This post is a very high level view and, admittedly, a bit long. It’s meant to lay out what I’ve done so far, and do it as briefly as possible so it’s not a horribly long read. I will elaborate at a later date on most of the projects listed below, but for now it’s just a listing of things I’ve done.
My main focus up to this point has been on reducing the amount of electricity our house uses. There have been a lot of things I’ve tried to mitigate our usage and it seems to be working so far.
I live in Los Angeles and my bi-monthly electric bill has been as high as $550 in the summer. It’s a little 1250 sqft house with two adults, one kid, two dogs, a cat and a pool. So where is all the electricity going? While I can’t say what exactly uses the most electricity in our house, I target things I know will greatly reduce our usage. I’ve replaced most of our high usage incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights – like in the office, the living room, and the outdoor lights. I’ve installed a programmable thermostat and have adjusted it probably as far as I can. The heat in the winter is set to come on at 65 and in the summer the AC is set to come on at 81. Those settings have been working out pretty well so far. So far this year, when I know it’s going to be a warm day, I leave the doors open in the morning to capture as much of the cool morning air as possible and then close up all the doors when I think it’s starting to warm up. I’ve installed a gable fan – which has helped considerably, put ceiling fans in almost every room, put up bamboo blinds in our sun room (which is the hottest room in the house), and close the doors to our bedrooms which are on the hottest side of the house. Due to all of these adjustments we haven’t used more than 30 minutes of AC in the last three weeks – and we’ve seen temperatures in the high 80’s. That’s huge. I attribute most of that to the gable fan but all of these changes have contributed of course.
While investigating the attic I found that there are several places where we have no insulation, or at best about 2 inches of insulation. Of course I’m planning on fixing that, but the gable fan will at least keep most of the heat flowing out. We also don’t have any ridge vents so before the gable fan there was no good way for the heat to find a way out on its own so it would be like an oven heating up the living spaces. I have no idea how prior owners survived in this house in the summers! I’m hoping to be able to blow in insulation myself next weekend. Lowe’s rents a hopper/blower and sells the recycled insulation to use with it. The deal is pretty good – the first 24 hours of the rental is free with the purchase 20 bales of insulation and then only $20 a day for the next three (max is 4 day rental). I’ve calculated that we need almost exactly 50 bales so it won’t be a problem meeting the 20 bale criteria. It’s going to cost about $550 total when I’m done but it will save hundreds a year, if not more.
Now I’m starting to focus more on water consumption. I installed gutters on the garage and put a rain barrel in place. I bought three of them off of Craigs List for $15 each almost a year ago and am finally utilizing them. They are old pickle barrels so they are perfectly suited for water retention (i.e. food grade – although the water they collect should not be consumed by anything other than plants!). I’m going to put up the rest of the gutters on the back of the house (gutters are oddly lacking on most houses in SoCal) and use another rain barrel there. I’m siphoning My wife and son’s bath water about once a week into another rain barrel for foliage irrigation. The other thing I’m doing to conserve water is to capture the water in the tub that runs while I’m waiting for the hot water to reach the faucet. I take a 5 gallon bucket, put it under the tap and let it run until I feel the hot water. This averages around 2-2.5 gallons, which is perfect for watering the potted plants.
And finally, recycling. Los Angeles has the best recycling program that I’m aware of. It’s great because there’s no need to distinguish between the different plastic types which takes out the confusion and a lot of the effort. Even the worst plastics – numbers 3 and 5 – can be thrown into the blue recycling bin (**according to lacity.org). Most places only allow 1 and 2 to be put in the bin, so then you need to figure out what to do with the other 5 types. There are places that will take them but you need to search for them. Please do – a little initial effort to locate these recycling facilities on your part will do a lot for the future of the environment. If you just decide the effort isn’t worth it and throw it away, then it ends up in a land fill, leaches into the ground water system and then ends up in the water out of the tap.
I hope these posts will be useful to someone. I’ve found that once I started doing one or two things to improve our electricity consumption or water usage then it became a bit easier to be conscious and even a little addictive. I look at things a bit differently because of all this and I’m seeing noticeable results from my actions.
In the next few weeks I’m going to be adding a links section, an environmental “code” page to describe things like what the different recycling numbers mean on plastic and other such information, and some pictures of my projects.
If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them. Comments will need to be approved by me, or you can send me an email to webmaster at this domain.