Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Community in action

This evening I had the honour of chairing a meeting of interested community people wanting us to set up our own car (time) share co-op. What an enthusiastic bunch, even when we had to slog through the major decisions in the incorporation document! I'm inspired.

You may be asking what a car share co-op is. It's like the old family car being shared between several drivers, each using the car for his or her own purpose, as needed or wanted. Expenses are (at least in theory!) shared between those family members.

In a community-run and owned co-op the cost of operating the vehicles is shared between the members. The more they drive the vehicles the greater share of the cost they incur. If they don't use the car that month, they pay nothing.

All the hassles of operating a vehicle are taken care of by the co-op. The cost of depreciation is shared. Insurance is shared. So is the car loan. As a result very significant savings are realised.

What's also wonderful is that without one's own car sitting in the driveway people are far more likely to use public transit, cycling, walking, car pooling, and making sure that when they do have the car they make maximum usage of it. As a result car share members are usually in better physical and emotional shape, are more community-oriented (and benefit as such), help to support public transit (which, in turn, adds more frequency to their schedules), greatly reduces the number of vehicles on the road, and far more.

Everyone but the car-related companies benefits.

Going back to the meeting, it just goes to show how a committed bunch of people can bring about positive changes. Indeed, as Margaret Mead pointed out, this is about the only way positive change does occur.

A toast to people working together!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Renovating energy wisely

This week I have done two energy assessments on homes that are currently being extensively renovated. What a treat to be a part of their planning, one that will save them a great deal of energy and provide greater comfort.

The first home was a 1921 home, or more correctly, two 1920's homes that were combined into one. This heritage home will have extensive work done on the basement, will be replacing the old oil furnace with an air-air heat pump (they couldn't afford to go for the in-floor radiant heat, which would have been a much superior option, especially if an air-water heat pump was connected to it).

They are removing the inefficient fireplace and installing a wood stove. Trying to move that heated air from one part of the house to another was examined.

The owner likes the old windows, especially the leaded one. Problem is that virtually all of the windows are single pane. After they seal up the major air leaks and put some more insulation in the attic those windows will be the #1 heat loss.

Solution? She is a sewer, and plans on making thick curtains for those windows. Lining them with a product that contains aluminum foil would give them even more night-time energy efficiency, as radiant heat movement accounts for more than half of all energy loss in clear windows. (If you want to know more about this unique curtain liner, do ask me.)

She liked the idea of installing heat drain recovery pipes while renovating the bathrooms. This one change (costing less than $2000) will save them more than 10% in their total heating bills!

These and other plans are going to save them well over half of the existing energy costs, and make them more comfortable and able to stay warm even during power outages. All because they are incorporating energy upgrades while renovating their lovely home.

It pays to be wise.