Thursday, October 4, 2007

Energy Efficiency

The sceptics are at it again. Now they understand that Climate Change exists, that it's caused to a considerable degree by the mess we've made of the planet, that it's not China and India's fault (in fact, China is supporting sustainables more than the US government is.) So now they're saying that it's too late to do anything about it! Of course if it hadn't been for their dragging their feet way back when we'd have been in much better shape now than we are.

But I am (usually) an optimist. I really think we can run this world on renewable sources just like we did 200 years ago, except with a whole lot of high tech to help us do it better.

And we don't even have to generate as much energy per capita that people have been estimating, because the best way to have enough energy is to use less of it.

We've already learned a lot about energy efficiency. I've read recently that LA still is providing about the same level of energy now as some number of years ago, even though the population increase has been phenomenal (unfortunately.) The way they did is was that appliances, light bulbs, etc. use less energy.

John and I have been working toward energy efficiency throughout the 7 years of our marriage. We started by buying a Honda Insight for me when I moved here. John had already traded in his Gran Cherokee for a smaller sedan, which he has now switched to a Prius. Even though I have that great car, I used a bus or train wherever possible to commute, and now only work from home. I can walk or bike to almost all my daily needs: supermarket, pharmacy, doctors, gym, downtown, Claremont Farmer's Market, etc. so my little Insight just sits in the garage.

We have of course switched almost all our lamps to fluorescents, too. And last year we started trading in all our energy guzzling appliances to Energy Star rated ones. Some of these were probably original with the condo (from 10-30 years old.) We started with a great new airconditioner / furnace, which immediately cut our electric bill by at least 25%. Then the dishwasher and microwave conked out, so we have new Energy Stars of them now, too. The 10-year old refrigerator went next.

This week we got a new front-loading washing machine, like the ones I knew in Denmark. We just did our first load and were amazed at how big a load can be. This will cut back on our washing considerably, because we will probably be able to do a third fewer loads. Then it centrifuges very fast, so the clothers are almost dry when they come out. This will cut back the need for the dryer, as well as dryer time, another savings. Thirdly, it uses very little water, so it doesn't have to use much energy to heat it up.

All of the appliances except the AC are Sears Kenmore, which appears to have the very best Energy Star ratings for the affordable products.

I think we'll save the gas-powered dryer and stove until we know for sure we're getting solar panels. Then we can get electric versions, and save even more.

We do need a new hot water heater. I've been looking into tankless hot water heaters, which originally were all gas, but now also exist as electric. But they're so new it's hard to find good information about them. Manufacturers tell how great the electric ones are (which I tend to believe, particularly if we're going solar.) The independent reviewers don't think electric tankless heaters are good enough, although I expect it's because they haven't been keeping up with the latest products. And there is no Energy Star rating for them either, so there is no guidance there either (or rebate, for that matter!)


Anonymous said...

Greetings ~

I met you at the "Jump-start your creativity: exploring Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks" message board and thought your thoughts were throught provoking, so I decided to check out your blog...

In addition to or instead of a tankless water heater, you might look into passive solar water heating. Even if you use it in addition to your current "conventional" water heater, since you are putting "pre-warmed" water into your water heater, you will use less energy to raise the water temp to the degree that you desire. Even if it raises the water temp just a few degrees (say you live in a not very sunny place), it may be useful. May as well make use of that free nueclear furnace 93 million miles away.

Also, there is solar heating with water filled tubes... we are looking into that for our dogs' kennel as it is 100 feet from the house and a bit away from electricty.

Anyhow, after reading this post, thought you might be interested in such. Good luck. I believe that every little bit helps.


bonbayel said...

Hi Karla,
Thanks for your suggestion. Every way we can use solar makes a difference! We live in a town-house type condo, with not terribly much roof-space, which I'm saving for solar electric panels.

Luckily California has laws that say that Home Owners' Associations must permit solar installation except for very reasonable considerations, but I don't want to push it. Since we live in SoCal, our water is already about 65 degrees, so it doesn't have to heat very much to get to a decent temperature. And since we have low-flow appliances we don't need much hot water anyway.

But there are all sorts of wonderful solar-based appliances out there I haven't touched on, and if you have a big yard, you can install geo-thermal heating as well!