27 May 2010

May 2010 - Weather sealing the front door

The less drafts in a room the easier and more efficient it is to heat. Winter is approaching here and the cold air coming in around the front door was making it hard to keep the living area warm, so this month we added weather sealing tape to the front door to stop the drafts.

Initial Time: Ten minutes to cut and attach tape (Tyson adds: it would have been quicker if he wasn't carrying Eva on his back at the same time)

Initial Cost: Five metres of self-adhesive weather sealing tape cost $10.98, and was almost exactly the amount needed for one standard size door.

Ongoing time or cost commitment: zero.

Impact: It is noticeably less drafty - and also much quieter! Other external windows and doors to the living space were already weather sealed. I still prefer to wear warm clothes and have a window open as long as I can bear it, though - which is usually longer than everyone else around me. (One former housemate's boyfriend dubbed me 'the ice queen' because of this tendency...)

April 2010 - Pipe Insulation

Even the most efficient water heating systems still face the problem of water cooling in the pipes before it reaches the point of use. We collect about half a bucket of cold water in our shower before the hot gets there, and a substantial amount of cold water goes down the kitchen sink while waiting for it to warm up also. This month we decided to insulate the water pipes where we could get to them.

Initial Time: 15 minutes to cut and fit insulation piping on outside pipes. Tyson got into the roof space to see if the pipes were exposed there also, which was an additional time commitment, but after insulating a section of gas pipe by mistake he concluded that the hot water pipes are not in the roof cavity, so I won't count his roof crawling time here.

Initial Cost: We were given four metres of insulation piping free as a promotion from Environment House and bought some extra from Bunnings - $6.89 for a two metre section.

Ongoing time or cost commitment: zero.

Impact: We still run a lot of cold water in the shower before the hot kicks in, as it is on the other side of the house to the water heater. Its hard to say whether the temperature is warmer once it gets going, as we did this right on the change of season so the pipes are contesting with colder weather than before we made the change. In the kitchen, which is closer to the water heater, we have noticed that the water appears to have less cold delay, and is hotter when it arrives.  This is definitely true in the laundry, which is directly through the wall from the water heater.

I can't give a precise measure on any of that, though.

Update: Tyson has put some measurements in the comments. 

Also I think I should emphasise that even when you are not using any hot water, the outlet pipe from a storage hot water system acts as a kind of wick, drawing heat out of the storage tank. Insulating the pipes not only keeps the water we are using hotter, it also keeps the water waiting in the tank hotter.

March 2010 - Laundry & Dishwasher Powder

I had been getting uneasy about the amount of laundry powder that we are letting into the ecosystem, especially as we do eight or nine loads of washing a week keeping the nappies clean,and recycle much of the water onto the garden. This month we made a commitment to purchasing more eco-friendly washing powder. We have a couple of brands as Tyson's parents gave us some, and I also bought a wool wash for occasional use. While we were at it we added eco-friendly dishwasher powder to the equation for good measure.

Initial Cost:  1.5kg of Aware laundry powder costs about $8.40 if its not on special (and so far it hasn't been on special often). This compares with $1.99 for 500g of regular brands (the shelf price is more but I always stock up when its on special). EarthChoice dishwasher tablets cost about $15.80 for a box of 28, compared with about $13 for 1kg of powder from regular brands. I also investigated the products available at our local organic store, but although they were potentially better quality they were outside my price range.

Initial Time: zero

Ongoing time or cost commitment: I estimate we use about 13.5kg of laundry powder a year. Using the prices above, this works out at $75.60 for earth-friendly powder or $54 for regular brands - an extra $21.60 per year. If we average three dishwasher loads a week, the EarthChoice dishwasher tablets will cost us about $95 a year. My rough estimate of how much I spend on regular dishwasher powder in a year came out at about $100, as we get less washes from the powder than from the tablets.

Impact: Its hard to tell precisely what chemicals we have been putting into the water. EarthChoice dishwasher tablets assure me they are biodegradable and phosphate free, but make no promises about their use of petrochemicals. The ingredient list is: sodium carbonate, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, sodium sulphate, sodium silicate, sodium percarbonate, tetra acetyl ethylene diamine, sodium diethylenetriamine pentamethylene phosponate, glass protection additive, polyacrylic acid, polyethylene glycos, colloidal silica, enzyme, dye. I don't know what that means - but the regular brand I still have a packet of tells me nothing about its contents at all.
Aware laundry powder is also biodegradable and phosphate free, but so is the regular Duo that I still have a packet of. Aware contains no petrochemicals or palm oil (a major cause of deforestation) but uses coconut oils, sugar, citrate salt from corn, and cellulose colloids from cotton and wood pulp.
Mostly I think the impact of our change is to put 13.5kg less of petrochemical-based powder into the environment each year from the washing machine. I'm not sure the difference with the dishwasher.