Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Out With The Blue, In With The New

Out With The Blue

We planned on replacing the blue tile at some point. With the kids at sleep away camp, the point is now.

James Tile Guy found us beautiful Travertine tiles for a real bargain. He didn't think the powder blue tile was original. In a mid-century house with another bathroom down the hall tiled with Pretty Pretty Pink, I had to disagree.

Thinking—rather, hoping—there was some sort of subfloor between the concrete wet bed, Rob went into demo mode. Guess what? No subfloor. Just concrete. 1950s concrete. Old stinky, 60-year-old concrete. ORIGINAL TILE FLOOR. Really, REALLY hard to take up. About one hour, three cuts and two holes in the concrete later, it was decided to leave the demo to a professional.

So now, the sink is in the bedroom, the toilet is in the dressing room (now that I think about it, this actually sounds like an incredibly convenient set up). Oh, and we may be looking at a more complicated job than we planned.

In With The New

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Plants Are In

Our friend and permaculture specialist Jon has been amazing. He and Rob removed and replanted a few bushes in order to put the salad and herb garden next to the house. I had a virus of some kind that day (really, I did) so I wasn't much help.

A few weeks later they built the first of three raised beds. We now have actual food growing in the yard! This self-sufficiency thing just might happen! Jon created a master plan that includes not only the three beds but also fruit trees (coming soon), berries and chickens.

Yup, I said chickens. We're planning to raise a few of them to provide eggs and fertilizer for the crops. That's what chickens do. I don't think we'll use them for food——but you never know. For now we'll be watching the new crops to see what they'll yield.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

$11 Electric Bill for April

We just got all our bills for April and the results are fantastic - sorry for being a bit boastful but this is really cool:

Electricity savings 93% versus April last year - that corresponds to an $11.40 electric bill. The savings came as a combination of behavior change and our 2.8 KW solar array. Last year our KWH was 600. this year our KWH usage was 303kwh which means we cut our electric bill in half via changed behaviors. we also generated 263KWH of power form our array leaving 40kwh on our bill which cost $11.40. Our PV array was 13,364 dollars and we received 30% rebate from the federal government and 2.25/watt from the state, so we received roughly 9,800 dollars in rebates!

Heating also improved, partly due to warmer weather...and that might explain a small portion of the reduced electric since we have forced air system. we reduced our heating by over 50% using the pellet stove and careful use of the thermostat.

our dollar savings for 2010 versus last year so far are:
Electricity: $267
Gas: $391

Stay tuned for more details

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Preliminary March Results

Last year our family of four used 600KWH to power our house during the month of march. This March we used 450KWH. That's a savings of 25%! Mainly we just kept turning things off. We did install many CFl bulbs and we started using power strips in key areas of the house such as the family room where we have lots of electronics that that draw power even when not in use.

Now for the best part.
We collected 150KWH from our new solar array. That is a 33% offset on our bill. Overall, we are using 50% less electricity compared with last year at this time. Now i just need to make some cool charts so we can visually track our savings.

Lastly, we saw a 22%reduction in our gas usage - mainly due to thermostat adjustments and our pellet stove.

Stay tuned for more fun statistics...

Sunday, March 28, 2010


We had our first look at our permaculutre plan for our property prepared by a sustainable design student at Philadelphia University. Johnny did a great job and he is convinced that we can grow a lot of food on our land and even have a few chickens - that will be interesting. We'll be uploading some drawings soon. In the spirit of taking the first step, we moved our composting bin as per the new plan!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Looking forward to energy bills?

I know its weird, but i am really looking forward to receiving our march energy bill. we had a lot of sun this month after some rainy weeks. This should be the first month that the power from our solar array will show up as a credit. My dream is to have a zero energy bill - at least for four months this year. That's tough given that a 2.8KW array is not big enough to supply enough energy for a family of four - even a green family. A new post
with savings will be coming at the end of the month.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Power Outage - lessons learned

We lost power for 12 hours today. We learned that we need a backup plan beyond the fire place for heat and power but we also learned that on a sunny day, the temperature in our house is 54 degrees - not bad, lending credence to the strategy of south facing buildings with lots of glass on the south side. I plan to undertake a BTU/sq. ft. calculation to determine how our performs versus other houses.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

More savings

Based on our most recent energy bill, our family used 36% less electricity this January over January last year. Adding the impact of our 2.8KW solar array - we generated 168KWH (this will be our lowest producing month) so our total net KWH reduction is 49% over this time last year. We also used 28% less natural gas versus January of last year. Its been cold in the house, but not freezing. One of the things I noticed was the impact of a south facing house. there were days when the heat was set at 62, but it was 65 in the dining room as the south sun provided passive heating (40 degrees outside). (think of it as something similar to getting in your car in the winter on a sunny day). the temperature outside is cold but its warmer in the car. So, finally, we are starting see some benifit of all this effort and investment.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pictures of PV Array

This is our 2.8KW PV array installed by EOS Energy. It looks like it will generate about 1/4 of our power in the winter (we have forced air heat which requires electricity). In the spring and Fall, we expect a near-zero bill (if we are really careful about our consumption). Our inverter tells us how much power we generate each day and how much CO2 we have saved since the system was installed. Next post will cover the various rebates that we will be receiving.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Its starting to pay off!

We received our electric, gas and water bills this month and I am proud to say that paying attention to energy usage is paying off. I've been collecting data from our bills all last year when we lived without much focus on being efficient.

Last December, we used 1094 KWH and this December we used 861 KWH. That's a 22% savings over last year. Our house uses forced air heat with a pretty inefficient furnace (we'll upgrade that when we can). Our gas use—minus cooking and hot water—went from 237cf to 203cf—a 14% savings—mostly due to careful use of both the thermostat and the pellet stove. We used about ten bags of pellets at $4.50 per bag, so we saved a little bit of money there.

Electric prices in the Philaelphia area are expected to rise about 20% next year so these savings will become more important. The PV panels were activated in January - so stay tuned. Our water bills, thanks to energy star washer and dishwasher and a dual flush toilet is consistently about half or less of the national average which saves us about 600 dollars per year. One day we'll have a large rain water cistern to bring that number down further. Stay tuned for pictures of the 2.8 KW array!