Category Archives: energy


This is a good general guide to the logical steps in making a home more energy efficient. It starts off with knowledge, knowing what you are doing and why does seem like a good idea. Above that are a bunch of things that are free, mainly lifestyle changes. then we go for the very inexpensive things. Notice that in a logical world (where’s that again ?) The complex and expensive things, like solar electric, are the final tip, after all the measures with better payback have been addressed.
This diagram is only about Energy. Water conservation could also be slipped in there, somewhere around the level of appliances.
thanks to Chris Martin for finding this.


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Smart Appliances – dumb consumers

Dishwasher Control Panel

Control Panel of Dishwasher

It was hard to find a model of dishwasher that had an option for heating water or not.

The electric element at the bottom of most or all residential dishwashers heats the water to a predetermined temperature to make for a more effective wash. I wanted to be able to control this feature. It is cheaper to heat water in the gas water heater than with electricity, and for many washes our water is hot enough out of the tap. But very few models let you have any control over it – it will just turn on and heat the water while you are blissfully unaware, or at least unable to do anything about it.
I was able to find this model with an optional Added Heat button (I think its discontinued now) So I run the water hot out of the faucet, or run the dishwasher when we’ve already been running hot water for pans etc,. and forgo the electric resistance heat.
With the stainless steel interior it’s also an amazingly quiet machine an dries dishes very well with no heat for that either.
We should definitely be able to control our machines an the amount of energy they use. Unfortunately the trend always seems to be in the opposite direction

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Smart Appliances – the future

When we have smart appliances...

We are going to have smart appliances that will save energy (or even it out and save us a little money) by ‘talking’ to the smart grid and fine tune electrical consumption

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High Efficiency Furnace – Repairing the Pump

A small condensate pump

It’s obviously more sustainable to repair something, such as a piece of equipment – so long as it can perform efficiently -, rather than throw it away and replace it. So when a condensate pump at a duplex we own broke, this time I took the time to look for the problem and repair it, rather than heading off to Home Depot or wherever and buying a new one. These pumps are needed for high efficiency gas furnaces and boilers. The high efficiency means that a lot of the heat is captured from the burning gas before the exhaust fumes go out of the flue. That means that the exhaust is as cool as it can be, having given up a lot of heat. And that means that moisture condenses out of the exhaust as it cools. that moisture runs out of the equipment as water, which has to be piped to a drain. So these little pumps are often at the side on or near the floor. The pump collects the water as it drips out, then when the little reservoir fills up, the pump turns on and swoosh! the water is pumped up a little clear plastic drain tube.
So on this occasion, I found that the plastic float was partly full of water. With water in it, it’s not going to float, so it’s not going to turn on the pump motor as the water rises. The water keeps on dripping, keeps on rising, and spills out over the basement floor. I could have been wasting my time – conventional wisdom would just buy a new pump for $50-$60. In fact I was fairly easily able to open the float, empty it, seal it up again and put the works back together. Having dealt with a few of these babies I am now familiar with how they work. The total time it took was probably no more than it would have taken me to drive to the store and back.
In this case, re-use and not throwing away was a winner. For now at least.

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DOE halts sales of Air-Con air conditioners for failing energy standards

A news item as reported on Smart Planet

Good to know that energy efficiency does actually mean something and will be upheld in practice.. The standards are ratcheting up – some Green standards are not really ahead of the codes in some areas.

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LED Lighting

LED bulb in standard light fixture

I bought my first LED bulb for the house, at a sustainable energy fair , for $40.00 which is comparable to online prices.  It’s a 6W bulb that gives the equivalent light to a 50W incandescent.  These bulbs are rated for something like 60,000 hours, should last me a while…  This particular light gets turned on a lot, since its in a corner over the dining table where the only window is heavily blocked by trees  (the one area in the house not well lit with daylight).  Also my wife often complained that the previous lamp was too bright and felt like an operating theater, so its the perfect place to try it out.   The payback will be… at 16c a kWh…   actually only about 4 years which is not too bad.

On the left, the lit lamp shows a few of the individual LED bulbs glowing.  On the right, unlit, it is much like a conventional incandescent bulb

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Earth Tubes with Heat Recovery

Fresh air comes in

The earth tempering and heat recovery system with earth tubes and a heat recovery ventilator, for my office.

The earth tubes are buried in the ground and bring fresh air into the fan unit in the basement.  I used two 4″ pipes not only because that is easier to obtain and install, but because two small tubes give more surface area to transfer heat from the earth,  than say one 6″ or 8″ pipe, with the same ventilation rate.

I planted peppermint around the intakes, it probably does not do much to make air smell fresh but it cannot hurt…

Heat Recovery Ventilator

The fan unit in the basement takes air out of the room and transfers it past the incoming air via a heat exchanger so they can exchange heating or cooling.  there are four ducts which makes it a bit confusing.  One of the ducts on the right is not insulated because that takes the exhausted air directly outside, no need to preserve its heat.

The system works better in the winter to temper the cold incoming air since the outgoing air is considerable warmer, and the earth pre-warms the outdoor air so that the final air that enters the space is nearly up to the indoor temperature.

In the hot summer weather the benefits work against each other to some extent.  But it is still fresh air.

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