Monday, November 26, 2007

Lower home heating bills

Just like the expert advice to eat healthy and exercise, we've been told at least a hundred times that one way to lower home heating bills is to plug leaks around windows and doors. While not very sexy in the abstract, plugging air leaks and filling gaps offers an insanely high return on investment (ROI) in the hundreds (possibly thousands--depending on heating costs) of percent per year.

Well this Thanksgiving I got a couple of my brothers to help seal my parents house. We put new weather stripping on all the doors and windows and caulked all the other gaps where their home energy audit indicated the house loses heat/energy. For $30 worth of weather stripping and caulk (the house has 20 floor to ceiling doors & windows!) we noticeably reduced the amount of cold air seeping into the house. If we use just 1% less energy to heat the house each month, we will more than recover our costs this winter. Considering that some gaps we found and plugged were 1/4" wide, I think we will save much more.

Hopefully a review of our energy bills this spring will show these savings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Support the troops?

I wish they provided more data in this article, but the info they did provide is shocking!

So CBS News did an investigation - asking all 50 states for their suicide data, based on death records, for veterans and non-veterans, dating back to 1995. Forty-five states sent what turned out to be a mountain of information. And what it revealed was stunning. In 2005, for example, in just those 45 states, there were at least 6,256 suicides among those who served in the armed forces. That’s 120 each and every week, in just one year.

Obviously this number would include veterans from past wars, but 6,256! Wow. If even 1/4 of those came from veterans that served in the current Iraq War, then we are seriously under-counting the toll this war is taking on our veterans.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Disturbing rumors about cutting solar and wind incentives from energy bill

I'm reading some disturbing rumblings about solar and wind incentives (like the RPS and tax credits) being stripped out of the current energy bill.

I hope there is nothing to these reports, but my cynical self feels like Charlie Brown yelling "LUCY!" as she pulls the football he is about to kick away.

There are many pressures on the legislature and it is ambitious to write legislation to mandate higher fuel efficiency, institute a national RPS (renewable portfolio standard--i.e. mandate a minimum amount of renewable energy nationally), and extend and expand some federal solar tax incentives, but we need ambitious measures considering the energy and climate crisis we are facing.

Here are two stories that have me concerned:

It seems to me that the american people strongly support extending (and expanding) incentives for solar and wind power and higher fuel economy standards, especially giving skyrocketing energy costs. Or am I just that out of touch?

On the corporate side nobody likes being told what to do, but since things like better fuel economy just isn't happening in the marketplace (no increase over the past 20 years), I think it is entirely appropriate to mandate an increase in minimum (that is easily achieveable from a technical perspective) MPG standards.

Monday, November 12, 2007

How much solar does the US use?

Despite being a $10 B global industry, solar provides a very tiny fraction of the US's current energy use.

I have to admit that I like slicing and dicing numbers. And the EIA always provides lots of fun historical numbers to slice and dice. For example, from Jan-July of 2007 solar power was responsible for 0.0162% of total electric power generation. 388 million MWh from solar out of almost 2.4 trillion MWh total. 1.6 watt-hours of every 10,000 watt-hours currently comes from solar. Not very much, but at least it is up from 0.0135% in the same period of 2006. I wonder if we can increase that % by a factor of 10 in five years time? That would require nearly 60% compound annual growth in US installations.

Meanwhile wind power grew to 0.76% from 0.66% in the same time frame.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Finding creative ways to save energy

Our electricty rates jumped over 25% this year at our weekend/country house.

We knew last year that rates were headed up, so we took some simple steps last year, like installing efficient/swirl bulbs and installing a solar water heater on the main house. (So far we've been happy with the solar water heater; it works great--although I wish we had a meter telling how many gallons of water it has heated).

The smaller houses each have a small electric water heater which we decided to turn off (at the fusebox) when no one is occupying them. The water heaters have a dedicated fuse so this only effects them and being smallish tanks should heat up quickly. Assuming the houses are only occupied 20% of the year (these are vacation houses), we might save ~ 1/2 the annual power consumed by the water heaters (which is nearly all standby power drain on TVs). Like turning off electronics at the power strip, it may take a little extra thought to turn off (& on) the water heaters this way (until it becomes routine, but given that these are electric water heaters, this is a fairly simple, safe way for us to save perhaps $100/yr per small house.

In fact, I think there may be opportunities to do this in the main house as well...certainly if my parents take a multi-week vacation (which they do a couple times a year). The savings may not be as great, but we will see how it goes.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

GWB is hyperventillating again

I'm continually amazed at Bush's rhetoric.

From an AP news story this evening:

"President Bush compared Congress' Democratic leaders Thursday to people who ignored the rise of Lenin and Hitler early in the last century, saying "the world paid a terrible price" then and risks similar consequences for inaction today."


Wonder if Bush has been talking with Podhoretz? From a PBS show earlier this week:

"JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you pose several points that I want to bring to Norman Podhoretz, but, number one, this question of deterrence. If these other countries Mr. Zakaria is listing have listened to the argument to use nuclear weapons they be destroying themselves, why do you think that argument doesn't work with Iran?
NORMAN PODHORETZ: Well, I'll tell you why. First, I want to say that I think the attitude expressed by Fareed Zakaria represents an irresponsible complacency that I think is comparable to the denial in the early '30s of the intentions of Hitler that led to what Churchill called an unnecessary war involving millions and millions of deaths that might have been averted if the West had acted early enough."

Emphasis added by me.

Sounds very similar.

PS Added an Iraq Body Counter to the sidebar. Although flawed, this at least provides a lower limit on the number of Iraqi civilians killed...currently between 76,000-82,000 for those watching. Just so Bush cannot say that I'm "denying the war" if!