Monday, March 30, 2009

Thrift Talk 2

Thanks, Grace and Mom H. for the money saving tips. I'll go on to the next category soon, but first I thought I'd share what some further research and thought has unearthed in the area of electricity savings.

I found Michael Bluejay's site to have some very useful information. His strategy is to attack the biggest power eaters first, like central heat, air conditioning, the water heater, dryer and refrigerator. Unfortunately, most major home improvement solutions are simply out of our financial range. I can't see paying over $1,000 for an Energy Star refrigerator when our 90's model works fine. It would take a long time for the power savings to repay us for the initial cost. We are working on a few ideas, however, that would help to bring our electricity use down.

Future Energy Improvement Ideas:

In winter, we can put jugs of water outdoors to freeze at night, then bring them in and put them in the refrigerator. This will keep the temperature low enough to prevent the compresser from having to run. Cleaning the coils is also important for it to run efficiently.

Water Heater- Luke is working on a solar water heater made with a recycled tank and other salvaged materials. Basically, it allows the sun to heat the water before it goes into the indoor electric heater, taking the load off in sunny weather. He'll probably post more about this project as it nears completion.

Wood Stove- Both of us grew up in homes heated with wood stoves and now we own several acres of woodland, which would supply more than enough fuel for our comparatively mild winters if managed properly. The only catch is that insurance companies don't really like wood stoves in mobile homes. Hopefully, we will soon be mortgage free and can shop around for the type of coverage we want, or opt for no coverage if we want, rather than having to satisfy the bank. Anyway, we're planning to install one before next winter.

Cooling the House- We are searching for ways to cool the house naturally and reduce the need to run the air conditioner. Most of the heat that comes into the house via the roof and windows is radiant heat from the sun, which regular insulation doesn't block. A reflective layer is necessary for this and it is claimed that this can block 97% of the sun's radiant heat. Once again, however, installing this type of insulation would be very expensive and labor intensive. As would painting the roof with a white roof coating, which is another effective strategy, or installing a tin roof-over. These can be planned for in the future, but we have been toying around with some ideas for cheap, short term solutions that can be put into action this summer. Some of these are: 1- building a long planting box up on the ridge line and planting trailing vines, like pole beans or morning glories, to create a "green roof" effect. Half of the house is already shaded, so we would only need to do this on the exposed area. 2- making a temporary canopy over part of the roof out of a tarp with maybe a layer of heavy duty foil glued to it. The foil would act as a reflector, but without an air space underneath, it would also act as a conductor of heat if placed directly onto the roof. Hence the need for the canopy, which would also provide effective shade by itself. 3- putting transparent shade cloth made for greenhouses over exposed windows to block the sun's rays.

More about this later- we'll see if any of these ideas work and let you know if they do!

No comments: