Archive for the ‘Environmental Impact Calculator’ Category
June 8th, 2009
Water heaters may not be the sexiest energy device out there, but they’re certainly important. In a typical home, they account for 20% of energy use, and even more if you live in a warmer climate (average of 35% in California, for instance). And there’s a major difference between the most and least efficient options, so making the right choice for your budget/household is important. The most efficient combustion heaters can save 50% compared to standard models, while a solar water heater could cut 80% or more from your annual water heating bill (you can find out how much they’ll save in your home by selecting various water heating options using our Environmental Impact Calculator. It covers tankless, high-efficiency storage and solar hot water heating options).
Over the past few years, the upper end of the performance spectrum has been pushed outwards, and the latest entrants from Navien set a new high. Standard storage water heaters routinely exceed 60% efficiency, manufacturers such as Takagi and Rinnai have pushed tankless water heater efficiencies over 80%, and AO Smith has introduced tank-based versions exceeding 90% efficiency.
All of these are well below the performance of the Navien CR line of tankless water heaters, which top out at a whopping 98% efficiency! This means that 98% of the energy contained in the natural gas (or propane) fuel is converted into hot water and only 2% is wasted. How do they do it? (more…)
Popularity: 6% [?]
April 21st, 2009
Springtime is the perfect time to go green, so Low Impact Living is very happy to announce a new green home contest for the Midwest. If you live within 300 miles of the Windy City and you live in a green home or want to make your current home greener, you’re eligible to compete. Low Impact Living and the Hotel InterContinental Chicago challenge you to make your home as green as you can!
We’re going to reward the greenest home and homeowners with a luxurious 3-night stay at the LEED-certified, greenest hotel in the Second City, the Hotel InterContinental. In addition, the winner will be treated to an eco-friendly stay in Chicago which includes tasty local cheeses and bio-dynamic wine at the adjoining ENO restaurant, a $50 gift certificate to the green clothing boutique Pivot and a gift from Chicago’s greenest boutique, Green Heart. More on the hotel and the prizes in a minute!
Low Impact Living will identify the single family home (and its proud owners) that has the lowest Low Impact Living Index (calculated using our Environmental Impact Calculator), and we’re going to share with you what that family has done to get there. Don’t worry if you haven’t done big projects like installing solar panels or a wind turbine - as the calculator shows, many of the best green home projects are simple and inexpensive. We’ll show you how to identify projects to make your home more eco-friendly. The contest will close on June 15, 2009. So you have time to make green changes!
What you have to do to enter
1. Visit our Household Environmental Impact Calculator and calculate your base LILI (Low Impact Living Index). It will only take five-ten minutes to use the calculator and create an account.
2. Once you’ve entered all of your base inputs, move on to the “select projects” page of the calculator. Make sure you only check projects that you’ve finished (or will finish by June 15th) before you log out.
3. Make sure that you log out or save your profile before leaving — if you just move on to another web site without logging out, your inputs could be lost.
4. If you’ve already created an account through our calculator, then you need to return and, log in again. We’ve added some new features recently, and they won’t work unless you refresh your account.
5. We realize the calculator isn’t all-encompassing yet, so there may be projects that you’ve done that don’t show up. If this is true, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org describing what you’ve done. Low Impact Living staffers will review your efforts and award up to a 5% additional deduction for compelling projects.
How we’ll select the winner
The contest closes on June 15, 2009, and we will announce the winner on July 1. This will give us time to check with the finalists to make sure that they’ve completed all of their checked projects. (Past entrants to our green home contests are not eligible.)
If you are a finalist (in our top 10 lowest LILI scores), we may ask you to verify that your projects are actually completed, via photos or receipts / invoices for work performed. We’ll also ask for your address (not to be published!) so that we can verify entered information about your home. If you’re a winner, then you have to be willing to let us share your projects and process with everyone via our blog, and to provide us with the photos and project descriptions necessary to do that. You’ll become a green star overnight!
What you could win!
The greenest homeowner will receive three nights at the luxe Hotel InterContinental in Chicago (valid until May 2010). Chicago’s only Green Seal certified and Energy Star rated hotel, the InterContinental is partially housed in a historic tower built in 1929 and overhauled in 2009 with state-of-the-art, energy-saving appliances and fixtures (talk about recycling!) Located on the city’s Magnificent Mile, the hotel is within walking distance of Lake Michigan, stores, the Loop, and the Art Institute. The hotel’s historic, junior Olympic size pool is recognized as one of the best indoor pools in the U.S. and is included in Chicago’s major architectural tours.
The InterContinental is continuously improving its environmental performance through the development and sharing of best practices, training and recognition of excellence. In addition to utilizing innovative technology to conserve energy as well as reducing and recycling the waste it produces, the property is also committed to promoting effective environmental management to its key vendors and contractors. In addition, the hotel is mindful of purchasing local products and eco-friendly products to reduce carbon emissions.
ENO, the InterContinental’s chic wine, cheese and chocolate lounge, boasts organic and biodynamic wines and local cheeses and chocolates. The winner will experience the unique and artisan offerings of this Second City favorite, merely a few steps from your room.
The winner will also receive a $50 gift card from Pivot Boutique, which opened in September 2007 and is Chicago’s first boutique devoted to eco-fashion. The store’s designers use organic or sustainable materials and processes to create chic clothing, accessories and gifts.
Finally, the prize-winner will also receive a specially-selected gift from Green Heart Shop, Chicago’s only non-profit, eco friendly, fair trade store.
So, good luck, and get to greening, you Heartlanders!
Popularity: 7% [?]
March 28th, 2009
If you’re one of those folks out there who is suffering from a bit of carbon fatigue, then a post in the NY Times’ Green Inc. blog this week could either provide additional motivation for green projects or increased fear of another jargon-laden debate. Green Inc highlighted the growing trend of striving for “water neutrality”, as highlighted at the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul last week.
The idea is gaining ground within a group of companies looking to understand and reduce their consumption of water, including Coca Cola, whose chairman has pledged to eventually balance out all of the water used in its products and manufacturing processes through conservation elsewhere (over 80 billion gallons worth!).
This got me to thinking: what would it take to be water-neutral in our own homes, meaning that we don’t import any net water? If we include all of the water that goes into our food and the products we consume, then it gets ugly real fast (see this post on the water content of food, for example). But what about our direct water use - showers, irrigation, toilets, etc?
Now, this would require some significant changes to a home and to local building/health/safety codes, since the only way to go water-neutral is to reuse graywater and harvest/store rainwater. Both of these options now face numerous permitting and legal obstacles around the country (including some pretty counterintuitive ones, like Utah and Colorado bans on capturing ANY rainwater at your home). Assuming we could, though, how much rain would it take to provide a family’s annual water needs?
After some pretty simple calculations, it turns out that the home of a typical family of three could be water-neutral in climates receiving roughly 25″ of rainfall or more per year under the following assumptions:
- Three-person household;
- Rainwater captured, stored and reused;
- Graywater system used;
- Indoor water efficiency measures employed: low-flow showerheads, toilets, faucets and appliances;
- Outdoor water efficiency measures employed: smart irrigation control, rain shutoff, soil moisture sensors, climate-compatible landscaping.
This basically means that home water neutrality is feasible if you live in the Midwest, anywhere along the US Atlantic or Gulf Coasts, in the Northwest and in higher rainfall areas of the West and Mountain West (here’s a set of maps to review for your area). The detailed calculations are shown below. You can use our Environmental Impact Calculator to make similar calculations for your home and region.
Popularity: 7% [?]
March 18th, 2009
We’re happy to announce that we’ve recently added two new projects to the Low Impact Living Environmental Impact Calculator that show the benefits of air-drying your laundry or installing a solar hot water heater.
First, we’ve added a project that shows how much money, energy and carbon dioxide you can cut by replacing a few dryer loads of laundry a week by air drying. Simply fill in your current number of dryer loads (and your dryer fuel) in the “calculate impacts” section of the calculator, and then go to the “select projects” page. There you’ll find a project titled “Air dry your laundry” (it’s about five or six rows down). Click the “Project Description” link to see all of the details on how much you’ll save. The calculations assume that you air dry 75% of your existing dryer loads. We also show a couple of great drying racks/lines if you’re looking for something a bit better than the standard clothesline.
Second, we’ve added a solar hot water heater option to our list of renewable energy projects. This project takes your estimated hot water use (calculated based on your specific inputs) and the solar resources in your area and estimates how much a solar hot water system would save and cost for your home. Right now it takes into account the recently improved 30% federal tax credit for SHW systems, but not your local or state incentives (we’ll be adding those soon). Our friends at Green Made Simple have an up-to-date listing of renewable energy incentives near you.
This project has also been built so that it is a special “cumulative” project, which means that the project details change as you select other projects on the list. Why is this useful? Because it can help you understand how much LESS you have to spend on a solar hot water system if you make less expensive upgrades such as installing low-flow showerheads or buying an Energy Star clotheswasher first.
As an example, the calculator shows that a solar hot water system would cost about $4,900 (payback period of 16 years) in our home assuming no water fixture improvements - pretty ugly! But if I check off the “low-flow showerheads” and “sink aerators” projects, the cost goes down to $2,500 (payback of 10 years). Our $40 worth of showerheads and $5 worth of sink aerators cut the estimated cost of a system by $2,400 by reducing our system size by one panel and reducing the storage tank size. By the way, the solar PV, graywater and total carbon offset projects work in the same way - they adjust each time you select a project that reduces electricity, wastewater or your carbon footprint respectively.
Last, we’ve made some additional improvements “under the hood.” One that you might notice is that we’ve modified the calculator so that you can’t enter overlapping projects. For example, once you select any one of the water heater insulation, tankless hot water heater, high efficiency hot water heater or solar hot water heater projects, the other three projects will be deactivated. This eliminates the double-counting that was possible by selecting overlapping projects before.
We’ll be making other additions soon (including wind power and using wood as heating fuel), so check back soon!
(Note: Our calculator is meant to be a preliminary planning tool for your green improvements. Before starting any of the more expensive projects, make sure you get a detailed estimate from your local green service providers … which you can easily find using LIL’s green services directory).
Popularity: 5% [?]
March 10th, 2009
As you may recall, we launched a Green Home Contest a while back, which comes with a truly outstanding prize provided by Joie de Vivre Hotels, the leading green hotel chain. Well we have our winners! We are inspired and awed by Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne, who truly embrace the Low Impact Living lifestyle in their home. We all have a ton to learn from them. Erik and Kelly win a fabulous 3-night stay at the very environmentally-friendly Hotel Carlton in San Francisco– and boy do they deserve it!
Erik and Kelly own a small bungalow in Los Angeles. Not only do they live in a very sustainable home, the also do their own farming and raise chickens at home! The two of them live in a 1,000 square foot house, which they have outfitted with numerous green features. Here’s their impressive list:
- Low-flow showerheads, toilets and sink aerators
- 95+% CFLs indoors
- Drip irrigation and no grass
- Rain shutoff on irrigation system AND smart irrigation controller
- Shade trees planted
- Compost vegetable wastes at home
- Rain barrels & rain gardens to capture runoff
- Programmable thermostat
- Graywater system(shhh…don’t ask to see the permits)
- Purchase green power from their utility
In addition to these very efficient green-home features, Erik and Kelly also keep their carbon footprint low by driving and flying very little. Erik is a committed biker. He bike commutes and rarely uses a car. His wife, Kelly, owns an older Acura but only drives it 4,000 miles per year (which is much lower than the 10-12K miles/year American average!). They also only make one airplane flight each year– don’t forget that the emissions from air travel are a major contributor to global warming. So Erik and Kelly really have low non-home carbon footprints, which is excellent.
What is even better is that this amazing green duo also publishes an outstanding blog– the cleverly titled Homegrown Evolution. They write about such engaging topics as urban gardening, raising chickens, making beer, and much more. Definitely spend some time on their blog– it’s a great read. And I’m also excited to check out their book– The Urban Homestead, which is “your guide to self-sufficient living in the heart of the city.” They say they are now working on a second book. This is one productive pair!
We respectfully tip our hats to Kelly and Erik, and we hope they have a wonderful time in San Francisco. Thank you to all who entered the contest– we’re very moved by the work you are doing to live more sustainable lives. The planet needs you!
Popularity: 5% [?]