EcoRenovator (
-   Renovations & New Construction (
-   -   1200 sq. ft. home in Texas (

ME_Andy 02-06-16 07:42 PM

1200 sq. ft. home in Texas
A little about my house in Texas and a shameless plug for my clean energy blog (gotta build those Google links). It was built in the 80's. Single pane windows. I'm not sure how good the insulation is, but I think the roof needs to be replaced in a few years. When that happens, we will definitely go solar.

We're running about $100/mo on our utilities now (gas, water, electric, waste) which is not bad. That will jump up in the summer, though.

I think we've done the easy efficiency things... (LED bulbs, efficient AC & appliances, bubblewrapped fridge, plugged drafts).. but I am interested in your ideas. The blog talks about how we've put heavy curtains up instead of replacing the single-pane windows. It was a lot cheaper and easier, so we're pretty happy with that. Eventually we'll do the window replacement, too, but I expect it to cost several thousand bucks.

stevehull 02-07-16 07:05 AM

A full assessment of your home is in order. Many utilities do this for free and it will give you the "low hanging" fruit that is easy to do and will return the most money.

Replacement windows are obviously one of those early steps.

Before putting $ in PV panels, do the simple and boring insulation and infiltration upgrades. They return FAR more $ than a PV system.

For example, how much insulation is in the attic? Have your utility do a blower door test to determine infiltration and check if the work you have already done is adequate.

Great looking house!


ME_Andy 02-07-16 07:23 AM

Thanks Steve. I will have to look into it and see if maybe the utility will do that for free.

PV might not be the best investment if you pay out-of-pocket, but if we take out a loan, and the loan is less than our electric bill per month, it makes sense (to me) to go solar as soon as possible.

stevehull 02-07-16 09:32 AM

Taking out a loan to do PV is not a good option (IMHO) UNTIL you have done other energy savings.

To best discuss this, what is your heating/AC system, what are the efficiencies and how much do you pay for each kWs of power.

Yes, PV has a 30% tax credit, but so too is that credit for insulation, windows and overall buttoning up of the house.

An analogy. Imagine a sieve. Water into the sieve isn't saved until you close the holes.

Close the holes.


ME_Andy 02-07-16 10:38 AM

Well, I can see your point that plugging holes might be more cost-effective, but I still think I should go solar immediately since the return is (+) and there would be no cost to me. Ideally, I would do both immediately!

But to answer your questions, we pay 8c/kWh, net metering reimburses at 9c/kWh. The AC is a Goodman (15 SEER) and the furnace is an older Payne that I don't see a model number on.

stevehull 02-07-16 01:06 PM

How do you mean that PV is at "no cost"? I certainly hope you don't consider Solar City to be "no cost".

There are a lot of consequences to "renting" a PV system. Examine carefully before you bite.

Conversely, the cost of a DIY self install grid connected system is about $1.25 a watt. Then YOU get the 30% tax credit. A 10 kW system for roof (forty, 250 watt panels) would cost you about $12,500. Then the tax credit gives you back cash $3750 for a net cost of $8750. You now get 100% of the kWs from this system.

When you "rent" from Solar City, they get the 30% tax credit and they get most of the kwatts. You get a slightly discounted rate for your power consumption.

Maybe you are thinking of a loan of some sort to finance a PV system.

You may not need a 10 kW system. Half that may be great for you. Look at your bills to figure out your kWhr peak use (likely July - August) and plan from there.

I would, at a minimum, get double pane windows and check attic insulation (increase to R40). Per dollar spent, even with loans, conservation in a home like yours beats out PV every time when you look at return on investment.

Lastly, is your roof orientation (angle to south) appropriate for a PV system?


MEMPHIS91 02-07-16 02:59 PM

IMHO, THIS is a must for those windows. I have old dual pane windows and they are stinking terrible.......

Building interior window insulation panels

jeff5may 02-08-16 01:32 AM

Think of this home energy thing more as a long-term investment, and you will be better off from the get-go. Having a blower door test done, doing a manual j analysis, getting some thermal images, and the like are all preliminary steps that fit into your energy budgeting plan. Insulation is one of those aspects that reaches beyond return on investment. Although it has a diminishing rate of return, it will alter your home comfort levels in a dramatic and permanent fashion. Doing it first will reduce all your subsequent needs and has a compound effect on the whole budget and project.

I can't tell you how many people I've helped with these projects that wanted to just throw equipment at their homes in the beginning. Big fans, windows and doors, climate controls, strange roofing and insulating materials, the list just goes on forever. Most of these homeowners began with a "one thing at a time" mentality, not putting much thought about the improvement of the home as a combined project. Obviously, you have done a few of these projects, and they have added up to a tangible sum. I encourage you to step back and do a decent audit and at least do some math before you make any major investment in equipment or labor hours.

Consider this:

A thermal camera on a cold day has changed a whole lot of people's minds. That 75 bucks saved them thousands in about fifteen minutes. For some odd reason, their old windows are never good enough after seeing all that red and yellow on the screen...

gasstingy 02-08-16 08:10 AM

I would say that a home energy audit is the most important thing you could do, even if you have to pay out of pocket for it. FWIW, I spent $600.00 to have an audit and because of that, I added a bit of extra insulation in my attic and put in a 2 ton HVAC system instead of the HVAC "experts" suggested 3.5 to 4.0 ton unit. {I had 4 quotes, 3 = 3.5 ton, 1 = 4.0 ton using "the rule of thumb" as nobody would do a Manual J}

The $600.00 was saved in the cost of the new unit, plus I found out where the couple of minor improvements needed to be made. Some of what I planned to do turned out to be non-issues.

Good luck with whatever your plans are for making your home more energy efficient. In most cases, lowering your utility bills through efficiency comes with the REAL benefit of a more comfortable home to live in.

gtojohn 02-09-16 10:24 AM

Single pane storm windows for those months you don't open your windows. I built mine out of plexiglass mounted to the back of wooden frames. They help with drafts, infiltration and sound of neighbor's dogs too. I'd put some solar screens on your windows to, solar screen is cheap and easy. Windy winter days are good for finding air leaks around your house. check around plumbing penetrations, outlets, doors, window casing, baseboards etc. You'll be surprised where everything leaks.
If you have a gas furnace in an interior closet make sure its sealed and has a combustion fresh air intake from outside. Otherwise as your furnace burns it uses conditioned air while your house sucks in cold air from outside.

ToddT 03-01-16 04:13 PM

Regarding the storm windows, I found magnetic interior storm windows had a 38 month return on investment but that was buying them made and installed.

A few other tricks from decades in Louisiana and now back home to south Arkansas:
Water fog mist on the outside AC unit. If you have hard water, add a polyphosphate filter to essentially soften the water to avoid salts plating out on the metal.
Water spray on the roof. Even with our high humidity, an alternating wet/dry cycle didn't use much water but kept the roof temperatures down. It can increase the life of your roof and cool your attic. If you have really high R values in your attic insulation, the return isn't as great. But, it's cheap. I got a repeat cycle timer and a thermostat switch. When the attic temps hit 90 degrees, it started a repeat cycle of 30 seconds of applying water followed by 15 minutes of evaporating.
Shade the outside unit. The AC needs to get rid of heat, tough if your outside unit is being baked by the summer sun. You never want to block the air discharge above the unit nor put anything to restrict airflow from the sides. I made a shade screen out of 2x2's and black shade material from the home center. I left about 24" around the AC unit and had the shade panel on short legs so fresh air could be brought in freely.

ME_Andy 03-01-16 04:27 PM

I appreciate it, Todd. It sounds like misting the AC is something we could do. (Kind of like putting an AC unit inside a swamp cooler, I guess).

The windows are on hold for now because a leak sprang up from the spigot of our water heater. After replacing the spigot, we saw it was nearly clogged with lime. I think our next upgrade will be the water heater ASAP.

The contractors Home Depot sent out quoted $2700 to bring it up to code. That was a lot more than we expected, but I can do some of the upgrades myself. Our water pressure was 95 psi, so a lot of that expense comes from a pressure relief valve and an expansion valve.

This is the replacement model we want, unless anybody else can suggest something better/easier to install.
Rheem Performance Platinum 40 Gal. Short 12 Year 40,000 BTU Energy Star Natural Gas Water Heater-XG40S12DM40U0 - The Home Depot

Elcam84 03-01-16 07:04 PM

95 psi is too high for residential. Find the pressure regulator near the meter and lower that pressure. 40 to 50 is typical though 95 would help with irrigation...

Double pane windows aren't too bad these days. I replaced all of ours and the most expensive ones were the two front pairs of 3'x6' windows. They were about $450 for each pair. The other windows were mostly stock sizes and around $80 for a 3'x5' and as low as $50 for one of the small ones. They are vinyl double pane and work great.
If I hadn't done it before the summer two years ago we would have had a hard time keeping it 85 in the house that summer... It was 117* every day for two weeks with lows of 85*. Unfortunately man j uses 100* for here which ends up in hot houses. We typically get 100 or more days above 100* with much of that near 110* ugh too hot here...

The water spray on the roof saved us a couple summers and helped make up for an undersized unit. I was working on a new system with mini sprinklers but since we are moving in a year it's not worth it. Water is cheaper than electricity in fact free since we use under the minimum anyway...

ME_Andy 04-09-16 11:11 AM

Energy Star hot water heater is in
I appreciate it, Elcam. The new hot water heater is in and they installed a pressure relief valve at the same time. The difference is noticeable: our bath faucets used to leak when taking a shower, but they just trickle now.

A new blog post talks about whether it is worthwhile to buy an Energy Star model. I don't need to tell you guys this, but it definitely is. The cost difference (basic vs. Energy Star) was ~$150, the warranty is twice as long, the burner is more powerful, we should save ~$30/year on gas...

Then we get a $100 rebate from Texas Gas Service, which basically brings the cost difference to zero. It amazes me that most people aren't doing it. The plumbers looked at us kind of funny when we said, "We want Energy Star," then they tried to explain how it would cost thousands of dollars more. Total bull****.

Here's the model we got:
Rheem 38-gallon Energy Star

And another interesting model. It's tiny, but it heats the water very quickly, so it can keep up with the big boys:
Rheem Performance Platinum XR90 29 Gal. Tall 12 Year 60,000 BTU Natural Gas Water Heater-XG29T12XR60U0 - The Home Depot

I'm going to need to reorganize that blog pretty soon, it's getting large.

jeff5may 04-09-16 12:45 PM

Nice water heater! Good point about the salesmen and the "regular" installers. They serve each other in a way: the sales reps know most people are concerned more with price than longevity, and will coach the fickle into a unit that is inexpensive and that the contractors like to install. The service pros will do the same thing if you ask their opinion. They know most people will forget about the unit until it breaks down again. Without preventive maintenance, a high quality unit will break down in about the same time frame as a less expensive unit anyway.

Now that you have an awesome new unit, don't forget to do PMS on it! Flush the sludge out of it every year, and it will live much longer than its rating. My buddy got 25 years out of his 6 year unit. The burner finally died last fall. It popped the heat fuse in the thermocouple, and the thing had a weird reverse thread in it which was no longer available. It now sits in my truck bed, waiting to be used as a heat store for a future project.

ME_Andy 05-28-16 04:47 PM

Ever since they lowered our water pressure from 100 psi to 50 psi or so, we had one toilet that was constantly leaking and one whose tank hardly refilled. And our water bill had gone up about 20%. :( So today I replaced the two fill valves-- that was surprisingly easy. :D

Last month, our utility bill was $110 for everything but gas, and water was the majority of that. (The average electricity bill in our area was $105.) So I'm thinking the $14 for new fill valves will pay off fast.

With these speed bumps out of the way, it's on to the fun things! My project list:

1. Clear out one of the bedrooms to rent it.
2. Rehab the 2000 Schwinn Homegrown mountain bike that I bought on Craigslist for $250. This is a truly iconic mountain bike, from the last year before Schwinn sold out. Hand-welded aluminum in the USA, etc.
3. Replace the windows with double-pane.

oil pan 4 05-28-16 09:59 PM

I love having 100psi of utility water pressure.
That will raise the boiling point of water up to around 330°F and keep the water heater from cavitating.
Also install a magnesium anode in your water heater, it really cuts down the buildup in the heater and in the pipes.

Elcam84 06-17-16 03:19 PM


Originally Posted by ME_Andy (Post 50287)
Ever since they lowered our water pressure from 100 psi to 50 psi or so, we had one toilet that was constantly leaking and one whose tank hardly refilled. And our water bill had gone up about 20%. :( So today I replaced the two fill valves-- that was surprisingly easy. :D

Last month, our utility bill was $110 for everything but gas, and water was the majority of that. (The average electricity bill in our area was $105.) So I'm thinking the $14 for new fill valves will pay off fast.

With these speed bumps out of the way, it's on to the fun things! My project list:

1. Clear out one of the bedrooms to rent it.
2. Rehab the 2000 Schwinn Homegrown mountain bike that I bought on Craigslist for $250. This is a truly iconic mountain bike, from the last year before Schwinn sold out. Hand-welded aluminum in the USA, etc.
3. Replace the windows with double-pane.

Good to hear. Course not sure what toilets you have but the best bang for the buck are the toilets that Sam's Club sells. $89 dual flush and are quite hard to plug up and come with everything for install even a soft close seat. But never use a wax seal. Get the urethane one as it fits odd floors and is reusable.

That's pretty low for utilities. We will probably be in the 150 range this month for electricity as summer is here now. High 90s to 100 and barely getting below 80 at night and high humidity. IE 96* and 53% humidity. And the heat isn't even here yet. Will see if the new ac really uses less electricity...

As for the schwinn. I used to have an old one. The one with the two long levers to change gears. It was awful for shifting as you just moved the lever and hoped it would hit the right gear. Rode allot of miles on it then bought a mountain bike. Didn't ride it much and it's been stored at my parents place for 20 years or so. Last time I rode a bike I nearly killed myself. Yes you do forget how to ride a bike or at least loose confidence in turning and leaning over.

ME_Andy 06-29-16 01:54 PM

Here's an AC mister along the lines of what some of you suggested. $400 though!
Mistbox - Air Conditioner Energy Savings

Elcam84 06-29-16 02:16 PM

You can buy allot of electricity for $400. The big issue is making sure the filter is very good as you don't want any minerals getting through and depositing on the coils or causing corrosion.

ME_Andy 07-09-16 07:57 AM

We're on the cusp of renting out a room. Shout out to Peakster- his thread was one of our motivations to do it. This is awesome. The rent will cover the interest on the mortgage so we are essentially living for free.

ME_Andy 07-09-16 08:52 AM

Rebuilding a Schwinn Homegrown
And finally, the promised update about rebuilding a classic American mountain bike.


Got if off Craigslist for $250 and it's 16 years old but it competes easily with brand-new, $1000-$5000 bikes.

Look at the detail on the frame!

Also re-tooled my blog with Wordpress. I needed something more scaleable and maintainable than editing the HTML/JS by hand.

ME_Andy 08-06-16 02:20 PM

What can automakers learn from a lawn mower?
(from my blog,

Briggs & Stratton has come out with a cool new lawn mower that never needs oil changes! According to their website, the secret is a better air filter and a cooler-running engine, which extends oil life. The owner just needs to check and top off the oil occassionally.

The other feature of this system which isn’t mentioned in the PR, I’m sure, is that lawnmower engines tend to burn a fair amount of oil. Thus they will frequently need topping off, which replenishes the oil’s additive package. The company would rather not focus on oil burning as a feature, but I would bet it is crucial.

As electric vehicles become much cheaper, conventional gas engines will need to exploit all kinds of technology to stay competitive. And let’s face it, oil changes are one of the worst aspects of a gas burner. So, my humble prediction is that automakers will advertise longer and longer oil change intervals. We may even see some creative systems where oil is no longer drained, ever, but partially siphoned out and topped off to replenish additives.

There is precedence for this “replenishment” technique already. A couple links from people who NEVER changed their oil follow– they just topped off as old oil was slowly burned off. If you’re “lucky” enough to have a car which burns oil (mine doesn’t), you could probably pull this off. My father’s 1996 diesel F-250 went about 50,000 without an oil change and was still ticking fine at 180,000 miles.

There are at least two synthetic oils on the market (Amsoil Signature and Mobil1 Extended Performance) which guarantee suitability for 15,000 mile oil changes. So, it isn’t a huge mental leap to imagine an oil-change-free future. I would never change mine at less than 5,000 miles. If you do, you’re wasting cash.

122,000 miles without an oil change – Nissan truck

38,000 miles without an oil change – VW Jetta

250,000 miles – ’72 Buick Rivera – discusses Car Talk and a government study as well

13,000 miles – Honda Insight

Elcam84 08-06-16 03:37 PM

I used to be an ASE master tech and saw many cars that never had oil changes... The crankcase was full of carbon crud etc. My dad was the plant manager for AGAP engine re builders which at the time was bigger than jasper. Many of the cores were run without oil changes. Everything gets packed with crud that is as hard as a rock. They were so bad that they had to run them through the oven before disassembly then again afterwards after mechanical cleaning.

The issue is not just additive breakdown. It's build up of moisture, acids, carbon etc. This is why short trips to the store down the street are harder on engines as it doesn't have a chance to warm up and those first two build up and the engine doesn't run enough to remove most of them so they accumulate.

You still need to drain the oil to remove the sediment buildup and the stuff that doesn't get burned off. Remember the Toyota engine sludge.. Caused by engines that had too hot of surfaces inside the engine. Their fix on some like the 4 runner was to put 7 quart oil pans on them and then recommend synthetic oil in all of their engines. Still an issue today as they haven't fixed the core problem.

Mowers do tend to burn more oil than other engines and when I was in high school I worked at a friends mower shop which had the Kmart and walmart repair accounts among others. We would see returns of no oil change mowers and deny the repair. He typically had 100 or more at a time that the owners just left because they didn't want to pay for the repair.
We had one come in totally sized brand new. Removed the fill plug and saw green. They put antifreeze in....

Newer cars and mowers do stay cleaner internally due to a number of factors but the only reason they will say you don't need to change the oil in a mower is because they have it set to burn more oil than normal and just have the customer add oil. It's all marketing because people are too lazy to change oil along with many other things like mowing the lawn is too much for most these days.

Many including gm have touted long oil change intervals and it's all driven by the marketing department as well as the bean counters. Don't change the oil and we can sell you another unit sooner. Remember they are in the market to sell you another unit. They don't want yours to last and they don't want you to fix it either.

Also look at many of the German manufacturers that have very high oil consumption. Their oil consumption amounts when new often exceed the allowable for American made engines. The Mercedes designed engines that Chrysler used in their cars were massive oil burners. The 4cyl used in the pt cruiser( horrible standard trans as well) and their engines in other cars used lots of oil. Lots of extra pollution from that and premature failure of cat converters was common because of it.

Basically don't believe what marketing from any company tells you. There will always be those that get away with the exception but just cause it works in a few cases doesn't mean it will work in yours. Driving style types of roads and the biggie is heat. It sits at 103* air temp for at least hrs a day here and consider the heat from the road as well. Then stop and go traffic with the ac on max now do you think you are burning off enough oil to be able to put in fresh to replace the additives?
This goes on for 3 months here and it's still in the 90s when the sun goes down.

It's a bad idea on many levels. Oil is cheap your car isnt. Don't risk it. If you want to do that with your mower just buy the $99 walmart special and throw it away at the end of the year or when it doesn't start next spring. Many do that now as they abuse them so badly.

ME_Andy 08-06-16 06:46 PM

I mostly agree with you except on a couple points. Acid in the oil is gonna get burned up by blowby, just like the oil does, so that's not a huge issue.

Oil changes really aren't that cheap. For my car, a GM, an oil change is about $40-80 because it requires the Dexos high-quality oil.

I like my GM oil life monitor quite a bit. It predicts ~7500-mile oil change intervals for me. I guess the first versions of the product weren't conservative enough and they were predicting too many 10k+ intervals. I'm looking forward to having some oil analyses done to confirm that my typical 6,000-mile interval is fine.

And I understand that 10k+ intervals in Europe are kind of the norm. Obviously that requires very good, high-quality synthetics.

Now imagine that, say, GM required the best oil in their engines, like Amsoil or M1 Extended. That's good for at least 10k miles for almost any driver. Combine that with an oil life monitor and a filter change and I bet gentle drivers like myself would be good for 20k miles.

Now a step further... Imagine Jiffy Lube tested your oil instead of changing it automatically. That would be cool, right?

ME_Andy 08-06-16 06:50 PM

Did you ever see anybody do this? ;)

The BMW in the video reminds me of how much I hate BMW's... maybe that will be the subject of a future blog post.

DEnd 08-10-16 06:12 PM


Originally Posted by ME_Andy (Post 51284)
Did you ever see anybody do this? ;)

No but I did watch as an Acura threw a rod out of the block because its owner never changed the oil.

With newer Engines and oils 5-6K oil changes is about right. with better monitoring you can go longer


Acid in the oil is gonna get burned up by blowby, just like the oil does, so that's not a huge issue.
No. Blow by is a cause of acid in the oil. Basically oil oxidizes when temperatures get hot. When it oxidizes it breaks down into smaller molecules, some of these are acidic (oil is made up of fatty acids so while it is not acidic itself it is made up of acidic parts). When blow by happens those gasses are really hot, with available oxygen (along with the oxygen in the crankcase). This results in most engines (unless they have a severe oil loss issue) having a gradual build up in oil acid levels.

Yes adding oil will see acid levels drop for a couple of reasons, #1 dilution. However even with dilution you never get back to where you are with all new oil. #2 Modern oils have buffers in them, those along with the dilution result in a lowering of acid levels. Again though you eat up buffer capacity and you never get back to where you are with all new oil.

I'm not a huge fan of synthetic oils. A good mineral oil base will perform just as well as synthetic, and actually have a lower rate of oxidation. While it is true that Synthetics tend to do much better on wear tests, but their oxidation rates, and that they are more "leaky" than mineral oils are added negatives. That said I think these days if you compare a synthetic to a high quality mineral oil, the additive package is more important than the base stock. When synthetics first came out there weren't good additives for them, that's no longer true.

ME_Andy 11-25-16 08:48 AM

Well, it's the first post in a long time, but things are going swell. The roommate situation is working out awesome. We got a good one and the $500/mo is nice, too. Plus it's probably the easiest way to instantly drop resource consumption by about 33%.

Also, I have this bad habit of long, hot showers, so I'm biking to the gym to shower there, as much as possible.

A nice benefit of getting our house in order is that we can buy toys. Like this! 2015 Leaf:

I have a Leaf-related project in mind, but it's not time to ask you guys about that one, yet.

Elcam84 11-25-16 11:05 AM

Nice. That covers a big chunk of house payment. As for showering... You ride to the gym to shower then back home and need another shower when you get home since you are all sweaty from the ride home. Not seeing the benefit here.

Have seen a couple leafs around but more tesla than leafs here. One owner I talked to liked his leaf but said his only issue was with range and he couldn't use it for a daily driver. Lots of miles driven here as a typical commute for the day can be from 50 to 100 miles in bad traffic and constant ac use.

ME_Andy 01-29-17 05:00 PM

2 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by Elcam84 (Post 52549)
As for showering... You ride to the gym to shower then back home and need another shower when you get home since you are all sweaty from the ride home. Not seeing the benefit here.

Hi Elcam,

The gym is only a mile away, so there's no sweat involved in getting there and back.

Now I wanted to see what y'all think about some methods to cool my garage. 115 degrees plus in the summer won't do when we have a Leaf parked there (their batteries don't tolerate heat well.) A lot of homes in my hood have these vents in the attic but we can't fit that.
Attachment 7578

What if I replaced this light (which we don't use) with a fan? I would just have to cut through the drywall behind it, put in the fan, and maybe put a screen on the outdoors side?
Attachment 7579

Hope you can see the attachments. I'm also considering some water barrels in the garage. Are there any chemicals you could recommend adding to the water that go through a phase change around 100 degrees? That might suck up a lot of energy, too. And I need to make sure they don't freeze.

Thanks! We are still loving the Leaf and may become a 2-Leaf family when used 2018's (longer range) become cheap.

ME_Andy 01-29-17 05:25 PM

Here's a phase change material which would work. Now i need to figure out if the price is reasonable,


ME_Andy 01-29-17 07:56 PM

Perhaps a cheaper option...
Phase Change Material Materials Manufacturers for Air Condition

The Alibaba sellers have minimum orders of tons.

DEnd 01-29-17 09:18 PM

To lower the temperature in your garage do it the same way you would in a house. Insulation, air sealing, and mechanical heat extraction, also a lighter color roof and/or shading the garage.

gasstingy 01-30-17 08:20 AM

If you go with the fan idea, be sure the air intake is on the side of the garage that is shaded in the afternoon.

ME_Andy 02-11-17 12:32 PM

I appreciate the ideas, y'all. I took the first baby step today by stashing 40 gallons of water in and around the garage. This is a similar technique to what greenhouses use to regulate temperature. The attraction of this technique, for me, is that it's extremely cheap and easy. I may do a bit of research to see if 40 gallons is reasonable for a room this size.

While I was up in the attic, I saw that the garage side is not insulated at all. So I'm off to Home Depot to fill the Leaf up with insulation and take care of that. No wonder it got so hot in there.

Btw, lest you think I'm crazy with talk of phase change materials, it's something that every mechanical engineer and chem major learns. Maybe even high school chem students. Tesla's Gigafactory will have a "thermal energy storage tank" that may use the same concept.

ME_Andy 03-26-17 08:56 PM

We got a Google Nest. It's fun! I like the Eco mode which is activated when the house is empty. It's set to maintain a temp between 69-79. It's also a very slick, ergo-friendly mechanical design. I haven't been very impressed with the machine learning aspects of the device, though, so the thermostat schedule was adjusted manually.

The city gave us a rebate of $85. In return, they can adjust the device at times of peak demand. There are some studies out there saying a Nest typically saves ~12% on heating/cooling.

When I look back on everything we've done in the past couple years, it's a lot. About the only things left on the eco wish list are 5 new windows and a Level 2 charger.

ME_Andy 04-14-17 11:51 PM

Can anybody help me out with advice/links to the requirements for a solar installation in Austin? I'm thinking about a gazebo with solar in the back yard. I'm not sure if that's going to require a structural analysis, etc.

ME_Andy 12-30-17 12:34 AM

A new house!
It's been awhile, but here's a little update. We sold our starter house to a friend, no realtor involved, and moved to a bigger, new house that's a bit closer to work. I wanted to get even closer but prices within the city of Austin get crazy.

How does it look? ~2000 sq. ft. and a joy to come home to every day. (link in case the image doesn't show)

It has a HERS score of 70, which I understand to be good but not great. Can anybody put that HERS score in more perspective? Not many ecomods yet except some easy things: turn down the thermostat, drapes, and efficient appliances.

I do miss the old house and the days of renting out a room. We had practically zero housing costs but the 1.5h commute was a killer.

We've saved a lot of money in the past couple years. Soon I will stop worrying about saving so much and focus on some fun things, like solar for the house. A Google Nest will be installed soon, too.

A development called "Whisper Valley" is opening nearby, and claims to be one of the first zero-energy capable, large developments on Earth. At first I was sad we missed out on it, but I realized that an equivalent Whisper Valley home costs about $40k more. I'm happy to take the home I have and put that $40k towards improvements here. The Whisper Valley commute also would have been more difficult.
Whisper Valley, Austins first EcoSmart, ZeroEnergy Community

Long term, we would like to build something like an earthship on a larger plot.

Some other lifestyle changes are helping us out: eating less meat and more staples, and recently switched my wife to Republic Wireless instead of Verizon. Her bill dropped from $88/mo to $35/mo! I'm also experimenting with a 10k+ mile oil change on my car. We're still spending about $600/mo on food and a ridiculous figure on travel... I would like to cut both of those figures.

The Nissan Leaf finally required a bit of maintenance. Its lead-acid aux battery died on a cold winter day. $120/3 years of driving... Not bad. Actually, my Chevy Cruze has been even better, with zero issues in 4 years.

gasstingy 01-02-18 05:21 PM

After I finished the build of our second solar array and getting the two of them grid-tied, I had an energy audit done on our home in the Spring of 2013 {I can't seem to pull it up now, but that's another story} in order to correctly size a new heat pump. I knew my old one was oversized and had to prove it in order to keep from being oversized again by lazy HVAC contractors.

The baseline {IIRC} of 100 is for a well-constructed home to 2006 standards. They did a blower door test, duct leakage tests and a number of other calculations. At the end of the tests, a report was drawn up and my house scored a 28. I was rechecked when my auditor was being audited. Between the 1st (official) and 2nd (unofficial) audit, I had replaced the old unit with a SEER 19 HVAC unit along with an added 10" of cellulose blown in and a couple of can lights sealed up. The unofficial figure my original auditor gave me was 13. The house was built with open cell spray foam in the 2x4 walls, 3.5" on the top of the ceiling sheetrock and 2" closed cell under the floor. All cfl's at the time, the microwave and all electronics on power strips. Stuff like that.

FWIW, an energy audit should have a report. Review the report if you can gain access to it and it should show where the best areas of improvement for the money are. I'd check the house carefully for air sealing....around doors, windows, exterior wall electrical outlets, etc. Then, if I couldn't put my hands on a copy of the claimed audit, I'd have an audit of my own run so I could see where I stood and what would be the best place to start spending effort / money.

ME_Andy 07-08-18 05:17 PM

I did a little $5 upgrade today... Insulation in the outlets in the external walls, then plugging them with child safety plugs.

We signed with Tesla to install a baby, 3.66kW solar system. It's not much compared to some of you but we don't use much electricity. That should cover 80% of our usage.

The cost is ~$11,200 before tax credits ($3.06/W). Considering the tax credit and the included Google Nest, the cost drops to $2.10/W. That's a good price, I think. The local electric rate is ~$11¢/kWh. The payback period will be about 15 years... Not great, but good enough, and I'm happy to support Tesla. I'll post pics when it's installed.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:03 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Ad Management by RedTyger