Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Save money through energy and resource efficiency

Continuing with a look at each of the eight points of the Modern Victory Movement. Today is point number three - Save money through energy and resource efficiency. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Raise & preserve some of your own food

Continuing with a look at each of the eight points of the Modern Victory Movement. Today is point number two, raising and preserving some of your own food.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Store food, water & other items as a hedge against economic chaos

In case you haven't read my previous post introducing the new version of my Modern Victory Movement concept, you can read it by clicking here. I thought I would go into more detail about the eight main points of the Modern Victory Movement over the next eight days (taking one a day). 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Radical Resource Efficiency

In 2007, Alexander Jung wrote a piece for the German website Spiegel Online entitled Why Conservation is the World's Best Energy Source. In it, he writes "With humanity wasting massive amounts of oil, gas and coal to heat buildings, power industry and fuel vehicles, the potential for conservation efforts is vast."

With the world, and especially huge developing countries like China, India and Russia, using more and more energy, mostly in the form of finite fossil fuels, it is becoming more difficult, and expensive, to supply the needed energy. However, "one reliable source of energy is not even close to being depleted: Simply saving it may be the safest and cleanest option mankind has. It also happens to make a tidy profit."

"Without much effort, the almost 500 million citizens of the European Union could reduce their energy use by one-fifth, studies have found. That would add up to savings of roughly €60 billion ($79 billion) per year. Such huge sums become less abstract when broken down to household level: An average family could save from €200 to €1,000 by using their energy more efficiently." -- Alexander Jung

My own experience confirms this assessment. With a moderate amount of effort and expense, I was able to reduce my household energy usage not by Jung's 20% "without much effort" estimate, but by a whopping 60%. 

Amory Lovin of the Rocky Mountain Institute argues in favor of what he refers to as "radical resource efficiency" and points out that saving energy costs less than buying it. Radical resource efficiency is just what it sounds like - the act of achieving maximum efficiency in the use of resources, such as energy. This includes using energy efficient technology as well as designing and planning homes, businesses, communities and lifestyles in such a way as to achieve maximum efficiency.
"Saving energy costs less than buying it." -- Amory Lovins

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Save Energy, and Money...

A tremendous amount of energy savings could be achieved through simple home energy-efficiency, without requiring great changes in lifestyle or personal behavior. Nor does it take huge amounts of money. I have some practical experience in this regard.

A couple of years ago, I went about making my family home of about 1,500 square feet more energy efficient. Some of the things done included:
  1. Repairs to the shell of the home
  2. Repairs to the insulation under the house
  3. Replaced several old appliances with new, energy efficient models
  4. Replaced old windows with new energy-efficient windows
  5. Switched all indoor lights to CFLs
  6. Filled in gaps where pipes and wires come into the house (kitchen, bathrooms, utility room) with a can of spray foam insulation
  7. Replaced regular shower heads with low-flow shower heads
As a result of these repairs, I was able to reduce my home's energy use by about 60% on a monthly basis compared to the previous year. Please note that this was achieved without any major change in lifestyle or personal behavior, but rather through energy-efficiency only.

The total cost of all this was about $6,800. Between the lower monthly energy bills and the tax credit for the new energy-efficient windows, I broke even on this investment in less than three years. How have your investments done over the last three years?  

The really great thing is that electricity prices could literally double and my monthly power bill will still be lower than it was before.  How is that for a hedge against higher energy taxes (cap-and-trade)? 

I feel certain that most American homes, and businesses for that matter, could probably achieve similar energy savings by simply making their buildings more energy efficient.

Of course, wasteful actions (usually due to simple thoughtlessness) should be stopped as part of achieving energy efficiency. Again, this can be done without major changes in lifestyle or personal behavior:
  1. Turn off lights when not in a room
  2. Turn off radios, TVs and/or DVD players when not being used
  3. Unplug battery chargers when not being used
  4. Unplug unnecessary clocks, kitchen gadgets and so forth
  5. Set thermostats lower in the winter (wear sweaters, throw an extra blanket on the bed)
  6. Set thermostats higher in summer (electric fans can make you feel five degrees cooler)
  7. Take quick showers (less hot water used = less energy used)
Good luck, and good savings...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Indoor Air Pollution

Worried about indoor air pollution?  Perhaps you should be, especially if you've taken steps to make your home more airtight in order to improve energy efficiency:

In the past, I have often recommended sealing your home's envelope as part of your energy efficiency efforts. Your home's envelope (walls, windows, doors, foundation, roof, attic) makes a big difference when it comes to heating and cooling.

Leaky envelopes allow winter cold air to easily seep indoors and your home's hot air (which you paid for) to seep outdoors. In the summer, a leaky envelope allows hot air from outside to leak inside, and your home's cool air (again, which you paid for) to seep outside. A very inefficient use of energy and a waste of money. Studies show that 25% to 40% of a typical home's energy bill is due to this waste.

But having an air tight home can potentially lead to air quality problems. Here is what the Rocky Mountain Institute has to say about this issue:
"An important part of making your home energy-efficient is eliminating air leaks. But does an airtight home have to mean a high concentration of indoor pollutants? Not at all.

First, don't introduce pollution sources into your home. Many common products "outgas" (give off) toxic fumes. Radon, lead, formaldehyde, cigarette smoke, organic chemicals used in furnishings, and carbon monoxide from ranges, fireplaces, and heating systems are some of the common indoor pollutants. Drapery fabric, cleaning products, carpeting, paints, and furniture can all contain harmful chemicals. Simply keeping them out of your home is the best way to avoid indoor contamination. Instead, choose household furnishings that are made with natural or non-toxic materials. These products are available, but you have to ask for them.

Many people assume that having a leaky house will flush out any pollutants. In fact, unless the wind is blowing hard, pollutants will accumulate in the still, indoor air and harm you and your family. The answer is to have a very well ventilated house, but to have the ventilation under your control. A leaky house is unpredictably and irregularly ventilated. On the other hand, a well-designed, energy-efficient house will use air-to-air heat-exchangers to flush out the stale air and recover the heat (or in a warm climate, the cool) from the outgoing air to warm (or cool) the incoming fresh air. In this way, you can have lots of fresh air but not pay for "space" heating — heating outer space." -- RMI webpage
Another idea, one that is literally quite green, for your consideration is the use of houseplants to filter your home's air. NASA has studied which plants best filter the air, not only producing oxygen from CO2, but also absorbing benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Here is a list of the best air-filtering houseplants based on their studies:

* English Ivy (Hedera helix)
* Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
* Golden pothos or Devil's ivy (Scindapsus aures or Epipremnum aureum)
* Peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa')
* Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
* Bamboo palm or reed palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
* Snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii')
Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium, syn. Philodendroncordatum)
Selloum philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum, syn. Philodendronselloum)
* Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum)
* Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata)
* Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragans 'Massangeana')
* Janet Craig dracaena (Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig')
Warneck dracaena (Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii')
* Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
Gerbera Daisy or Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
* Pot Mum or Florist's Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium)
* Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)