We already have 14 EVs registered for the National Drive Electric Week event in Golden Real Estate’s parking lot at 17695 S. Golden Road, Golden, on Sept. 14th, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We have all 3 Tesla models plus models from BMW, Jaguar, Chevrolet, Nissan and Hyundai. If you have another brand, please register it at www.DriveElectricWeek.info and come show it off. If you want to be an attendee, you can reguster at the same site.
The typical American home is powered electrically but heated by natural gas, propane or other fossil fuels. You and I can generate our own electricity with solar panels, but there’s no way for us to generate natural gas or other fossil fuel energy, so the transition to a “net zero energy” lifestyle necessitates turning away from fossil fuels and going all-electric.
Fortunately, technology has advanced — just in the last decade — to the point where going all-electric is totally practical, affordable, and a way you and I can mitigate climate change
At Golden Real Estate, our office was heated with natural gas until November 2017, when we installed a heat pump “mini-split” system and had our natural gas meter removed. With 20 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic panels, we were able to eliminate our natural gas bill but not increase our electric bill. We continue to pay just $11 per month to be connected to the electric grid (which functions as our “battery” thanks to net metering), but we are generating all the electricity needed to power, heat and cool our office building. We even have enough electricity from the solar panels to power our four electric cars without buying any net electricity from Xcel Energy. We hope other businesses will follow our lead.
Making the switch to all-electric at home is still in our future, because — like you, I suspect — we prefer gas cooking, gas grilling, and having a gas fireplace.
If, however, we can get beyond those preferences, it is possible now to heat our home and domestic hot water using heat pump appliances, and to cook our food with electric or induction cooktops and ovens. Electric grilling is also available, although not as attractive from a taste standpoint to most of us.
All-electric homes was the subject of a talk by architect Peter Ewers at last week’s meeting of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s Jeffco chapter. You can view an archived video of Peter’s talk at www.cres-energy.org/video.
Once we have removed gas service from our homes (and gas cars from our garages), we will have also eliminated the risks of explosion and carbon monoxide poisoning, too. Wouldn’t that be great?
In my July 18th column, online at www.JimSmithColumns.com, I wrote about my favorite home improvements, including the adoption of LED lighting, which I prefer to CFL lighting and is far more energy efficient than incandescent lighting. In particular, I wrote glowingly, so to speak, about “daylight” LEDs — the whitest light available, so well-named for how it matches the color of bright sunlight.
In our office, I replaced all our “soft white” LEDs with “daylight” LEDs to match the color of sunlight coming through our four Velux sun tunnels.
A reader of that column alerted me to some recent research which showed “daylight” LEDs to be harmful to vision, exacerbating macular degeneration, and disruptive of our circadian rhythm (important for good sleep) specifically because it simulates full natural sunlight.
I urge you to Google “daylight LEDs and health,” as I did, and you’ll find that one of the top links is for a June 2016 American Medical Association policy statement (adopted unanimously at their annual meeting) warning about health and safety problems associated with white LED lighting, so common now in the lighting of American streets.
It was right after learning of this research that I bought a new HP laptop computer and noticed that it offers a “nightlight” setting which automatically changes the screen lighting from white to yellow LED light at sunset. It made me wonder why I was so late to learn about this issue!
The reader who alerted me to this topic suffers from early stage macular degeneration. He said he has replaced all the LED lights in his home with incandescent bulbs. I’m satisfied that changing back to the lower “color temperature” LEDs will be enough. I have noticed that some LED fixtures (like the ones I installed in our conference room) have a switch allowing you to choose between “soft white,” “warm white” and “daylight” temperature settings.
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My understanding as a layman is that al-though one of the impacts of warmer oceans due to climate change is increased precipitation over land, it won’t be as predictable and consistent, so we need to include water conservation in any discussion of sustainability. Or think of it as water management, since we’ll need to be concerned about flooding just as much as about prolonged droughts.
At the local level, we need to be smart about conserving water. It’s a practice we need to implement in times of abundance, because we can’t be sure when the pendulum will swing the other way and we’ll endure periods of water shortage.
For homeowners, the biggest consumption of water is typically the irrigation of our lawns and landscaping. Even though Rita and I replaced our Kentucky Bluegrass lawn with Bella Bluegrass, which requires less mowing and watering, we still need to use our sprinklers, although not as much. We would have done better to install buffalo grass, which is not as verdant, but requires zero irrigation and mowing. (I can provide the address of a home I know in Golden that installed buffalo grass a couple decades ago.)
There are sprinkler systems which adjust the amount of watering that is done based on rainfall and ground moisture, but I haven’t investigated those devices, since I usually am home and adjust our watering according to the weather. For example, this spring I didn’t turn on our sprinkler system until June 1st because of our unusually wet May.
There are other residential strategies for saving water. I have learned to take showers in which I only run the water to get wet and to rinse off, without running the water while washing.
We also installed 1.2-gallon-per-flush toilets, which perform as well as the 1.6-gpf models. We have a sensor faucet on our kitchen sink which operates like those sensors you’re probably used to seeing in public restrooms. The faucet (by Moen) also allows us to turn the water on and off manually when needed.
We also installed a recirculation line on our water heater, which saves a lot of water by producing hot water more quickly in the kitchen and bathrooms. Think of all the water you run waiting for it to get hot. Not only are you wasting that water, but you paid to heat that water, only to have it cool off sitting in the pipes between your water heater and your sink. You’ll also save energy (i.e., money) by installing such a recirc line. Ask your plumber for an estimate.
High efficiency washing machines are efficient in their use of water, not just energy. Front loaders use less water than the older top loaders, but the new top-loading high efficiency machines, such as our LG unit (the kind with a glass top and no agitator), automatically sense how much water is needed and do an amazing job. We’re glad our front-loading high efficiency washing machine died and had to be replaced!
At the governmental level, I’m surprised that CDOT and other jurisdictions don’t install buffalo grass in the medians and on the shoulders of our highways. Doing so would not only conserve water but save a lot of money on mowing, which can also endanger workers on high-speed highways.
Recently I saw a report on the blue jean industry, which uses an immense amount of water not just to grow the cotton (1,800 gallons per pair of jeans) but even more water to dye them blue!
I expect to learn even more about water conservation and management at this Thursday’s (tonight’s) session on this topic at Golden Real Estate’s office., 17695 S. Golden Road, Golden. It starts at 5 p.m. and is scheduled to last only 1 hour. We still have seats available. Email me (see below) or just show up. The presenter is Ben Wade from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
If you can’t attend this Thursday’s session, a video of it will be archived by Saturday at www.SustainabilitySeries.info, where you can already find archived videos of the previous five sessions on other sustainability topics.
Please consider coming if you, too, have water conservation or management ideas to share, such as I have done in this column. I’m certainly looking forward to learning things I don’t already know.
Tonight is the fifth in Golden Real Estate’s Sustainability Series. Previous sessions were about home insulation (January), home heating technology (February), solar power (March), and electric cars (April).
This month, the topic is sustainable renovation. Our presenter is an expert in sustainable practices when it comes to home renovation. His name is Steve Stevens, and he has been my mentor regarding sustainable practices for nearly two decades.
A retired scientist from Bell Labs, Steve has made a lifelong project, it seems, out of reducing the carbon footprint of his 1970s brick ranch in South Golden.
Retired and living on a fixed income, he has developed several habits/practices that are not only sustainable but also have saved him a boatload of money.
For example, he only buys cull lumber from Lowe’s, and he buys returned products (typically mis-ordered) such as windows and doors, which are then sold for a fraction of their original price.
Steve also seeks out salvaged goods such as windows and doors. As with buying cull lumber and returned products, collecting salvaged products means zero new carbon footprint for doing your renovation.
Steve, being a scientist by training and passion, always considers the embedded carbon footprint of products, whether it’s food or building materials. How much energy is used to transport the goods you purchase? For example, are you buying slab granite mined and shipped from Asia, or an alternative material mined or created closer to home?
Steve will share his shopping and construction tips that save money and are also sustainable.
For example, he emphasizes insulation, which should always be your first measure when it comes to saving energy. But what products should you buy, and where should you start?
The session will be held tonight, May 16th, from 5 to 6 pm in the Golden Real Estate office at 17695 S. Golden Road, Golden. There are still seats available. Reserve yours by emailing me at Jim@Golden RealEstate.com.
Each of our sessions is video recorded by our friend, Martin Voelker, from the Colorado Renewal Energy Society. You can watch videos of the first four sessions at Sustain-abilitySeries.info. This session will also be recorded and posted there.
This event on Saturday, April 20th, was a big success. Here’s a video taken by Jim Smith at the height of activity: