Condo Blues: saving energy




Showing posts with label saving energy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label saving energy. Show all posts

Sunday, April 5, 2020

How to Clean Furnace and Air Conditioning Ducts at Home

While doing a deep dive, move every piece of furniture that isn’t nailed down Spring Cleaning I noticed several of the heating and central air conditioning ducts had a black soot like dirt or dust collecting around the register grill on the wall and ceiling.   I vacuumed them with the brush and hose on my vacuum sweeper and made a mental note that I need to add this task to my deep cleaning  checklist.

A few days later it was back.

So. Gross.

DIY heating and air conditioning duct and vent cleaning
Save this tutorial to your Pinterest boards for later! Share it with your frineds!

Why do I have Black Stuff Around my HVAC Registers?

Monday, January 21, 2019

10 Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill When There is Nothing Left to Cut

Over 10 years ago, I took on a year long project to reduce my home’s electricity use and bill by 20% using my brand new non-Energy Star rated appliances, new habits, and under $100 worth of DIYs and cheap home improvements.

I didn’t meet my goal.

I beat it.

I reduced my yearly electric use by 32%.

Over 10 years later my home still uses less electricity than comparable homes and families in my area – including energy efficient rated homes, which mine is not.

How do I reduce my electrify use? There wasn’t one big expense or home upgrade that made my electric bill go down. I knew we used more electricity in the hot and humid summer running the central air conditioning and less during the winter because we have a gas furnace and water heater. The only constant is our all electric kitchen. Turns out the biggest money suckers are a thousand little intermittent habits that felt like picky anal retentive things at first, until the energy use and savings started falling as low as it can go and still allow my family to comfortably live in the modern world.

How I Reduced My Electricity Use Without Sitting in the Dark


Pin this list of tips and hacks to your Pinterest boards for later! Share it with your friends!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How to Adjust a Shower Water Temperature Valve

The shower in our guest bathroom runs cold and takes forever to heat up. It can be sign your water heater is ready to heave its last breath. Sure enough after 11 years of faithful service, our water heater went to that great metal recycling plant in the sky.

Well, actually, it went to a metal recycling plant down the round but in the sky sounds more poetic.
Shower water still took forever to heat with the new water heater. I thought it was set at a lower temperature until we passed inspection from the natural gas company.

Nope.

The natural gas inspector told me our hot water heater passed with flying colors and is already set at the correct temperature. He said the issue is with the faucet not the water heater. The water temperature regulator (also known as a scald valve) on the faucet is set too low.

How to Adjust the Water Temperature Regulator on a Kohler Shower Faucet

 

Pin this post for later!  

 

Monday, December 14, 2015

How to Make Evergreen Window Swags for Free!

We’re bumping up our outdoor Christmas decorations this year. We have a house full of energy efficient disco projector Christmas lights to replace our dead strings of LED Christmas lights.

I saved some Amazon Subscribe and Save boxes and wrapped them as Christmas presents and put them in the barren flower beds. We’ll recycle them after the holiday because storage space for holiday decorations is at a premium.


The front yard still needed a little something and when I saw a pair of dachshund Christmas decorations (learn more about them here.) in a neighbor's yard I had to have them too as a tribute to Lacey. What can I say? We are dog suckers through and through.
 
 The dachshund lights come apart for storage after the holiday. They make make me insanely happy.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How to Fix a Broken Dishwasher Rack

The top rack of the dishwasher was a little wonky.
 
Scratch that. A lot wonky.

The top rack wouldn’t slide in and out of the dishwasher easily. When it does, the rack dips down to an angle instead of being parallel to the bottom dishwasher rack.


Husband did a little investigation.  Instead of something being misaligned, the sliding brackets on both sides of the dishwasher rack broke off. So that’s why the dishwasher recently wasn’t cleaning dishes well!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tiny Treehouse House Tour

 Tiny houses are all the rage. They are cute, twee, and have a ridiculously small carbon footprint.

What could be better?

How about a tiny house built in a tree that's a little B and B? That was originally built to be a tiny tree house brewery until the owners converted it into a rental cabin?


 I am completely smitten with the gorgeous arched stained glass window!
Photo courtesy of The Mohicans.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

6 Green and Frugal Things for March (and a Few That Aren’t!)

 Sometimes I post a list of little frugal things we do each month on my food blog Lazy Budget Chef and thought I’d do it today on Condo Blues. Some of these things are big, most are small. You don’t have to look to closely to see that most of them are green too!

real life green and frugal things that save money


1. Turned off the heat Saturday when it reached 60 degrees ( F) outside. Husband and I did a little dance thinking we were good to go until Fall.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

16 Easy DIY Projects for Beginners

I think the best gift you can give someone lacking self confidence is a hammer.

No. Not to make themselves feel better by hitting other people with it, but to use it to build or fix something.
Completing a project is a shot in the arm to the self esteem.

 It might have taken me all afternoon, but I held my head a little higher for the rest of the day after completing my first DIY project. Who knew changing a deadbolt door lock can change your world? (Beyond the added security that no one can come in your house uninvited and take your stuff.)



Friday, January 10, 2014

Do You Have a Thermostat War?

Do you have a winter thermostat war in your home?

I recently read a BlogHer post about a woman asking for advice on what to do because her husband keeps the thermostat set at 69 degrees. Here's a partial quote (You can read the entire article here.)

 "He says 69 degrees is warm enough and that I should just put on a sweater and stop complaining. It's making me really resent him and wonder why he's not concerned about my comfort. What can I do?"
Apparently this is a thing.

Especially when it came to the comments. They range from suck it up Buttercup to go behind this back and jack the heat to that's abusive! The comprise it to let the wife have her way.





Monday, January 6, 2014

How to Keep Ice from Forming Inside House Windows

On cold days like today (it is zero degrees outside with a 23 degrees below zero (F) windchill) I am glad I searched for sealed the air leaks in my home. We can tell the difference because our house was warmer and our heating bill was lower almost immediately.

Unfortunately, if your home is too air tight, it can be just as bad as having air leaks. Jen and Joey Go Green found this out the hard way. If you have ice building up inside of your windows,  her post  Stop Ice Build Up on Windows has some easy ways to fix the problem.




If you live in one of the Arctic Vortex zones, please take precautions against frostbite if you are unlucky enough to be outside.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Have You Tried Slow Cooking without Electricity?

For the most part my emergency storm blackout supplies include a bottle of red wine,a manual corkscrew, (you will understand why if you read what happened during our last multiday blackout) and a whole bunch of candles.

We got a grill shortly after that so at least we could cook something that is melting in the freezer and avoid standing in very long lines at area restaurants with all of our neighbors who can’t cook in their all-electric kitchens either.

While I appreciate being able to cook on a grill on my patio during a summer blackout, standing knee-deep in snow is something I’d like to avoid during a winter blackout if I can. And I will with my new eco non-electric slow cooker the Wonderbag.


How can this big pillow cook food without fire or electricity?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Buy a Dishwasher: What I Bought and Why I Bought It

Long time readers know I am a fix it instead of replace it kind of gal. It is cheaper, it is greener, and it allows me to have a little more money leftover to sometimes spoil Lacey.

howtobuyadishwasher
I want Lisa to use her smart shopping skillz to keep me rolling in grass fed T bone steaks!

Except when it comes to my High Efficiency (HE) dishwasher. At first, I liked the idea of saving water while it cleaned our dishes.  Later a plumber told us since HE dishwashers use less water, the water heat up cycle is shorter than a standard dishwasher, and we have to jack the heat on the water heater to remove the grit on my clean dishes problem.

Husband wryly observed, “We can save water, or natural gas but not both.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why Won't My Dishwasher Wash Dishes?


Who knew a high efficiency dishwasher is also high maintenance? Since high efficiency (HE) dishwashers use less water, the water heat up cycle is shorter than a standard dishwasher. That means an HE dishwasher needs hotter water going into the dishwasher than a standard dishwasher, which heats a boatload of water first. A plumber told me if I turned up the heat on my hot water heater, I would get rid of the grit on my clean dishes problem.

Husband wryly observed we could save either water or natural gas but not both.

Yeah, yeah. All is not lost. I can hand wash dishes. Having a house with
 a dishwasher made me realize how much I hate hand washing dishes.

Then there is the dishwashing detergent. My dishwasher likes either the very expensive (Seventh Generation) or the very cheap (Aldi) detergent. I switched between powder and liquid for no reason other than availability or price. The dishwasher was happy. I had clean dishes. That makes me happy because I hate hand washing dishes.

All of a sudden, my dishwasher decides it doesn’t like the liquid detergent. It left food stuck randomly to “washed” dishes and silverware. Gross.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Del Mar Ceiling Fan Giveaway!

I'm still feeling under the weather.

Do you know would make me feel better?

Hosting an awesome giveaway! 

Remember when my snarky little self ranted on about how much I loathe ceiling fans with lights and the nice people at Del Mar Designs changed my mind?

I personally haven't bought or installed one since then (small house, etc.) but I don't think ceiling fans with lights are the big black ink stain ruining the white couch of design anymore.

Let's face it, ceiling fans are a very effective and energy efficient way to cool a home in summer and to reduce your heating costs in winter by reversing the fan blades. You know how much I like energy efficiency!

Del Mar Designs asked me if they could sponsor a ceiling fan giveaway on Condo Blues. I can't think of a better way to say thank you to Del Mar Designs for changing my design mind and for a chance to thank all of you for reading this little ol' blog of mine.

How would you like the chance to win either one of these fabulous ceiling fans from Del Mar Designs?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Garage Workshop Transformation: Insulate the Garage Walls

Fiberglass insulation has the reputation for being a pain in the itch to install. Fortunately, I had a better experience than I expected with fiberglass insulation when I insulated the garage door.

Insulated garage wall
The Owens Corning Garage Door Insulation kit I used was not made with the recycled content and no itch Owen's Corning EcoTouch insulation. The door kit insulation made my hands itch mildly when I pulled the rolls from the box without wearing gloves but nothing like the persistent itch-fest I experienced after doing minor DIY jobs involving the brand my builder used.

My good experience with the fiberglass garage door insulation kit made me think differently about fiberglass insulation. It also made me want to try the EcoTouch insulation I read about while researching garage door insulation options. I agreed to join Owen’s Corning’s EcoTouch DIY Review Panel and blog about my insulation adventures. 

 My insulated garage door. It looks like pillows, doesn't it?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What is the Strangest Thing You Do to Save Money?

I watched the Extreme Cheapskates special on TLC. True to reality TV, they presented and edited the people featured as weird in the lengths they go to save money even though I read many of those tips, like washing and reusing plastic zipper baggies (heck! I do it myself) on blogs and in The Tightwad Gazette books long before this show was a twinkle in a producer's eye.

Our green and frugal ways mean the amount of our weekly household trash is usually one small plastic bag of trash. 

Frugality, just like green living, is all about balance. What works and is normal for some, others just can’t go there. I’m all for boxing up and taking my restaurant leftovers home with me (a quick, easy, and cheap lunch option for the following day!) but I personally draw the line at asking other people for their leftovers at the restaurant, while one guy on the show does it all the time – to his wife’s embarrassment which makes good TV.

If I left these amazing homemade tortillas at the restaurant it would have been a crime!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Garage Workshop Transformation: Insulate the Garage Door

After I put Insulate the Garage on the Garage Workshop punch list, I realized we’d lose heat through the garage door if we didn’t replace it with a new insulated garage door.

Then I fell over at the price of insulated garage doors.

I wondered if I could save myself a truck full of money and the hassle of installing a new garage door and disposing of the old one ethically by insulated my current garage door.

Turns out you can. Whew!

I looked at garage door insulation options.

Monday, December 20, 2010

AEP GridSmart: Electricity Saving Tool or Intrusive?


When it comes to electricity, we all want it. We all need it. We keep creating more and more items that use it to make our lives easier or more fun or more efficient. However, I can’t help but think where is all of that extra electricity we use going to come from?

As it is, there are cities, even whole states, that consistently use more electricity than they can generate on their own. Building new power plants of any type (using alternative or conventional means of making electricity) is difficult because while everyone wants to reap the benefits (including myself) no one wants a new power plant in their backyard because it can mess with property values.

For now, the best course of action may be to collectively use what electricity we have a little more wisely. This is difficult, even for me. I really don’t know how much electricity I’m using until long after I’ve used it - at the end of the month when I get my bill.

One method is for electric companies, like mine, American Electric Power (AEP) to use gridSMART   smart meter and grid technology to reduce electricity consumption and improve system wide delivery and performance. It would mean having a smart meter, a Programmable Communicating Thermostat, and eventually appliances with smart chips in your home. That way, you can check your use in real time on line, be billed for your use at a flexible billing rate, and make adjustments as you see fit.  

 A conventional electric meter next to a digital smart meter

It sounds great! I also like that the gridSMART technology runs on auto pilot much like my current programmable thermostat. The only difference is that unlike my current programmable thermostat (which I learned that most people don’t use because programming them can be a pain) the Programmable Communicating Thermostat is easier to program. The Programmable Communicating Thermostat and smart chip appliances would also send information back to AEP about my use during peak use times such as sweltering summer days and allow AEP to lower my temperatures a notch to prevent a system overload or brown out.

That last part sounded a little Big Brother to Husband. Because as much as we like saving electricity and having a lower than normal electric bill, we hate people telling us what we have to do in our own home. Husband also wondered what prevents someone from reducing the refrigerator’s electrical use to the point it makes ice cream melt because they want to be mean. 

AEP GridSMART


I was invited to a blogger lunch and presentation sponsored by AEP, Mom Central Consulting , and Silver Spring  to discuss AEP’s gridSMART program and get some answers to Husband’s questions.

AEP’s new gridSMART pilot program will install new Smart Meter’s on customer’s homes (sadly not in my area of the city.) Unlike the current mechanical meters, digital Smart Meters have encrypted wireless two way communication between your house and the electric company so no one can mess with or access your information. Besides the flexible billing rates and allowing customers to set up an alert when you move to a higher energy pricing tier, the smart meter will automatically alert AEP when there is a blackout.

Under the current system, at least three homes have to call it in before AEP knows that there is trouble. That last part made me sit up and take notice, because as you all know Mother Nature likes to send me blackouts. They build character.

Opt In, Opt Out GridSMART Programs

All of those services get me excited but in the interest of checking things out thoroughly I had to ask about some of the things that gave Husband a Big Brother like vibe. Mainly:

·        “Offering consumers the option to receive a rebate in return for allowing AEP to send set back signals to a Programmable Communicating Thermostat during peak load conditions.
·        In the future you will be able to control the energy usage of the appliances in your home through chip connected to your home area network. “ AKA: Smart chip appliances.

Fortunately, under AEP’s gridSMART program these options are opt in only. You are given a financial incentive in the form of a rebate to have the AEP Programmable Communicating Thermostat installed but if you don’t want it, you don’t have to have it.

In addition, even if you have it installed and say, you’re having a houseful of relatives over on a crazy hot summer day, you can override the temperature if AEP wants to lower your thermostat a notch or two.  The same goes for the smart chip appliances – because who wants melty ice cream? Not me!

All changes need to be approved through the Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) before AEP rolls them out to their customers. So that lessens the chance that someone will be lowering your electrical use just to be spiteful to Not Going To Happen.

AEP Ohio is one of the first utilities to test this program. They tell me that gridSMART is the trend and something like it will eventually be coming to you. What do you think? Is it a money and energy saving tool or too intrusive?

Disclaimer: I wrote this post after attending an informational luncheon on behalf of Silver Spring Networks and Mom Central Consulting and received a gift bag and gift card as a thank you for taking the time to participate. This had no bearing on my opinions and all thoughts and opinions are my own. As you all well know, I can be highly opinionated.
 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Changed 303,736 Light Bulbs. What Did You Do Today?

Even though I’ve been living a green life for longer than the three years I’ve been blogging about it, I don’t consider myself a dark green blogger or even an expert most days.

Yes, I was on TV last winter but I think that was more of being a crazy freak who keeps her house too cold during winter than being a held up as Big Green Champion. Saving energy is very important to me and I blog about it a lot , but let’s face it, saving energy is not as sexy or unusual as some other areas of green living that get more press.

So I do my daily green thing and try to do my best with what life hands me. If I can make you laugh or make you think or offer you a new tool for your Greening Living Swiss Army Knife, make your home a little prettier or challenge you to personally change 303,736 incandescent light nulbs for CFLs in fourth months then it’s a good day here on Condo Blues. 

“What?! Are you nuts?!” you say, “Do you think I could actually change all of those light bulbs in a such a short amount of time?!”

I sure do. It's easy!

How I Planted 8,209 Trees in Four Months


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Three Basket Laundry Method Saves Time, Money, and Energy

When I first met Husband, he made laundry a one time only task by shoving everything he owned into one load in the washing machine – whites, darks, reds, every thing! Then he ran the washer on the hottest setting possible. What didn’t shrink, faded and all of his white t-shirts were gray

Husband has been banned from doing laundry.

For Husband separating your dirty clothes into whites, darks, and brightly colored loads mystifies him. He thinks that we would be doing several little loads of laundry a week instead of full loads of laundry that not only save time but also save energy.

That’s when I created the Three Laundry Hamper Method. We have three identical laundry hampers in our closet. Each hamper has a label.

  • White Clothes – All dirty white items should be deposited here for washing.
  • Dark and Red Clothes – All dirty dark and red items should be deposited here for washing.
  • Brightly Colored Clothes - All dirty brightly colored items should be deposited here for washing.

Each family member is responsible for putting his or her dirty items in the appropriate hamper. If I had small children, I’d color code the tags or draw pictures of the items so they can identify what goes where.

The three laundry baskets allow me to see when a hamper will make a full load of laundry.  To save even more electricity I wash all of my clothes in cold water. According to Treehugger

“Washing every load on the hot/warm cycle (in a top loading machine and an electric water heater) for a year is equivalent to burning about 182 gallons of gasoline in a car; in an average (19.8 miles per gallon) car, that'll get you around 3595 miles. So, wash in hot/warm, or drive almost 3600 miles -- same difference”

I’ve been washing in cold for years and my clothes get just as clean as they did when I used warm and hot water but without the fading! I credit my whites staying white and my bright colors staying bright because I wash them in cold water and add a bit of oxygen bleach when needed.

If you’re worried about killing dust mites or germs on your clothes, pop them in the dryer. A dryer heats your clothes hotter than washing machine water.

I sent A Gift of Green ecard   to my mom as a little reminder about her laundry situation.


 
You can still pledge and acts of green, which would be helpful since Cisco hasn’t met their goal of one million people completing at least one small act of green. 
 
What is your laundry tip or woe?

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Disclosure:  Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with  Cisco are compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Crunchy Domestic Goddess, Green Your Décor and Green and Clean Mom.