Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My August Green Report: GreenDimes & Solar Updates

In June I wrote about our latest "solar" addition, our hot water heater: Going even more solar!

Our first gas bill with a full month's use of solar heated water arrived recently. For the month of July 2007 we used 13 CCF of natural gas, compared to 24 CCF in July 2006 (prior year) and 22 CCF in June 2007 (prior month). To me, that looks like we reduced our consumption by half; this equates to approximately $25 for the month. I'll have to keep tracking this for a full year to get an accurate comparison, but so far I'd say it's a success.

I've been checking the temperature of the water in the solar-heated water tank on a regular basis, and it has been consistently above 100 degrees (F) and is usually much closer to 130-150 in the middle of the day and late evening. It will be interesting to note what the temperature range will be in late autumn, when the days are shorter and cooler. Our gas consumption should also increase then, since our home is heated using gas.


We also have solar electric panels which generate electric current to feed the "grid"; this helps reduce our electric bill. We use electricity for our lighting and appliances and the biggest consumption of electric is from the air conditioners during the summer.

In 2005, which was the last year before we went solar, we used 15,646 kwh for 12 months. In 2006, our first full year using solar electric, we used 8,771 kwh for 12 months; however for the last quarter of the year, one of our inverters wasn't working properly, so we were only generating 1/2 our potential during the autumn/winter months. That's still about 56% of our previous usage (or 44% reduction).

So far in 2007, we've used 4,447 through 7 months (which includes July). We'll see what August's bill brings -- it's been really hot and we've been using the AC frequently, but right now, we're still on target for about 50% of 2005's usage. That's pretty good in my book.

One last "green" report for August:
In July I signed up with GreenDimes to help reduce my junk mail. It really works. In June, Rich attended It's Easy Going Green, "a gathering to promote green living in the fashion world", which was partly hosted by Theory, his employer. He came home with a bunch of "freebies", one of which was a gift certificate for a one year membership at GreenDimes.
At first, I ignored it -- it sounded too good to be true. The premise was that for $36 a year (or about a dime a day) they would help remove your address from mass mailing lists, saving paper and water, and plant trees with money raised. But, there had to be a catch somehow, right?
We'd been receiving tons of junk mail -- especially credit card applications. We were each receiving about 7-10 applications every week. I was getting fed up opening and shredding all that junk. So I thought I'd give this GreenDimes thing a try and see what happens. Almost immediately, my daily junk mail decreased. I thought, maybe it's my imagination -- it has to take longer than a week, right? But it's been over 6 weeks now, and I'm still getting less and less junk. A few pieces still slip in (Capital One is still sending a few pieces a week), but overall I'm wasting a lot less time opening junk. And I like the idea of saving paper and water and planting trees.
I've added links on my blog's sidebar to the GreenDimes home page and their i give a dime blog. Check them out and sign up! I recently received an email indicating that the sign-up fee is now a one time charge only $15 -- that's less than a nickel a day for a year! And they're working on a national "Do Not Mail" program similar to the "Do Not Call" lists. You can sign their petition here.
If you hate junk mail as much as I do, you've got to try this!

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