Sunday, September 26, 2010

Go Expo_Green Living_Rain Water Collection

One system that I saw was a system that I have seen used in my country all my life.  This is a rain collecting system.  In my country many of the homes have large tanks hung high in the trees above the house to collect rain water.  This rain water is used to flush toilets, and even filtered to use in showers and sinks.  This is now beginning to be a big thing in the States, where we are collecting rain water for many reasons.  A system seen at the Go Expo was the Rain Pro.  With this system there are many different possibilities.  They show examples of small systems where your roof downspouts drain into tanks all the way up to 20,000 gallon tanks buried underground to collect the rain water.  These systems can be used for irrigation, to flush toilets, to wash laundry, for fire protection, water for livestock, and just plain stewardship. 
One inch of rain on a 2000 square foot roof will yield approximately 1200 gallons of water, and will yield approximately 52,000 gallons of per year based on 43 inches per year in the Triad area.  If this system was installed in 100 locations it would yield over 5,000,000 gallons of water.  This would also keep 5,000,000 gallons of water out of the storm drainage system.  Having a water storage source in a drought condition, which we see here almost every year, could mean the difference in being able to water your lawn or wash your car at home or not.  Even during a dry season, there are typically quick showers that can fill the tanks. 
I believe this is a very important, and simple solution that should be considered in all new construction, and will probably see its way into the building code in the not too distant future.

Go Expo_Green Living_Solar Electric Power Systems

Solar panels for electricity are a good way to reduce your energy consumption.  Solar panels collect clean renewable energy in the form of sunlight and convert that light into electricity.  This electricity can then be used to provide power in your home for electrical loads.  The effect of the sun’s light being absorbed and converted to electricity is known as the Photovotaic Effect. 
Most homes’ roofs have more than enough room for the number of solar panels to produce enough electricity to supply enough electricity to power the entire house.  This is an astounding thought, that we can capture the sun’s power and use it to power the electronics in our homes.  This is a very practical way to produce electricity.  The upfront cost of the solar panel system is expensive, but the long term savings far outweigh that cost, if you can afford the initial cost.
One place this type system would really be a cost effective way to provide power to a home, would be if you lived in a remote location that was outside the main power grid.  This would keep you from paying an electrical company to run power lines and poles out to your remote location. 
Solar panels are used a lot by government agencies.  Some examples are traffic signals, signs, lights, etc…  They can also be used as a source of back up power since the power can be stored.  Solar panels are also seen being used in Construction temporary power, RV’s, Emergency & Rescue, and communications. 
Some other examples of solar electric systems are solar heating and hot water systems.  In this case you would use solar thermal collectors to heat water for domestic hot water, central heating for standard or under floor heating.  This is very efficient way of providing hot water to your home, however again the initial cost is expensive, but if you can afford that, the savings are phenomenal. 
Solar panels are also being seen used in pool and spa heating systems.  These systems tend to be less expensive, and provide a great way to warm up your pool during those cooler months.  An average system will heat your pool water 10 degrees.

Go Expo_Green Living_Energy Audit

This weekend .I had the pleasure to attend the Go Expo at the Benton Convention center in Winston Salem.  I am going to focus on three themes that caught my attention and that I think will be of great help to you when you read this blog to move forward towards a green living life style.
The fist one is Greening your home with an Energy Audit:
An Energy Auditor is a person who performs tests and evaluations on a home or building, and creates an Energy model based on different criteria, equipment, and materials used to construct the home.  At the Go Expo, I attended a seminar about energy audits.  We reviewed a home energy audit and discussed the findings of the audit.  We covered items that needed to be corrected in order to improve the energy efficiency of the home.  Some of the things reviewed included:
·         Year Built
·         Size and number of rooms
·         Foundation type – crawl space, slab, or basement.
·         Air leakage
·         Duct leakage
·         Insulation type and R-Values
·         Window and door type and how well insulated
·         Light bulbs
·         Water heater
·         HVAC
Some of the major improvements that were needed in this particular house, and are typical improvements that can be made in any home to improve energy efficiency:
·         Seal all areas where air is leaking into or out of the house.  These are typically doors, windows, around pipes, and light fixtures.
·         Repair duct insulation.  A typical house has approximately 20% duct leakage with standard insulation.  It is very important to ensure these are sealed to reduce heat/air loss.
·         Ensure attic insulation meets a minimum of the building code, which is currently R-38
·         Use CFL light bulbs in the place of incandescent bulbs.  (FYI:  Duke Energy is currently giving away CFL bulbs.  Go to www.dukeenergy.com/freecfls for more information.
·         Insulate hot water piping to reduce heat loss in pipes.
·         Use a programmable thermostat.
Energy Auditors use energy modeling software to determine which changes in your home will give you the most bang for your buck.  Energy modeling software helps prioritize your home improvements.  Some other items that will help you reduce your energy consumption in your home are:
·         Run your ceiling fans to keep air circulating in your home.
·         Close blinds in the Summer to keep the sun’s heat out of the home.
·         Replace shower heads with low flow type.
·         Plant shade trees at the South and Southwest side of your home to block the sun’s heat in the summer time.
A typical energy audit of your home will cost approximately $400 - $700 depending on the detail of the audit.