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The New Independent Home

     by Michael Potts
from chapter 5 :

Reckoning Home Energy

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     Degree-days of heating (left) and cooling (right) for cities in the United States, using optimal figures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) for heating and 72°F for cooling. Numerals are rankings of 100 cities, based on the energy required, using the CNG Energy Index, a more sensitive measure of actual energy requirements. The CNG Energy Index considers temperature, insolation, humidity, and the previous day's weather in order to predict the amount of energy required to keep space livable. Oakland, California ranks number one, Phoenix, Arizona is number 100. Click here for a larger (75kB 840 pixels wide) version of this map.
     The small illustrations accompanying the text below show the monthly regimes of individual cities are shown, together with their annual total degree-days of heating (Hdd) and cooling (Cdd) and their CNG Energy Index.

     In the second exercise, you will be asked to record a baseline of the energy you consumed in the last four quarters. By noting how many kilowatt-hours of electricity, therms of heating fuel, cords of firewood, gallons of gasoline and water you consumed, and how many gallons of sewage and barrels of garbage you produced, you quantify the impact of your energy behaviors from the immediate past.
DDCaspar.gif - 3289 Bytes      The point of this exercise is to promote awareness of energy consumption. On the form you will note a column marked "something happens here" . . . and we sincerely hope something does. We simply cannot continue wasting energy at the present rate. In fact, many futurists believe we will find ways in the next decade to reduce our per capita energy consumption by a large amount . . . or perish. We believe that awareness is the first step to resisting this undesirable result, and invite you to work with us.
     Using this form as your starting point, you can get a clearer idea of how your whole energy regimen shapes up. Those who submit to the harsh self-evaluation of this work tell us that the information and techniques contained in this book, applied to the inefficiencies and out-of-control costs revealed by this audit, have brought about immediate savings. Most are easily able to reduce energy expenses by 50%, using this liberated surplus to finance further measures for energy efficiency.

     (This form may be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat format by clicking here. A large (23kB) .GIF image may be seen by clicking here.)

     Our goal is to take a year of old data, and use it to plot a course for the next year. As we saw with the chart of Berta's kilowatts, a longer period often shows interesting and unsuspected trends. In most places in North America, weather breaks into four roughly equal seasonal periods; in Caspar, they happen to coincide well enough with bookkeeping's quarters, January-February-March and so forth to October, November, and December (JFM-AMJ-JAS-OND), but your weather year might be different. How you quarter your year is not especially important as long as you consistently use meaningful periods for your climate. As soon as you start penciling in data, the seasonal differences should become apparent.
DDMiami.gif - 3240 Bytes      Note that I am asking you to look at two measures of nearly every consumption, dollars and some appropriate unit of volume. As we have seen, the real work is to reduce consumption, but reduced cost gives you the budget you need to implement changes. Most of us live close enough to the edge that our economies must be real, and must pay for themselves in a reasonable period of time. The electricity industry is rife with enthusiasm for "energy restructuring," which means many of us will get to choose our electricity provider. Whether this is a good idea in the long term is anybody's guess -- it will depend on the games played by those with the power. (Paul Gipe in chapter 3 and Leigh Seddon in chapter 14 offer their differing opinions.) But in the short term, suppliers and governmental agencies can be counted on to confuse the issues with bait-and-switch tactics, misrepresentation of renewable energy shares, and promises of reduced and guaranteed energy costs. In many communities sewage charges are based directly on water use, and you may be paying unfair sewage charges for water used in your garden. The best solution for this conundrum may be to get an agricultural water account for your farming efforts.
     I ask you to total all costs for the year, but you may also be interested to calculate seasonal sub-totals. This exercise would work better on the computerized spreadsheet available at the book's website.
DDConcordNH.gif - 5354 Bytes      The really important part of this form is the "something happens here" column. I hope you have gleaned some ideas from this book to help you make the magic happen. One friend did this, and at the end of the process exclaimed, "I can't believe it! I'm working to support my car!" Others have reported that simply becoming aware of the unreasonable costs, and applying simple common sense to reduce waste, saved as much as 20% per month, enough to afford some serious efficiency measures, which of course reduced costs even more. This is the kind of virtuous cycle we can all enjoy.
     The smaller grids at the bottom of the audit should help you get a closer focus on efficiency projects that will pay for themselves. Starting with the home's north wall, which is usually the coldest, a policy of keeping rooms closed and unheated or at lower temperature on that side of the house in winter, plus a program of replacing old single-pane windows (starting with those which can be felt to be the greatest sources of cold) should have a significant effect on the cost of heating fuel, electricity (if used for local heat), and firewood. Earlier chapters provide suggestions for reducing costs of refrigeration and hot water.


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The New Independent Home

People and Houses that Harvest
the Sun, Wind, and Water
a book by Michael Potts
paper   *     8x10   *     408 pages
8 page color section + 200 illustrations:
b&w photos, graphs, charts, and diagrams
ISBN 1-890132-14-4   *     $30.00

this book at Amazon.com

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Michael & Sienna Potts, websters updated 25 December 2002 : 14:35 Caspar (Pacific) time
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