Author Archives: Darcy Cronin

About Darcy Cronin

I'm a Mother/Coach/Blogger/Business Adventurer from Portland OR. My family consists of my Hubby of 12 years, our 8yo Kieran, 5yo Makenna, and 1yo Teagan. I love dreaming about a better future, and making it happen.

Clean Energy Works – Part 2

As described in yesterday’s Clean Energy Works – Part I , we are very excited about participating in Clean Energy Works  pilot program to help finance energy efficiency for old leaky houses like ours. The combined CO2 emissions saved would roughly equal our family driving from Portland to Washington D.C. and back each year. While we loved our cross-country road trip camping at national parks along the Lewis & Clark trail, I certainly wouldn’t want to emit that much pollution simply by living in our house each year.

With 5,900 cubic feet of air escaping per minute our house needs some serious retrofits. Here is a complete list of all the efficiency measures we will be taking, and the projected energy/CO2 saving:
Air Sealing – actually the most cost/carbon effective of the measures we will be taking.

  • Air Sealing Cost – $585
  • Projected Energy Savings – 168 Therms a year
  • Projected CO2 Reduction – 2,260 pounds a year

Wall Insulation – Green Fiber insulation blown into walls from small holes in the exterior. This also helps reduce outside noise. Cost also includes a recommended kitchen range hood to vent heat (Cavaliere-Euro Z 30 Wall Mounted Range Hood.)

  • Wall Insulation Cost – $2,850
  • Projected Energy Savings – 127 Therms a year
  • Projected CO2 Reduction – 1,710 pounds a year

Attic Insulation – includes Green Fiber insulation to R-value of R-50, and new bathroom fan (a Panasonic Whisper Green Fan for $250)

  • Attic Insulation Cost – $1,840
  • Projected Energy Savings – 100 Therms a year
  • Projected CO2 Reduction – 1,327 pounds a year

Floor Insulation – our master bedroom is partly above the front porch and freezing!

  • Floor Insulation Cost – $1,000
  • Projected Energy Savings – 26 Therms a year
  • Project CO2 Reduction – 350 pounds a year

Rim Joist Insulation – installing rigid foam insulation in the short wall between the first floor and basement, which is currently exposed.

  • Rim Joist Insulation Cost – $500
  • Projected Energy Savings – 12 Therms a year
  • Projected CO2 Reduction – 161 pounds a year

Grand Total Cost – $7,675.00
Projected Energy Savings – 433 Therms a year
Projected CO2 Reduction – 5,828 per year

Thanks to our contractor, Marshall at EcoTech for helping convert the projected CO2 reductions! Energy Trust of Oregon is also doing all the grunt…I mean…paperwork for this project, so they deserve our kudos too.

Do you know if your home is sealed?
Do you think it would pay off to make the investment?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Clean Energy Works – Part 1

We love our 1904 dream home, but we knew the moment we bought that we would need to invest in significant efficiency work. We’ve done home energy audits before. With our first starter home, we diligently insulated everything and made energy-related improvements. Yet, after putting every nickel into buying our house, plus having a new baby, we knew that the home efficiency improvements would have to be put on hold.
Through a stroke of political genius we are now going to be able to afford our green dream home improvements!  We’ve been accepted into a new pilot program to help finance our efficiency improvements, called Clean Energy Works. The program is unique, because it’s the first “on-bill loan” with the payment of the loan added to our monthly utility bill. We will pay nothing up front, for $7,675 worth of insulation and home sealing work. We will repay at a rate of $50 a month (3% fixed over 20 years) on our utility bill.
A big reason why we were accepted into the pilot phase of the program is because our house is so darn drafty. We have a new efficient boiler with old-fashioned radiant heating (which apparently is really efficient, but just went out of style). When we had our home energy audit it clocked our house at loosing 5,900 cubic feet per minute (CFM), and we were told that an efficient home would test at 1,700 CFM. Obviously, we were good candidates.
Here’s a little video about how the pilot program will create 10,000 green jobs, and how the program could be replicated nationwide to help more families reduce their energy bills without having to put money up front.

Green For All – Clean Energy Work Portland video from YouTube:

Would you take advantage of the Clean Energy Works program if you could?
More tomorrow on the project’s carbon impact reductions…
Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Winter Wonderland

There’s not much better than escaping the city to a winter wonderland. The brilliance of a snowy landscape is awe inspiring.
Many people think of winter sports as expensive, thinking about the cost of lessons and lift tickets. Yet is plenty of frugal fun to be had in the snow.
  • Sledding – Pure fun can be had by careening down your nearest bunny hill. A great way to introduce kids to the snow.
  • Snowshoeing – Snowshoes have become pretty inexpensive (yes, if you watched The Story of Stuff, the price has been externalized). You can also find them second hand or rent gear.
  • Cross-country skiing – Swedish family friends  I stayed with would go out for a quick twenty minute ski season to get some exercise and fresh air.
  • Hot chocolate picnic – Pack up some special snacks, a thick comforter and hot drinks for a special wintertime outing. We usually plan a picnic with our snowshoeing trips.
  • Snow Angels and Snow Families – Creating in the snow can get very imaginative, and it fun to come up with special traditions around snow storms. As a kid I remember using a particular apron and always making a snow woman, sometimes a whole family.
What kind of good cheap fun does your family have in the snow?
Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Story of Stuff

If you haven’t seen it already, this little video is as powerful as it is simple. It’s truly worth twenty minutes of your time. I’d love to hear your feedback on it.
Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

“Second Mortgage” aka Child Care

I love our child care center, and adore the villagelike feel of giggly wee ones. I love to visit on breaks and be there when they have a boo-boo. I love the professional and friendly staff with their thoughtful infant curriculum and preschool pedagogy of constructivism. I love the art work and photos of their daily activities with captions about their learning (fine motor/communication). I love the smell of fresh baked granola bars and homemade soups, and the positive peer pressure to eat vegetables amongst kids. I love the field trips and friendships, and how children discover themselves by interacting with others.

Yet, every month when I first check my balance, I’m shocked to realize that half of my salary has been siphoned from my account via “tuition express.”  Somehow the automatic debit does numb the pain, since I don’t have to see the cash flowing from my hands. Before kids I could have never imagined paying almost $2k in tuition for an wobbler and preschooler. Actually come to think of it, that’s about how much money I was making in the non-profit sector.

I recognize that my complaint is privileged, since we can actually still make ends meet even with this “second mortgage.” And of course like all working families, we evaluated whether we could afford to fork over $24k annually for toddler/preschool tuition. Every family has their own financial threshold as well as personal preferences. In the end, our rationale was financial, parental and personal:
  1. Pay Our Family Bills – We both work full-time in order to pay our mortgage, household expenses and put organic food on the table. Theoretically our bills could be lower if we lived elsewhere, so it’s also a lifestyle choice.
  2. Graduate School Debt – My goal was to finish graduate school before starting a family. I was thrilled to announce that I was pregnant at graduation, but I was also deeply in debt, $60k.
  3. Long Term Net Loss – My Masters’ degree meant that my career was poised to advance. Even accounting for childcare costs, I’m fairly certain that if I had left my field for 5 years that my career would have suffered a long term net loss.
  4. I love my work – I’m fortunate enough to do work that I truly enjoy, and I couldn’t quite imagine my life without feeling a greater sense of community contribution.
  5. Early College Prep – Paying for quality care now may even be a better investment than college (at least they are only chugging milk and they aren’t ditching class!)
  6. Social & Emotional Development – Group child care provides an intuitive knowledge that cannot be taught by a single care giver. They know we love them deeply, but we can’t teach them to be friends. With two kids a nanny could be more slightly more affordable, but we prefer the group teaching setting.
  7. Location, location – While there are many factors that play into where your child should receive care, location is a big one. Located in my lobby, we pay a premium for this convenience.
  8. Light at the End – We’ll feel rich when we stop having to pay for child care, even though I know the costs just get redistributed to summer camps and activity fees. I’m hopeful that we’ll manage to gain some ground once they hit grade school.

What decisions have played into your child care choice? 
Do you have similar justifications or a differing view?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.