Sunday, August 14, 2011

Complaining about energy prices

I continue to be amazed at how we complain about higher energy prices yet the vast majority of us do nothing about the huge amount of energy we waste.

Just this last week the province told B.C. Hydro to roll back the price increases for the electricity we depend on. While this is an astute move on the part of a premier who may soon be calling an election, it will cost us all more in the long-run --to say nothing about the planet.

How? Evidence has proven that the number-one motivator for reducing energy usage is the price we pay for it. By not increasing the cost for energy, we continue our wasteful ways, resulting in more demand for power and other sources of energy. The more we demand the more the planet gets carved up, polluted and used to satisfy our thirst. The longer-term costs of this new, far more expensive, energy, plus the extremely high costs that come to roost from a depleted planet, make our short-time savings pale by comparison. In the end, it is the poorer people who will pay the most for these higher costs, contrary to the intentions of well-meaning governments and most of us.

Today nearly half the money spent on electricity goes to the approximately 15% of the power generation added in the last decade. More demand means adding more of this pricey stuff.

What needs to be done? Smart people will be upgrading their homes and businesses now, while interest rates are low and the raw materials are cheap. Governments need to greatly increase energy prices -and with that extra money pay for energy upgrades to buildings used by those unable to afford those prices, create cycling and walking paths, boost public transit, and make our communities more livable.

Now THIS is an intelligent plan.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Next step to reducing energy consumption and improving comfort

In my last post I wrote about how I had managed to get $75 from B.C. Hydro's PowerSmart program due to the fact I had reduce my home's energy consumption by more than 10%.  Of course the $75 is peanuts compared to what I am saving in energy costs, but it was nice to get money back for a change.

Last week I made another change to my home, and I'm aiming to get another $75 from Hydro!  Even more importantly I (and my clients) are going to be way more comfortable this winter. How did I do it?

Like so many in North America I failed to understand that most heat does not necessarily go "up."  Most heat movement is through radiant heat (usually 2/3's of the total, or more). Why? Because radiant heat goes in every direction, always seeking to warm up cold surfaces.

Thus when I built this office and failed to insulate the floor from the concrete slab, I invited most of the heat in the room to move downward!  Even after putting super insulating (see-through) blinds over the windows and installed double insulated walls (at least R-20), I was still cold, especially at my feet and legs. All that thermal mass at my feet, quietly losing its heat to mother earth!

Ideally I would have removed all the concrete, laid insulation and then a thin layer of concrete (and preferably hot water lines for radiant heating), and then re-floored. I didn't have the time nor money for that, so I used aluminum (an excellent radiant reflector) and some rigid foam insulation, finishing with a floating floor. I can tell the difference already, and it's still summer-time!