellis
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So, is AC out of the question for someone who wants to be at any eco level? It was 120 F here in Oklahoma last summer. We don't hit level one due to summer cooling costs. Winter can be hard here too, but not this year. Is there no regional allowance in the eco scale or are those that live in Alaska held to the exact same consumption scale as those in south Texas?
 
tel jetson
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Chad Ellis wrote:So, is AC out of the question for someone who wants to be at any eco level? It was 120 F here in Oklahoma last summer. We don't hit level one due to summer cooling costs. Winter can be hard here too, but not this year. Is there no regional allowance in the eco scale or are those that live in Alaska held to the exact same consumption scale as those in south Texas?


it's my understanding that, using a heat pump, cooling uses less energy than heating for the same temperature differential. that said, there are many passive ways to cool buildings, even where temperatures seem extreme. the best solutions will depend on local climate and available materials.

looking to Persia, windcatchers, qanats, and other appropriate architectural strategies have been in use for centuries to very effectively moderate large daily temperature swings. in the humid tropics, dwellings are often sited and constructed to make use of prevailing breezes for cooling. newer options include earth tunnels. wise use of green walls and roofs for dwellings and outdoor living spaces can make a surprisingly large difference. there are a lot more options than I can cover here, and likely many more that I've never heard of. heat pumps certainly aren't the only option for cooling.
 
Cj Sloane
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tel jetson wrote:solutions will depend on local climate and available materials.

looking to Persia, windcatchers, qanats, and other appropriate architectural strategies have been in use for centuries to very effectively moderate large daily temperature swings. in the humid tropics, dwellings are often sited and constructed to make use of prevailing breezes for cooling. newer options include earth tunnels. wise use of green walls and roofs for dwellings and outdoor living spaces can make a surprisingly large difference. there are a lot more options than I can cover here, and likely many more that I've never heard of. heat pumps certainly aren't the only option for cooling.


+1

I was thinking along the lines of shotgun shacks (NOLA) or the adobe homes of the southwest, but I'm not clear on the specific architectural style suited to OK.
 
Cj Sloane
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Chad Ellis wrote:So, is AC out of the question for someone who wants to be at any eco level? It was 120 F here in Oklahoma last summer. We don't hit level one due to summer cooling costs. Winter can be hard here too, but not this year. Is there no regional allowance in the eco scale or are those that live in Alaska held to the exact same consumption scale as those in south Texas?


Yeah, AC is out but so is electric heat for Alaska. The thing is it's easier to heat then to cool but I'm sure there are many things you could do to mitigate the heat. Many of Mollison's books go into the specifics.
 
Abe Connally
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Cj Verde wrote:
Abe Connally wrote:My municipality spends exactly 0 energy for my infrastructure, and I think that out to count for something!


That seems unlikely, though I guess that depends on what you mean by infrastructure. Will they put out a fire at your house? What's your internet connection? Kids in school?

My town will come put out a fire. They don't plow my road but I do use the other roads that they do plow. They aren't responsible for broadband. They are responsible for kids schooling.


No fire department, internet is via satellite, and kids are home-schooled.
 
Abe Connally
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Cj Verde wrote:
This is similar to my setup but no solar hot water. How do you do the radiant floor heating? Thermosyphon or pump?
We have a sunfrost 12v but the fridge doesn't get cooler than 50 (the freezer works).


We have a solar hot water tank of 400 gallons, and use that for the floor heating. We have a 12V, 8watt pump that we run for that.

We have Sundanzer fridges and freezers. They work awesome.
 
Abe Connally
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Chad Ellis wrote:So, is AC out of the question for someone who wants to be at any eco level? It was 120 F here in Oklahoma last summer. We don't hit level one due to summer cooling costs. Winter can be hard here too, but not this year. Is there no regional allowance in the eco scale or are those that live in Alaska held to the exact same consumption scale as those in south Texas?

We live in a hot climate (Northern Mexico), and we don't require AC at all. When we live in Terlingua, TX, it regularly got above 120F in the shade. We didn't use AC there, either.

Good home design can reduce the need for cooling a house, but great home design can do away with that requirement altogether.
 
Chad Ellis
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So, its more eco to move and build an eco house than use the AC?

It seems to me that moving and building would have a much higher impact than continuing to live in my current house and using AC.
 
Cj Sloane
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Chad Ellis wrote:So, its more eco to move and build an eco house than use the AC?

It seems to me that moving and building would have a much higher impact than continuing to live in my current house and using AC.

It seems unlikely that those are your only 2 choices.

However if you buy into energy descent, and throw in climate change, then you may not want to live in an area that must be air conditioned.
 
Ernie Wisner
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you could always retrofit your current house. A deep porch, an earthen plaster on the outside or a bale wrap and a deep porch. cooling and heating are easy to deal with. how cool do you need it to be. the adobi in your area dont need AC and most dont need much heating. big thermal mass and those shade porches windows or doors on each side of the house and the trap in the roof open the trap and bring the cool air from the shade porch in. for some folks the idea of retrofitting seems way out there but it has advantages. simply stripping the plastic house covering off and doing a good thick plaster over the house would show a ton of improvement. the trick is to make the place you live now efficient and thats not real hard to do with all the modern designs. heck simply rolling out and gluing aluminum foil to the underside of the roof will cut your cooling bill down (shiny side out) do the same to the ceiling under or on top of the insulation and cut it more. yes the aluminum is frozen electricity but lets face it All modern materials have a high energy cost.

if you do need to move and build a house build small and put wide porches on the house for those in the north this works as well just look at the lowest sun and make sure that it gets to your house in winter. you want the opposite in summer and that works out to an 8 foot stud wall with a porch of 8 feet. also keeping the rain off the walls will make your house last longer. a bit of glass makes your porch into an extra room in winter that gets direct sun and screens in summer keeps the bugs out pretty well. I do ramble but you get the picture.
 
Chad Ellis
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Thanks for the reply Eric! I enjoyed the podcast you did with Paul! I plan on doing a radiant barrier this year under the roof deck this spring. In the 10+ year plan we will get out of the city. We are making progress on the energy standpoint but we are not quite eco level 1 on Paul's scale.
 
Fred Morgan
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paul wheaton wrote:And while the off grid stuff is usually better, it isn't perfect either. I think the off grid stuff needs a 30 year average cost thing-a-ma-jig to see where you come in.


I think the return on hydro could be much less. Of course, it depends on lots of factors.

But, it is hard to beat the grid, if you happen to be close to it since the utilities have done the 30 year average (or more) thing for you. Just a few miles of power line can get into the thousands.
 
Sunny Soleil
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Wow great material... so much food for thought... appreciate all that you do here Paul... Our bill is $70 a month... just for light, water pump- mainly use water for washing dishes and shower once a week!!! computer laptop[on most of the day !!]hot water and ancient fridge freezer.. plus washing machine 1 x every two weeks..we have line drying and heat with woodstove and cook on it in winter too! Working hard every day to reduce it..Tough as renters to do much else..and we are living on the breadline...literally..so no money for buying tankless heaters or even installing solar... or putting in rocket stove to heat it!!!
 
paul wheaton
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I refined this stuff into one article. Or, at least I spent about a dozen hours polishing it down to something a little smaller and, hopefully, reasonable:

http://www.makeitmissoula.com/2012/01/the-wheaton-eco-test/


 
Lacia Lynne Bailey
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paul wheaton wrote:We have a lot of people are DAMN SURE that they are eco, green and have a light footprint, when, in reality, they have no clue what that even means.

It really boils down to kwh. ....
For those that do not use electric heat:

0) if you use more electricity than the national average (~$500 per year, 5000kwh) , you cannot call yourself eco. Not even eco level 1.

1) if you use less electricity than the national average, you are at least eco level 1.

...4) if you use less than 5% of the average, you are at least eco level 4.

...The name of the game is environmental impact, and all of these things have a lot of embodied energy (the energy used to make and ship)....

A) if you use more than the average for your fuel type, you cannot call yourself eco. not even eco level 1.

B) ... F) if you use thermal intertia, like in a wofati or PAHS, then you are at least eco level 6.

It is important to note that how you save on heat is of far greater value than your non-heat electricity savings.
...
My point at this moment is that people are SO SURE that they are uber eco, and they just have no scale to really be measured by. So i want to start building this scale. And I think the primary way to do this is to start talking about the idea of there being a scale and what are the roots of this scale (the power bill).



Ok, I agree that the idea of a scale is a valuable idea. Lots of studies show just puttting a real time meter visible in the house gets folks to focus on their energy use and winds up reducing it.

And I realize this is only a start and is evolving.

That said, I have to weigh in here and strongly disagree with a bit of the oversimplification. I do trust that it will get considered at some point.

I remember a social justice discussion in college, where the professor was saying that greater utility costs for higher usage was unjust and regressive. His argument was that a high earning professional who lives alone, leaves for work early in the morning, goes out after work to the symphony, and comes home basically to sleep and shower, will use a LOT less utilities, than the unemployed couple who have some other relatives living with them, maybe their disabled mother who has some electric device to breathe and her visiting nurse and lots more laundry etc.

I'm not sure I agree with this professor either, but he raises some relevant issues for the eco-scale here.

More people living under one roof, in general, will use less resources than in separate houses, from the embodied energy of multiple buildings to the economies of scale washing and cooking for multiple people, and saving the carbon of family travelling inbetween separate houses etc. In the case of someone being cared for at home, their utility bills might be higher, but even with the nurse commuting, if, as Paul posits, "The name of the game is environmental impact, and all of these things have a lot of embodied energy" then I would argue that household is VERY good on ecoscale.

Even with higher than average consumable utility costs for that household, even per person is higher than the single professional who leaves for the day to DRIVE, be in big energy hog and using embodied energy roads/offices etc, I would still argue that that household with higher than average utils costs is MORE green in TOTAL "environmental impact"

Similar case for those who work out of home offices, I think there's a bump that might put them higher on the utility average scale, but total environmental impact is FAR more eco than commuting and the embodied and consumable energies used in an out of home work place.

I haven't done the numbers, but I might be able to say a similar point to those who have big freezer capacity for homegrown food vs driving to the grocery often, with all its lifecycle energy and carbon footprint. Probably there's a lot of examples....

My point is that "average amount per household" looking only at the home utility bills, is oversimplified.

I agree its important to start somewhere with thinking about where we fit on the "problem to solution" continuum... and this is a place to start, but needs to evolve to include the total consumption per person in their life, not just at home.

I've been ranting for awhile about about the Eco-Frauds/Imposters, who talk all the Green Lingo and don't actually DO much... always saying they are "going to... when they get xyz (land, job, spouse, straw house, etc)"

Maybe I'll get brave and dig up & post what I wrote 3+ years ago about a personal scale, setting and improving your own "personal best" at what I called a "Sustaimetric" number.

Its a little like tv show "Biggest Loser" where those that are the worst off get a lot more progress and credit initially, than those who have less to lose. But just like compound interest, those folks who do the biggest reforms early, reap the biggest compounded positive environmental impacts over the next decades after their changes start. One of the things I like about my Sustaimetric is that it measures change, hopefully improvement, against your personal best, given individual situations.

This discussion has motivated me to go do a perennial "tomorrow" task and move my Kill-A-Watt meter onto an OLD freezer that I think is responsible for my electric inexplicably increasing some. The question will likely be, "when does that increase to due inefficient/failing old freezer outweigh the "total environmental impact" including shopping trips and embodied energy of new and disposal?"

 
paul wheaton
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I think this test is for your dopey professor.

Jocelyn was telling me about how her utility company offers a way to compare yourself to others in similar situations. You fill out a form specifying how many square feet your house is and how many people live there. I really think the key is that there are people that live alone in 10,000 square foot homes and a thousand dollar power bill is no big deal. And there are situations of 2 couples living humbly in a 1,000 square foot home where their highest power bill is $50 per month.

And my point is that the person in the big house ridicules the two couples in the name of the environment.

The new article covers all of the possible complexities of people whoe drive/fly and those who don't. I think it would be great to have a far more comprehensive test built. But I do think this is a quick and simple place to start.

 
Victor Johanson
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Interesting, but is evaluating "eco-ness" by $ spent on energy meaningful? Electricity is about .22/kwh here, heating oil nearly $4/gal (and both are way more off the road system), making pretty much everyone in Alaska a "poser." Your test is simple, but maybe too simple to be truthful. Surely there is a more objective metric.
 
paul wheaton
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The problem is the eco poser.

So if I ask the eco poser if they use less kwh than the national average, they are utterly clueless. But as dollars, they probably know the answer.

Yes, the test is less than perfect - the new article makes an emphatic point about that. But it's a great way to get some traction on the topic.

 
Lacia Lynne Bailey
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paul wheaton wrote:The problem is the eco poser. ...get some traction on the topic.


I like that "get traction on the topic"
 
Chad Ellis
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Ok, my wife and two kids and I live in a traditional frame home. Last year we spent $587.19 on natural gas and $1,338.60 on electricity. My total energy bill was lower than the $1,000 per adult per year benchmark but my electric bill was way over the limit for non-electric heat due to cooling costs. Summer thermostat setting is 80 winter is 60 day 55 night. How does this all fit in?
 
Chad Ellis
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That was 11804 KWH of electricity and 38.93 DEKATHERMS of natural gas.
 
paul wheaton
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Chad, it is up to you to decide.

We have a huge thread about saving energy in the summer that might be worth a peek. It talks a lot about how to stay cool using permaculture techniques.

Even if you feel like you made it to eco level 1, I think it is good to talk about what eco levels 2 and 3 look like.
 
Cj Sloane
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paul wheaton wrote:And my point is that the person in the big house ridicules the two couples in the name of the environment.



I haven't heard that. But I have seen many 5,000+ sq ft houses that have solar panels on trackers, which has become a status symbol in Burlington, apparently. I do have mixed feelings about that. The only way it can possibly "help" is to lower the price of solar equipment. Maybe some feed into the grid is better than nothing.
 
Ernie Wisner
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Sunny Soleil wrote:Wow great material... so much food for thought... appreciate all that you do here Paul... Our bill is $70 a month... just for light, water pump- mainly use water for washing dishes and shower once a week!!! computer laptop[on most of the day !!]hot water and ancient fridge freezer.. plus washing machine 1 x every two weeks..we have line drying and heat with woodstove and cook on it in winter too! Working hard every day to reduce it..Tough as renters to do much else..and we are living on the breadline...literally..so no money for buying tankless heaters or even installing solar... or putting in rocket stove to heat it!!!


if you have the ability to do a rocket stove yourself and can do some scrounging I think we could get you into a stove for $50 or less. send me an email and we can discuss it.
 
paul wheaton
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I think a 5000 square foot house with solar panels on the roof is an excellent example of being eco - when 20 adults live in the house.
 
paul wheaton
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Ernie Wisner
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thats a diminishing pie chart, you must be doing that little sliver here and little sliver there form of pie charting. thats why when you put that pie chart together it dont make a whole pie.

pie R round cake R square and that pie is neither.
 
paul wheaton
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Lacia Lynne Bailey
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Is that a rum raisin pie with extra rum?
I don't even like rum... but this discussion's getting a little rummy...
 
paul wheaton
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Abe Connally
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I wonder how much energy this forum uses?

And that brings up another point, should your profession count towards your energy use? Some professions are energy hogs, others not so much.

I think when you start down this road of trying to rate folks on an eco-scale, it gets extremely complicated.

And I notice water usage isn't mentioned much in this discussion, but should be a bigger issue than energy (we have less fresh water than energy resources). Depending on your water source and use, it can contribute a large portion to someone's eco footprint.

Save your house 20,000 gallons a year by making a composting toilet....
 
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Abe Connally wrote:
And that brings up another point, should your profession count towards your energy use? Some professions are energy hogs, others not so much.


I think one should count energy used for work. I work at home, so my electricity bill is for both home and work. Last month we used 675 kwh for combined home and business, an unusually large amount for us because it was cold and we needed to run electric heaters in the shop. (Home is heated with wood) Total bill $81.91. But if I commuted to a job and didn't count all the energy used at work, my hands would be clean!
 
Abe Connally
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yeah, that's a good point. Most off-gridders I know work from home, which would help their score considerably (if we included work energy).
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul and Jocelyn talk about some friends of theirs that recently had an energy audit on their house. They talk about CFL lighting, and the importance of making lifestyle changes in sustainability. podcast
 
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Potomac Edison replaced my meter because my usage was so low.   My electric bill is under $300 a year in an area where $100 a month is average.   Proudest moment of my life.  I am hoping to get that even lower by burying a fridge outside and using it as a root cellar.   I then plan to use my present refrigerator as an ice box - and only have a freezer, which is on a back porch.   The freezer will be filled with milk jugs that will be used to cool the ice box.

I switched to an on-demand water heater.   And then, turned it off.   The reason I had to get rid of the old water heater was that the water in it was becoming germy because I turned it off the in the summer and only on a pilot light in the winter.  In the winter when I need warmer water to bathe in, I just get water from on top of my wood stove.   In the summer, I am too lazy to heat the water, and do almost everything but can food in cold water.

 
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