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Archive for the Environmentally Conscious Category

Ways To Stop Wasting Water

I found this neat infographic today about how conserve water, though I felt they left out some things.  The addition of aerators or low flow nozzles to your sinks, low flow shower heads, dual flushing toilets, a tank-less water heater, and buying a front load washer will reduce you water consumption by at least half, if not more.

Monitoring Your Energy Usage

I am, by my nature, a very analytical person.  I like things that can be objectively quantified, measured, or categorized.  The other thing I know is that by simply measuring things, we become aware of them better, which means we use less.  Studies have shown that the simple act of tracking calories, will psychologically cut your intake in half in many cases.  So today I wanted to share some things on how to monitor your energy usage.  This will hopefully reduce your impact and help you get an idea of your biggest consuming appliances.  It will also be useful for those of you who are wanting to size up how many solar panels you’ll need.

The first one is the easiest and the cheapest, which means you are more likely to use it.  These will run you about $25.00 (for the 4600 version, they have a cheap 4400 for $18) and allow you to plug an appliance into it and then the Kill-a-Watt into the wall.  It will track your usage, allow you to input the cost per KW and will calculate the cost of running that item.  What is really useful is that it will track usage over time, then extrapolate how much it will cost you for a day, a week, a month or a year.  You will quickly come to realize that certain things take next to no power (cell phone costs me $2 a year), where as a computer could cost you $100 a year.  I really like this option because of its simplicity and ability to put the energy usage into dollar amounts;  The number one way to make someone an environmentalist…. have an effect on their wallet!

 

 

Next up is a the Black and Decker energy monitor.  What this does is monitors your whole house usage easily.  You place this sensor on your power box and it will display the usage on your monitoring device.  Simply place it in a place you look often to get a sense of your usage.  The only thing I don’t like about this one is that it isn’t able to provide info on what is using power, just that it is.  Things in your home click on and off all the time.  Your fridge compressor turns on and off, the water heater fires up, etc.  This unit is good to help you know what to expect when the bill does come, for that, it is great.  This will run you about $40.

Finally the best of both worlds, able to monitor the whole house, but also able to break down individual appliances.  It is also a lot more accurate, outputs to the web and has a host of analytical tools.  Basically a statistics nerd’s dream!  The system is called the energy detective (TED) and it ties into your electrical box using these clamp monitors to sense usage, then it is transmitted to a wireless router, which then can be monitored on a desktop monitor, your computer or even your iphone.  It is also scalable, allowing you to by more clamps and individually monitor certain systems.  The data is the outputed to a a dashboard on your computer that can even be viewed online from anywhere. This option really starts at $250 with an additional $60 per set of clamps.

The True Cost Of Gas

This is an eye opening video on the true costs of gas.  With this knowledge there is yet another reason for transitioning to alternative energies.

Driverless Cars

Recently there have been some major advances it driver assisted car technology, we are getting to the point where driverless cars are starting to become a viable option.  The state of Nevada has just passed a law allowing driverless cars that meet certain criteria.

Many ask why this is important or is it even worth pursuing?  Right now 40,000 deaths $40 billion in repair costs result from car crashes and untold billions in medical and legal costs.  From an environmental standpoint the use of such cars will almost eliminate all traffic jams on driverless only roads.  Right now America spends 4 billion hours a year in traffic, translating into 2.4 billion gallons of gasoline wasted idling in traffic per year.  I for one am excited about this future, check out these awesome videos on driverless cars.

 

NSFW NOTE!:  there are some swear words in this video, so best not watch at work

 

Beating The Heat And The Guilt

For a long time now I have really agonized over one big hurdle that will come up when I finally live in a Tiny House, it is Air Conditioning.  Today it topped a few degrees over 100 and it was humid, really humid.

There are many who can simply sweat it out when it comes to the heat here in North Carolina, but I admittedly am not one.  Growing up in New Hampshire, just an hour and a half from the Canadian border, I love the cold and really hate the heat.  In my mind, I can always add a layer in the cold, but when it comes to heat, well… there is only so much you can take off!

Here in NC we have an amazing growing seasons and when it comes time for me to work in the garden, I don’t shy away from the heat.  It is the other times, when you just are hanging around, most people here can’t even sit in the shade with a cold drink and not end up needing a shower. What really gets me is not being able to sleep in the heat and humidity.  I take a break from backpacking and camping during the summer months as I retreat into my air cooled sanctuary.

So what is the answer?  If I were to have a solar array to power just my AC I would be looking at around 25 panels at 240 watts each, assuming 6 hours peak sunlight and estimating only 80% efficiency in the system.  It would essentially cost me around $10,000 to just power my AC unit.   I can’t believe I am going to say this, but is solar really sustainable?  I have beginning to believe that it really isn’t when you look at the earth minerals to make them, the coal power that makes the factor’s electricity, and the gas guzzling truck to get the panels to me.  I also am beginning to think sustainability isn’t really enough, but that is an entire different post.

There are some systems out there but they have some faults, one in particular is the Coolerado system that can output like a 5 ton system on only 4 solar panels.  But it effectiveness drops a lot in humid climates, for example, the one I find myself in here in North Carolina.  Many have suggested cross ventilation, shading the structure, thermal mass and geothermal options, but in all honesty they either cost the same, are only partially effective or both.

So what IS this answer? I am still left scratching my head.

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