Midcoast Green Collaborative Forum

April 11, 2009

Hearing for Renewable Energy Resources Act

Filed under: Information — Tags: — Topher @ 3:41 pm

Public hearing for the “Renewable Energy Resources Program” (Feed in Tariff) legislation:

1:30 pm, Tuesday, April 14

Utilities and Energy Joint Committee’s hearing room, Room 211, Burton Cross Office Building, Augusta.

Come and Support The Bill!

North Carolina town prints it own currency

Filed under: Conversation, Information, Philosophy — Tags: — samuelfood @ 12:08 pm

Samuel Kaymen has sent you a story from Democracy Now!, a daily independent radio and TV news program:

We take a look at how one North Carolina town is trying to become more self-sufficient by moving toward being able to feed, fuel and finance itself. The town of Pittsboro houses the nation’s largest biodiesel cooperative, a food co-op, a farmers’ market and, most recently, its own currency, the Pittsboro Plenty. Pittsboro is one of a number of communities across the country printing their own money in an attempt to support local business. [includes rush transcript]

To read, listen to, or watch the whole story:
http://www.democracynow.org/2009/4/9/north_carolina_town_prints_own_currency

March 15, 2009

Sustainability Post #42 – Carbon per Dollar

Filed under: Conversation, Information, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Topher @ 10:36 am

Here is an article which examines the carbon footprint as a function of economic production.

http://edro.wordpress.com/2008/08/05/carbon-footprint-for-your-dollar/

January 23, 2009

Publicity

Filed under: Information — Tags: — Topher @ 3:13 pm

Local TV news coverage of our efforts to make interior storm windows.

http://www.wcsh6.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=99333

Congratulations to all involved.

January 15, 2009

Sustainability Post #40 – Blowing In Insulation

Filed under: Information — Tags: , , — Topher @ 1:17 pm

I am often asked what energy improvements homeowners can make themselves. I am now here to tell you that blowing cellulose insulation into your walls is one of those things. While blowing insulation into an attic is a common do it yourself project, this is a job which is often recommended for professionals only, but Mainers are skilled and resourceful people and if I and my sweetie can do it, so can others. This is not intended as a how-to, but rather as an inspirational article.

Infrared picture of house, before

Here is a picture of our house, taken with an infrared camera (one of the tools we use for energy audits). One of the things you will notice is that the windows ‘have ears’, as my sweetie put it. That is, there are warmer patches visible around the top and bottom of each window. This is an indication that the insulation is lacking in those areas. The exact reason for that is related to the unusual way my walls were constructed, something called a Larsen Truss (invented by Jim Larsen). The walls are about a foot thick and contain a lot of insulation. However, when the house was built the insulation contractor failed to fill some areas, particularly around the windows. When I turned the infrared camera on those areas the problem of cold spots my sweetie complained about, became immediately obvious. With all these picture cold is black, then purple, and orange, with yellow and white being the hottest. The temperature in the upper corner is for the spot where the cross hairs are, and the temperature scale is at the bottom. Exact temperatures aren’t important here, we are looking at relative differences.

For other houses the problem may be different. Old houses probably started life with no insulation in the walls. If nothing has been added since, then they are prime candidates for this technique. All the empty space in the walls will need to be filled with insulation.

tud bay missing insulation

Here is a picture of one of the places where I could use some more insulation (taken from the inside). As you can see there is a large space here, more than can be explained by settling. So, the job is to fill that space with insulation. Insulation can be blown in from the outside, or from the inside. The choice comes down to which will be easier to get to, and easier to patch once done. For me, the interior is not painted yet, so going from inside was an easy decision.

Blowing cellulose insulation is a messy dusty job. So the first thing was to cover as much of our stuff as possible, since it all needed to be moved away from the walls to gain access, We moved it to the center of the room and draped it with cloth, and plastic sheets. I also got my respirators out; dust masks are only marginally useful, respirators with filters are recommended. Safety glasses, and grubby clothes are also a necessity. I also planned on us eating out of the house for a few days. I cut the holes in the wall with a 1 inch hole saw in an electric drill.

We rented an insulation blowing machine at a local rental place. The insulation was acquired at a home improvement store (which often rent or lend blowing machines as well). The machine is heavy, so I was lucky to have a neighbor to help move it into place. Sane people would be doing this job on a calm spring or fall day and will have the machine outside. Being the dead of winter, I put it inside. It came with fifty feet of hose, a nozzle for the walls, and a remote switch to control it. The bag label provides some advice on how much insulation is needed to acheive a given R-value for 1000 square feet, but since I didn’t really know how much space I had, I just took a wild guess. And then went back later for as much again.

Stud bay after filling with insulation

I ran the hose and remote switch, my sweetie filled the hopper with cellulose from the bag, and tried to keep the hoseand remote cord from getting too tangled. It would have been much harder or impossible with only one person. The machine had a control to set the air-insulation mix, I found that full open was the best setting for me. The main trick was knowing when the cavity was filled. If I left the blower running too long, the nozzle filled up and needed to be cleaned out (having a short dowel to hand helped take care of this). It took an awareness of the sound from the walls as well as sound of the blower on the machine to know when the space was full. After I had gotten about a quarter of the job done, I was able to get each bay filled with few issues. Here is the same wall as the previous picture, only this time properly filled with insulation. The holes were then filled with spray foam insulation to get a nice vapor seal. The extra was sliced off flush with the wall. Subsequently they will be patched over probably with drywall compound.

The mess can be kept to a minimum by making sure that the nozzle remains in the wall until the blower has come to a complete stop. Removing a little before, or if it seems clogged can end up splewing dusty insulation everywhere. The insulation contains borates to retard fire and pests, and it is not something you want up your nose.

Infrared picture of house, after

Here is a picture of the house after all the work was done. Note that there are still some places that didn’t get fixed (under the center windows for instance) do to accessibility issues. On the whole though the entire house is mostly a uniform color. Since the camera adjusts to a given temperature range, this is the appropriate result. The fact the temperature is 17 degrees lower on the after picture is just an indication that it was colder outside that night.

The whole project (not including prep and clean up) took about 10 hours (spread over two days) and we put 13 bales of cellulose insulation into the walls, which the chart on the package says would be enough to do 722 square feet of 2 x 4 walls (to achieve R-13). For this house, we took perhaps 180 square feet of area from around R-2 (no insulation) to R-45. This should amount to 12 Million BTUs saved every year, equivalent to about 85 gallons of fuel oil. At today’s price of $2.47 per gallon, that amounts to 210 dollars. The cost of the project was as follows:

Blower Rental 1 weekend $55.00 $55.00
Cellulose insulation 13 bags $11.30 / bag (including tax) $146.87
Spray Insulation 1 can $10.30 / can (including tax) $10.30
Total $212.17

So, a simple payback of about 1 year. That is, I could have bought oil this year, or for the same money made this fix, and saved this amount every year from now on. Of course, all situations are unique, so another house would get different results, however for houses without insulation in the walls, this is almost certainly a huge win.

Infrared picture of front door

Next Project

This picture highlights my next project. This is my wooden front door, complete with storm door. As you can tell it is warmer than the (admittedly high-efficiency) window right next to it. It is therefore losing a lot of heat.

November 25, 2008

Sustainability Post #39 – EPA and CO2.

Filed under: Information, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Topher @ 4:05 pm

Friday is the last day to voice your opinion on whether the EPA — the Environmental Protection Agency — should regulate carbon dioxide pollution, the primary cause of the climate crisis.  This is a big deal.

The EPA is taking public comment before making a ruling.  Send your message in and it will appear on the EPA’s website, and be part of the public record.

Of course, special interests — like the oil and coal lobbies — are working overtime to defeat a positive ruling and have already gotten thousands of comments submitted in opposition.

Submit your public comment to the EPA here:

http://www.repoweramerica.org/epa/


Here is mine:

Greetings,

The EPA, as the premier overseer of environmental public goods, should understand that carbon dioxide is a important part of breathable air.  The human body regulates breathing through the concentration of Carbon dioxide in the blood stream.  Changes in the the environmental levels of carbon dioxide could have a drastic effect on human health.  As such, even if there is no issue with global warming, the EPA’s mandate would require it to monitor and if necessary regulate the release of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere.

Thank You Kindly,

Topher Belknap

August 17, 2008

Home Performance Technician Classes

Filed under: Information — Tags: , — Topher @ 11:34 am

Richard Burbank, who came to the last MGC meeting is teaching a number of courses for energy efficiency professionals.  Details available at: http://www.evergreenbuildingscience.com/

July 13, 2008

Sustainability Post #26 — Questions before photovoltaics

Filed under: Conversation, Information — Tags: , , — Topher @ 3:06 pm

Here are some questions to ask yourself before making the decision to install photovoltaic (PV) panels.

1. Am I sure I don’t have a micro-hydro resource?

If you have a stream which runs all year long, and it drops more then ten feet over your property, you should investigate putting in a micro-hydro generation system rather than PV.  It will save you a lot of money.

2. Am I sure I don’t have a wind resource?

Although not as cheap as hydro, wind is certainly cheaper than PV. You will need a reasonably reliable source of wind, and a tower tall enough to get about 30 feet above obstructions.

3. Have I taken advantage of all solar heat opportunities?

Solar hot water systems can heat much of your domestic hot water needs, and some of your heating needs, in most parts of the U.S.  Solar hot air is another option for heating the house.  Both are about 6 times as efficient as PV and cheaper.

4. Have I reduced my electrical use to the absolute minimum?

Solar photovoltaic panels are not environmental friendly to produce, don’t but any more of them than you absolutely have to to offset your electrical usage.   Replace all lights with CFLs or LEDs.  Improve the efficiency of your appliances or buy new high efficiency ones.  Get your family into the energy saving mindset.  Post the electric bill on the fridge, and reward those who help lower it.   Consider a heat pump to replace electric baseboard heat.

5. Is the place I plan to put them optimal?

If your prospective location is partially shaded, consider looking for another location.  Does your neighbor have a better spot; consider working a deal.  Can you sacrifice a tree or two to improve the solar exposure?

6. Does my state ave a net metering law, or a feed in tariff?

If you are going to connect to the power grid, you should be fairly compensated for the power you produce, otherwise the financial aspects are much less favorable.

7. What are the current tax incentives?

Be careful, some state offer rebates but only fund them for a limited number of applicants.  If you miss out, you get nothing.  The tax situation changes all the time, check on it often.

8. Does the power go out for extended periods of time (especially in the winter)?

Consider having some battery backup, even in a grid tied system.  Put vital systems on a separate circuit connected to the battery backup.

July 10, 2008

Sustainability Post #25 — Composting Toilet

Filed under: Conversation, Information — Tags: , — Topher @ 12:17 pm
Humanure Handbook

Humanure Handbook

I have two composting toilets in my house. The basic method is one advocated in the book at the left.  A book voted most likely to change the planet.  It might at that.  I have purchased 5 copies of this book (including one for the local code enforcement officer, and the local library), and as my lending copy seems not to have returned home, I may need to buy another one.

The basic idea is that wastes are collected and covered with carbonaceous cover material (sawdust is a common material).  This is then moved outside, and allowed to aerobically decompose in a compost pile and produce fertilizer for gardens.  The high temperature of the aerobic decomposition (up to 140ºF) kills all human pathogens.

Outhouses and chamberpots, this is not.

Unique advantages: During power outages, my system just keeps on working.  Neighbors have no water, and no way to flush.  You can buy a camp toilet, a 5 gallon bucket and some sawdust; and keep it in the basement for emergencies.  When a member of my family broke their leg, the hospital wanted to send us home with a commode (basically a tall stand with a pot under it), I told them I would just raise the toilet to the right height (and put it a grab bar).  They looked at me strangely, but after getting home a spare wooden box under the toilet was all I needed.  The need for many gallons of drinking water every day to be contaminated, transported, separated, filtered, poisoned, and released into the environment is gone.  Aerobic decomposition produces carbon dioxide, while anaerobic produces methane (which if released if 20-30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas).

Smell: No really, they don’t smell much (I contend no more than water toilets).  I have far more trouble with the smell from the cats not finding the litter box.  Admittedly, there is a tendency to become desensitized to local smells, so I am heartened by the number of people who comment on how good the house smells when they come in (usually related to the food being prepared).

Work: Yes, This system involves some manual labor moving buckets (I have a yoke for carrying them). Dumping the buckets is an onerous chore by anyone’s measure.  However, this is not a property unique to composting toilets, septic tanks need to be emptied (and they are truly foul, due to anaerobic decomposition), and municipal waste treatment facilities produce waste that no one wants to deal with.   Thus, the difference is that a composting toilet doesn’t currently have a infrastructure for someone else doing the dirty work for you (though, of course, you can hire someone).  I never have to plunge my toilets.  I expect when and if these become accepted, there will be a truck to pick up your buckets, and another to deliver certified organic manure to those that want it.

Cost: My cost was under $50 for 9 buckets with lids, two toilet seats, two toilet structures (made from leftover wood), and three composting bins made from pallets.  On going expenses are negligible, toilet paper being the largest expense, sawdust is obtained from a local lobster trap manufacturer for the cost of a gratuity.  I save money on compost, getting about 2-3 yards worth every year.  The size of the leach field (required by code) was reduced by around $3000.

July 8, 2008

Sustainability Post #24 — Cooling your house.

Filed under: Conversation, Information — Tags: — Topher @ 10:02 am

Ever wondered how our ancestors survived without air conditioning, in (basically) uninsulated houses?  They had a number of techniques, some of which I have adapted for my own use.

1) Proper control of windows:   When spring finally arrives, I start opening windows, a few at a time, whenever it is nicer outside than in.  The next day I start installing screens and killing bugs 🙂  As it gets warmer, I leave the windows open all the time (except for thunderstorms).  When days get hot (as this one threatens to be), I close the windows in the morning to retain all the coolth I collected over the evening, and open them again when it cools off at night.  If it remains hot at night, I just open some top windows (for me that is the attic as it is part of my living space) and some lower windows  to let the stack effect empty out the hottest air.  If there is a wind, the upper windows get opened on the downwind side, and the lower on the upwind side.  (If the lower windows are in the basement make sure you don’t exacerbate a moisture condensation problem).  Stack effect is most aided by having twice as much window area open in the low windows as the high windows.

2) Shutters:  Many modern houses have their shutters nailed or screwed open (or even fake plastic shutters, ick).  What use is that?  Shutters are meant to be closed on hot sunny days to prevent sunlight from entering and to allow cool breezes to enter.  These are especially useful on the west side, where the low afternoon sunlight comes in.   The south side isn’t as much of a concern since the sun is high and most of the window will be shaded by roof overhang or even just as they are.  Skylights are generally the worst offenders, and shuttering them is near impossible.

3) No added heat: Look at your electric bill (for a month without air conditioning), multiply the number of kiloWatt-hours per day by 3412, that is how many BTUs of heat you are adding to your house every day.  If all that heat was just warming the air each kiloWatt-Hour would raise the temperature of your house by roughly 10ºF.  (It heats other things too).  Don’t use electrical appliances unless you absolutely need to, find and unplug any phantom loads (TVs, VCRs, etc. that can be turned on by remote; power supplies with transformers (those heavy block plugs); Things with clocks, that don’t need to have clocks.  Take colder shorter showers (refreshing as well).  If you take them at night they will help cool you down from a long hot day.

4) No added moisture.  Well if it isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity, then quit adding humidity.  Take cool baths instead of showers, or just take a dip.  Cover any pots on the stove (yes, you should be doing this anyway).

5) Wind: Fans can substitute for a bit of wind to get circulation going (see point #1), but generally they are best pointed directly at skin.  Use fans which are directly pointed at humans to help with evaporative cooling.  Ceiling fans should be set to blow air down.

6) Drink:  I am not an advocate of huge amounts of water, but have a cool glass of water next to you at all times, and you will drink enough and be cooler (IMHO).

July 2, 2008

Sustainabilty Post #23 — How Much Insulation?

Filed under: Information — Tags: , , — Topher @ 10:50 am

Last week after our  talk on insulation, I sat down to write a post here about what the optimal amount of insulation in a house should be.  Given the recent prices of heating fuels, I thought the speaker undervalued the benefits of insulation.

After a week, and some forays into the world of economics that I would have been happy to skip, I finally have this web page which tries to tell you how much insulation is most economical.  It takes values for fuel type, and price, insulation type, and price (price is divided into fixed costs and variable costs based on thickness of application), mortgage interest (or opportunity cost if no mortgage), and several other things, and computes the optimal amount of insulation, free of any building constraints.

So, how is this useful, you ask, given that there are always building constraints?  Well here are some examples:

1) Your attic,  it is the one place in many house which is free from building constraints.  You can put as much insulation up there as you want.  So, how much is that?  Say, your attic is 26′ by 40′ (1040 square feet), you live in midcoast Maine with around 7500 heating degree days, burn #2 fuel oil at $4.40 / gallon, have a high efficiency boiler at 87%, you think that oil price increases will continue on the current line from 1946 – May 2008 of 2.81% per year,  you are on a fixed income, you can get a 30 year home equity loan for 6.00% to do home improvements, plan to put fiberglass batts perpendicular to the rafters (and existing insulation), which should improve the whole wall factor to 90%, the current insulation is R-20, and the contractor say it will cost $900 (total) for labor, and 10 cents (per square foot) for each inch of thickness.  How much insulation should you add?   19 more inches.  Given that fiberglass only comes in specific thicknesses, this probably means a 6 inch batt and a 12 inch batt.

2) You are building a new house, and are wondering about whether to do 2 x 4 construction, or 2 x 6 on 24″ centers for the walls with dense pack cellulose (both including 1″ foam insulation on the outside).  Using the same economic characteristics as the previous example, and 2000 square feet of wall surface, The whole wall calculator (follow the link on that factor) says that 2 x 4, 16″ on center with 1″ foam outside, has a whole wall factor of 87%, and 2 x 6, 24″ on center with 1″ foam outside has a whole factor of 77%.  And you could discuss that with your builder to see which is cheaper in the long run.  However, there is a problem.  The calculator is telling you that you want 20-22 inches of cellulose in those 2×4 or 2×6 walls.  Oops.  Maybe you should throw out the idea of using old fashioned stick framing altogether.  Perhaps look into double walls or Larsen trusses.

3) You are looking at oil prices and think they are going to track the last five years growth rather than the last 50 years.  That is 36% increases every year.  You are prepared to live under a mound of insulation if you have to, and are planning on buying the newest 97% efficient boiler.    The calculator returns 0, which means you exceeded the limit of 200 inches of insulation.   The solution to your problem is not insulation, but rather ceasing to use oil altogether.

* * *

There are websites (such as this one) which give recommendations for how much insulation you should have.  I have found a couple of problems with them. First, the assume status quo in terms of building construction techniques.  They recommend R-19 for wall because that is what fits in a standard 2×6 wall.  Second, they have embedded assumptions about the price of fuel, and the rate of increase of said, as well mortgage rates and other things.  These assumptions are all hidden and there is no way to change them without going through governmental committees.  Hopefully this site will provide insight into those issues.

It shold be noted that this software is in beta test, and there could be bugs, and it could change without warning.

June 26, 2008

Maine to Host 2009 EnergyOcean Conference

Filed under: Information — Tags: — joanofacre @ 8:58 pm

I just read this little article and I feel that our group should have a seat at the table, so to speak.

We should make sure we get in on this.

I will see if I can find out more about, i.e. days and times, fees, etc.

Maine to Host 2009 EnergyOcean Conference

It was recently announced that Maine will be the host of the 2009 EnergyOcean Conference. The conference is an annual event that focuses on renewable and sustainable energy created from the ocean. The event draws policymakers, technology firms and financiers who are interested in ocean-based energy opportunities.

Maine is home to some of the largest tides in the United  States. Passamaquoddy Bay has tides that reach nearly 20 feet. In the 1930’s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt started a Public Works Administration project to harness the power of the tides to produce electricity for residential homes and businesses. The project was short-lived and funding was soon cut off by Congress.

The conference features all aspects of ocean energy including tidal, offshore wind power and algae-derived biofuels.

June 20, 2008

Sustainability Post #20 — Efficient Refrigerators

Filed under: Information — Tags: , — Topher @ 4:57 pm

The recommendation often seen is that you should replace any refridgerator made before 1993.

Here is an extensive list from Energy Star.

The quick things to take away, 1) Top or bottom freezer beats side by side, 2) Manual defrost beats Automatic defrost (if you defrost once a year),  3) Through the door whatever sends energy out the window.  Also beware of the energy guide labels, they compare similar fridges thus a ‘best’ which is large, auto defrost, with through the door ice and water, will use much more electricity than a ‘worst’ which is small and manual.  Use the kWh / year as your number for comparison.  If you have a chest freezer, a refrigerator only will be a big win (be sure to buy based on the capacity of comparable refrigerator portions of combo units.

Well, all of those can be handily beaten by this idea ( a conversion of a chest freezer into a refrigerator):

http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Conservation/chest_fridge.pdf

http://mtbest.net/chest_fridge.html

http://greenspree.ca/?p=523

Instead of the custom made thermostatic control you can use this beer making fridge control.

— Topher

June 6, 2008

Sustainability Post #15 — Comparing Fuels

Filed under: Information — Tags: , , — Topher @ 2:29 pm

I often get asked to compare different heating systems, using different fuels, at various efficiencies. This is often done in search of the ‘Magic Bullet’ to save lots of money on home heating. The latest miracle cure is the geothermal heat pump (actually, a ground source heat pump). Now, there is no magic bullet, but it is possible that a change in heating source could save you money. Before you do that though, you should do everything you can to lower the heat loss of the house.

If you want compare fuels for yourself, I have created a web page which you can input you possible choices, their efficiencies (note: COP times 100% gives efficiency for heat pumps), and current or expected prices. Hit the ‘compute’ button, and you get the prices for a uniform Million BTUs. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what that means, just look at the prices and pick the lowest one. The URL is:

http://www.greenfret.com/fuels.html

— Topher

May 31, 2008

Sustainability Post #14 — Improving Gas Mileage

Filed under: Information — Tags: , — Topher @ 1:49 pm

The other day, I spent 99 cents to improve my gas mileage. I bought a credit card sized calculator, at Big Al’s, to live in my car and compute gas mileage (divide miles traveled since last fill up by gallons filled) on each fill up, right then and there. I already record miles driven, gas, price, etc. and compute MPG when I enter all that into my financial records. But by that time it is too late to remember where and how I drove.

Not as great as an instantaneous reading, but a way to encourage awareness.

— Topher

May 24, 2008

Sustainability Post #11 — The Right Direction

Filed under: Information — Tags: — Topher @ 6:48 pm

The right direction is True South. That is the way your house should point it’s largest number of windows. Fewer to the West and East, little to the North. This is a basic principle of passive solar design, and it makes a difference even if your house is not full-on passive solar (all houses get a substantial heat boost from the sun).

So how important is it to be exactly South? Not very, a few degrees isn’t noticeable. Too many though and it starts to add up. I took my experimental house (see previous post), and rotated to see how much difference it made (a worst case scenario). Here are the results (fuel costs as a percentage of True South):

180º — 100.00% True South
190º or 170º — 100.87%
200º or 160º — 104.18%
210º or 150º — 109.48%
220º or 140º — 116.09%
230º or 130º — 123.52%
240º or 120º — 132.57%
250º or 110º — 141.81%
260º or 100º — 151.28%
270º or 90º — 162.06% East or West
280º or 80º — 171.26%
290º or 70º — 181.16%
300º or 60º — 190.10%
310º or 50º — 197.40%
320º or 40º — 202.89%
330º or 30º — 206.53%
340º or 20º — 208.73%
350º or 10º — 210.59%
360º or 0º — 211.58% True North

— Topher

May 22, 2008

Sustainability Post #9 — Electric lawnmower

Filed under: Information — Tags: , — Topher @ 3:12 pm

Well, I have been wanting an electric lawnmower for a while (too much and too course for the reel mower) Battery run, given the distances from house to places that need mowing. And my family in a surprising move, got me one for Christmas last.
http://www.neutonpower.com/TwoStepModelDetail.aspx?Name=CEMNeutonMower&p1Name=NeutonMower2Step

It is cool, however, I came home the other day to find my sweetie mowing around the vegetable garden. It is that quiet, and pleasant to use.

So beware all (3) of you who love to mow, an electric mower might just lose you your favorite job.

see also: our own Guy Marsden’s DIY solar lawnmower conversion: http://www.arttec.net/Solar_Mower/index.html

May 19, 2008

Sustainability Post #7 — Winter harvest

Filed under: Information — Tags: , — Topher @ 10:02 pm

Living in Maine in the winter it is easy to get the impression that when winter comes everything dies, and that eating locally is a thing of canning and freezing.

Not so. Elliot Coleman who lives in Northport, eats fresh greens out of his garden every day of the year. And no he doesn’t have a heated greenhouse, just a plastic covered greenhouse frame and another cover for the plants.

You can read all about it in The Four Season Harvest

— Topher

May 18, 2008

Sustainability Post #6 — Window screens.

Filed under: Information — Tags: , , — Topher @ 10:00 pm

Do you leave the screens in you windows and storm windows during the winter. We have been telling clients to remove them, but didn’t have a number for amount of energy saved. Searching the web, I found nothing, so I decided to do a little testing of my own.

First, I got a light meter and one of my screens (black fiberglass, standard spacing). The light meter read 75 foot-candles in my test location (out of direct sunlight), and 50 foot-candles with the screen over it.

Next, I placed three pieces of dark soapstone (12″ x 12″ x 1/2″ tiles) near a window facing south, on a sunny March day around noon. One piece was placed in the shade, one in direct sunlight (through the window), and one with the screen in the window. I came back and measured the temperatures of the three stones with an infrared thermometer from a distance of about 1 foot. The shaded stone measured 76.7ºF, the one in the screened window 88.7ºF, and the one in the unscreened window 96.7ºF.

From this it would appear that leaving screens in windows or storms during the winter block about 30-40% of the heat that would otherwise enter through the windows. Audits have the amount of heat obtained from passive solar through windows ranging from 10-25% of the fuel based heating. So, window screens represent somewhere between 3-10% of total fuel.

If you have screens on the outside of your windows or in your storms, bring them in for the winter.

— Topher

May 17, 2008

Sustainability Post #5 — HyperMiling

Filed under: Information — Tags: , , — Topher @ 6:28 pm

What is hypermiling? According to a fantastic August 2006 story in the Washington Post, it is a method of increasing your car’s gas mileage by making skillful changes in the way you drive, allowing you to save gas and thereby have an easier time withstanding the rising oil and gas prices.http://www.hypermiling.com

While some of the techniques are a bit extreme, many are perfectly usable in normal driving situations. I invite you to go take a look at that website, it says things far better than I can. I have started trying the techniques myself, we will see how it goes.

One item which makes this much easier is a instantaneous Miles per Gallon meter. Instead of waiting until you fill up to evaluate how well you drove on that tank full, it tells you how you are driving right now.
I found one at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/ScanGauge-Compact-Multifunction-Computer-Customizable/dp/B000AAMY86/
It sounds like it isn’t too hard to install, though the directions are full of acronyms and expect car-geek levels of buzzword knowledge. I will report on how easy it is to install as soon as I get one. The description says it will work on any 1996 or later car with OBDII (whatever that means).

Edit: It seems that all cars sold in the US starting with 1996 model year have OBDII, and the plug should be easy to locate in the passenger compartment near the driver. There are a few cars (mostly diesel) which are incompatible.

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