Or: Going Green. Ish.
I’m what you could call a quasi-environmentalist. I do care about the environment, but in all honesty, I’m only going to take it so far. Reducing your ecological footprint might be great, but reducing your spending footprint is too. I do think that it should be easier to live cleaner – like the city-wide recycling. I pay ~$9 a month for curbside recycling twice a month. And Target takes in glass to recycle. It’s rad, easy, and an easy habit to get into. It also just plain makes sense – why use something once and dispose of it when it has the potential of being used many times and then turned into something else? And when that’s done, the cycle can start again!
It’s like those damn 12 or 16 ounce bottles of water I see people with – the Evian/Abita Springs kind, not the heavy-duty backpacking variety. Let’s look at the pricing. Say an average bottle costs $1.25. Doing a little math on my recent S&WB bill, it looks like it costs $.004/gallon without all the extra fees. That’s comes out to $0.0005/16oz bottle. That’s 1/2500th the price! If you were to drink one 16oz bottle a day for a year, you’d spend $0.18 in tapwater and $450 in bottled water – not to mention all the other stuff you’d save – like the 114 extra gallons of water required for production and purification, the 9 gallons of oil required to produce the plastic bottle, and all the rest that goes into printing labels, shipping, etc.
Would you rather spend a Quarter or a McKinley for water for a year? For me, it’s a no-brainer – that $450 will pretty much cover the cost of some much needed attic insulation. That leads me to this: at the end of the day, “being green(er)” boils down to one thing – Will it save me some green? Let’s face it – money makes the world go ’round. I can’t believe I’m about to quote the movie Twins, but Danny DeVito’s character said it well: “That’s why it’s called money. Because you need it.” If I can reduce the strain that I put on this mostly blue (but now more orange/brown down here) planet and save some cash at the same time – well where the hell do I sign up?
If there one thing that everyone but Entergy stockholders want, it’s lower bills. As a renter, that usually just means changing the thermostat so the A/C or heat doesn’t kick on as much.
As a homeowner there’s that, but also the drive to make improvements for longer term benefits. And as the owner of an older, larger house, trust me when I say those bills get high quickly. Summer AND winter. Recently, I’ve been making / planning improvements lately to help make my house a bit better:
- Recently replaced a powered attic fan in the front. Sweet jeebus was that hot.
- Today, start work on installing unpowered vents in the roof for the back 2 attics.
- Shutters! Glorious expensive louvered shutters! We get harsh afternoon sun through five 9’x3′ single pane windows daily.
- Installing R-38 insulation in the back attic. Big room below, no ceiling insulation.
- Installing and programming A/C thermostats.
- Looking into insulation under the house.
And for those of you keeping track – yes, we have three “attics”. The rear two aren’t super high, but they’re still dark, hot, cramped places that house magical air cooling devices.
The front of the house which faces West is the two story part – we’re looking at the back here.
Replacing the fan in the 2nd floor attic made a HUGE difference. I left a remote thermometer up there to get an average read on the temp – it seemed to hover at 120° – and I know it could have been far worse. I kept my eye on the temp here and there for the following few days, and it seemed to peak at 100°. The A/C unit up there is under noticeably less strain now. I spent ~$80, and who knows how much reducing the strain on the attic will save me over the coming summers.
In the next hour or so, work will commence on installing an unpowered vent on each of the rear attics. When I find a pair I like, I’ll install some vent intakes on the back porch like the ones on the front:
Gotta have an intake and and outlet if you’re going to have flow. You know the old saying, “Science: It works, Bitches.”
Once the rear attics are vented, it’s insulation time. I mean, why bother cooling/heating an area if your newly conditioned air is just going to float away? The back room by itself is just shy of 7,000 cubic feet (17’W x 34′ L x 12′ H) so it can be a bit difficult to heat or cool. Cooling the attic and keeping the heat from seeping one way or another will make a huge difference.
On the other side, I would like to insulate underneath the house, but come winter I’ll just close off the spaces between the piers – merely keeping “fresh” cold air out from underneath goes a long way too. And that’s something I’ll do even if we do insulate underneath – I’m a big fan of (cheap) passive insulation.
At some point I’d like to do a solar install, but that day is not this year – I’d guess it’s about 5 years away. There have been some really exciting and fascinating developments lately in the realm of solar efficiency, and I think they just need to mature.
Between Slashdot, Lifehacker, and Global Green’s Build It Back Green project, there are tons of resources for you to only educate yourself on how to make your home more efficient, but how to do it yourself and save money twofold. Gotta spend money to save money, amiright?