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Below are 12 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in eco-friendly and environmentally conscious homes,'s LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
3:00 pm
Insteon automation
tenacious_snail  asked me to further explain Insteon.  I figured it was better as a standalone post.  Sorry for the length.

For years I have used an X10 home automation system for lighting and appliance automation.  X10 is a system that sends digital signals through your home's 110V wiring to control modules that are plugged into outlets around your house.

A few years ago, a place called SmartHome started offering a system called Insteon.  It is a powerline based system similar to X10, with a similar level of industry support.  Most Insteon modules are backwards compatible with the X10 signal protocol.

In my own experience, Insteon has been much more reliable than my old X10 system.
- Insteon was designed with a wireless protocol from the beginning, rather than the add-on nature of wireless in X10.
- All Insteon devices act as signal repeaters.  This mostly eliminates signal strength issues.
- Most Insteon modules support two way communication with confirmation of signal receipt and automatic retries.
- Insteon has a wireless bridge to bridge the power phases in your house.

I use Insteon mostly to control lights around my house.  It acts as a centrally controlled timer for many lights.  Recently they have introduced wireless motion detectors.  I use these to control my driveway lights, as well as lights inside my house where they frequently got left on unnecessarily.  I also use the system to turn on my side yard lights when I turn on my backyard lights even though they are on separate switches.

With a bit of creativity you can do all kinds of things with the system, limited mostly by the controller and software that you choose.  I run mine off an always on micro PC, with a PC interface module, and a fairly basic piece of software.  You can also get dedicated controllers, web interfaces, iPhone interfaces, etc.  BTW:  You can sink alot of money into this stuff!  You can also use it as part of your security system, your HVAC system, to turn on your hot tub while driving home, etc!

Power line based systems are about the only viable option for home automation in an existing home.  If you are building a new home, or completely rewiring one, there are other options that are less trouble and more reliable.  These sytems generally involve a central controller, switches that have only low voltage signal wires, and all power wires home run back to the controller.  Since these run off dedicated signal wires, they are pretty bomb proof.  I suspect that programming these systems is not a DIY project.
11:28 am
Nearly instant hot water - Chili Pepper product review
On Sunday, I installed a Chili Pepper Appliance in my kitchen.  This device is an on demand "instant" hot water system.  It is actually an electric pump that installs under your sink, and at the press of a button pulls water up the hot water line and pushes it back down the cold water line, until it senses hot water.  This in effect gets hot water to your sink in a few seconds without running any water down the drain.  It also only runs on demand, so it is not continuously circulating water like some systems.

Installation:  The instructions say to install this under the sink that is furthest from the water heater, or that takes the longest to get hot water.  I chose to put it under my kitchen sink, because that is the only sink where I already had an electric outlet under the sink.  Installation was easy but still took about an hour because working under a sink is always slow.

Operation:  Once installed, I pushed the button, the pump ran for ~45 seconds.  When the pump shut off, I turned on the hot water and had hot water flowing essentially instantly!  Gotta love this.  BTW:  it used to take about 2 minutes of running the water to get hot water to this sink.  I will comment here that the pump is fairly loud.  It sounds similar to a small vacuum cleaner running under your sink.

Automation:  It has been my intent all along to hook this unit into my Insteon home automation system so I can trigger it from anywhere in the house.  I disconnected the included switch and hooked the wires to an Insteon momentary contact switch and plugged this in under the sink.  From my home computer, I programmed a button on the kitchen keypad, as well as the light switch in my master closet to trigger the Insteon momentary contact.  It turns out that I am having some technical difficulties with my kitchen keypad, so cannot seem to get that to work, but...when I double click the off switch of my master closet light I am rewarded with the sound of the pump running in the kitchen.  Once the pump has shut off it now only takes 45 seconds of running the water in my shower to get hot water, instead of the prior 2.5 minutes.  This is not perfect, but is a big improvement and did not require any electrical permits!  Now I just have to deal with that kitchen keypad.

Noise:  The pump is noisier than I would really like.  The instructions said to just set the pump under the sink on its rubber feet.  I chose to mount it on the back wall with screws through its rubber feet.  I am not sure how much of the noise is coming directly from the pump, and how much is radiating from the mounting.  This week I will try wrapping it in some foam to see if I can muffle the sound a bit.

+ The device works exactly as advertised.  Press the button, wait for the pump to turn off, and the hot water is right there. 
+ No water wasted down the drain.
+ It hooks up easily with standard sink hoses (not included) and T-fittings (included). 

- Noisier than I would have hoped for.
- A bit slower than I would have hoped for.
- Requires electricity so is limited in where it can be installed.

Kitchen: Saves 2 minutes of running water @ 1.5GPM = 3 Gallons each time hot water is needed.
Shower:  Saves 1.75 minutes of running water @ 2.5GPM = 4.4 Gallons for each shower.
Assuming one shower per day times two people and Kitchen hot water is needed twice per day, this unit will save 5400 gallons per year.
It will take a while to pay back the ~$200 price of the unit, but the water savings are significant.
Saturday, April 4th, 2009
2:55 pm
Composting has begun!
I have setup and started filling my first ever compost bin!  Last year I started shredding and mulching my leaves, but this will be my first try at composting.  The bin arrived yesterday.  It only took about 10 minutes to assemble.  This morning I scraped a flat spot for it in the corner of my yard, added some leaf mulch, some kitchen scraps, some fireplace ashes, a few yard trimmings, and the leaves I swept up off my patio after yesterday's windstorm.  This should be interesting trying to learn what I can compost (almost anything that's not metal or plastic) vs what I should compost!  Would love feedback on what composts well, vs what causes troubles.

Current Mood: excited
Wednesday, March 18th, 2009
2:47 am
Going Green

I'm sorry if this isn't allowed, but it does relate to the environment.  I'm doing a research paper for a class and I need to speak to individuals in their 20's and 30's, not attending college, that recently purchased an environmentally friendly product(re-useable bags, hybrid car, etc).  If you would be willing to talk to me through e-mail or AIM this next month please send me a message at lucassa3@msu.edu

Your help would be greatly appreciated.  :)  Thanks again.


Monday, March 16th, 2009
9:44 am
Dual Flush toilet valves
I have been contemplating dual flush toilets recently as a way to reduce water usage.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to justify the $200+ a peice for new toilets when my current ones are perfectly functional.  I was at the hardware store on Saturday and found dual flush valve sets to retrofit standard 1.6 gallon toilets.  Decided to try one.

The kit included both the flush valve and the fill valve, plus a new bi-directional lever.  Press down for a half flush, pull up for a full flush.  Took a couple hours to install, like most toilet rebuilds.  The all plastic flush valve is of surprisingly high quality...the all plastic fill valve not so much.  I may switch back to my original fill valve.  Took a while to get all the level adjustments set.  Seperate adjustments for the full tank level, and for the remaining water levels after a full flush or a half flush.

So far it seems to be working well.  It seems like one needs to hold the lever down (or up) just a little longer than normal to get it flushing.  Also, it seems like it is letting more water into the bowl than it needs to while it is filling the tank.  I see no adjustment for this, and this is lost water.  I will use this for a couple months before deciding if I should convert the other toilets in the house.

BTW:  I don't think these will work with an old 3.5GPF toilet.  It's just not enough water to acheive the needed siphon.

I learned something else while doing this...In making all the adjustments, I actually measured out 1.6 gallons and added to the tank after a full flush.  It came to a level that was significantly lower then the original water level in the tank.  This makes me believe that my 1.6 gallon per flush toilets have actually been using more water than specified, because the actual amount used is set by the installer.  Now Ineed to go through and adjust my other toilets, even if I do not decide to propogate the dual flush throughourt the house.

Edit...I forgot to mention the kit price...$30!  sure beats $200+ for a whole new toilet.
Friday, March 13th, 2009
12:31 pm
Not technically Green Homes, but related...
I know that this is rather simplified, but this video is remarkably good at explaining what we are doing to our world, and how we got here.  The video runs about 20 minutes, but is well worth it if you have not seen it. 

This is "The Story of Stuff"...


Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
10:20 am
Multiple Questions from new home owner
Hi everyone!

So glad this community exists--I've got lots of questions. First: I buy bottled water b/c here in rural Virginia, we have sediment in our water sometimes, and just hard water in general. Would putting filters on my faucets be as effective as buying the bottled water? I hate spending so much money, and it's really not good to throw all of that plastic in the refuse.

Second: My house is 50yrs old, and the windows are Nu-Sash windows. I don't know if anyone has any experience with them, but they donot seal very well, and the cold comes in them fairly easliy b/c the windows fold in to clean and the seals in that part have long since rotted away. Replacing the windows is not an option right now. What can I do to keep from loosing so much energy? And what windows to replace with in the summer?

Third: My house has steam heat, which while wonderful, burns a lot of money. The furnace is also directly below my bedroom, with no insulation. The floors get quite hot. Is there a nature friendly insulator for the basement? I'm guessing carbon monoxide testing is in order too. The basement itself is warm, which concerns me.

Fourth: What are some simple recylce bin ideas? I have plenty that I can recycle, but with an actual house, I have more stuff to recycle that my house can accomidate with grocery store plastic bags. I also have to make sure my cat doesn't get in them easily.

Fifth: Is there a specific non-toxic bathtub cleaner for a cast-iron tub? It's gorgeous, but grimmy, and I'm really hesitant to buy a chemical cleaaner.

I guess that's enough for now. :)
Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
9:58 pm
Designing & Living a Green Life
Designing & Living a Green Life
Lecture and Slide Show by Charles Durrett

Wed, Feb 18, 2009, 7:00pm, $5

Nevada City Veterans’ Hall
415 North Pine Street
Nevada City, California

Locally based architect Charles Durrett has achieved national prominence for green design. He argues that the friendlier and more fun a neighborhood is, the greener the lifestyle and the smaller the footprint. Durrett has received several major awards, including both the United Nations and the National Association of Homebuilders, for his groundbreaking work. His firm specializes in “cohousing” design, a blend of eco-village and custom neighborhood.

Durrett will share strategies for eliminating one’s electric bill and other ways to green one’s home and lifestyle. Members of Wolf Creek Village cohousing communities will also have information on their new, planned neighborhood in Grass Valley.

McCamant & Durrett

For info and to let us know you are coming call 530.478.1970 or email us info@cohousingpartners.com
Monday, January 19th, 2009
6:55 pm
Hi. so I am writing a paper for an college entreprenuership class, and I was wondering if I could get imput as to what are the most common challenges people face when trying to turn their home more green. So if anyone has had experience with road blocks or just simple problems they have run into, it would be great if you could leave your experience in a comment! thanks! 
Sunday, January 4th, 2009
12:19 pm
One more repost on water issues
One final repost, this one on water usage goals...

Repost...Collapse )

Since that post I have made a plan to eliminate one lawn entirely, and shrink another by about 25%.  I intend to do more in the future, but need to tackle it in chunks I can accomplish in fairly short periods of time.  Since most of this is my front yard, I don't want it to look like a waste land while I work on this.

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
11:12 pm
Rainwater collection repost
tenacious_snail  asked me to repost a couple of my recent posts from my journal concerning green living. 

Behind the cut is one from late Oct concerning my thoughts on rain water collection:

Rainwater collection...Collapse )
Friday, January 2nd, 2009
10:23 pm
Why are home builders so thoughtless
The more I think about improving the energy efficiency of my house, the more I realize that home builders really do not think about energy usage at all.  Yeah, they meet the minimum efficiency requirements dictated by law, but that seems to be as far as their thinking goes.

My house has 15 windows that face east!  And only 3 that face south.  Here in Davis, in the summer it gets ridiculously hot.  When I first moved into the house and had no blinds, my east facing bedroom would reach 95 degrees by 6AM!  And due to the lack of south facing windows, I get almost no solar heat gain during the winter.

If they had just rotated my house 90 degrees so that big wall of windows faced south, it probably would have reduced my heating and cooling energy requirements by at least 30%.  And it would have left me with a big south-facing roof for solar panels.

The next time I buy a house, I will be much more careful...or just build my own.
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