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rainbowgardener
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how do I know what's the right thing to do?

I am always trying to reduce my energy usage/ carbon footprint/ impact on the earth, etc. But sometimes it's really hard to know how to do that.

For example, how many fans do you have to run all night, before it would be more energy efficient just to close up the house and run the central air?

I was thinking this last night as I ran burners on my stove for heating water and then canning, for simmering soup stock, for cooking, and the oven for baking a casserole. All this in the name of eating locally grown food that hasn't been trucked all over the country. Leaving the questions of health, what's good for body and soul out of it, how do I figure out in energy efficiency/ earth impact terms, whether this is really a good thing to be doing, vs say buying prepared food and nuking it briefly (and recycling the packaging). (I am sure in energy terms the best thing I did was steam the green beans in the microwave then throw them in the freezer, which runs all the time anyway.)

How do people figure this stuff out?
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thanrose
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Rainbow gardener, I don't have any answers. But I think asking the questions you ask leads one to make better choices, and to be flexible in approach as data increases.

Of course every area is different. What works in one region may need tweaking or laughing in another. What one family does won't always work for another.

I have to use smaller packaging than I'd like because of elderly parents that can't handle the bigger canister of oatmeal. I have to use ceiling fans as well as AC because of the climate, but not the whole house fan because my father misunderstood something a son-in-law said, but is too set in his ways to change now.

I had to pay my brother off to not saw up the huge fallen limbs I shaped and trimmed and dragged to garden edges as my father was paying him off to saw them up and cart away. I don't like all the aluminum cans this household uses then tosses in the trash, but have to hide my recycling bin.

In other words, I do what I can. I make deliberate choices, but I have to base them on my reality.

Down here, some of the old cracker homesteads had detached kitchens. Actually, Edison's winter home in Ft Myers has a detached kitchen, too. It kept the rest of the house cooler. I've seen a few older homes that had ramshackle additions with the laundry essentially outside, and the kitchen closed off from the rest of the house, and vented separately. That would be a practical local solution to the generated humidity, and the heat potential.

I'm sure you do as I do and try to combine uses. If I use the clothes dryer, I try to do a couple of loads so that the heat is better utilized, and I don't do it in the afternoon when AC use and cost is the highest. (It's outside in the garage, but as it warms the garage it will affect the house, too.) I combine driving errands, store visits, and research multi-use products. That doesn't stop my father from leaving the water running while he pours his coffee, but it's what I can do.

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applestar
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Interesting question! One that I should be exploring too.


So you don't use a window air conditioner either? Some of the recent models come with Energy Star certification. We had to buy a couple a few years ago when the central A/C broke down. We got the low-profile window-hung ones with a digital thermostat and remote control, but now, you can get even better one with a separate condenser unit on the outside. This is the kind I've always seen in Japanese homes, where they're extremely energy conscious, and they are supposed to be even better.

If you go to renewable energy websites, you can get a device called Kill-a-watt that you plug into the electrical outlet then plug your electric appliances. It measure the the amount of wattage being used.

Incidentally, you can get a similar device for the garden faucet to measure the amount of water being used.

I suppose if you have gas cooking stove, the easiest way is to read the gas meter? (I don't have gas line to my house as I'm chemically sensitive and our subdivision didn't get gas lines until later. So we opted for gas line to the driveway -- available for future installation -- but not to the house).

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rainbowgardener
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No window A/C's but we run a big whole house attic fan all night and some window fans, bring the cool (hopefully!) night air in the bottom of the house and vent the hot air out the top. As long as the nights are cool, it works pretty well, but we are running a lot of fans.

Not a gas stove either, electric smooth top.

I might look into the Kill-a-watt, that's a good suggestion for trying to figure some of this out.

I don't use the dryer, hang clothes on the line (I'm old enough to remember when that's what everyone did, because there weren't clothes dryers :) ) https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=140579&highlight=garden+decor#140579

Some of the older homes here also had detached summer kitchens for using the stove without heating the house up. It was a good idea. Current version is grilling out! :) In Costa Rica, everyone has their laundry outdoors and lots of people have an outdoor kitchen. Not really because it gets so hot (it doesn't in the central valley), just to enjoy the year around beautiful weather! And their houses are small, so it makes more room in the house.
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gixxerific
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Everything we do is killing the earth to some extent. Don't be so hard on yourself and do the best you can.

I just wasted electricity sending this post as well as the others that have posted on this thread so where does it end? :?: :roll:

garden5
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gixxerific wrote:Everything we do is killing the earth to some extent. Don't be so hard on yourself and do the best you can.

I just wasted electricity sending this post as well as the others that have posted on this thread so where does it end? :?: :roll:
Well, for starters, Gix, you could do the environmentally responsible thing and use the environmentally friendly alternative to Google, [url=https://www.blackle.com/]Blackle[/url]. As it turns out, you use enough energy by displaying a white background on your computer to make tea. Having a black background uses less power.
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gixxerific
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Good point G5 but still not my point.

I feel for you Rainbow. :wink: :( I do my best to be environmentally conscious but still even that is not good enough. NOBODY is no matter how you look at it.

All you can do is try your best.

I won't get into it any further now cause it can get VERY deep.

I hope you find your answer but I do not have it RBG. :?

cynthia_h
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If you want brass tacks on how much energy various items around the home require, check out this guy:

https://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/howmuch.html

I found his site a year or so ago, after a particularly bad month's utility bill arrived. Great explanation of stuff, even for the electrically challenged (like me). I was depressed, though, at the rates he used for his examples; PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) uses a tiered rate structure. The *lowest* KWH rate is $0.116/kwh, and Mr. MBJ was quoting rates like $0.06/kwh, approx. half of what we pay for the lowest tier. :(

Maybe his site will help you clarify the fans vs. air conditioner question for your home.

Best wishes!

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Ozark Lady
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I would say, take it all one step at a time.

Yes, I have a window a/c, but I also have a grove of trees around my house, and only need it during the 100 degree days, and I don't set it particularly low... when it is 100 outside, 90 feels like heaven!

My husband just finished refurbishing my woodburning cookstove.
It has a very tiny woodbox... really limbs on the ground cut up will be about all you can fuel it with... what would you be doing with those limbs otherwise?

But, we plan to use it to heat water, cook, and heat the house. I may have to back it up with the hahsa (external woodburner) but, my house is double insulated and the windows are all double. I cool my house cheap and it is so easy to heat!

I will still have my propane cookstove, and my electric appliances, but I won't be needing them so often. But, I need to learn how to use the thing!

I would also look into solar, as in solar dehydrating food items.
Think of the indians... they dried their food by the sun and wind... no gas, no electricity, usually not even wood. Of course, we might want to be more sanitary, but I saw wonderful plans to build your own solar dehydrator and you know, you could probably use it as a slow cooker too!

Just one step at a time, just one little improvement... then another...

The longest journey starts with one step. Find your step and take it, and then when you see the second spot... take it...

And don't beat yourself up for not running down the path as fast as some others... tortoise and the hare type thing...
Talk to your plants.... If your plants talk to you... Run!

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rainbowgardener
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I'm not beating myself up or feeling bad, I'm just trying to figure out how to keep making steps (as OL said, one step at a time). It just helps to have data to try and do that. What's the point of sweating all summer if the fans are actually using more electricity than the A/C would?

But thanks so much cynthia, that was exactly what I was looking for for the fans vs A/C ?? He says a large central air unit uses 3500 watts, the whole house attic fan uses 350 and a box fan (what we have in our windows) uses 100. So it looks like I am indeed cutting the electricity use by about 2/3 by what we do. Very nice to know!

Not all the what is really right questions are as easy to answer, but at least one is solved! :)
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gixxerific
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Well there you go. Glad you figured it out for you and for me.

That is an amazing difference between AC and various fans. I use the box fan in the window myself, i also use my ceiling fans a lot which are even using less energy. Seeing that the attic fans only uses 350 makes yet another point as to why I have to get one this year. I have been wanting one since we moved here a few years ago just haven't gotten around to buying one, they aren't cheap, but it would be cheaper and better overall in the long run.

Attic fans rule, I had one in my last house and at my parents house. They really cut down on the use of AC.

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Ozark Lady
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I just checked the electric bills, our highest summer electric bill was: $80.00 so that isn't so bad. Grandma next door, has a central a/c and her electric was running over $200.00 per month.

Now these do both also include water pumps and electric hot water heaters, and I think Grandma has an electric cookstove.

I do close off unused bedrooms during the day, and only open them to a/c at night.
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applestar
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I want to get a solar attic fan for over the garage which shares the attic space with the Family room and does NOT have an attic fan (we do have one -- not solar though :? -- on top of the house)... but DH won't spring for it. :? I was recently contemplating the gable end solar attic fan, which I could probably install myself.... 8)

-- here's another example of ideal vs. reality, thanrose. :|

tedln
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RBG,

How knowledgeable are you about electricity, electrical efficiency, and insulation? You are a very knowledgeable person, and I don't want to insult you with some information that is pretty basic.

For example, are you aware that electrical utility companies send you a bill for the total number of kilowatt hours of electricity consumed over a typical 30 day period. A kilowatt hour is the same thing as burning ten 100 watt light bulbs for one hour or 1000 watts for one hour. My electrical costs this year are based on 18.5 cents per KWH or kilowatt hour. 1000 watts X 24 hours consumed cost me $4.44 per day or $133.20 per month.

They also typically charge a fuel surcharge which is based on the monthly costs they incur for the natural gas or coal they use to produce the electricity. The surcharge is prorated over the amount of electricity you consume and added to your bill. The fuel charge typically increases or decreases monthly based on their cost. If cap & trade passes congress, you will also pay a significant federal tax based on the fuel costs for the electricity you consume.

If your utility company has a nuclear generating plant or is purchasing or generating wind energy, you will be paying considerably more per KWH. People don't normally understand that wind energy costs considerably more than traditionally generated electricity. The wind towers and generators are very expensive to erect, maintain, and transmit electricity from the wind turbine field to the closest power grid. For people who are environmentally conscious and wish to lower their carbon foot print by consuming more wind energy and less fossil fuel energy, there is no way to know how much of your electricity is produced from either. Some utility companies may state their electricity is 5% wind generated or 10% wind generated, but in most cases there is no way for them to know if they transfer power over a common grid.

The easiest way to measure your carbon footprint is to monitor the total amount of electricity based on total cost used per month.

I want to tell you how to monitor and improve your electricity consumption, but I'm not sure how much you already know.

Ted
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rainbowgardener
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"The easiest way to measure your carbon footprint is to monitor the total amount of electricity based on total cost used per month. "

I agree, except that that doesn't tell you very much about what was using that energy, therefore what would be most important to work on cutting down. It just tells you your total usage, so you know over all how you are doing.

That's why I liked Applestar's Kill-a-watt suggestion, something that would monitor each appliance individually, so you would know where your usage is coming from.

But generally I can figure it out; what uses electricity at my house: probably biggest one is the electric stove and oven. Then there's refrigerator and chest freezer. Washing machine (don't use the dryer). After that is all the small stuff -- computers, TV's, phone/answering machine, all those fans, light bulbs (all CF). Except for being better about turning the computers off so they don't draw standby power, there's limited room for improvement, unless I want to quit doing all my from scratch cooking and nuke everything.

Hot water and furnace are gas and we have a new 95% efficient furnace and a programmable thermostat which keeps the house down to 60 at night and when we are at work. The next project I would like to do is replace the water heater which runs all the time with an electric tankless on-demand water heater.

I'm reasonably knowledgeable about backyard gardening, not so much about electricity :) I'm listening if you have any suggestions.
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tedln
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RBG,
I think the difficulty most people experience when attempting to lower their energy consumption is to understand the terminology of the power consumed or required by different devices. The following is their meaning.

I agree about the device mentioned by applestar. It will allow you to incrementally determine power consumption for each appliance.

I hope you find some of this information helpful.

Amperage or Amps provided by an electrical service is the flow rate of "electrical current" that is available. Mathematically, Amps = Watts / Volts. (Amps = Watts divided by Volts)

Volts in an electrical system can be thought of in a manner similar to the water pressure in your faucets. If you lower the water pressure, less water will flow from your faucet. If you lower the voltage in your electrical system, less electricity measured in watts will flow into your appliances. Mathematically Volts = Watts / Amps. (Volts equals Watts divided by Amps).

Watts is a measure of the amount of electricity being used - a rate of electrical power consumption. Most people use a very simple mathematical formula to determine how many watts an electrical device requires to operate: Watts = Volts x Amps.

Common electrical devices and appliances typically have a data plate which states how many volts, amps, and’/or watts are required to power the device.

Devices like coffee pots, hair dryers, hot water heaters, clothes dryers, ovens, electric ranges and home heating systems simply are designed to convert electricity into heat. The heat is used in the manner you choose. Devices like the oven, hot water heater, home heating system, and clothes dryer can consume less electricity by maximizing their electrical efficiency with the highest rated insulation system. The insulation simply slows down the transfer or loss of the heat you are paying for from the device to the atmosphere.

Devices like air conditioning systems, refrigerators, and freezers; typically have three different rates of electrical consumption. They have starting amperage to start the compressor, running amperage to power the compressor, and operating amps or watts to run circulation fans, digital monitoring devices like thermostats, and digital programming and memory devices. The only way to determine their efficiency is to monitor total electrical consumption over a specific time like twenty four hours. These devices can also have higher efficiency ratings (lower electrical consumption) by designing them to transfer heat most efficiently.

Devices like television sets, computers, DVD players, ceiling fans, and room fans have constant consumption rates which are usually stated on a data plate somewhere on the device. Most of those devices continue to use electricity even when turned off to maintain any settings which may have been programmed into the device. They sometimes only partially shut down when turned off if they are programmed for instant on convenience. Many of them can only be totally turned off by disconnecting them from the outlet.

Lighting devices are the simplest to monitor because their consumption is usually stated in watts. By multiplying the total watts of one or all lights by the amount of time used per day, you can determine total watts used per day.

The best way to lower a carbon footprint by reducing energy consumption is to improve your home. The most efficient home will have at least R 11 up to R 24 rated insulation in the walls and ceilings. All glass doors and windows should be double paned with a constant sealed vacuum between the panes. All doors, door frames, windows, window frames, and other holes through the walls like water and electrical entries should be sealed with sealant to prevent heat loss.

Ted
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rainbowgardener
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thanks for taking the time to do this tedlin.

House has all replacement double paned windows. The attic floor is insulated to be a barrier between heated area and unheated attic. Can't do wall insulation. It's almost 100 yrs old, plaster over brick (with stucco over that for outside layer). I'm working on sealing up all the little spaces... caulking the edges of baseboard moulding, putting insulation pads in the electric outlets, door strips, etc.
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tedln
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RBG,

Actually, brick, stucco, and plaster make a pretty good heat sink. Ambient heat tends to remain in them. If the outside surfaces are protected from the sun, very little heat will transfer inside in the summer, yet they will retain and emit stored heat slowly in cold weather. I prefer that construction over hollow walls filled with insulation. Some people, in some climates have built adobe style homes with thick walls to retain and slowly emit heat.

You can also construct a trellis on the hottest summer time wall. Allow productive vines like cucumbers or beans to grow on the trellis in the summer to protect the wall from the sun and allow them to die back in the winter so the sun can heat the wall.

Ted
I simply enjoy gardening!

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tomf
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My next-door neighbors are finishing up their green home. It is made from a brick that has sawdust and wood chips in it and then has a lining of fiberglass insulation. The inside and outside walls are stucco. They have in floor hot water heating and a wood stove that is a massive stonework, it radiates heat after the fire goes out for most of the day. There is an indoor swim in place pool in the house; Gorge needs it for his back.
The garage roof is made to hold a garden and they will be planting one there. I have seen some very nice green roofs; I have some photos of one I may post.



I have read that now there is a problem with indoor air pollution from homes being to tightly closed up.

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tomf
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You power is at a fixed voltage with a tolerance of 110-120VAC and 210-220VAC. Most of you house is 120VAC and the large appliances may be 220VAC. The biggest reason for using 220VAC is you can trade volts for amps to get power so by having a larger voltage you can run a smaller size wire as the thickness of the wire has to do with the amount of current flowing through it.

There is this really cool thing called a light switch if you can teach your kids it also can be used to turn lights your doing good. Some times I think refrigerators should be made with glass doors, as kids will stand there staring into it with the door open.



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