Category Archives: green home

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.

Trash Day

One way our family saves money monthly is by limiting our trash to one can per month, saving us $32.90 monthly and $394.80 annually. While not a mountain of cash, our family feels really good about not sending a mountain of trash to the landfill.  
So how does a family of four limit to one trash can per month?
  • Reduce – You don’t ever have to throw something out if it never enters your home. It can also be thought of as “precycling,” continually evaluating how much packaging an item comes in to consider its long term implications. It can also be seen as ReThinking. Do you really need it? How long will you benefit from it? Is it recyclable?
  • Reuse – If you think creatively enough, almost anything can be reused. You can also donate for reuse. The School & Community Reuse Action Project (S.C.R.A.P.) accepts donations of all sorts to be used in creative reuse projects, like turning CDs and records into clocks. Portland’s ReBuilding Center has been very successful at tackling a big waste source; building waste accounts for at least 20% of landfills. I also found a national organization, ReDo Reuse Development Organization that accepts donations for a variety of items from across the country and helps match you with more local reuse centers.
  • Recycle – Not surprisingly, the biggest factor that helps us stick to one garbage can per month is recycling everything possible. We have large roll carts for co-mingled recycling, and we do have pick up service every week, although we usually put it out every other week (no need to make the haulers stop if its half full.) If you don’t already, get to know what materials are accepted in your local market. With a little research you might find that some materials can be dropped off special places (like sour cream tubs and plastic bags). One last recycling tip, make sure any plastic bags get separated since they can ruin most recycling conveyor belts.
  • Compost – Food scraps typically make up 12% of garbage, and is completely and naturally recyclable. Exchanging garbage for soil is really and environmental no-brainer. There are more and more municipalities offering compost/yard waste pick-up, and even downtown offices have composting.
  • Remember – Sometimes it’s easy to loose sight of how some handy convenience will lead to a heap of trash and why it is so important. The best reminders for me are age one and four.  Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to only take the trash out once a month?!
I also don’t want to make our one garbage can out to be such a big deal, since I know we’re not the only family to limit our trash. EnviroMom even has a “One Can Challenge,” and the entire City of Portland is shifting the policy to pick up trash only twice a month, once they add composting to yard waste bins.
How have you reduced your family’s trash? Could you live with one can?
Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.