Sustainability at the Grocery Store and at Home

I try hard not to use the grocery store bags but sometimes I screw up and leave the canvas bags in my house. I did this last Saturday except I found two stragglers in my car. I debated going back home to grab some more bags but decided against it. I needed a few things for a party so I picked up some “recession-red” wine (think $4) at the store along with some other items. The two bags wouldn’t suffice but I figured I would need just one or two plastic bags. After paying in the checkout line, I rolled my way back to my car when I realized that the bagger put every bottle of wine in its own paper bag, then he double plastic bagged those. He then double-bagged the ice cream as well as the meats. After I got home and unpacked everything, I counted 12 plastic bags and 4 paper bags all for a $65 trip to the grocery store. The bagger was just trying to give me good service, but man, I just hate creating garbage for no reason. I threw the paper bottle bags in recycling and I’ll reuse the plastic bags around the house so it won’t be a total waste. The bottom line is I’ve got to be consistent if I’m going to try to live an efficient and sustainable lifestyle. Two canvas bags in my car just doesn’t cut the mustard. I’ve got to be thorough or my entire effort means nothing.

Yesterday, we did a Home Performance with Energy Star audit on a ranch style house built in 1955. Surprisingly, this house was one of the most efficient houses we have seen. The homeowner had installed an Energy Star approved HVAC and furnace, a quality ductwork system, new windows, and decent insulation. He had Energy Star appliances and low flow toilets and showerheads. However, the client said that the house was very drafty and the temperatures were uneven from room to room.

We ran the “ductblower” test and found no major flaws in the duct system whatsoever. Then we ran the “blower door test” and we quickly found the problem. In both bathrooms, each of the fans were blowing hot air directly from the attic into the bathrooms and the client usually left the doors open and the air then circulated throughout the rest of the conditioned space. Normally, the fans would vent out of the roofline but the contractor who installed them just half-assed it. Check out the thermal pictures of the fans:

The pictures clearly show the problem areas. This is an easy fix. We’re installing two extended pipes up to the roof and it’s only costing the customer $400 total. We expect this to reduce his energy bills by approximately $360/yr and so this improvement will pay for itself in slightly over one year. Coupled with a few other minor improvements, he will also get a $250 rebate from GA Power for making the improvements which makes this an even a better deal for him. This fix will decrease the draftiness and increase the comfort level in the home which is the most important thing to this client.

Like my half-ass attempt to eliminate wasteful bags in the grocery store, this would have been a very efficient home had it not been for the shoddy work of one contractor.

This client was thorough and very smart to get the audit and finish the job properly. Think of it this way. An audit is like getting a physical on your house. Like the Doc giving you a physical to check all your systems before he knows what is wrong with you, we have to do a thorough analysis of the home before we know what is wrong with it. Once we know where the problems are, it’s often a very easy and inexpensive fix to rectify the issues.