Feit Compact Fluorescent Recessed Lighting Light Bulbs

One type of compact fluorescent bulb that’s a bit harder than average to find are bulbs for recessed lighting. I have a hallway that uses 60W incandescents or 15W CF bulbs, but exposed regular CFs just weren’t going to cut it.

This bulb from Feit does the trick:

Compact Fluorescent Recessed Lighting Light Bulbs

Like most CF bulbs, they take a bit longer to warm up than comparable incandescent bulbs, so they may not be the best choice in lighting situations where you need something to be at 100% right away. But once warmed up (around a minute) the light quality is great.

Feit makes a dimmable version as well. I haven’t had luck with dimmable CF bulbs to date and haven’t tried this one (it currently receives one star for burning out quickly) so I can’t recommend it.

Improving Our Home’s Energy Efficiency

I recently gave Centerpoint Energy a ring and asked if they could pull the records on what Carly and I have been paying for natural gas used in our home over the time we’ve owned it. CenterPoint provides up to 15 months of data on their website (login required) but will print and mail larger data sets.

Once I received the thick envelope of data and returned it to an electronic format, I created this year over year look at monthly costs:

Gas Payment by Month

Ideally, I’d like to see the red line (Year 2) below the blue (Year 1) with the Gold line (Year 3) below the red. To achieve that, I need to progressively decrease what I’m paying CenterPoint Energy for natural gas.

Uses of Natural Gas

I believe this is a complete list of how natural gas is consumed in my house. I’ve tried to rank them based on how much natural gas I perceive each system consumes annually.

1. Furnace to heat water for baseboard water heating
2. Hot water heater
3. Clothes Dryer
4. Stove/Oven
5. Gas Grill

Cost Cutting Actions

Over time, we’ve made a few changes around the house that I assume helped lower our natural gas consumption, but the feedback loop isn’t as precise as it is with the Google PowerMeter used for monitoring electricity. Here’s what I think has helped.

Water Heater Blanket – I don’t think we’ve reduced the amount of cooking, grilling or laundry we’ve done in summer months, so the drop may be tied to the water heater blanket I purchased and installed in April 2009. I paid $26.21 for that at the time, so it may have paid for itself in only a few months. If it cut my gas costs by as little as 10 cents/day, it’s already paid for itself.

Door Sweeps – When we moved in, you could literally see light entering the house from below the doors. Closing the obvious gaps with door sweeps cost less than $40.

Expanding Foam Sealant – $5 spend on this stuff helps close drafts in tough to patch areas. For example, our front door has a skeleton keyhole that would shoot air into our home that’s 100F colder than indoor temps on coldest days. A few cents worth of foam shut that down. Don’t get this stuff on your hands.

Attic insulation – I found Owens Corning’s attic insulation calculator valuable for determining how much insulation my attic could use. Since there was already stuff up there, I picked up around 14 rolls of R-30 insulation to roll out on top of what was there. My total cost of supplies (including a face mask, gloves, and box cutter) was under $200. Rolling out the insulation took around 3 hours. I was itchy for a day after that. Before do-it-myselfing this, I also got a quote from a company that would blow in insulation. That was $2,000 rather than $200.

Programmable Thermostat Adjustments – I can’t imagine not having a programmable thermostat in a house these days. They’re cheap and help save a ton of energy since you’re only using as much energy as you need to be comfortable at any time of the day or week. The cost from $25-$100 depending on how complex a model you’d like (I use a relatively simple 5-2 model where it has one setting for weekday wake-up, mid-day, evening, and overnight temps and a second setting for the weekend routine). We got a bit more aggressive with our overnight low temp this year, which probably accounts for some of our more recent savings. At this point, our overnight temp is “chilly on the couch but perfect for sleeping” with the heat ramping back up starting early enough in the morning to make crawling out from under the covers comfortable. Then it drops off during work hours. Painless savings.

Like I said earlier, it’s tough to correlate individual projects with energy savings since the feedback loop on gas consumption is so poor. What I do know is that we spent $269 less in our second year in our home than the first on natural gas. We saved around 315 therms worth of natural gas. Converting that to a car gasoline’s energy (btu) equivalent, we burned 252 gallons less gas without compromising on comfort. Good stuff.

Talking Google PowerMeter on AM 950 and The Uptake

I had a little chat about my latest obsession, the Google PowerMeter service, on Quick On The UpTake with Mike McIntee this afternoon. Good times were had. The theme of the hour was energy conservation starting with my segment at 15 minutes into the segment embedded above (that a live studio shot of Mike doing the show. I called in.)

If you’re into the local healthcare scene, you may find the entire video valuable.

I warmed things up for Molly Priesmeyer from LiveGreenTwinCities who shares her home energy audit experiences after my segment while Mike drops knowledge based on his own energy audit experience. That is some great information, especially for us inner city folks who’s homes may have developed a few leads over the years. Or, as Reuben recently discovered, are being insulated by squirrel carcasses.

Privacy Concerns

One thing that came out during this segment that’s worth explaining: The powermeter I installed from The Energy Detective can be used without sharing data with Google. In fact, the service’s primary value, today, has nothing to do with Google. T.E.D.’s basic energy monitoring software shows you your energy consumption from your circuit breaker box to your web browser directly and shares that data with no one. It’s up to you to decide whether you’d also like to share you home’s energy data with Google. The data provided on T.E.D.’s interface is more valuable than Google’s representation of the same data since it’s real-time, so you can immediately see the impact of turning a light or appliance on/off. Over time, Google may be able to provide equally interesting data in the form of local benchmarks, but they’re no there today.

If you have any hesitation about using this service based on privacy concerns, don’t opt-in to the Google PowerMeter service after installing the software. You’ll get all the benefits with none of the privacy concerns related to pushing your home’s energy consumption stats to Google.

As of now, they’re still back-ordered (the model I have is the TED 5000), but it looks like Amazon may carry it once they’ve caught up with demand.

You Can Lease Solar Panels in Minnesota

Maria Energia has a look at a local company, freEner-g , that’s leases solar power panels.

As I understand it, you end up paying a fixed monthly cost for the panels and depending on your power consumption and solar exposure, may be able to drop your electricity bill to zero. In fact, I think it can go negative if you’re contributing more energy to the grid than you consume.

Minneapolis Residents: Switch to E-Bill Today

Quick reminder to Minneapolis residents: Switch your utility bill to e-bill. You’ll receive your monthly statement via email rather than paper mail.

You can check a box on the back of your paper statement this month to do this, or go here right now to fill out the form now. E-delivery of statements is planned to start in October.

That saves the purchase, printing, mailing, and recycling costs associated with 12 mailings per year.

Going green is the smart economic choice, as Cam Gordon explains below:

Second Ward, Minneapolis: Email Utility Bills!

If all Minneapolis utility customers signed up for electronic billing, each year the City would safe 44 tons of wood (equal to 302 trees) and enough energy to power seven homes. It’s also a great way for us to make your tax dollars go further.

Eco Friendly Window Design

Guy Kawasaki toured a new building on the Stanford campus last week that was built with some Yahoo bucks from Yahoo co-founder (and current CEO) Jerry Yang.

This shot jumped out at me:

Eco Friendly Windows

The shelf is the innovation. It serves dual purposes. First, it shades the inside of the building during high sun summer months while allowing light in lower sun winter months to shine further into the building. Second, it reflects light off the top of the shelf up against the ceilings of rooms, thus dispersing the light within the rooms, making it more user friendly than intense direct sunlight on the floor or nearby desks would be.

As I understand it, this provides plenty of light while reducing cooling needs in the summer, while providing direct light to reduce heating needs in the winter. And, ideally, it cuts down on artificial lighting.

There are many other examples of eco-friendly design worth checking out in the post on Guy’s site if you’re into that sort of thing.

Has Global Warming Hurt the Green Bay Packers?

Wisconsin Environment Press ConferencePacker fans are still recovering from their playoff loss. But thanks to Wisconsin Environment, they now have a new justification for their less than stellar seasons in recent history: the environment.

“As if we needed another reason to tackle global warming, now even the Green Bay Packers could be affected,” said LuCinda Hohmann, Field Organizer with Wisconsin Environment. “Congress and the state legislature must get serious about global warming before rising temperatures fumble away the Packers home field advantage.”

National trends from recent seasons suggest that a home field advantage for cold weather teams over their warm weather rivals may truly exist. Wisconsin Environment pointed to the National Football League’s 14 cold weather teams having won 65 percent of their home games played after Halloween against warm weather teams from 1998 through 2005.

But wasn’t Green Bay’s playoff loss one – if not the – coldest playoff game in the history of the NFL? Don’t let an outlier like that get in the way of the larger trend:

The Green Bay Packers had the largest temperature increase during the last seven seasons, a 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit increase as compared to the previous thirty years. This is significant in comparison to the next highest temperature rise of only 2.9 degrees.

As far as I can tell, global warming really started impacting the Packers after the 1998 season. You can’t blame the 1998 Superbowl loss on global warming, but you could blame the next 10 seasons on it.

Kyoto Protocol Signing Broken Down by Country

In America, we generally play a game of Majority Rules. But when America participates in games on the world stage, different rules apply.

For example, check out this chart from Inhabitat showing a breakdown of which countries have signed on to the Kyoto protocol and which ONE hasn’t:

Kyoto Protocol by Country

Odds like that make me think, “Is the rest of world really that stupid? Don’t they listen to Rush Limbaugh?”

It’s taken just under 10 years (Dec 11, 1997 treaty) for all but one country in the world to agree that it was time to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Will it take another decade for the last country, the United States, to grudgingly do the right thing? Or will it only take until January 20, 2009?

via Platial

Green Holiday Gift Ideas

TerraPass is rolling out a series of posts on green gifts for the holidays.

One that I’ve never seen before is a surge suppressor called the Smart Strip that lets you fully turn off power-sucking products that unnecessarily draw power 24-7. For example, if you’re computer’s turned off, it probably makes sense that your printer and scanner aren’t going to see any use, so they don’t need to be hovering around waiting to fulfill an assignment on a moment’s notice.

Kill-A-WattI decided to pick up a Kill-A-Watt. It’s a meter that helps you figure out how much energy your electronics are using. Maybe I’ll find out that our refrigerator is an energy hog, or that a stereo is costing us a bundle in sleep mode? I’ll report back on that once I’ve had a chance to try it. For $20, I have a feeling this will be a solid eco-investment.

South Mineapolis Arsenic Clean-up Update

As Kate pointed out in the comments, there is an open house at the YWCA at Lake & Hiawatha tonight to update the community on the state of the clean-up funding and efforts.

Minneapolis Council Member Gary Schiff emailed out an update as well:

EPA to announce major expansion of arsenic cleanup

For information regarding soil sampling or for a copy of a property’s results contact Tim Prendiville.

The south Minneapolis arsenic cleanup that began three years ago is about to get much larger, Environmental Protection Agency representatives will tell residents at a public meeting on Tuesday, October 30th at the YWCA, 2121 East Lake Street at 7:00 p.m. Cleanup managers will discuss the results of a recently completed health risk assessment, and take input on future cleanup which could eventually extend to another 541 residential properties. Total cleanup costs have exceeded $3 million to date.

Designation of the site to the Superfund National Priorities List last month resulted in eligibility for the cleanup of properties with soil contamination below an arsenic concentration of 95 parts per million. Approximately 130 properties with concentrations greater than 95ppm have already been cleaned up, with 36 more slated for 2008. “As a result of Superfund status, more properties may now be eligible for cleanup, depending on the final concentration level chosen.” Council Member Gary Schiff said. “Our hope is that we won’t have to carry our concern for our children to our grandchildren. However, unless the EPA can cleanup more than 70 properties per year, the process could take a decade to complete.”

The EPA will also hold general open houses to give residents an opportunity to talk to EPA representatives about the project. The open houses are on Tuesday, November 13 from 4:00 to 6:00p.m.at East Lake Library located at 2707 East Lake St., Wednesday, November 14 from 2:00 to 4:00p.m.and 6:00 to 8:00p.m.at Powderhorn Park located at 3400 15th Ave. S. and Thursday, November 15 from 2:00 to 4:00p.m.and 6:00 to 8:00p.m.at the Franklin Avenue Safety Center located at 1201 E. Franklin Ave.

My reading of this tells me that the most contaminated properties today have more than 95ppm concentrations of arsenic. By the end of 2008 all properties known to have 95ppm or higher will be cleaned up. However, this doesn’t account for unknown properties outside the current testing boundaries that could test at that level.

The good news is that it looks like we’ll be receiving additional funding to clean up more properties below the 95ppm level. How many? That depends on what level of arsenic in the soil is deemed safe by the EPA for Minneapolis residents. Here is where they’ve set the bar in the past:

Arsenic Clean-Up Parts per Million (PPM)

The question to ask tonight is, “What is the arsenic concentration of the 541st property that could eventually be cleaned up?” Then check to see where it would fall on the above chart.

Tonight is the first of 6 open houses, as Council Member Schiff mentions in his press release. I’ve added all the dates to the Deets Calendar.