Sunday, January 15, 2006

My home: walking my talk - Part One

I lived in a 50 year old brick home in the core of Madison. There are many errands and recreational activities that I can do by foot or bike. Including getting tea, a haircut, grocery shopping, going to the community garden plot, getting to the local pool, even when the mood strikes me biking to work. When I drive, I drive my Civic. I do get around a good bit by bike, and happen to love bikes. Currently I own four of them.

I am a major organic gardener of things edible. So I compost. I even collect my neighbors leaves in the fall. I use them mainly for late-spring/early summer mulching of garden beds (mulching keeps me from weeding, water from evaporating and soil from loosing nutrients). I grow lots of veggies as well as fruit (including, black berries, currants, cherries, stawberries, raspberries, grapes and plums). Probably about 70% of our annual veggies come from my gardens. That would include 100% of our jam, salsa, canned tomatoes, garlic, and pesto.

I use an electric lawn mower (having given up on push mowers) and usually have it on mulch. If not, I compost the clippings or again use them to mulch the garden beds. My yard has not seen petrochemical fertilizers, etc. since I moved in (about 9 years ago). A rain barrel under one downspot collects water for garden watering.

One of the more apparent items in my back yard is our solar electric system. It is pole mounted and follows the sun - it should generated about 30% more electricity than a fixed system. A picture is found above.

The solar electric system generates about 1800 kWh/year. This is about 400 kWhs less than my son and I use per year. If we unplugged the chest freezer or if there were fewer trees (i.e., shade) around it would meet all our electricity needs. Regardless our home uses 4% as much electricity as the average Wisconsin single family home (400 versus 10,000 kWh/year respectively).

My home's shell is very inefficient. It is made with masonry walls - without any insulation or open area to add insulation. As the exterior is beautiful brick my only option is to added interior insulation. Thereby further reducing my interior living space (about 1100 square feet). It is a gradual process - and takes years - my bedroom is done and the basement is about 80% complete.

Of course we uses efficient appliances and endevour to keep them to a minimum (i.e., no wine refrigerator or hot tub). Almost all the lights are compact florescents. I have a Energy Star refrigerator and laptop computer, and the most efficient freezer I could find a Sears. We do not have electrical heated water bed, central air conditioning, electric hot water heating or dryer. I do electrically heat my garden seedlings in the spring and food dryer (main for tomatoes) in the fall.

End of Part One

Seems to me that the freezer is your big energy hog. If space and asthetics allowed, I expect you could cover the sides and top with Dow board (styrofoam) rated at R5 or so an inch. Making sure not to block the exchanger coils, you could increase the R value to the point where it should be quite efficient indeed.
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