Condo Blues: weather

Showing posts with label weather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label weather. Show all posts

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Compost WIN and FAIL

Last summer I made two compost bins fromRubbermaid tubs and violated the warranties on the tubs to do it 'cuz I'm Danger Girl.

I threw in a shovelful of dirt in to prime the bins and diligently added a layer of shredded paper from our paper shredder to the bin for every layer of vegetable scraps that hit the bin.

Every once and awhile I locked the handles on the compost bin and turned it end over end to mix the contents. Since I use paper for my ‘browns’ everything stuck together and required breaking it up by poking at it with a shovel before I flipped the contents to mix it.

It’s a year later. Let’s see how my Compost Experiment is doing.

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. 


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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How Low Does Your Furnace Go?

My friends and family consider me the Energy Saving Maven because I reduced my home’s natural gas and electric use by 32% using cheap home improvements and new habits. So it wasn’t a surprise when a friend of mine asked me to come to his house and help him lower his sky high heating bill last winter.

I trudged through the new fallen snow on his sidewalk and rang the doorbell. He answered it wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

It was easy to find the answer to his high energy use and heating bill.

I don’t expect you to lower your daytime temperatures to my frigid 58 degrees (F), but if you accept Crunchy Chicken's Freeze Your Buns Challenge and lower your heating temperature by only a few degrees it will do a world of good. In the case of my friend, he has rescue birds so he came up with lowering his daytime temperature from 75 to 68 degrees (F.)

This year, I’m using the One Million Acts of Green Give the Gift of Green Facebook app to send my friend a reminder to not to jack his furnace this winter.

You can use the One Million Acts of Green Give the Gift of Green Facebook app this November trough December to send a green act as a “gift” that publishes to their News Feed. If the person isn’t on Facebook, you can send your message to them as an e-card.

How low does your temperature go during the winter?

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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.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Decorative Terra Cotta Rain Barrels

I’ve been looking at rain barrels on and off for awhile.

There's a corner of the house where the soil is eroding from under one of our downspouts and at the next door neighbor’s house. We’ve been going round and round with the property manager of our Homeowner Association (HOA) on whose responsibility it is to fix the problem.

Legally the HOA is responsible because it involves compacted soil blocking the French drain buried in the soil between the two homes. However, it’s easier for our property manager to only quote half of any HOA rule that supports her position and say no. Because if she approves the change, she has to take 10 minutes out of her day to fill out a form and mail it to us and schedule someone to come out and make the repair. Grrrrr!

That’s the bad part about condo living. When I’m in these situations, I try to remind myself how my HOA plows our neighborhood streets when it snows because the city of Columbus doesn’t plow residential streets after snow storms. *sigh*

A rain barrel would be one way we can stop the soil from eroding from the underneath the downspout that doesn’t evolve us renting a backhoe and tearing up the yard or taking our fight up the food chain of the HOA and lots of drama.

Husband also likes that if we use a rain barrel to collect rain water from that wonky downspout we can use that free water from the sky to water our plants and lawn or to wash our cars.

That is, if I actually had plants in our front yard to water. Landscaping is on the this year’s DIY list. Pinky swear and everything!

According to Healthy landscapes
• “ Rain barrels conserve water and help lower costs (a rain barrel can save approximately 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months).
• Rain barrels reduce water pollution by reducing storm water runoff, which can contain pollutants like sediment, oil, grease, bacteria and nutrients.”
Good reasons all the way around to consider getting a rain barrel.

If we go the rain barrel route, I think we’ll have a better chance of it getting approved by our HOA if we find something that’s a little more decorative. Husband and I saw this mosaic terra cotta rain barrel made from what looks like a piece of pipe at the home and garden show.


Nice. Different. And might survive being whacked with a lawn mower. The HOA lawn mowing crew is less than careful when they mow our lawns in the summer. Remember the private snow plow. Remember the private snow plow. Remember the private snow plow…*sigh*

What do you think? Rain barrels – love ‘em or hate ‘em? Decorative or functional? Discuss.

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If you’re visiting from Tales of Blogeritavilla Thrifty Thursday welcome!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

9 New Habits to Keep You Warm During Winter

Welcome Weather Channel Viewers!

Today Weekend Vew on The Weather Channel interviewed me about how we keep warm when we have our thermostat set at 58 degrees (F) for their 58 Degree Challenge segment.

I find that the best way to stay warm when the temperatures dips is to find and fix air leaks and drafts in your home. This also goes for renters and apartment dwellers.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Add a Blanket to Your Bed Giveaway

My furnace is just a touch under the Energy Star rating, is less than 5 years old, and works well so we’re keeping it. However, I am able to make it run more efficiently by cleaning the reusable filter on the first day of the month (so I remember to do it) and by installing a programmable thermostat which sets the furnace to 62 degrees (F) when we sleep. Since I can’t sleep when I’m cold, I like to pile blankets on the bed during the winter. Make that a lot of blankets on the bed during the winter. Because I hate being cold. Hate. It.

Sadly, I can’t cut down on bed blanket bulk with a warm and cuddly down comforter. Husband is allergic to down (drat!) I had to find an alterative. I was surprised to find it in a microfiber blanket. Oh excuse, me a Classic Plush Blanket by Select Comfort, you know the Sleep Number mattress people?
I have to say I was intrigued because while I tried (and subsequently loved) cleaning with microfiber cloths I wondered what the heck makes a microfiber blanket any more special than a regular cotton blanket? Of course I realized right off the bat that a microfiber blanket is made with synthetic materials, so it isn’t a green product; however this was in its favor for us because of Husband’s allergy. As always, your mileage may vary.

I took the cotton quilt off of our bed and replaced it the Classic Plush Blanket. Well I must say that this blanket is aptly named
because it is soft and plushy and very, very warm which is surprised both husband and me because Classic Plush Blanket is quite thin. And warm. Did I mention the warm part? Much warmer than the cotton quilt the Classic Plush Blanket replaced (sorry Grandma.) So while the microfiber blanket itself isn’t a green product, it does allow us to do green things – keep our thermostat low during bedtime, use less energy, and not freeze to death. Yay microfiber blankets!

Friday, November 20, 2009

9 Fall Fix-Ups That Lower Your Winter Heating Bill

Winterizing the outside of your home in order to lower your energy use, save money, and lower your heating bills is as easy as a walk around the house, a walk around the outside of the house that is. Let’s stroll outside so I can show you how I seal up outside air leaks to prep the house for winter and keep my natural gas and electricity use - and bill - low.

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9 Things You Need To Do To Lower Your Winter Heating Bill

1. Check for gaps outside of my windows. I have efficient double paned windows but even the most efficient windows will leak air because you’re still cutting a hole in your wall to install the window – duh. You can’t see it very well here because I calked the gap where the window frame meets the house with this clear silicone caulk. and caulk gun. I used clear because I wanted it to blend in and I didn’t want to have worry about finding the right color caulk for each area of the condo I needed. (Disclosure: I am including affiliate links in this post for your convenience.) 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why Using Cheap Paint Doesn't Save Money

Until I found the perfect set of porch chairs I decided to repaint and revamp a couple of doctor’s office chairs that Husband had from his bachelor days.

Since I hated these chairs with a fiery vengeance and thought they would be better served as firewood, I didn’t want to invest a lot of time or money into their makeover. I bought a couple of cans of cheap spray paint from Dollar General and got to work.

The chairs didn’t look so hateful. After surviving Hurricane Ike, not finding anything the right scale that I liked, and the price being right (free) I decided they could stay.

That sealed my fate. *Enter the Condo Blues whammy.*

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Make a Garden Border Out of Old Bricks!

The arrangement goes that the Homeowner’s Association is responsible for mowing our lawns and common areas but we Condo owners are responsible for the maintaining the flowerbeds in front of our homes, including the edging. Well, I don’t think someone gave the new lawn service guys that memo because shortly after they started taking care of our neighborhood, they put in trench edging in everyone’s flowerbeds, much to our dismay.

Trench edging is cheap, but it doesn’t keep mulch from sliding out of a flower bed. Even worse, since we have clay soil that doesn’t drain, every time it rains the trench turns into the perfect mosquito nursery.

This is my neighbor’s yard after a rainstorm. They are very nice people and don't deserve such crappy edging.

Needless to say, most of my neighbors dealt with the trench edging by replacing it with their own garden edging.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How I Slashed my Electric Bills without Moving into a Yurt

Last March I started my own personal 20% Energy Reduction Challenge . My goal was to reduce the amount of electricity in my 1500 square foot free standing Condo used for the year by 20%.

Everything in The Condo runs on electricity except for the natural gas hot water, fireplace, and furnace.

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I didn’t want to add solar panels or wind turbines to my home because they are a poor return on investment where I live. I also wanted keep all of my current non-Energy Star appliances. Everything I had still worked and it would be too costly and wasteful to replace. But most of all I wanted to see if I could meet my goals this way because a slew of Greenzillas insisted that I couldn’t do it without alternative energy and installing new energy efficient everything. I thought I could.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why Solar Panels Won’t Work Year Round in Central Ohio

Recently I was discussing how to reduce city energy costs on an online forum. A user offered the opinion that once everyone had converted to producing electricity using only solar and wind energy that we would end our dependency on fossil fuels forever. Many others chimed in, everyone agreed solar, and wind for everyone is the way to go.

Great idea until I looked out my window and saw this.

The branches and what's left of leaves on the tree in my front yard are encased in ice from an ice storm

I noticed that the person who offered this opinion was from Costa Rica, where they have sun in abundance.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How to Keep Water Pipes From Freezing

Like most of the country, we are experiencing some cold weather. Make that very cold weather. Like it’s going to be 5 degrees below zero with a wind chill factor of twelve degrees below zero at night kind of cold weather. Brrr.

With weather like that we don’t want the water pipes in The Condo to freeze. We’re following the advice we got from the evening news. We are letting a small steady drip of water run from the faucets with plumbing that’s on the outside walls of The Condo. They also suggested that you open the cabinet doors under those sinks so the room heat can reach the pipes and keep them from freezing. So far, it’s working.

One caution that goes with keeping the cabinet doors open all day is that you might have to worry about small children or pets getting into the harmful cleaners that you may have stored underneath your sink. Well, here’s another unexpected surprise I got when I switched to using environmentally friendly baking soda and vinegar to clean The Condo (yeah, I know. I thought it was weird but it worked, who knew?) is that I don’t have to worry if Blitzkrieg gets into the cleaning supplies I store under the sinks. The worse thing that could happen to Blitzkrieg is that he might get a foamy baking soda and vinegar beard on his chin.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to Plan For/Survive an Extended Electrical Blackout

I’ve experienced quite a few short term and long term weather related power outages and blackouts. The worst one was in 2004, when an ice storm took down power lines and left most of my city in darkness for a week. Christmas week. With a big plan for the worst and hope for the best, I give you five things to consider and plan for when the power lines go down and electricity is out for an unknown extended period.

1. Consider Shelter
Staying at Home
· If it’s a summer blackout, it may be too hot to stay inside your house. The easiest thing to do may be to just grab an extra chair or blanket and step outside. Chances are your neighbors are doing the same. This may be a great time to get to know your neighbors a little better and do an impromptu block party, or play a game of Frisbee, baseball, or cards.

· Even if you use natural gas to heat your home, you may not have heat during a winter electrical outage. Some natural gas furnaces use an electrical fan to blow the heat through the ductwork to heat your home. Therefore, even if the heater may still be working, without electricity you’re not going to have the little fan that. And without a working fan, you may have a cold house. (I found out about this one the hard way.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike Sends Hurricane Force Winds to Central Ohio

Sunday night I just went through my first hurricane and didn’t even know it.

Because I live in Central Ohio.

Yes, Ohio.

In Ohio, we have a saying, “if you don’t like the weather wait a few minutes and it will change.” It should be the state motto because it sums up how often and how wacky weather events in our area can change from good to Bad and from Bad to Worse, and Worse to “Head for the basement! It’s a tornado!” We didn’t get such a warning last Sunday about the windstorm and its Category 1 Hurricane winds (very strange for us because we’re Tornado Country not Hurricane Country) that Hurricane Ike decided to share with the rest of the country after he battered the Gulf Coast. Thanks Ike, but that’s one gift that’s just not as fun to share, as say, a box of chocolates.

Why didn’t I know until much, much later that Hurricane Ike was going to send Ohio 75 MPH winds instead of the usual really freaking bad rain, wind, and thunderstorms that eventually make their way to Ohio after a hurricane hits the southern US? This, in a city where a weather forecast of frost covering the ground in winter will send most of our local weather people into predicting Armageddon? Where the local weather forecasters literally freak out and give out weather warnings, watches, and advisories like it was candy at Halloween when we get a piddly three inches of snow? So why didn’t I find out about the possibility of this high windstorm and what not to do (stand outside with the neighbors and talk about how bad the wind is blowing) until I was in the middle of it?