Category Archives: green

How much water is contaminated by fracking for oil?

“So for every barrel of oil, that was around 19 barrels of water.”

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How to grow a forest really really fast

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What my gas bill tells me

Actually, NStar (now Eversource) tells me some interesting things on my gas bill.

It tells me:
– avg therms per day
– avg temp over the billing period.

So for the most recent bill it was 5.1 therms/day and 19F avg
Last bill: 4.0 therms/day and 29F avg.

Does it make sense? Yes! If we make the assumptions that:

1) 99% of our gas use is for heating and not
– hot water heater
– stove and oven
– clothes dryer (gas)

2) An average inside temp over the course of day and night is roughly 65F

DeltaT= 65F-19F=46F with 5.1 therms per day
DeltaT= 65F-29F=36F with 4.0 therms per day

46/36 = 1.28
5.1/4.0 = 1.28

Or another way:

46/5.1 == 36/4.0 => 9.0 dT for each 1 therm

The ratios are the same! This is a little too good to be true. Probably some luck in my assumptions and guess of 65F. But in any case, that’s roughly what you would expect.

So IOW, if you want to keep your gas bill constant when it gets much colder outside, just keep it colder inside by an equal amount (to keep your deltaT constant) and you should do ok!

The only problem with this (besides not being able to wear more sweaters and hats at some point) is that you should be careful (if your house is like mine and colder in some spots) that you don’t cause some pipes to freeze in that already cold bathroom. Unlikely for most houses, but possible.

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Snow Depth Days

To truly tell which winters have been the worst, I propose a variation on the HDD (heating degree days… along with cooling degree days, great tools for comparing climates) calculation of “snow depth days” that also includes a multiplier of air temp (or maybe even adjusted for wind chill).

Or maybe the temperature should be an inverse of some sort, so good winters would be lots of snow, but also somehow mild temps.

Factoring in the amount of sun would be good too!

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ENViROnMENTAL FAIL: review: Briggs & Stratton Smart-Fill Spout vs…

1.9 stars. Typical 1-star review excerpt: “I’d like to discuss this matter with the numb-skull who though that it would be more friendly to the polar bears to pour gas all over oneself rather than venting the can as it has been done for years…through a vent hole.” LINK

So stick with the vent hole method if possible! 1 spill is worth 1000 ventings. Go with the ventings.

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air-source mini-split heat pump capacity ratings explained

From the comments here:

“66. I’m going back to post #38 about minisplit capacity and dewpoint. The information in that post contradicted what I understood to be correct, so I checked in with my engineering contact at Mitsubishi. Here’s what he wrote:
“The only relevant factor in determining the available heating capacity is the outdoor wet bulb temperature. This graph below represents guaranteed heating capacities at various wet bulb temperatures.”
This graph shows that the Hyperheat models FE09 and FE18 produce 100% of their nominal capacity down to about 3F wet bulb, and the FE12 down to about 12F wet bulb (I’m eyeballing this graph). In the case of the FE18, I take this to be the capacity they publish at 47F dry bulb, 21,600 BTU/hour, which they show as the maximum capacity in their submittal sheet at 5F dry bulb as well. This graph states that it includes the correction for defrost.
He goes on to say:
“Rated capacity is the capacity as the equipment was tested in a lab setting to obtain the published efficiency values, maximum capacity is the actual capacity that the unit is capable of producing as it operates in the field, you should always use maximum capacity when selecting/sizing equipment for an application.”
So I don’t believe people need to be concerned about dewpoint of the outdoor air when sizing the Mitsubishi Hyperheats. Of course, at temperatures approaching 0F, the wet bulb and the dewpoint get closer together than they do at higher temperatures.”

I would also add my 2 cents to the comments at the article about heating a house solely with minisplits:

Issues which are being compounded:
1 – point source heating
2 – point source cooling
3 – ventilation/fresh air — intake vs exhaust in bedrooms
4 – ventilation — cost of options
5 – heating bedrooms
6 – cooling bedrooms
7 – window sizes effect
8 – low low temp performance
9 – reliability concerns
10 – supplementing w/ wood vs small gas heaters vs electric-resistance heat
11 – the effects of attachment parenting (young kids sleeping in the same room as parents) and/or dogs sleeping in the room

Commments (as someone who lived in such a house in MA for 3 years):

Point source heating works is fine. You can really compare minisplits to a wood stove, because there is almsot 0 temperature differential, which is frustrating because one can’t cozy up to a minisplit, or dry soaking wet clothes after sledding, or keep one room warmer or cooler than others.

Point source cooling is a bigger problem especially if you are co-sleeping and have 4 people in one room because that’s a lot of body heat and if you don’t have a minisplit right in the room it’s less than ideal in the summer even with the door open. 1 or 2 people was fine, even better if one switched the HRV direction I bet! Good idea.

… I like the idea of doing exhaust for ERV/HRV from bedrooms. That would probably be a good idea. Luckily it’s also easy to reroute the supply/exhaust ducts so an easy retro-project.

Even R-5 windows are cool in the winter if you have a small room and you a sitting or sleeping right next to one.

we never had problems with 0F heating even though our minisplits were only rated for 5F.

On the topic of back-up heat, I would probably go for a wood stove and off-grid/hybrid/grid tie solar PVs if I were still in the house. An all-electric house is kinda frustrating when the power goes out and it’s bright and sunny after the storm and your grid-tie PVs can’t do anything. :-) Those little honda generators seem nice but I hate changing oil/maintaining stuff. But honestly, a $50 inverter attached to a car battery ran the fridge just enough to keep things over a 4 day outage. So how much money does one really want to throw at a minimal problem? A cooler in the car would have worked fine too since it was winter, and it’s not bear country.

Parts can take a little while with a minisplit (control boards), but luckily things rarely happen. Our residential mitsu model was difficult to debug I guess (commercial models might have better troubleshooting tools?) so it was one easier to just replace a whole compressor unit.

Was minorly annoyed I couldn’t set back our mitu system below 59F I think it was for when we were occasionally away. Not that lower would have added up to much in $.

OK, other than that… minisplits in a superinsulated house were fine. Silent (as I sit here and listen to my current noisy forced-hot air system). Comfortable. Cheap/almost non-existent bills.

OK that’s it. Just wanted to chime in a little with little pros and cons.

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personal action vs legal action / living by example vs working toward effecting societal change

“The Hidden Life of Garbage is a two year old interview packed with great insights on the politics of waste, including this shocker: When we think about being “green,” reducing waste and so on, we almost always think in terms of stuff that we can do as individuals, and we almost never think about regulating manufacturing. Imagine: instead of making 50 million people feel guilty for using disposable cups at Starbucks, we could just pass a law prohibiting the manufacture of disposable cups. The reason we don’t is that in 1953 Vermont passed a law that banned disposable bottles, and polluting industries formed an organization called Keep America Beautiful, which has been working ever since to block that kind of law, and generally to make us think of waste “as an individual responsibility, and not one connected to the production process.” … the famous anti-litter commercial with the crying Indian…. It turns out that Keep America Beautiful made that ad!”
— Ran Prieur LINK


Going Green but Getting Nowhere
Published: September 7, 2011
Gernot Wagner is an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund and the author of the forthcoming “But Will the Planet Notice?”
(Commenter at amazon: Interesting book and easy to read. Author made one important point; the public will only nominally cooperate with environmental initiatives until doing so is in their best interest as individuals. If we want them to not spew carbon into the air there has to be a cost to doing so. Makes sense to me, but he could have said it in one chapter.)



– China vs US environmentalism: China’s Coal, etc.

– HANS ROSLING’s The magic washing machine

“I believe in the American system, and totally reject the idea that your vote doesn’t matter. You think it doesn’t matter because you haven’t discovered what it means. If you had a little faith in it, if 25 percent more people had more faith, it would work a lot better than you have imagined. Because given enough time, no matter how much they lie, we figure it out. Change will come slowly but it will come. But don’t tell me it can’t change if you haven’t even tried.”

“[Are you trying to do something] that your dead great grandfather, in the grave, can do better than you. You’re using fewer resources? Your great grandfather is using no resources, and if he could talk to you, he might say, “Stop doing stuff that a dead person can do. You’re alive — do something that an alive person can do.”

– Framing: Positive goals vs negative goals

– Shopping local vs the big store

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