Tag Archives: Household

Third Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

It is now October and that means it is fall.  It also means that I am nine months of the way through the year which is probably a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost nine months. Through the end of September 2019 I have driven ~5,893 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~6,733 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter and succeeded in the second quarter, the third quarter was a little better. I spent some money that I was “awarded” from work via a gift card.  It was money spent at Amazon, but it was not my cash and I felt that the effort to transfer the funds was not worth the return.  Trying to reduce my spending at both Amazon and Walmart has made me think about our consumer habits in general.  More to come.
  • No more Walmart—Spent about a $100 on school supplies for a work organized effort to help out area kids during the back to school time. Walmart was running sales where I was able to pick up whole classrooms’ worth of some supplies for a few dollars.  It was craziness and well worth failing in my goal to make it happen.
  • Read twenty five books—38 books read in the first nine months.  Mission accomplished.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—This is probably the singular failure so far this year. Sure, some stuff has gone to Goodwill but I feel that on the whole nothing is less cluttered than it was nine months ago.  Maybe I can sprint to the finish.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. I have even purchased the wax rings to install the new toilers.  Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. Three Colorado blue spruce trees in the ground.  Mission accomplished.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— No real progress, but I have plans. I promise!
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—I am sitting at ~2,718 miles for the season as the month of September came to a close. Surprisingly, September was a real dog of a month for riding as the weather really conspired to keep me inside.   Mission accomplished.

So far, so good I think.

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This is What the Future Looks Like

People frequently ask me what I think the future looks like.  Rarely do I provide a coherent answer because what I think will happen is constantly changing based on the conditions of the day.  There do exist some constants, however, and solar power is one of those constants.

Why?  For one, it is easy.  Once the panels are installed your array will just sit on your roof producing electricity regardless of what you do.  When you go to work the panels produce electricity.  When you go on vacation the panels produce electricity.  It is the ultimate in “set it and forget it” environmentally beneficial behaviors.

Second, you can see the impact at a household level.  If my utility purchased electricity produced by wind turbines I have no real concept of what that means to me.  Was 15% of my electricity produced by the wind?  More?  Less?  However, with solar panels installed you get a very local idea of how much energy you have produced versus how much you have consumed.  Witness this portion of my latest utility bill:

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Notice the lack of green bars from April through August?  That signifies my solar array produced all or more of the electricity that I consumed during that period.  Sometimes my math and the utility company’s math will not align because billing periods do not align with calendar months but the general outlines agree.

Now, imagine approximately 60% more solar photovoltaic capacity being added to this chart.  The contract has been signed, the check has been sent, the plans have been approved, and the panels are waiting in a local warehouse for my system expansion.  I am just waiting to hear when the installers are scheduled to make it happen.

This is what the future looks like.

A Great Month for Solar Production, Electricity Consumption, and EV Efficiency

At last!  In August 2019 my solar photovoltaic array produced more than the same month in prior years.  I was somewhat consigned to a reality where my best days of solar production were behind me, but August came to the rescue:

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All in, my household ended up 179 kWh “up” in terms of electricity production minus consumption.  Remember, this includes all of my EV miles as well.  For the year I am creeping back toward being even in terms of production minus consumption after some awful months in the dead of winter.  During that period of time my solar array was covered in nearly a foot of wind driven snow and our electricity usage was high due to crazy low temperatures.  Normally August is a heavy month for air conditioning use.  Our HVAC system has been idle since the first week of month.

For the month of August my total miles driven in the Nissan Leaf was depressed by not being home for a little more than a week.  In the end I drove 531.2 miles at an average efficiency of 6 miles per kWh.  Compared to my truck and assuming power is drawn from the electricity grid, I saved ~620 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Since bringing the Nissan Leaf home I have driven a total of 5,138 miles and save 5,854 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released.  Using the most conservative method of calculating savings—which assumes all electricity comes from the grid as opposed to my solar panels—I have saved just under $727 in fuel costs alone.

Second Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

June has come and gone.  Summer is officially here.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf has been in the garage for almost six months. Through the end of June 2019 I have driven ~3,706 miles.  By trading a Ford F150 for a Nissan Leaf I have saved ~4,181 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • No more Amazon—While I failed in the first quarter, I feel like I am nailing it in the second quarter with $0—yes, zero—spend at Amazon in the past three months. It is surprisingly hard to resist the temptation to just order something from Amazon at nine in the evening.  It is like our brains are wired to just hit the “add to cart” button.
  • No more Walmart—As with my goal of spending no money at Amazon met with reality in the first quarter but improved in the second quarter, so too did my attempt at not patronizing Walmart. Zero dollars in the second quarter.
  • Read twenty five books—23 down, 2 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—Two Norway spruce trees are in the ground. I am actively hunting for additional trees to plant, but the nursery stock locally has not been very attractive.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— Plans are laid out and some of the hardscaping materials are sitting in my driveway. However, this is the kind project that has to wait until the temperature declines a little bit.  Spending a day digging out turf when the mercury is over 90 degrees and the humidity level is above 90 percent is a no go.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—Almost 1,200 miles have been spent in the saddle so far and this includes a lost week spent on vacation in Colorado. I had the best of intentions to ride while I was out in Summit County, but I chose to hike and raft instead.

So far, so good I think.

June 2019 Solar was Back on Track and EV Miles were Extra Efficient

June was a better month for solar production:

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Over the course of the entire month my household ended up ~150 kWh (consumption minus production), including all of my EV charging for that same period as I did not use any public chargers.  With at least eight more panels being installed on my roof this summer I am going to be seeing a lot more months with excess production.  Every kilowatt hour that I produce from my solar array is like a nail in the coffin for coal.

The excess production in June was a little artificial because we were on the road for more than a week.  With no air conditioning running it is to be expected that we would run a surplus.  June was also fairly cool with a corresponding lack of need to deploy air conditioning.  The last few days of the month were a reminder that summer in Iowa is a hot and sticky affair.  I am talking temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and humidity levels exceeding 90%.  If there was ever a time where I did not want to come home from the mountains this was that time.

For June I drove my Nissan Leaf a total of ~555 miles at an average efficiency of 5.9 miles per kWh.  This is my best number by far, in terms of efficiency, and makes me wonder if I can nurse my way to a figure over 6 miles per kWh in July.  For the period I saved ~646 pounds of C02 being emitted assuming that my charging came via the grid at an average carbon intensity.

You may ask how I can be ahead in terms of energy production yet still account for some level of carbon intensity for my electric vehicle.  Unfortunately, my photovoltaic array’s production occurs when I am not charging my EV which usually happens at night.  Therefore, to run my Nissan Leaf I am utilizing grid electricity.  It’s a little like keeping two sets of books for the same business.

First Quarter New Year’s Resolutions Progress

The year is one quarter behind us, which means that we are three months closer to a world where the phrase “President Donald Trump” is not something we have to utter every again save for historical remembrance.

It also means that it is a good time to check in on where I am at with my resolutions or goals for 2019.  Here goes:

  • Decarbonize transportation—My 2015 Nissan Leaf is in the garage. So far I have driven the little EV ~1584 miles and saved ~1732 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Based on the average price of fuel in my area and the average fuel economy of the vehicle mile I am displacing with the Nissan Leaf I also saved ~$162 in just fuel costs.  This assumes that I am using grid electricity with an average carbon intensity and an average price.  This will drop even further when I add solar panels to my existing array.
  • No more Amazon—Kind of an epic fail. Four days into the new year I ordered something off of Amazon.  In my defense—if such an explanation is allowed—I had a gift card, so not using it would just gift Amazon that money, and I needed a Level 2 charging cable for my Nissan Leaf.  On the plus side that is the only thing I purchased.  In the end, Amazon got about $150 of my money.  On January 4th.  Damn it.
  • No more Walmart—Nothing illustrates the difficulty of avoiding Walmart than my spring break trip. Somehow, someone forgot our bag of toiletries at home and did not notice until we were unpacking in Avon, Colorado for a week of spring break skiing at Beaver Creek.  What to do?  Spend $100 at Walmart replacing toothbrushes, shampoo, and what not.  Do not bring the kids with you into a grocery store after spending more than 13 hours in the car.  They are like locusts looking for crops.  Damn it.
  • Read twenty five books—13 down, 12 to go.
  • Drink local—Doing pretty good so far.
  • Declutter my house—I started off with the best intentions in January, but after taking an entire car load of clothes the effort to get stuff out of the house has kind of fizzled. Again, I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we have in the house.
  • Replace existing toilets with low volume flush models—I have picked out the model of toilet to replace my existing commodes. Now I just need to get a free day on a weekend to spend a few hours doing some plumbing.  Can you tell that this is my favorite way to spend a few hours on a Saturday?
  • Plant at least five trees—This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Reduce lawn coverage— This is a goal for the warmer months. We are not there yet.
  • Ride 2,500 miles on gravel roads—It may not be warmer yet, but my gravel ride is all kitted up for the new season.

So far, so good I think.

Solar Power was Nearly Even Stevens in September 2018

Image-1 (3)September was an odd month.  Solar production really fell off because the weather turned overcast and rainy real quick, but the first week or so of the month was really hot and humid.  Here is what the production looked like for the month.

It’s pretty obvious that things were a little gray since the array ended up about 100 kWh down compared with the prior year.

All in, my household ended the month with a surplus of 17 kWh.  The system will probably run a surplus in October and November depending on the weather and, therefore, the amount of heating we deploy before going into deficit for the deep winter months.

With a little more than a year under my belt of solar powered bliss I am pleasantly surprised that my little system—just 16 290 watt panels for a total of 4.64 kW of solar potential—has been able to cover more than my household’s needs.  As I look out at houses in my development and others nearby I wonder how much potential there is for everyone to be solar powered.

Imagine a world where we lived off the power we could produce from our roofs?  That is a future I want to live in.