Greening the Pasture

February 18, 2010

While we normally follow the moos in Woodside, sometimes we like to graze in the wider COWmunity. The City of Millbrae is hosting a ‘2010 Sustainable Workshops’ series at the library – a great idea that our Town should emulate. On Thursday, January 28, we attended a great seminar on ‘Home Energy Efficiency Made Easy’ – and you can see the video right now in our Public Service area on MooTube! Our thanks to Kate Latham with Ennovationz, the energy-audit company that presented the event, as well as the staff of the City of Millbrae and the Millbrae public library who hosted the event.

Ennovationz based the information, which they provided in this workshop, on the over two hundred home energy audits that they have conducted in the area. This workshop ran about an hour and a half and covered things you can do to reduce your energy bills while at the same time reducing the impact on the environment. Given that our per-capita energy use dwarfs most other places on the Peninsula, we should all take heed.

Part of our high energy use of course is due to larger homes, but there is much more to the energy-use equation. The efficiency of our habits, equipment and home are all factors. Ms. Latham showed a revealing graph (which you can see on MooTube), which displayed examples of surveyed houses by both square footage and the cost of utilities. The graph had two interesting comparisons – one was between a 1,000 sf house and a 3,000 sf house with approximately the same utility costs; the other was between two 2,000 sf houses where the cost in utilities differed by thousands of dollars. Clearly, our own habits, the appliances we choose to run, and the efficiencies we put in our houses are big drivers of cost.

Much of the presentation was devoted to different things in your home that might be increasing your electricity or gas bill by hundreds or thousands of dollars each year. Swimming pool pumps easily consume $2,000 – to $3,000 a year; a recirculating pump on a water heater can run $400 or $500 per year; an old fridge could be costing you $660 a year to run! One such fridge was found in a home audit to be used just to keep carrots cool for horses – sounds like it could be a Woodside resident!

Spas above ground, towel warmers, radiant-heat floors, fountain pumps, wine closets, giant tv’s, multiple DVR’s, and many other sources of energy use were pointed out by Ms. Latham. Her advice was not always to get rid of such things, but to consider your usage, consider putting such appliances on timers; consider purchasing the most energy efficient appliances (including LCD TV’s instead of plasma); and other such common-sense ideas. She also strongly stressed switching to CFL and LED light bulbs, and to Insulate! Insulate! Insulate! She showed infrared pictures of heat leaking out of all sorts of places in a home – under doorsills, through uninsulated walls, attics, and floors, through electrical outlets, and others.

She also briefly spoke of water efficiency, and how lowering your water use also reduces energy use involved in heating the water. An interesting point raised was PG&E’s different electrical tiers based on usage, ranging from a low base per kilowatt hour to more than triple or quadruple that amount. We are willing to bet many COWs are paying the highest amount! She pointed out that getting rid of some inefficiencies might lower your utility bills a lot more than just the cost of the energy for the particular appliance or usage, if it bumps you down into a lower bracket.

Solar heating of water and photovoltaic cells were brought up by the audience and were warmly encouraged by Ms. Latham. Her conclusion was that no one fix fits all and that every house is different, but she believes that there are efficiencies to be found in every home. Her company offers free over-the-phone basic energy audits as well as more in-depth energy audits in the home and contractor recommendations if you decided to upgrade your home.

We found the presentation very en-light-ening! Check it out on MooTube!

For more information on home energy efficiency, or to schedule an energy audit, you can contact ennovationz at 650-625-0868, or on the Web at www.ennovationz.com.

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