My electric bill came in lower this past month, which caused me to reflect on all of my efforts to work on making my home more sustainable.
The temperature outside reads 89F, and the temperature inside reads 77F. A hot gust of wind blows on my face as I stand by the open kitchen window, but I feel the cool tile floor. I regularly evaluate my efforts to improve the quality of life in my home and my efforts to make the home green. I want to be able to tell my clients about what works, and what may be a wrong direction to take. If you read much of the do it yourself advice on different web pages, you will find that these ideas on being green are not so useful. When my latest electric bill arrived, I thought it might be higher, but it had gone down. That caused me tolook at what I have done; it also made me realize that I have not undertaken a major green home conversion project. I am beginning agreen wall project that I am in the middle of accomplishing. Mainly, my projects have involved home maintenance. I see too many problems in foreclosures that I know can be prevented by simple maintenance, and I was aware that I did not always take care of these items.
Has my green home conversion worked? There have been failures, so let us discuss those first. I did not know what to expect with the home built dehumidifier, but I did expect a bit more from it. Did it take moisture out of the air? Yes. Did these units take enough out of the air for comfort? No. I am still using my little dehumidifiers, but on truly humid days, without the air conditioning, my home does not feel as comfortable as I would like. Another failure, to a degree, was the solar oven. It did work. I hoped that the foil insulation would work more like a mirror, reflecting the rays back onto the cast iron pot. This did happen, but it did not really produce more heat than what another solar oven in a similar style would do (I was hoping for faster cooking). I am planning another oven though. One problem with my little oven was that it fell apart, due to using the cardboard box. The next problem was that I had to go outside at times when I wanted simple access from my kitchen . For those reasons, I would prefer a solar wall oven that I could access from the kitchen. Another sort of failure may have not going after a energy audit with a test to check the building envelope. I understood my home fairly well, but I missed something. In the winter, I felt a cold breeze in the kitchen. My assumption was that this was coming from the utility room which is attached to the garage. This space is not the best. I discovered that the utility room was not the issue. My 1964 home did not have insulation in the walls. The kitchen cabinets sit on a box frame. The back of the cabinet and the box frame have a gap leading to the interior wall, and the builder had not put a wall covering behind the cabinets (I guess that this was to work on the pluming and electric in this area). The cold air from the attic and exterior wall would come through when the wind picked up, blowing underneath the cabinets. I could have discovered this sooner with a proper test, but I did encounter the situation by staying vigilant. I wonder if I have other issues.
I am still not running my air conditioning system, even with these hotter days. I do find that on days with high humidity this can make the late afternoon a little rough; however, the family has bought into the idea of not needing it, so we all are using the house to its best advantage. The majority of the ideas expressed in the green home conversion category do help. Both electricity and natural gas usage has gone down. I really want to reduce natural gas even further, so my next project will not be a way of improving the water heater, but installing a new water heater. My garden has expanded, and my water usage should have gone up dramatically, but that has not been the case; however, I need to complete my grey water system. The biggest success may be the lifestyle changes. We already had a low garbage output, and that has decreased. I did not think that I could convince my wife to give up on paper towels or to start using green cleaning products. She had her reasons, and some arguments were not unreasonable. I mentioned paper towels, because that was an argument that I could readily understand and accept. Using the cloth towels which could be washed is better, but being able to wipe up the mess, and throw away the towel may be more hygienic. I may use a cloth towel for several cleanings, but the bacteria picked up with the paper towel would be in the garbage. I have to say that my home is more efficient and healthy, so that is a success in my book.
The best thing for me is that I am able to give better advice to my clients. It is one thing to learn and understand a concept, but to implement and study an idea has given me a better insight. This is leading me to investigate further, and I want to discover more ways to make the home more sustainable. What I would like to see is a more organized industry on converting exiting housing stock to be green, sustainable homes.