Monthly Archives: December 2009


” In 2004, the Pentagon bought about 395,000 barrels of oil daily — equivalent to about 16% of the oil we imported from the Persian Gulf that year.”

“the Pentagon has become one of the world’s largest purchasers of renewable energy, with massive PV installations set up at major military bases like Nellis AFB in Nevada and Fort Carson in Colorado. For obvious reasons, a military base shouldn’t depend for power on the civilian grid, which may go down in a national emergency.”

I’ve heard this sort of thing before — that the Pentagon themselves is majorly motivated, for a variety of reasons (mainly that they are such a huge user), to be better about energy use.  From Amory Lovins —

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our plant-based diet

I haven’t kept close track, but I would say that we have reduced our intake of animal products by about 90% in the last few weeks.  Still the occasional egg and fish.  Inspired by the books: The China Study and Eat to Live.  Veggie madness.   The kids are still eating pretty much what they did before, though soy dogs instead of normal hot dogs, and maybe more veggies too, since they are everywhere.

Gotta get holistic on this earth-friendly living — our eating habits really need to take a shift to keep up with the low/no energy/solar house we are building.  Still eating the typical stuff at holidays, etc.  And too much chocolate, I suppose. 😉

Next on the list:  an all-electric car minivan I hope.

And growing some (hopefully substantial) amount of food on our property!  Check back in a year or so on that.

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saving money on heating with some algebra

Time for some math..

Let’s make some VERY rough estimates:

1. heat is on from 8am to 12pm normally (16 hours a day) and off completely at night.
2. using a unique under-desk heater pane (link below) while I work in the evenings would reduce whole house heat needs by 2 hours.
3. but the panel costs $66 and uses 150 watts
4. avg heat bill per month is $300 (I have no idea… just a guess)

So that means…

$300 * 2/16 = $37.50 saved per month by turning off the heat for 2 hours of 16 per day

150 watts * (1KW /  1000 watts) * ($0.20/ KWh) * 2 hrs * 31 days = $1.86 per month spent on electric heat

So ~$36 saved per month

So the break-even point (on cost) is N months

$66 = $36 * N
N = 1.83 months

You could also do the break-even analysis using “primary energy” used to account for the difference between
electricity used vs heating oil, but I am happy enough with this.

BTW… the reality is that the overnight temps on cold nights drop dramatically and the furnace turns on a bit to keep
the house at 58F which I think is about the limit for comfortable bundled up sleeping.  So that’s factored into the 16 hours.

THE HEATER:  Idus-Tool Cozy Legs Flat Panel Radiant Heater

I’ll report back on how it goes.


1. This is why zoned heating is useful

2. Gary at does something similar with an electric mattress for sleeping, but I would personally be worried about EMF with it right next to one’s body…  LINK  ($’s saved/year $186)

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Rigid exterior insulation

In case anyone is wondering… our house will have 4″ of rigid insulation on the exterior of the framing and sheathing, topped by vertical furring strips and gigantic screws thru those 4+ inches and into the studs to hold everything up.  And then the siding attached to that.  Just as described here as a “good idea”:  LINK

We are also doing a double-stud wall on the interior, with 2″ of closed cell foam and 9.5″ of cellulose.  “Flash and fill”.  This means we don’t have to do the dew-point calculation to see what the temp of our sheathing is to prevent winter-time condensation (balancing inside and outside insulation) per calc in Joe Lstiburek’s Builder’s Guide to Cold Climates.

That’s an R-value approaching 70 I reckon, a bit lower with thermal bridging, though with 4″ of rigid, we’re in good shape.  Vs R-13 for a typical 2×6 wall filled with fiberglass batts, cellulose, icynene, etc. (R-19 but R-13 after accounting for the thermal bridging every 16″ or 24″ and at the joists.)

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Heating your house with a hoophouse greenhouse

Here is pretty obvious evidence that a hoophouse (or 1/2 of one attached to the side of your house — facing south) can heat quite a bit of your house… I suppose any farmer who uses one could tell you what is typical for how early in the spring it is that it gets too hot such that it needs ventilation. And obviously even before that… if it is getting to 80F, that is plenty warm to add some heat to one’s home!


BTW, this is at a farm in Gill, MA —

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