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    Energy Saving Screens

    alternative, energy, energy conservation, energy efficiency, green living, solar, Uncategorized

    My wonderful husband has taught our German Shepherd, Duke, to open and close the screen door by himself. It originally started innocently enough. We were remodeling downstairs and often times my husband would be carrying heavy things in and out and nobody was around to open the door for him. Duke would jump through hoops of fire for my husband and quickly mastered this trick. The problem is that now the remodel is over, I refuse to use the energy to turn on the air conditioner so the doors are always open, and now Duke uses the screen door as his private doggy door. Needless to say the screen has been pushed through and ripped and is now a public mosquito entrance.

     I decided to go online and see if any of the local stores carried that pet screening that stretches instead of ripping when an animal jumps up. What I found is a great energy saving screen. A company named Phifer, that makes the pet screening, makes a whole line of screening and fabric. I never even knew there was something called weave technology, where the type of fabric woven in different ways can have different effects. The one that caught my eye was the Super Solar Screen.

     The company claims the Super Solar Screening reflects 90% of the suns heat and glare, improves daytime privacy, and still allows for excellent outward visibility, not to mention it keeps the bugs out. Sounds like the claims on an infomercial, but at the Home Depot site the product had been rated and review by two individuals. Both reviews gave the screening 5 out of 5 stars and both said it performed as advertised.

     This will be a huge benefit for a house like mine that faces northwest. I get full sun at my backdoor every morning in the summer; I don’t like to open the door and shades because it raises the temperature in the house. Then in the late afternoon I get the full effect of the sun as it gets ready to set so I have to close all the doors and shades on that side of the house. I am hoping with my Super Solar Screen, I will be able to get airflow from the windows and doors without the heat and glare from the sun. If I decide to turn on the air conditioner it should not have to work as hard with the Super Solar Screen. But maybe with the heat and sun reflected away from the house I won’t have to turn on the air conditioner at all. Sounds like a huge energy saver to me.

     As for my screen door, apparently there is no pet friendly screen that can hold back a German Shepherd. I am going to replace the screen with the Super Solar Screen and buy pet guards to keep Duke from going through it.

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    Start with Energy Conservation

    alternative, energy, energy conservation, energy efficiency, green living, Uncategorized

    When it comes to clean energy, saving our environment and living green, the best and only place to start is energy conservation. For every unit of energy saved, a unit of energy does not need to be produced. That sounds so very simple, yet I see it over looked time and time again. People are so impressed with the newest solar product, the next residential wind turbine or if hydrogen technology will replace natural gas, that they forget that all this technology can replace a greater percent of our energy if we use less energy to begin with. In other words energy conservation and efficiency are very often more economically worthwhile than renewable sources and also helps bridge the gap between demand for and availability of renewable energy.

     

    We have all seen list after list of ways to save energy around our house; these should not be pushed to the side because you “did” the list last year. Like all maintenance around the house, conservation cannot be done once and forgotten about, that is why they call it maintenance. There are always new products coming out that can make energy conservation easier, more efficient and more affordable.

     

    My attic is always the first place I look when thinking about energy loss. I have a cathedral ceiling in my living room and just never feel comfortable in the room during the cold winter months. Obviously I have insulated but I still just feel the heat escaping. So I went up to the attic at night leaving the living room lights on and the attic lights off. Bingo! I was able to identify several areas that were not completely insulated around the recessed lighting (make sure your recessed lighting fixtures are rated to have insulation around them). Next I went up to the dark attic on a very sunny morning, before the heat made it unbearable. Again, Bingo! There were a couple of places along the eaves where I could see daylight. Once these were fixed I started looking at different insulation products for attics that were DIY friendly and wallet friendly. Two products caught my eye: Super Insulating Radiant Barrier and the Battic Door Attic Stair Cover.

     

    The Super Insulating Radiant Barrier is a fold out, insulating, reflective product that goes over your current insulation and/or over the roof rafters to create a barrier that actually radiates heat back down to the living space.

     

    The Battic Door Attic Stair Cover is an insulating box that goes over dropdown attic stairs and keeps heat from escaping. This product is a huge improvement over ones of days gone bye. I have had a similar product for about fifteen years and can see this will pay for itself in very short time.

     

    Take time to look at these and other energy saving products. A dollar spent today could save hundreds over a life time not to mention helping to save the environment. Never under estimate the heat, or cooling, loss in your home. Keep vigilant about conservation, any energy saved is energy that does not have to be produced.

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    Habitat for Humanity, a Homerun for Energy Efficient Products

    alternative, energy, forum, green living, heating options, light bulbs, solar, Uncategorized, Wind

    In a June 1st article by Dan Cook, in Arizona’s The Daily Courier, he wrote about a Habitat for Humanity home that had been built as a “net-zero energy” house.  The idea is to use smart building products and techniques, as well as alternative energy sources, such as solar, so that the house does not use any energy from the grid or fossil fuel. This is a whole new niche in the building industry and there is an unlimited amount of products and services to choose from. The problem is that builders and prospective  homeowners, we don’t know which products are proven, or will work in our situation, or have a chance to see the product installed or talk to a builder who has actually installed the product.

     

    That is why I found this article interesting. If the companies offering these great new innovative energy saving products donated them to Habitat for Humanity, we would all benefit. First the company would win, getting actual exposure to the public with their product, as well as goodwill, for donating the product. Any builder interested in the product could donate their time to help install the product at the Habitat for Humanity job site. This gives them goodwill for helping, but also gives them experience with new products and techniques that they can sell to their clients. The homeowner wins because they are buying a product that they have seen work and are having it installed by someone who has had experience with the product. The recipient of the Habitat for Humanity home wins with lower or no utility bills. And last, but not least, the environment wins every time we do not use fossil fuel to power our world. This could be the ultimate win-win situation.

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    Think Globally, Buy Locally and Grow Organic!

    energy, green living, Uncategorized

    I just read a blog this morning on how salmonella is unchecked in the frozen foods we buy. The article was more politically oriented and I don’t want to get into that. But it brought up a good point about global warming.

    If you buy a head of lettuce grown in California and you live in Maine, how does it get to you? Think about this, the soil is prepared and the lettuce is planted using large fossil fuelled machinery. Then there is mega amounts of water wasted as huge sprinkler systems water the crops and everything in between. Then there is that wonderful fertilizer, the kind you wonder what it contains. Then we get our trusty underpaid, underappreciated immigrant workers to harvest the crop and package it for shipping. Then it is sent to a refrigerated distribution center and put into large, refrigerated trucks to be sent across the country, using diesel fuel all the way. Now once it is on the other coast it goes to another distribution center and sent out in another truck. Finally, about a week after being picked it goes on your grocery store shelve.

    That head of lettuce has probably used more fuel to get to the store than you used to run errands this week. A better option would be to buy local produce. Now that summer is around the corner, numerous farmers markets will be selling their goods. This not only saves all that waste of shipping your lettuce across the country, but it feeds the local economy and environment.

    Better yet, grow your own. Especially if you have young children, this is a rewarding endeavor. You will be teaching your children a life long lesson that no school could possibly teach, not to mention children are more likely to eat vegetables they grew. As an added bonus your children will not be ingesting dangerous chemicals from artificially fertilized food. There is nothing more satisfying than eating produce you grew yourself and knowing you helped the environment.

    If you are new to the horticultural lifestyle try Organic Food Gardening Beginners Manual.

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    Go To a Convention For FREE!

    alternative, energy, forum, green living, heating options, light bulbs, solar, Uncategorized, Wind

    Haven’t you always wanted to go to a convention and find out more information, but you just couldn’t justify the time and expense of going? Now is your chance. Virtual Energy Forum is offering a free two-day converence on clean energy. No plane trip, no hotel room and no credit card bill!

    Just sit down at your computer and wonder through the convention. Catch a live presentation by a keynote speaker or ask a vendor some questions. All while sitting at your desk, you can learn the latest about the most important issue facing the world.

    This is your chance to find out how you can make a difference in clean energy without wasting any of your energy. Sign up today for free at Virtual Energy Forum. They can’t make it any easier than that. Set the date June 24th and June 25th, 2009.

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    Solar panels are evolving

    energy, green living, solar

    One of the largest hurdles of solar photovoltaic panels is converting their production of DC (direct current) electricity into AC (alternating current). AC current is what all household electrical systems use. Solar panels are usually placed on a roof top and wired and grounded together. Then the high voltage DC electricity is collected and fed to an inverter where it is changed to AC and fed into the household system. This causes the solar array to perform only as well as the least performing panel. So if one panel gets shaded in the afternoon, all the panels get “shaded” in the afternoon.

    A California based company, Akeena Solar Inc. , is changing the design of their Andalay solar panels to include a micro inverter in each panel. This means that the electricity produced by each panel will be converted to AC as it leaves the panel and is then fed directly into the house electrical system. If one panel becomes shaded all the other panels will still be producing AC electricity at their optimal levels. Because each of the Andalay panels already comes with a built in rack system, and comes with its own micro inverter, the company predicts design and installation costs to go down by as much as 25% and efficiency to go up by 5% to 25%.

    Akeena has found a way to make solar more efficient and financially feasible to more consumers. With the federal and state tax credits available it almost doesn’t make sense for most households not to try solar. Until more households start using the technology today, the industry will not be able to learn and develop how to make solar more cost efficient for the future. Solar has always been expensive and will remain so until the industry is given the time and resources to find a “better way.” In the meantime it is never too soon to reduce our carbon emissions.

    Akeena Solar Inc. plans to start producing the panels in 2009.

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    Cold? Time for some mid-winter energy saving tips!

    Uncategorized

    Now that much of the country is in the depths of winter, it is a great time to think about those energy saving do it yourself projects.

                    The first place to start is with your thermostat. Did you install a programmable thermostat? If you didn’t, do it as soon as possible. If you did, now is a good time to reevaluate the programming. Take some time to really think about when everybody gets up in the morning, when they leave the house, when they get home and when they go to bed. Take the time to learn how to program the thermostat to get the most out of it.

    Next, go around the house to each window and door and feel for the cold. You might even bring a disposable lighter with you and check for drafts. Did somebody open a window and forget to lock it tight? Is there a draft you didn’t notice before or get around to sealing? Plastic film on the windows can stop drafts and adds an extra layer of insulation even if you don’t have drafts.

                    Check the insulation in your attic. Often the area where the roof meets the floor of the attic (soffit) is the area most over looked. Nobody wants to crawl in that tight space but it is a common place for heat to leak up from downstairs. Then turn on the lights downstairs and leave the attic lights off, do you see any light? If you can see light, heat can see a way to escape. Always wear gloves and a mask over your mouth and nose while working with fiberglass insulation. Also if you use baby powder over your body it helps keep the glass fibers from getting in your skin. If you do get irritated from the insulation take a cold shower to wash it off and keep the fibers from getting deeper in your pores.

                    Is your hot water heater turned up too high? In our house everybody takes a shower in the morning. The first one up turns up the hot water heater and when the last person is finished the hot water heater is turned down for the next 22 hours or so. Also an insulation blanket on the hot water heater can save a lot of energy, especially if it is down in a cold basement. Another thing about the shower, don’t leave the bathroom fan on endlessly, as it is exhausting all that steam it is also exhausting all your heat. Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible, there are detergents specifically designed for this.

                    At the hardware store, for a few dollars, you can buy little insulation pads for light switches and outlets. Go around to all your light switches and outlets that are on exterior walls and insulate them. Another trick while you have the cover off the outlets, take a pen and mark the circuit breaker number that corresponds to that switch or outlet. This will save time and headaches next time you need to shut that breaker off.

                    Enjoy the winter, and remember with each cold spell and snow storm how much more you will appreciate spring.

     

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    Hypermiling

    alternative, energy, green living, Uncategorized

    The word is out, and the word is hypermiling! Oh yeah! Believe it or not hypermilling is the New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year. Their definition is …“Hypermiling” or “to hypermile” is to attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques.

     

    As with every seemingly admirable activity on the face of the earth, some people take hypermiling too far. If you read the hypermiling forums, you will here about people not breaking through turns, shutting off their car while coasting to a stop, or riding the draft from large trucks. These are all very dangerous practices and in some cases even illegal. While driving, you should be focused on the road and your surroundings. You should be a defensive driver. You should not be more concerned for your gas mileage than for the safety of yourself and the people around you. Some of these practices have not even been proven to save fuel.

     

    The truth is that standard practices to save gas are actually, by definition, hypermiling. These tried and true techniques can not be overstated enough.

     

    Basic ways to save fuel in your car are as follows:

    1)    Properly inflate your tires – can save 1 to 2 mpg and extend the life of your tires. More on this later.

    2)    Proper tire tread – insert a penny into the tread of your tire, if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head you need new tires. Some experts think you should do this with a quarter.

    3)    Purchasing the correct fuel – most cars do not need a high octane fuel (check your owners manual), using eeFuel  can make all octane levels work more efficiently.

    4)    Reduce resistance – Remove ski racks and luggage storage containers when not in use.

    5)    Check your gas cap – gas evaporates from old, cracked or not secure gas caps. Turn you gas cap four times to assure it is tightened properly. Consider getting a locking gas cap to prevent siphoning.

    6)    Use your manufacturers recommended grade of motor oil.

    7)    Avoid idling – a good rule of thumb is if you plan to idle for more than a minute shut it off. Go in don’t use the drive-up. Put the car in park at red lights.

    8)    Keep extra weight out of your trunk – just carry emergency items.

    9)    Slow down – I’m not asking you to go 55mph, you might be a victim of road rage if you don’t cause an accident first. But be reasonable, stay back so that you don’t have to brake as often, and use cruise control when you can.

    10)  Maintenance – Pay now or pay later!!!! Keep your car on a regular maintenance program and you will save fuel, save energy and save money. Just installing a new air filter can show measurable fuel savings.

     

    The strange thing is that when I checked around some forums about hypermiling I found there wasn’t much posted since the gas prices started to drop. Does everyone think the fuel shortage is going away? We still need find ways to save fuel, but we also need to find ways to make our carbon footprint smaller. Things like wind power, solar power, and hydrogen will provide better conservation than driving dangerously.

     

     

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    Bundle up your house to save money and save energy this winter

    energy, Uncategorized

    Now is the time to bundle up your house to save money and save energy this winter. Watching the national weather this morning I noticed how unseasonably warm it is around the country. Yet the reality is that tomorrow brings in a new, colder month. Stores are already selling for Thanksgiving and Christmas yet we have not even handed out Halloween candy. But the stores are right; we need to start preparing for winter now.

    This is the time to remove window air conditioners. Do it while it is still warm enough to leave windows open and get some new fresh air in your house. Can’t take the air conditioner out? First, clean the air conditioner thoroughly. Then, if accessible, wrap the outside with plastic sheeting, duct tape it securely, and duct tape an air conditioner cover over it. On the inside of the house, I cover the air conditioner with some insulation and a decorative quilt and then I use plastic shrink wrap for windows to keep it air tight.

    So you haven’t had time or money to replace those old windows? Plastic shrink wrap them. Henkel, the duct tape company, has a complete selection of weather proofing products. I love their channels that can be used year after year to hold the plastic in place. Outdoor kits are also available if inside application is not an option. These products are clear and easy to clean.

    Check doors for leaks. Even with storm doors, if you can see daylight around your door that means you have a draft. Weather stripping and door sweeps can safe you money and keep you comfortable this winter.

    Change the filter on your furnace; mark the calendar to change it on a regular basis. If you have oil heat, get your furnace serviced. This will help keep your furnace running problem free all winter. Adding eeFuel to your tank will help save money and save fuel this winter.

    A family weekend of small projects can save you money and save energy this winter. For more information about performing your own home energy audit visit the U.S. Department of Energy website.

    Stay comfortable this winter while saving money, saving energy and saving fuel.

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    Choosing to convert from oil to natural gas

    energy, heating options, Uncategorized

    I apologize for my abscence. This is not my full time job and life is not always as forgiving as we would like it to be. Enough of pleasentries.

    I wish to update you on my mission to find options for my parents heating dilemas. I can update this in a single phrase….sticker price shock! It seems in this world of forclosures, out of control oil prices, job losses and banks “feeing” us to death, among other things, we are caught in a “catch-22” situation. My goal of this blog is to highlight ideas and products that won’t cost an arm and a leg upfront to save energy, save fuel and save money in a reasonalbe amount of time.

    The bottom line is that both of my parents have oil heat and I wanted to look into converting them to natural gas heat. My father lives alone has gas already piped to his house but has old fashion steam radiators and only about 900 sq.ft. My mother has four adults living in her house, doesn’t have gas piped to her house but has more modern baseboard system and about 1500 sq.ft. Amazingly enough both estimates where within a few dollars of each other. It would cost approximately $5,500 to convert each house. This includes the fuel efficient furnace and a new energy star hot water heater. Wow, that floored me. Both of my parents are on fixed incomes and can hardly afford to shell out this kind of money. But can they afford not to?

    I found a area of National Grid’s (our local natural gas provider) web site that gave a conversion rate from oil to natural gas. According to National Grid, if you multiply your oil consumption in gallons by 1.385 you will get your approximate gas consumption in cubic feet. Each of my parents used about 700 gallons of oil in the last physical year. 700 gallons of oil x 1.385=969.5ccf of natural gas. Using $4/gallon for oil and the composite rate for gas in Aug. 2008 of $1.7725/ccf,  the annual savings would be around $1080/year. They would be breaking even on their investment within five years, if the current rates applied. Overall not a bad investment when a conventional solar system is not anticipated to break even for 10 to 20 years. But more on solar another time. 

    In Massachusetts, were I live, there is a program for low cost or no cost loans for heating improvents at http://www.masssave.com/about/heat_loan.php. This will allow many people who cannot come up with the cost of converting up front. Please check your individual states and utility companies for information on fuel assistance, tax incentives, discount utility rates and loan programs.

    In the case of my parents…. I think my mother will convert to natural gas. She plans on being in her house for more than five years and her income is not getting any larger. Natural gas is plentiful in North America and is not reliant on foreign suppliers. Weighing the odds we both feel gas will be the more reliable and cheaper way to go. We are not sure my father will be in his house for five years and he gets fuel assistance so he probably will not convert. I guess I will be putting eeFuel in his tank and pray oil prices don’t go through the roof this winter. 

     

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