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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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...
...like 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!