Monthly Archives: December 2010

Legislating Feelings

“One of the reasons Endenburg’s sociocratic process for decision-making works is that it doesn’t require anyone to love each other. You can love if you want, if you have time, if you can, but you don’t have to. It isn’t required to create a harmonious living, working, or anything community. Harmony is about agreements that allow everyone to live their own lives happily and enthusiastically.”
Sharon Villines, 12/11/2010 mentioning Sociocracy in context of an online discussion.

“[W]e always felt that while you can legislate rights, you can’t legislate feelings. If an institution promises a democratic structure and respect for children’s rights, one can see rather quickly whether it is delivering the goods. But if it promises tender-loving-care, one can never know what it truly means.”
— Hanna Greenberg, The Sudbury Valley Experience, 1992, p178

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Filed under Cohousing, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

50 percent smaller TIMES 50 percent more energy equals…

So, say you are thinking of buying or building a house. And you are comparing 2 houses. One is a passive house, let’s say it’s 2000 sqft.

The other uses 50% more energy per square foot that the passive house. But it’s much smaller. 50% smaller. 1000 sqft.

As a reminder, here’s the math:

100 * 0.5 (smaller sqft) * 1.5 (more energy/sqft) = 75

In other words, the smaller, less energy efficient house still uses less energy (75 units, vs 100 units) than the much bigger passive house.

Of course, it all depends on the numbers. A house that only uses twice the energy per sqft than a passive house is still quite energy efficient. And 1000 sqft is a lot smaller than 2000 sqft. And t

Related article on this topic

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Filed under contrarian, erik-green, passive house

ADD and Loving It

“And adults with ADD often make the same mistake in both domains, they marry and work for a caricature of a bad fifth grade schoolteacher. They marry and work for someone who is controlling, demeaning, picking and someone who doesn’t really like them all that much because they got the idea around about fifth grade that that’s what they needed, that they were a hopeless case so they had to be ridden hard on, they had to be controlled, they had to demeaned and put down and so on and so forth. So don’t do that.”

I don’t think I’m ADHD, but this was an interesting program on PBS.

“THOM HARTMANN: The single most consistent predictor of future of adult success among children is self esteem. It’s not intelligence. It’s not any particular type of neurology. It is self esteem.”


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Filed under alternative education, attachment parenting, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Ken Robinson on standardized testing and raising standards

“[T]he problem with standardized tests is that it’s based on the mistake that we can simply scale up the education of children like you would scale up making carburetors. And we can’t, because human beings are very different from motorcars, and they have feelings about what they do and motivations in doing it, or not.” — Sir Ken Robinson (LINK)

(I’m guessing the excerpts at Maria West’s blog linked above are probably from one of SKR’s TED videos, but I don’t have a link to that at the moment…)

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Filed under alternative education, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Turning off the second monitor

For work, I use a laptop connected to a bigger computer monitor, but I rarely use both screens. So I was curious how much energy is saved by turning off the laptop display when not in use. My laptop LCD screen is not an LED model which I assume is even more frugal on the watts, so your mileage might vary, but FWIW, it seems like the difference for me is ~10W-11W.

Times 50 weeks of 8 hour on-time (as an estimate) that is 20KWh (10W * 50*5days*8hrs) and to put that into perspective from a “visualize energy” standpoint, that is almost as much as we make on an average day from our entire 6.9KW PV array. It’s also $4/year assuming 20cents/KWh.

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Filed under erik-green, solar, zero energy home

Visualize Energy

One thing I find useful when thinking about being frugal on energy use (and maybe I’ve written about this before) is attempting to visual the energy involved. Trying to make the invisible more real, more concrete.

So for instance…

– That’s one side-benefit of heating with wood or wood pellets. You can SEE the stack of wood. You can FEEL the stack of wood (when you carry in the bag of pellets, split the logs, etc.) We partially heated our last house with 3 tons of pellets each year (1 pallet = 50 x 40-lb bags = 1 ton). Partially heated. Carrying 3 tons around makes a person think.

– When I think about driving somewhere, I do a quick mental check… OK, so that’s 50miles roundtrip, so that’s ~2 gallons of gas in our 26-27MPG average car. Need help visualizing a gallon of gas? Think a gallon of milk.

– I can do the same with comparing the relative merits of turning something off (negawatts) vs the offset of the PVs in 2 ways: 1) considering the 24KWh per day output of our entire PV electric solar array. “How many days is that?” Or alternatively 2) “How many panels worth is that in yearly output?” (Each panel outputs 300 KWh a year)

– This reminds me of the visualizing energy that one can do when trying to lose weight by exercising. OK, so if I run for 40 minutes, that’s X calories, and if I eat that bowl of ice cream that Y calories, etc. Except for your car or house.

That electricity grid, oil tank, propane tank, etc. is pretty darn convenient, but by it’s nature of being hidden and automatic, keeps me from thinking too deeply about my energy use. Wood and solar have a nice way of getting that a bit more into the open.

A flow meter on the water line going into the hot water heater, and devices for monitoring electricity use, like the TED5000, Kill-A-Watt, eMonitor, etc. can help with this too.

Google Powermeter is an interesting project too. If one could compare one’s own energy use to your neighbor easily, that would be informative.


visualising energy consumption by Jorn Barger at Robot Wisdom blog


Filed under energy, erik-green, heating with wood, solar, zero energy home

On houses and hairdryers

Temps in the 20s today. House seems to be operating pretty much as expected. Needs only the equivalent of 1-2 hairdryers to maintain inside temps according to the readings I am seeing from our eMonitor device which is attached to the heating circuit on our house. As our current president would say, “Now let’s be clear about something…” A Passive House in New England still needs heat. Somehow. So beware the wood stove behind the curtain. Or the air-source heat pump. Or the electric floor heater in the bathroom. An enthusiastic owner might claim they have no furnace. And that the “mini split heat pump” is just for back up. Or the pellet stove. But they need something!

The more ambitious will have elaborate active solar thermal systems which truly do heat their homes, even if there is a string of 5 days of clouds let’s say. But this is rare to have a 100% solar heated house. I have only read about them! (Norman Saunders, MIT Solar1, etc.) More common are “passive solar” or “solar tempering” where there are bigger windows on the South with high SHGC. This does help. But it’s probably not going to get you all the way.

So when I say that our house needs a hairdryer to keep warm, run some quick numbers! Let’s say one used two 1500W hairdryers (same as a typical electric room heater from the hardware store) running straight for 7 months let’s say… Oct/Nov/Dec/Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr. Then that’s:

7*30*24h*2hairdryers*1.5KW = 15,120KWh. What do you pay for a KWh? Let’s say it is $0.20/KWh. So that hairdryer just cost you $3024! That’s why people do not like to heat with electric baseboard. It’s expensive!

Now, in our case, we also get to divide by approximately 2.5 because our air source heat pumps actually pump out about 2.5x more heat than they use. (Same idea as a geothermal heat pump setup). And reduce it by a bit more since certainly they won’t be running full capacity for 7 months. Let’s say 50%

So 15,120 / 2.5 * 0.50 = 3024 KWh times $0.20/KWh = $604.80 for heat for the entire winter season 2010/11.

BTW, you’d probably get approximately the same numbers if you heat with propane or pellets vs a heat pump. That was my conclusion last time I ran the numbers. The main point is the KWh. It’d still be better to use solar or wood/pellets though from a carbon footprint standpoint. And this is regardless of whether you have PV panels on the roof or not. Don’t let that confuse your choice of how to heat your house!

BTW2, I don’t recall exactly, but that’s probably about the same ballpark that the PHPP software for Passivhaus predicts this house will use “on average” per year for heating.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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Filed under erik-green, passive house, zero energy home