Wednesday, March 10, 2010

John's Home Gets the Community Energy Services Makeover!

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council and the Center for Energy and Environment have rolled out a new community energy services program to help Hawthorne residents. If you attend one class and set up a home energy visit, you'll receive products, tests, and information valued at $400 for a mere $20 co-pay. But Hawthorne has agreed to cover the first 150 co-pays, so participants get all of this for FREE!

Our two scheduled workshops have already been held, but we haven't even reached the halfway point for participants. There are still plenty of Hawthorne homes that could get this free service, so if you're interested, email me at

Pictured above is John Hoff with CES instructor Neely Crane-Smith. And at his house, a blower door test was being set up. Go ahead, have some fun with the door. I did.

Before the home visits, residents learned plenty at the CES workshop... how one youth who had seen this presentation came up with the slogan "TOLBY," or "Turn Off Lights Behind You" as a way to help save energy. And another huge drain on energy use is something called "phantom load." Namely, appliances like televisions, video game consoles, computers, etc. keep on using power even when they're not turned on. So connecting them to a power strip and shutting them down cuts energy costs significantly. We also learned that electrical outlets are a huge source of heat loss, as they are frequently the least-insulated areas of a wall.

Once the seminar was done (and it was scheduled for two hours, but we finished in less than an hour and a half) it was time to get a few of the initial products (such as light bulbs and insulation for the sockets) and sign up for the home visit. The Polish Lady and Hawthorne office manager Kathy Welch proved you can look good and have fun with that.

Next, John went home and began installing the products he'd been given. It turns out that he already had almost all of his incandescent bulbs switched out for the more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Here, John shows off a pile of light bulbs ALREADY switched out beforehand.

Once the home energy visit started, the consultants first went through the kitchen and pointed out that John could save a lot of money by going to a smaller refrigerator. With so much empty space being kept cool, his current model was a large drain on his energy costs. Another significant source of heat and energy loss is the water heater in the basement.

The first three feet of piping out of the water heater is where the most heat loss happens. So by insulating that section, we cut down on that unnecessary cost. The water heater should be set somewhere around 120 degrees, and after some tinkering, the consultants were able to confirm that John's was already set at a prudent 115.

John was also told how a washing machine that loads from the front instead of the top is far more efficient. It uses less water, is easier on the clothes, and since the clothes are less wet after each cycle, the dryer uses less energy as well. During this conversation, John revealed perhaps his only weakness in an almost Spartan dedication to green living: he likes his clothes to be warm when they come out of the dryer. So even though the load in the dryer was already done, he had to put it going again. Come on dude! Toughen up!

Here, John demonstrates an outlet that has been properly insulated. Those covers aren't just for keeping kids from poking fingers in there.

Don't ask me how these things work, but there are low-flow faucets that use less gallons per minute. See how one has engraved 2.2 GPM (gallons per minute) and the other is 1.5? The same thing goes for the shower head. So if you run your shower for ten minutes with the more efficient faucet, you use seven fewer gallons of water. In the final picture of the faucets, the consultant demonstrates how the water flow remains the same even though significantly less water is being used.

Once the blower door was set up, the CES guys brought out my favorite tool: the smoking gun. This could be a metaphor for SO MANY THINGS. But essentially the way it works is that you squeeze it and it puffs out smoke. When the "gun" is placed next to a window, or an electrical socket, or any other area where air might flow while the blower door is running, smoke will move along with an air current next to a hole. If the area is airtight, then the smoke just goes straight up. This helps identify places that need to be sealed in some way.

Finally, we were shown vermiculite. Like a lot of older houses, this one has this substance in the walls/insulation. Some vermiculite was made using asbestos, meaning that the blower door test was conducted slightly differently than in other houses, and the crew couldn't go and seal up anything in the attic.

Remember, the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council still has over seventy slots available to get this consultation and these supplies for free!


JNS Reader said...

Wait - did John get his hair cut in the middle of this inspection?

Margaret said...

Not all top loaders are less water efficient. When we bought a washer we went with a Fischer-Pakel which is a New Zealand company that has been making the washers for years as highly water efficient because fresh water conservation is a big issue in NZ. We went with that because it had a great performance record and simple mechanics and all the front loaders at the time were pretty new and also HUGE. We would have had trouble fitting one in our space. Also, I never liked the idea of a front loader --what happens when there are problems and you have to stop it?

Johnny Northside said...

One comment not approved because it came from a known troll.

In regard to the haircut...Jeff and I took some photos a few days before the inspection, when I was installing the new light bulbs. Then we took some photos during the actual inspection, after I had the new "get my money's worth" haircut.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Margaret, thanks for your comment. I'm fairly new to a lot of these environmental tips, so I'm often parroting what the presenters and consultants are saying without knowing what different or better options are out there.

Other people who have had different experiences in terms of green appliances or home fixes are encouraged to post them here as well.

Anonymous said...

Also - the front loaders are NOT easier on the clothes - it is well known that front loaders are much harder on clothes because it puts clothes through so much pressure to wring all the water out that it breaks clothes down.

Also front loaders have what is well known on internet at smelly washer syndrome - google it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:19, I have had 'smelly washer' with my top loader. A repairman here for another washer issue recommended a product called Washer Magic which took care of the smell. It breaks up all the hair, lint and general crud that gets in between the steel tub and the plastic liner. Cherokee hardware and a few other stores around NOMI sell it. I run it through my machine every six months or so to keep it clean. Bet it would work in a front loader, too.

Anonymous said...

Whats/Wheres Cherokee Hardware??

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:50pm, Cherokee Hardware is an Ace Hardware franchise. Google up Ace Hardware, and enter your zip code in the store locator. I think the Ace in Robbinsdale sells it too, but they're spendy.

NoMi Hopeful said...

John got his hair cut! So, even though a poisonous personality may still reside inside, at least he doesn't LOOK like the uni-bomber anymore...

I guess growing up comes in baby steps....


MeganG. said...

@NoMi Hopeful - I find it extremely entertaining that you come to JOHN'S BLOG to leave childish, demeaning comments about him. Really? Like, if he bugs you so much - why come to to read? Just go elsewhere. Problem solved.

Johnny Northside said...

I love the haircut. Just the other day, I'm convinced it got me out of a speeding ticket--68 in a 55.

MeganG. said...

Gasp! John, you should be charged with obstruction of justice for using your haircut to get out of a speeding ticket. I'm calling MMcK @ the Strib right now.

Johnny Northside said...

Yes, well if you follow the theory of "law abiding-ness" which some of my critics have been expounding upon recently in association with the "Pete the Pedophile" lawsuit (for which I'm dodging service, and having too much fun in the process)I should have BEGGED that cop for a ticket.

Like, oh, officer you're not REQUIRED to give me a ticket, but I want one anyway, and here I am presenting myself to you for a ticket. Give me one. I demand it. Because I want to be extra, extra law abiding with a cherry on top and do things I'm not even required to do, like get a speeding ticket when the police officer doesn't want to give me one or...stand still and let Pete the Pedophile serve me with his worthless paper.

Yeah, it was cool how the cop let me go because we had matching haircuts. And I called him "sir." And I put my hands right on the wheel where he could see 'em instead of (for example) calling him a "suffering sycophant" with a delightful Irish broooooooogue.

Want less police brutality? Cut your hair, (men) keep your hands right where the officer can see 'em, don't lie your ass off, and apologize profusely when you're caught red-handed doing 68 in a 55 while talking to Megan on the phone.

But, really, we're on the wrong thread for a discussion like this. We now return to our regularly scheduled program, "Community Energy Services Makeover."

MeganG. said...

...And pull your pants up and be a good example to your children!!!

(I LOVE that guy!)

Johnny Northside said...

Pulling up your pants also keeps you warm and therefore promotes ENERGY SAVINGS.

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for the shout out! It was great to meet you at the workshop. Love the pics. I'm glad they were able to give you some good info at the home visit. If people have questions, remember there's more info at the Minnesota Energy Challenge ( Take care! --- Neely

Anonymous said...

Just a question.

Several years ago while living in an older home, I partook in a lead abatement study. It seemed like a great deal at the time. It identified all the lead based paint that we already knew existed in all older homes.

However, when my home eventually went up for sale, I was forced to use these documents against myself when I had to include them as a disclosure addendum on my home.

(The initial testing was free, but any testing to re-certify my home after remediation was prohibitively expensive - and performed by the same man hired by the community to do the "free" appraisal)

Is this a similar situation?

As helpful as the knowledge was, it put my home under additional scrutiny in a buyers market VS. other comparable homes that had not conducted the testing.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

There is no lead abatement or similar studies done as part of this program. Participants are given energy-saving tips and some materials that will help. I believe they have to agree to share previous and subsequent energy/water bills so that the program can demonstrate its effectiveness. But none of this gets to the level of studies/certification you refer to.

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