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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Energy Audit

It's been so busy lately that I haven't had a chance to keep everyone up to date on the progress at home. Here's hoping I can catch up on everything in the next while.

My energy audit happened last week! Initially, I was a little underwhelmed because I had all these ideas of what cool stuff was going to be happening and that we'd been talking solar power and whether a VAWT would be a better choice. Well, we mostly talked insulation.

The good news is that my house is in pretty good shape, by all initial reports. The windows are still in decent shape (with one or two exceptions) and the house is insulated with the best available insulation in 1974. The contraption at the right is a fan unit that pressurized the whole house so we could see everywhere air, and thus heat, was leaking from the house. This part was pretty cool.

I'm waiting to receive the final report, but priority targets are as follows:

  • fill cracks and leaks throughout the house (on my own)
  • insulate the ceiling in the garage
  • a new garage door and door from the garage to the house
  • new siding and extra insulation around the outside of the house
Most of the above also bring government rebates and I have 18-months to get them done. I also need to install the remaining digital thermostats around the house. As seen previously, these pay for themselves in no time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Peak Oil and the End of Suburbia?

Okay, so this is a bit alarmist, but it's a pretty good article in Business Week.

I was struck last week when the city knew that gas was going up by 6 cents, and cars were lined up four and five deep at the stations (idling all the while, of course). It could be a vision of things to come as gas prices will continue to increase well into the summer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day everyone! Much to report, but no time at the moment! All will be revealed shortly!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Test Driving a Hybrid - Part I

So, thanks to my house-mate, I was able test drive a 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid last night. Very fun! Here are a few pics of the car to start.

On the right is the Hybrid Synergy Drive. This is the main component of the hybrid system. One part electric motor, one part computer, one part super-battery.

In this pic to the left, you can see the Synergy Drive on the front right, nestled between the pink fluid canister and the orange cables. The rest of the car's normal combustion engine is behind and to the left of the pink canister.

What immediately struck me about this car is that it is in main respects, identical to my 1993 Camry that I still drive everyday.

So, after checking this vehicle out, I'm left with the idea that we are already in the beginning of a major transformation. The hybrids are here and before we know it, all vehicles will have this technology and in a few years, you may not be able to buy a typical vehicle without this system. For those of us who want even more efficiency, we might find versions with a few compromises in style or size, but overall, I'd expect that our average consumption of gasoline is about to go down dramatically.

In the next segment, I'll show you some of the displays within the car and what it was like to drive.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Short Film on Biofuel

I'm seriously wiped from a long day doing factor analyses of anxiety questionnaires, so I've got nothing to say, at least coherently. Luckily for me, and you, my friend Jeni just sent me this short film from Vancouver about Biofuel.

You may now discuss. I will be back as soon as I find my perspicacity.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pop Can Solar Furnace - Hot Hot HOT!

It's beautiful, sunny spring day in Halifax. It's 9C outside, which is kind of nice, but it's been consistently sunny all day... That means the pop can solar furnace that I built is pumping out the heat. This morning, the top of the cans were too hot to touch comfortably, so I thought I would put my thermometer up there.

So this little guy maxed out above 52C! Time to ramp it up... I put a meat thermometer up there, with the probe touching the surface of the cans. Here's the result:

Yes, that reads just above 82C or about 185F!

This panel is tilted at a shallow angle, fixed in place in one of the windows of the solarium. It's completely passive, meaning that I don't have a fan or anything moving the air across the hot surface. It certainly adds to the heating of the room, but a solar driven fan would obviously be an improvement. Baked turkey anyone?

Needless to say, without a vent to be able to use this heat in a thermal siphon cooling setup, I will likely have to take the panel down or cover it for the summer. Regardless, this should mean my winter electric heating season is over. The whole house is a balmy 20 at the moment with no heat on.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Countdown to Earth Day!

I'm back, but still have much studying to do. The term is winding up quickly, but there will always be more work to do, especially to be completely ready for a statistics final that allows for up to 8 hours to finish it! Ahem.

I wanted to send a thank you to our guest blogger over the past few days. She will be contributing as her schedule allows, so you haven't seen the end of her. Also, some of the good folks over at NSCAD might be willing to contribute an idea or two this summer as well... Green with a touch of art, or is that Art with a touch of green?

Anyway, Earth Day April 22nd! It's coming up soon, so I think we will be having some sort of party here again, much like we did for Earth Hour... it's kinda the same sort of idea, only 24 times bigger! Still not sure what events will be going on, but you can check your local area here.

As part of Earth Day Canada, they are looking for nominations for Hometown Heroes. If you know of someone in your local area that has made a significant contribution to your local environment or environmental community, you should nominate them! Don't forget, I'm still looking for Eco-Heroes of my own to post on this site!

More to come... get ready for Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Switching to Greener Soap

Our guest blogger is doing dishes...?

Hello again!

Today, I went shopping. I finally picked up some eco-friendly dishwashing liquid and liquid hand soap. I opted for the non-scented hand soap, but went for the mandarin and grapefruit dish soap and quite like the smell! It's really fresh and makes me think of breakfast in the summertime. I've literally just gotten home, but gave both a test-drive and am pleased to announce that they're quality products.

The best part? Both boast being free of SLS (Sulfates) and not tested on animals. As well, they declare that they biodegrade "99% within 28 days." The price was comparable to similar products found outside of the organic department of my supermarket.

Confession time: I put off buying products such as these for a long time, as I seem to have been harbouring some nasty beliefs about organic soaps. Part of the hesitation was brand-loyalty to what I had been brought up with, but for some reason figured they'd be watery and ineffective. Not so, and hence, you're the first to witness my transformation. Consider me a changed consumer!

On that note, I've got some dishes to wash…

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Signs of Spring

Guest Blogger Arleigh continues in my place:

It's been one of those days that brings the promise of spring. There are birds chirping that I haven't heard in months and my apartment has been heated so much by the setting sun (yay, western exposure!) that I've been walking around sockless. Shocking.

This sunglasses weather is a reminder that the school year is just about over for anybody at university or college. In Halifax, this marks the end of the first year where nearly all full-time university students received Metro Transit passes for the academic year. This meant an increase in fees, but the price was dramatically reduced from that of a regular adult pass. I have my pass in my hands now, and the "Good thru April 30, 2008" is causing me much heartbreak.

Now that the academics are wrapping up, thousands of university students – myself included - are suddenly going to have to face the music of coughing up $2 per ride or finding alternative forms of transportation. I own a car, but choose not to commute to work every day. With the warmth of summer, I'm looking forward to my hour-long walk either to or from work, but in the meantime, until my schedule sorts itself out, I see a bit more driving and a bit less bus.

Alternatively, I could dig my very rusty hand-me-down bike out of storage and finally figure out how to aid in its passing to the great bike shop in the sky. Perhaps as a reward for surviving a year of my Masters, I could treat myself to a new-to-me bike!

On another note, all you Haligonians should get out to the local shops downtown and pick up a new, free "Green Guide" sponsored by The Coast. It's packed with goodies, highlighting restaurants that buy local, where you can get an eco-couch and what the deal is with recycling techie stuff. A worthy read.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Sub…

Hello class… Class! Hello? Could you sit down, pleas—Hey! No throwing! Do you want a detention? No? Well then…? Ah. Thank you.

Now then. My name's Arleigh and I'm going to be your substitute for the next few days while Mateo's slogging through his academic responsibilities. I must admit to being slightly intimidated by this task due to the rapidly expanding readership as well as the size of the shoes that have requested filling, but I'm always up for a challenge! I've got a few ideas up my sleeve. And the best part? I won't threaten to take my clothes off. Promise.

Unlike home-owning Mateo, I live in an apartment, and feel rather powerless on a number of issues. My appliances aren't energy-saving. My thermostat is as old as the building and only shuts off when I remember to flip the switch. The temperature of the hot water verges on painful. The energy waste in the public areas astounds me. Don't even get me started on sweltering stairwells.

Don't get me wrong: I'm doing my bit. I have replaced my old and energy-sucking light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. I unplug phantom-sucking appliances when they're not in use. I compost and recycle regularly.

This is where you – faithful footprint readers – come in. I need your ideas. What have you done to greenify your apartment buildings? Send along stories of how you swayed your superintendents and convinced your landlords. Where did you begin? Which battles have you won? Has there been anything your rental company has been particularly resistant to?

Hope to hear from you all soon!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

2 Minutes of Green

I hope everyone enjoyed my April Fool's Day joke. I know it wasn't something totally outrageous, but I guess I was a little surprised by how people I know took it in stride thinking that this would be something I would do. I guess it's not inconceivable. My parents offered to pay me not to.

Anyway, I am facing a rapidly finishing school term which means it is going to be very busy at both work and school for me (full time job is at a university and I am also taking some classes!). Thus, I will likely not be posting as often or as reliably for the next week or so. I'm working on lining up a guest blogger for you... watch this space.

In other news:

  • We've had visitors from all 10 provinces in Canada and from 42 US states! Now sending out welcome vibes toward the territories and Washington, Wyoming, North Dakota, Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. Are they the least green states in the Union?
  • Still maintaining 4 bus days per week. That means I've reduced my regular car usage by 80%.
  • Temperature outside is slowly coming up, but the sun is staying longer and brighter. The temperature in the sun room yesterday was 35C. Ambient temperature in the house is now around 20C without assistance.
  • Check this out: I was mentioned on Hugg.ca! Be sure to check them out, especially the "What if the environment was a person?" video.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Getting Really Serious About Going Green

Perhaps I've lost my mind or maybe I've just decided it's time to get serious about this whole project. As many of you know, two of my big passions right now are my green projects and my photography. What better way to raise awareness and funds for these projects than by combining them???

If the Lower Footprint 25kW Challenge can meet it's 3.0kW milestone by the end of the month, I will pose nude (tastefully) for a promotional photo on this blog.

Contributors who make single donations of over $100 will get their own 8x10 print of the photo, to be taken sometime in the early spring (once the weather warms up a little).

Whether you see this as an opportunity to help me make a very public statement about the environment, or a once in a lifetime chance to really embarrass (or em-bare-ass) me, every penny raised for this project will go directly toward my green initiatives.

Show your support and I'll show mine...


Update: Frankly, I'm shocked! Due to an overwhelming response (almost $2800), we've almost reached the full goal of this initiative in only one day. A few more orders and we'll be there. You can order your very own 8x10 of me, fully nude, by clicking here. Obviously, I should have set a higher goal!