Archive for October, 2010

Powering Down

A couple months ago, Maggie talked me into giving a presentation at the Simply Living Fair about our 3-kWh Challenge (which has more details, if the presentation is too high-level for you). The presentation went very well and has some more information (and hard numbers) about our electrical use since January. In my challenge post, I clocked us in at just under 80 kWh, but the official number from Duke Energy was just 71 kWh! The difference is just because we started and stopped measuring at different times, but it still sounds good.

My presentation slides are embedded below, but I’ll add some explanation underneath to replace some of the bits where I talked.

On the graph of our electrical usage, I included one line for each year plus a bar graph series at the bottom that represents our kWh usage per day based on my readings. There’s a LOT of variation, mostly due to hot water heating, the furnace, or A/C. When we stopped using all of those things in June, everything calmed down a lot.

In the end, we used 28% of the electricity we used last year, which is a tiny 14% of the electricity used by the average house our size!

We ended up using 115 kWh in September and are on track to stay under 120 kWh in October, so we’ve been able to maintain usage at 50% of last year’s numbers.

Just looking at electricity, we’ve saved about $175 so far this year and reduced our CO2 emissions by almost 2.5 tons (coal is not a very clean source of electricity)!

We’re incredibly happy with what we’ve done so far and plan to continue trimming as we head into the heating season! We knocked out some insulation projects today that will hopefully help and we’ll certainly keep you updated about the solar furnace!

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Rainy Solar Tour

Rainy Solar TourToday is the ASES National Solar Tour and we are one of the houses featured on the Bloomington Solar Tour but wouldn’t you know it, after an unbelievably dry summer and fall, today it is raining.  (The last time it rained was during the girl scout campout I organized.  I seem to have a gift.)  Our solar furnace is not very impressive on cloudy days and I think people are staying indoors for fear they might melt but maybe it’s just was well we have a quiet weekend after a busy week.

The Simply Living Fair went well and people seemed to enjoy Will’s talk about our efforts to get down to a 90 kilowatt-hour month (we managed it in June but are thinking 120 kilowatt-hours is a more reasonable target in the fall).  The green living tour to our house and two other green buildings was fun despite having a small crowd of about eight.  In general, everyone who came was happy; I just wish more people had come.  Maybe next year.

Will tests his IR thermometer on the dogOn Monday, Will got a new toy in the mail.  It’s an infrared thermometer and it looks a lot like a price scanner or a space age neuron gun.  You point it at an object, pull the trigger, and it tells you what temperature it is.  Will has had hours of fun testing the temperature of various surfaces around our home.  I’m not quite as entertained but I do appreciate that it will help us identify heat leaks in our ductwork, walls, windows, and attic access panels (Will measured a 20 degree difference between the ceiling in the main room and the access panel to the attic – pretty alarming).

Moving the ShedYesterday we sold our little playhouse shed, which meant we got to watch a guy come and load it on a special kind of tow truck to take it away.  I still feel slightly guilty for not figuring out a way to put it to use but it had been sitting empty for two years so it was time to let go.  The dog is still a little confused as to what happened but we figure she’ll lose interest now that there are no longer mice and skunks and other critters hiding out underneath.  (We thought she had excavated some major tunnels under the shed and were expecting a sort of underground labyrinth to be revealed but apparently she only dug out the minimum needed to squeeze her body under the boards.)

Next week we leave on the train to New Mexico for a week, which will hopefully be a nice fall break.  It will be good to see family, even if the occasion for gathering is a memorial service for Will’s grandmother.  We are looking forward to exploring a new train route and getting a change of scenery for a little while, although I hope the leaves don’t all turn colors and fall off before we get back!

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