energy check list

There are a couple of cool energy check lists to look at:

We had a $1200 energy bill last year, about 50/50 electric to gas.  Unfortunately this was an increase of 20% over last year, we increased our usage by 20% :-(  However, the average energy bill for a household in the US is $1900 – $2000 a year.

Our usage was about 4500 kwh and 415 therms in 2008 and going to use this as baseline going forward.

For PG&E customers, all this information is available online.

The goal is to decrease usage and costs by 20 – 25% next year and 50% in 5 years.

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Infrastructure things we had already done:

  • Energy star appliances (heater/air conditioner, dishwasher, refrigerator, washer/dryer) though our dryer is now electric versus gas
  • CFLs with most of our lighting except three way lamps, led under cabinet lighting, and "candle" type lights in the living room
  • Insulated floors
  • Double pane windows

Things to do:

  • Insulate attic and install attic fan
  • Research insulation for exterior walls
  • home energy audit
  • Continue evaluating use of solar panels and tankless water heating

Sunrise Specialty – clawfoot tubs

Our last major home improvement for our very simple 2 bedroom 1 bath home in Oakland is the bathroom.  When we bought the house, the bathroom and kitchen were new but done very cheaply.  We remodeled the kitchen last year, and we did landscaping the year before that.

We're going stay in the same style and period for our bathroom remodel which is a bungaloid — a house kind of like a Crafstman style bungalow but not exactly.  We're going to with a 54" clawfoot tub from Sunrise Specialty in Oakland.  We'll probably go with wainscotting, a basketweave tile floor, a Toto toilet, and we have to replace the sink, vanity, and window.  We may redo the drywall and add insulation.

Sunrise Specialty only sells to dealers and so we'll probably get our tub and all the fittings from Acorn Kitchen and Bath in Oakland or Omega Salvage (super cool place) in Berkeley.  The tub will run a little over $2,000 new.  The fittings will run another $1,000.

We hope to start work in June and get everything done as soon as possible.

kitchen remodel update

Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances…Not exactly.  More like paper countertop and black appliances.

We got the backsplash installed this weekend.  It's an Oceanside recycled glass tile (creme brulee).  We're getting cork floors from WeCork installed later this month, we need to install some hardware on the cabinets, paint the refrigerator, update the lighting and maybe paint.  And then we're all done.  Maybe, possibly.  Earlier this year I said we'd be done by end of March.  Oops.

Almost after (once we install the floors and cabinet hardware)

This is a Blue Star range with convection oven and 22,000 BTU burners upfront.  The hood is a Vent-A-Hood.  The countertop is Paperstone.  Our cabinets were in the house when we bought it.  It's Timberlake from American Woodmark, the Tahoe Oak Honey via Home Depot.

Before

solar panel calculation – small home

Summary: Solar panels for a small home needs to get down to a $4,500 to $7,000 price point for it to make economic sense for home owners — a 7 to 10 year break even.  It may get to that price point eventually due to demand, decrease in prices of solar panels, improvements in technology (like solar roof shingles), group/community price breaks, and continued tax breaks and rebates.

Details: For 2 to 3kWh systems, current price point is estimated to be about $20,000 for installation.  With State rebates and Federal Income Tax credits totaling $5,000 to 6,000 you're looking at $14,000 – $15,000 for the system.  You're getting about 300 to 450 kWh a month.  If you are currently using 400 kWh a month, that's about $50 a month or $600 a year.  This means your break even point is about 25 years.  This doesn't include the home value appreciation due to your solar panel investment.

We average 325kWh a month, about $35/month.  Other info:

Borrego Solar seems like a good company.  I've seen Solar City around the area as well.

home repair/improvement resources – Oakland

People we've worked with and recommend.

Plumbing
Michael Stabile (day to day stuff)
510-472-0123

Pelican Plumbers (big stuff, copper pipe replacement, etc)
510-812-1996

Heating/Cooling and Plumbing
Harry Clark Plumbing (even bigger stuff)
510-444-1776

Electrical
Gerrard Electric
510-525-4687

Early Light Electric
510-655-5877

Locks
Reed Brothers Security

1-800-400-LOCK Continue reading "home repair/improvement resources – Oakland"

home appliances

What I've learned about home appliances over the years.  Not that much, but enough.

  • In general, Kenmore appliances (from Sears) are the way to go.  Solid products (mostly private-labeled) and solid customer repair service.  A lot of appliances are private label Amana or BoschFagor is a Spanish appliance company and their appliances look nice.  Not sure about quality.
  • Always good to go to the back of dept stores and see floor models and returned appliances for big discounts 30-40% off.  We've gotten a bunch of stuff that way.  If you buy a set or multiple appliances, bargain for more of a discount.  Good to buy during a holiday sale weekend.
  • Also, look for the EnergyStar label.  However, non-EnergyStar appliances are already more energy efficient than appliances from 10-15 years ago.  Look for rebates from your electrical and water companies, you could get $100 to $300+ back.

Range/Cooktop

I like BlueStar a lot.  Crazy expensive, near restaurant grade heat and temp control but they look *much* better than Viking and others.  Induction cooktops are really cool (highest energy efficiency and temp control) but about 5 – 7 years from being affordable.  Don't get self cleaning ovens.

Refrigerators

Whatever brand you get, get a top mount refrigerator (where freezer is the bottom).  The $200 difference is worth it.  Ours is just Kenmore-Amana.

Dishwasher

Bosch all the way (again ours is Kenmore-Bosch).  Interior should be stainless steel.

Washer/Dryer

We have Bosch labeled and Kenmore-Frigidaire.  Both washers are front loaders, the higher the rpm 1000 to 1200 the better.  Front loaders are more efficient with its use of water and spinning water from the clothes for faster drying.

Go for vented (most common) rather than condensation dryers since the vented ones will dry faster.

The all-in-one washer/dryers are supposed to take a long time to dry so the higher capacity ones that are coming out are supposed to be best.

Warranty

Go for the extended warranty and repair.

Oceanside glasstile

We're going with these guys – Oceanside Glasstile for kitchen backsplash, specifically a "Creme Brulee" iridescent mosaic.  100% recycled glass, yada-yada, hecho en mexico.  Part of our mini kitchen remodel.  We also went with Dawn for our faucet and sink, I guess these guys are out of China.

We should have the kitchen done by end of March.  The time issue with kitchen remodeling isn't in the actual construction, it's choosing stuff, ordering it, and waiting for everything to come in.  Realistically, it's like 2 – 3 months just for planning and getting supplies.  It's going to take all of two weeks max to put everything in (wouldn't be surprised if it only took one week).

Icestone, Paperstone, scissors…

We're doing a light kitchen remodel hopefully start end of January and end in February, early March:

  • range, cork floors, new sink/faucet, new counter tops, range hood, backsplash

We're going to go with Paperstone for the counter tops, a 100% recycled paper product. Cheap, looks good, and seems like a responsible company/product. Vetrazzo and Icestone do recycle glass counter tops that look great too. May yet go with one of those companies but might be too expensive.

ecohome improvement

ecohome improvement is this store in Berkeley that helps you have a nice eco-friendly (cancer-free) home. We've got some more interior upgrades to do namely new carpeting and a kitchen and bathroom upgrade. We're going to do the carpeting later this year but the kitchen and bath much later but within the next 5 years.

For the carpet we're thinking natural wool. They don't put any crap in this carpet, it's all natural.

For the kitchen, we're thinking cork floors. Cork floors are soft on your feet and makes for good warmth and sound insulation and resilient to mold and mildew. They come in lots of cool colors too. We're also thinking bamboo cabinets. Both cork and bamboo are considered environmentally sustainable.

We're also thinking recycled glass/concrete for our countertops. Check out Ice Stone. Pretty cool company.