New Civilization News: Energy Efficiency Makeover: One Homeowner's Story    
 Energy Efficiency Makeover: One Homeowner's Story4 comments
picture7 Mar 2008 @ 09:59, by Richard Carlson

Energy efficiency---using improved technology and operations to deliver the same energy services with less fuel---is the foundation on which all of our other recommendations are based.

---Sierra Club Energy Policy Statement

When you do something, you should burn completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.

---Shunryu Suzuki

My religion is to live and die without regret.


Coastal ice melts in the city of Longyearbyen, in Norway's Svalbard Islands, on Feb. 27, 2008. Record-high temperatures have left people here wondering whether the melting ice is all a fluke in the fluctuating weather system, or a troubling sign of a warming world. (AP Photo/John McConnico) Full story here [link]

The March-April newsletter of the Appalachian Ohio Group of the Sierra Club is out. A feature article in Footnotes From The Foothills this time was written by my wife to describe weatherization work she initiated on our house last summer. It was a major operation, employed 3 different workcrews (sometimes all at once) and cost a lot. There's a teeny tax credit you can get for this stuff, but mostly we did it to reduce our footprint and hopefully save money in the long run.

Energy Efficiency Makeover
By Dana Carlson

Last summer, we bit the bullet. Our circa 1969 ranch house needed a new roof and gutters at the very least---and with the drought already well under way in May 2007, it seemed prudent to think about rainwater catchment.

Other droughts we'd been through in our 10 years here have meant cutting back significantly on water use to avoid a dry well: doing laundry in town, using grey water for flushing toilets, letting the garden dry up, washing dishes in a gallon of water, 'showering' with a couple of gallons in a portable camp shower.

We finally invested in a couple of stock tanks to fill with water from a small seasonal stream by the garden so that we could have some water resources for the garden during dry times, but that was spit in a bucket during a drought like '07.

We were near to paying off our mortgage and, after some discussion of the pros and cons, decided that we'd suck it up and take out a home equity loan---as long as we were having the roof done, we might as well put our money where our environmental sensibilities were and get an energy audit and retrofit.

My brother recommended R.W. Davis to do the work. R.W. had saved our lives back when we'd moved into the house: the furnace was suspect and we'd had him check it. His machine detected dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, so he'd installed a high-efficiency propane furnace at that time. He also told us we should do some weatherization of the ducts and crawl space. R.W. had previously worked with COAD Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development), and in the ten years since installing the furnace, he'd formed an energy audit/weatherization business called ECS Group.

After a walk-through of the house (checking insulation, windows, etc.), he did a blower door test (to detect leakage) and gave us a workup of possible fixes using the NEAT (National Energy Audit Tool) software to determine the most cost-effective retrofits.

We ended up having the crawl space sealed with two-part foam ($2200), the ductwork sealed ($225), air seal bandjoists ($550), cellulose insulation blown in the attic ($950), low-flow showerheads installed, a timer put on the water heater, new bathroom fans, and sealing around electrical sockets and ceiling lights. We also had two ultra low-flow Toto toilets put in ($600 each).

R.W. and I also tossed around the idea of replacing the windows and five sets of sliding glass doors. He suggested framing in at least two doors and putting smaller windows in to save significantly on energy loss. We contracted with Quality Windows (Pomeroy) to have all the windows/doors replaced with R10 triple pane vinyl windows.

This was the most expensive retrofit at $18,000, including a 9' three panel sliding door, two 6' sliding doors, 20 windows and two 6' doors framed in. Finally, at the same time the roof and gutters were redone, we had the gutters re-routed to empty into a 450 gallon water tank on one side of the house and a 550 gallon tank under the deck for rainwater catchment. This water can be used for the garden and toilets, and if necessary, filtered for drinking.

We made the decision to have this work done for environmental reasons--- we wanted to significantly decrease our use of carbon-based energy and, of course, we wanted to save money on utility bills.

We'd had a solar-wind power evaluation done and were told neither one would be suitable for our poorly solar-sited house, so weatherization was our option.

The good news is that our propane consumption has decreased by almost half. Our electrical use has also decreased significantly--- thanks to use of compact fluorescents and using power strips to turn off phantom loads--- and using drying racks in the winter and clotheslines in the summer instead of the dryer. We expect to recoup the money we put into the retrofit within 10 years, probably sooner, if energy prices climb as expected.

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7 Mar 2008 @ 22:56 by b : The World Needs
an answer to the theories of the unified field t development and a prototype.
Shallow wishes won't satisfy the energy needs of all the humans on this planet. Methane conversion to elecricity, reflection mirrors to find and focus sun and then convert, recirculating water system and falls to power wheel that can convert,transform, etc. Innovate not stagnate with the same old, old.  

8 Mar 2008 @ 20:06 by quinty : It must feel
good to have done all this work.

Self-sufficiency and lower costs must be a nice place to be. Too bad you can't get in solar panels or a windmill.

Now the rich folk with homes looking out on the ocean here in Rhode Island are putting up a mighty struggle against a proposed wind farm. They don't want their view marred by all those spinning white props out there in the ocean where they wish to see the horizon. As the need and urgency for clean renewable energy rises my sympathy for them decreases. i think they can get used to seeing those futuristic props.

Ellen and i are thinking of getting some solar panels placed on the roof of our house. There a few houses in our neighborhood which have converted so perhaps we will have better luck than you. Whenever I hear anything about this overall subject from experts it sounds as if the private sector is ready to go. That a major public/private investment could finally establish the basic infrastructure for a clean energy economy.

I suppose we all hope that the next administration, whoever it may be, will take that step forward. It will mean many new jobs and an expansion of the economy. Even John McCain sounds as if he’s seriously interested.  

9 Mar 2008 @ 08:43 by jazzolog : Easier For Duffers
b, quinty and I are roughly in the same age range, which means reverting to pre-Age of Convenience lifestyles still can be scoped out. Providing you weren't raised by the upper classes, you remember Mom hanging out the wash a couple times a week. There were no jet trails in the sky then either...but man there was a lot of soot. Who knows how many people have been "dropping out" over the past 40 years, and moving toward lives off-the-grid? It's not impossible to turn this gas-guzzler around---despite the vested interests of the "New" World Order.

The principal of my school, who doesn't "believe" in global warming, finally is developing a frown when he hears from the superintendent we have to shut down early AGAIN...because the approaching storm (Friday) is coming faster than anyone could predict. At first it was fun...but then all the catastrophe days got used up and we began to schedule last day further and further in June. But now, everybody's jagged teaching schedule, going back to Christmas, is making it impossible to keep up learning momentum. That means the Bush test results are going to be affected, our rating may go down, and that's funding.

That storm incidentally here in the Ohio Valley brought a couple inches of snow within an hour and a half, on top of 3 days of rain and flooding (which shut down some schools and cut off towns and communities), which snow then changed back to rain in the middle of the night (accompanied by ferocious lightning and thunder), then to hail about 3 AM, and finally more snow. No cars were allowed on the roads around here yesterday, except emergency. Scraping off windshields yesterday afternoon was the toughest I've ever done...and I lived in Maine for 4 years, close enough to the ocean so that ice was a bigger problem than snow. There were 3 or 4 layers to the job yesterday, with an inch of solid ice on top of the wipers when I got down to them.

I think the rednecks who have mocked us tree-huggers for years are beginning to wonder what the f--k is going on! But even die-hards, who still need the roar of horsepower and defective mufflers to feel like a man, can learn (at $4 a gallon) that cutting back doesn't hurt all that much.  

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