Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Water Conservation -- Independent Home Strategies


Hi all... Recently there's been some action in the water conservation and greywater scene around the US, with California tampering with their greywater code and San Diego almost ready to begin rationing water!.

In the Midwest, the water challenges range from drought to infrastructure expansion to sewage pollution and spiraling costs for water in this economy.

There's a Cincinnati EarthSave promoted group called "ParkAndVine' apparently downtown who is doing simple living and conservation workshops and other gathering events, one of which was relevant to our AE/EE – energy -- agenda, so I routed that event to John to see if he could wangle a way into their event and get some serious AE/EE concrete progress for their participants.

Their presenters were from UC and the EPA, so we figure it wasn't going to be very much progress without John, not like doing the thorough look at energy consumption and CO2 calculations that John does in his survey annually. I do believe that John put in our message on energy just like we would, so now we wait....

In the meantime, I looked again at their offerings and noticed that they didn't even mention water conservation, which is one of our own personally productive areas of exploring. So now I'm thinking there might be something we might test some *broadcasting* tactics for these ideas among ourselves for interest-success.

Suppose your household could keep your water usage to under 2000 gal/month, wouldn't that save you a significant amount of green over the year? We haven't lived in Cinci for a long time, but as I recall, the water usage has a double whammy of funding not just the incoming water but also a sewer charge that was dependent on the water used.

Flushing toilets is a big user of water in the household water stats. We in the western world are completely misled into believing that our water systems are the cream of civilized thinking and we are subjected to severe regulatory scares to keep us in line.

The Finns however have shown (Science News) that saved-urine (jugs, jars, etc) that is used in the garden INSTEAD of petroleum-based fertilizer is not only highly effective in increasing garden output, but the produce is also cleaner. We are taught that urine is unsanitary, when in fact it has been used in battlefield situations to clean wounds. It's an antiseptic, and natural for contact with our bodies to boot. Shocked, yet?

We have been living out in Brown County OH, where we can have the naturescaped habitat home we have been wanting, and we have been using a new approach to MATERIALS HANDLING that replaces the tangled mess that our western civilization' s "supposedly optimal" health and home organization creates known as *sewage* and *waste dumping*. Our systems use greywater for flushing without the need for plumbing modifications. Our showers use under 10gallons/shower. Are you shocked yet? Would others be shocked yet. Or would they just not "get it".

According to Greater Cincinnati WW statistics, the "typical family" uses about 70% of their municipal water billing on bathroom usage. Since the typical adult (according to the Cincinnati Water Works) uses about 7500 gallons per quarter per person and if the household consists of 2 adults and 2 children, then their water usage for bathroom projects is approximately 20,000 gallons per quarter per family, just for bathroom use. Our methods of managing water usage would have kept our municipal usage -- if for 4 people -- under 8,000 gallons TOTAL per quarter, not just bathroom usage. Even just a few of the methods we've been using, could likely save that hypothetical family of 4 about $50/month, not insignificant.

If you'd like to talk to us about doing something along these lines, just let me know what your interest is.

We haven't done an AEA meeting in a long time and I'm pleased with that because it's more sensible to minimize those sorts of expenditures to stuff where it's really needed. Wouldn't this be possibly a topic to move forward on just by chatting and looking at some of our photos at WildwindBermDesigning for a view of the ZeroWaste Workingclass DIY Home that we are developing.

It's not the sort of stuff you'd ever be told by the EPA or by the UNIVs. The EPA is interested in political turf battles and the universities get their money from pandering to government and industrial funders, so you won't get any of this from them. Are you game to try something and see whether it's possible to move forward on bathroom water usage conservation before I jump on any interest ParkAndVine might have.

And John, let us know if they are genuinely looking for progress or just stirring up traffic at ParkAndVine for their store-keeping opportunities. They seem to have novel ideas and are committed to counteracting standard directions. We'll see.

What say you?

ChrisDYes, let's do it. I'm game for exploring.


Jeanette & Chris, Not to barge in... but the overwhelming majority of "usual 'water saving' shower heads" are 2.5 gpm. I recommend 2 gpm to my clients. Delta's lowest is 1.5. Mine is an old 1.8 gpm model I've used for almost 30 years in this and our last house. (Gail removed hers and installed a 2.5 model she says she likes better. Amazes me that your household members all seem to agree and perform so similarly, Jeanette... Or maybe you just report it that way. Normally, I see 2:1 and 3:1 variations from one house member to another...


John... It seems to amaze a lot of people -- outside the 'unschooling' world – how close are the interests and life-orientations of 'life-led' unschooling family members. Patently the trust that western civ puts into the institution of public schooling is destroying their own family structure, just like the corporate world is doing to marital and family units with their own sets of carrots-and-sticks. Your own relationship is definitely a work of the art of negotiation and unifying effort. It constantly amazes me how you and Gail can arrive at workable organization that respects each other's own preferences -- which are likely also needed to deal with your individual career choice influences.

Inside the life-led families, it's seen as natural that the life we share should motivate mutuality in interests. In those shared life-led relationships, the spark of interest in some one member just easily leads to mutual exploration of that area to the enlightenment of each since there's respectfulness for difference of experience. Sibling rivalry is a product of other forces than sibling-ism. As are the anti-generational struggles between parents and children, leaving the western-civ child abandoned to surrogate daycare for 20years, followed by a lack of involvement in each others' life struggle leading to abandoned parents-lives in 'homes' for the aged. You're lucky to have an interest in your own family history and siblings, but then you were always plowing a different path than the school system imposed on the others who didn't resist and defend their own ideas and interests.

Thanks for the compliment on our mutuality -- but not unanimity by any means. One of my favorite writers on family structure that explores mutuality is Jan Fortune-Wood, a British advocate of working tranquility in family relations. One more edu-heretic.


Jeanette, it's so interesting that you answered my observation philosophically. I'd have guessed that your household members' "cooperation" or "agreements" regarding the participation in and achievement of conservation and efficiency goals have more to do with how tightly knit your household is AND that that knitting includes energy and resources management. Simply stated, in most families and companies, employees NEVER EVEN DISCUSS ENERGY AND RESOURCE TARGETS, let alone how to achieve them. Most do not compare their usage data. Heck, at one time in my life, I thought of AEA as a kinda tight organization of like-minded folks with similar goals. But look how that's been shown untrue. Hardly any AEAers seem interested, only a few participating in my free home energy surveys anymore, only a teeny tiny few even cutting their energy and resource usage and pollution demands. Remember when we ended membership fees and inserted a requirement that AEA members be engaged in and willing to share their EE/RE/DSM implementations and plans? Well, I wonder how many free-member AEAers actually 'pay those dues'...

I see this in other groups, where members don't even apply the professional aspects of their groups to themselves, their own homes and extended families. Just look at all the LEED-AP architects and EnergyStar professionals who nonetheless have energy-guzzling vehicles, homes and offices, or more specifically, non-LEED-compliant and non-EnergyStar qualifying homes and offices. Often not even CAFE-compliant vehicles. So in my 26th year in this biz, I certainly do not expect any household or business "label, claim or professional aspiration" to translate to any sort of uniform or majority-shared actions or achievements on the parts of their members. This is a fact, regardless of why. I once was told by a Cleveland environmental group leader that in her area and membership, 'if corporations and governments aren't behind or backing any initiative, it won't get done.' Initially, I've internally completed her sentence with '...won't get done by the majority of the population.' But now I understand it as "...won't even get done by the most persons who claim interest or advocacy for those objectives."

Reminds me of my across-the-street neighbor who once told me he "supported the Iraq War". I asked him if he'd be willing to pay his share of the trillion dollar cost, say, by voluntarily paying higher taxes or by sending his eldest son (just graduated from high school) to fight in Iraq. He quickly said 'no', then accused me of taking him too literally. I responded that "support" needs to mean something. He responded that he probably should have said he supported GWBush when he decided to send US money, troops and weapons to Iraq. I asked '...and who's paying for this?', reminding him that GWBush lowered taxes and was racking up huge debts, payable in the future by him, me, his kids and grandkids. I asked if he supported saving or sending his current-day bills to be paid in the future by his kids and grandkids. He again accused me of being too literal with what he said.

Anyway, I do not see the widespread schism between careless speech and actions as unusual or rare. I think modern life in cities and suburbs creates huge abstractions between our thought processes and understandings of the world and the physical requirements and mechanisms supporting our lives. Most architects do not understand their designs as eventual machines, totally dependent on perpetual access to hidden huge often-ugly infrastructures and consequences. Most homeowners don't even think about their wastes and pollutions. They don't handle or even see their energies. If this were all different, with people having to look at their destroyed mountain landscapes, sick miners, petro-polluted air masses around refineries, all the dead wildlife and degraded environments, all because they wanted more, newer, faster, bigger and fancier stuff, then many folks would act differently. Ignorance is bliss. I think it's also intentional. It's why our leaders allow and encourage, even force regulations which require the disconnected realities between the often-promoted glitz and glamour of our government created cities and suburbs rather than the associated consequences.

Okay, enough of MY own philosophies... You got me started. Back to work! But I should end with saying that I do know businesses and households where the majority of members are like yours, agreeing substantially on and participating multilaterally to achieve energy and resource goals. But it is rare. As for Gail, consider that she's more of a conserver than many, just not as much so as me. I've changed more than she. I'm also more in charge of my life than she. Being a self-led and self-directed company and strong-headed independent individual with aggressive goals, I've changed and implemented far more on my own. She supports that and tries to cooperate. In any competition, some perform better than others. A lot of reasons for that. I don't assign "good" or "bad" labels to everything when I'm discussing or describing things. That's been healthy for my marriage, now on its 36th year. But in any competition, and I see our environmental and energy behaviors like this more and more, we need all to participate. Some will always perform differently. I just wish we could get more participation and tolerate more sharing of the hows and how-muches. Right now, there's not much of that, even among advocates.


Chris, thanks for picking up the ball on water conservation. Have you been out to
www.windberm- designing. net and have some questions already in mind? For now, I'll just outline what we are doing and see where this goes.

1-- The usual 'water saving' shower heads are advertised as 2 – more accurately, 1.5 to 2.5, per JohnR -- gallons per minute so if your typical shower is a 15 minute affair, then that typical shower uses 30 gallons per shower. Depending on your household number of persons and showering frequency, that could be say 900 gallons/person/ month or 2700 gallons/person/ quarter.

Some water system users are billed quarterly, some monthly. Suppose we examine monthly, like we are out in our rural water association.

We used to have a shower hose in our old lil-Yosemite habitat home up north that we liked because it got you thoroughly rinsed, not just top-down. When we were in Home Depot, we saw what they were advertising as a "pet-shower" that was just a shower hose with a start-stop control like you sometimes have on the kitchen sink dishwashing sprayerhose.

With that pet-shower, we've clocked our showers as using about 7 gallons/shower. Our shower is in the bathtub, so you just close the plug and calculate the gallons from the cubic feet of water that accumulates while taking your shower to see what your own results are. That's a 75% savings at our rate, compared to the water 'saving' version.

Cost of pet-shower-hose for family showering, about $15 IIRC.
Benefit, about 700 gallons/month/ person

2-- We've touched on this next idea once before but it's the key to a lot of other household water conservation. And does even apply to simple handwashing in the bathroom, which is our current focus. I've mostly developed the skill of appropriate water speed control for the usual twist-faucets in the kitchen however. The custom in western society -- commercials, movies, and everywhere around us -- is to whip on the faucet full blast... psychological need for satisfaction? fast-food mentality? competitiveness or assertiveness? No sign of mindfulness.

We are so harried in our need for rushing that we are oblivious to the reality of what water does as it's running over your hands, dishes or whatever. A thicker stream of water does no more rinsing or wetting than a thin stream spread comparably, so using a slow/thin stream is much more benefit-to-cost sensible. It's only the water in contact with the surface that is doing the work, the rest is just wasted. The key is the handling of the item being washed and recognizing when a slow-stream is the right stream. In the normal operation of our household, we've concluded that the only time a high-flow is better is when we're simply filling something, not rinsing or wetting.

Getting this habit is rather annoyingly tedious, unless you have a little help. Here's the story. We learned rather quickly because our apartment kitchen faucet was giving us headaches and we needed to resort to the kitchen sprayer-hose. We were banding it to the faucet-spout and wrapping the control to the ON position so that the sprayer could be used sort of like the usual spout because you need both hands for handling hot stuff or messy stuff. But the sprayer hose resisted the angle just enough so that if you whipped on the faucet handle to a too-fast flow, a lot of the kitchen -- and you -- got treated to a shower, OY. You learn really quickly to make a slow-flow the norm.

How you speed up your own learning process... well be creative. I will tell you that as I saw the difference in water usage performance, I informally began clocking the amount of water that I found to be satisfactory for my kitchen projects. Amazingly, the simple use of a measuring pitcher showed flow rates of 1/4 gal/minute to be quite adequate for dishes, even when I was in a hurry. Even slower rates were comforting and calming while doing work projects that required reaching for stuff -- another dish, another bag of fruit, whatever -- while running water over stuff in the sink because nothing was going to create out-of-control overflowing while I dealt with the multi-tasking.

In the research in preparation for greywater designing, they surveyed a couple thousand city homes and found that the average use of a faucet was about 1.4 gal/use, that the faucet was used about 8 times per day per person. Figuring that if the water saving level for the shower applied to the whipped on faucet, then our experience model would save about 3/4ths of your water faucet usage, or about 12 gallons/person/ day which is a monthly savings of 360 gallons/person/ month.

Implementation cost $0
Benefit 360 gallons saved per person per month (just bathroom, but much more so in the kitchen)

3-- Garden time urine collection.. . The Finns did the research (Sci News) where they used saved urine for their agriculture experimentation in finding a replacement for petroleum-based fertilizers. They showed that collected human urine was an excellent match in plant growth nutrients, to the extent that the plots where urine was used showed a 30% higher productivity over the usual petroleum fertilizers. 30% and it is hugely relevant to the home gardener!!

Not only was the productivity better, but the microbial contaminants were fewer! and less trouble for the harvesting. Maybe some people will need another piece of encouragement to get over their diaper-manufacturer s' fear mongering. It's a medical historical fact that human urine was used to clean open wounds on the battlefield. The reality that urine is a human-contact friendly antiseptic is a mind-virus exploding fact. Urine should look so completely benign and startlingly non-hostile once these facts sink in, it would be unimaginable how we could have been so misled in the past.

A few nice 1/2 gallon jugs or jars set alongside one of the less accessible corners of the bathroom -- or even for some, in the bedroom where convenient -- is all the implementation costs required. We have been using urine at 4/5th-dilution but your water-drinking habits will make your urine more or less concentrated so experiment with some little wild plant-areas if you're not sure what concentration to use. Too concentrated is the problem-to-avoid just like any fertilizer.

Remember that fertilizing is not the same as daily watering so spread your new-found resource accordingly.

Using the data on AVERAGE toilet flushing gallons, the avoided water usage during the spring, summer and fall, would amount to as much as another 14 gallons/person/ day

Cost $0 for some reuseable wide-mouth jars and jugs.
Benefit 450 gallons/month/ person in spring, summer and fall, with even more if you did indoor gardening as well in the winter.

4-- Now comes decision time. I'm going to suppose that you are not about to go to the level of greywater and composting toilets but would be interested in avoiding the insanity of flushing your toilet with potable water. So here's the way to switch to flushing with graywater -- without ever having to deal with the morons who are impeding American progress in desisting in water sewage creation. I'm assuming you wouldn't knowingly invite them into your life. And do that switch without plumbers fees, electricians fees or expensive high-tech gadgetry. Wanna know how?

Look at the image at www.windberm-designing.net under the link for WasteUtilizationTech -- on the left side of the screen.

What you see there is a galley pump -- used on boats, ahem, I mean yachts. It's set on the floor between the sink and the toilet. The hoses are simply bought from Home Depot to reach from the sink basin to the pump-in nozzle, and the second segment runs from the pump-out nozzle to the toilet tank. There's a small insert of ordinary 1"x1" wooden lumber that's fitted into the rim of the toilet-tank lid to hold it securely lifted all the way around except for a gap for the hose to enter the tank. The hoses are secured to the side of the sink cabinet so that they won't shift around.

The water flow to the toilet tank from the potable water lines is shut completely off. The plan is that you will be using about 1.5 gallons to wash after using the toilet, and that your toilet tank is about the 2 gallon size, just about a perfect match. So when you're flushing this current usage, you will then simply keep the plug in the sink when you wash up afterwards.

While you're drying your hands, you give that little galley pump pedal a few pumps -- maybe four, til the bubbly flow is through the trip to the tank. Easy as pie. By the time you're done drying and turning out the bathroom lights, or nearly, the wash water will have siphoned into the toilet tank, leaving just a small puddle in the sink bowl. The toilet is then ready for the next user.

You've exchanged about 2 gallons of greywater for 1.5 gallons of potable water, which will save you about 18 gallons/day/ person or about 540 gallons/month/ person. This estimate is independent of the Garden Urine option. If you were doing the Garden Urine option, then this would be the complete avoidance of creating blackwater from potable water.

Cost: Galley pump costs about $50-$70 depending mostly on the shipping and a little on the yacht people's eagerness to sell you one.
Benefit: 540 gallons/person/ month and NONE of our potable water would simply become blackwater sewage. This would improve the needs for sewage treatment because there would be less sewage to treat.

As for those who dispose of their misbegotten medications -- aka killer drugs -- down the toilet which then ends up in our water eco-resources, our life support. .. we would suggest that living out in the country without being tied to the reckless pharmaceutical drug usage in Western medicine, would have serious advantages. But you have to do with what you have and this scheme of water conservation at least will save us lots of wasted money while keeping our water resources much less polluted, not to mention reducing the need for draining our eco-water resources beyond their sustainable limits -- economical or physical, depending on your local enviro-life support. And it's so easy, it's just so adoptable, even by the working classes strapped for funds. Hope you agree.

Total Strategies: That's more than 1360 gallons/person/month for the average new saver, accounting for the various overlapping strategies. That's inside the bathroom and out of the 1750 gallons per person per month in GCWW stats. That's over 75% of the bathroom average water usage. There's more outside the bathroom area, besides the slowflow idea, but that's another day's chit-chat.

Let's see, if we in the western world are the Saudis of NEGAWATTS, aren't we also the Saudis of NEGAGALLONS? Isn't it time we smartened up?

And by the way, should you be considering the full switch over from creating blackwater – totally quitting Western-civ's sewage making, not just making less of it – and you were following our example, you would then just be using what passes for a toilet as a flushing bidet for feminine hygiene. All other deposits formerly creating sewage – blackwater – will become a crucial component in your very own bio-remediation system, which we'll talk about some other time.

Curiously, it's not quite legal to do the toilet flushing with greywater our way but there's an approved -- aka more expensive device to do the same thing with more gadgetry and gizmos, plus plumbers and electricians.

The more extreme considered switchover is actually less illegal since there are no laws against thermophillic composting of home generated waste materials for bio-remediation -- only commercial operations are regulated -- nor is there any law against flushing a bidet with greywater that we've ever heard of.

Granted we're not suggesting that you would brag about your – or our – system to anyone other than greywater enthusiasts.
It may not be illegal, but having seen lawyers and bureaucrats perjure themselves -- under oath in a courtroom before a jury and a judge -- about the content of the law, caution dictates living well and silently. Life could be so much better and simpler without sewage creation – legal or otherwise. Nega-gallons and no sewage.


Jeannette, I've not yet visited that website, but I will as soon as I get off work today. Sounds so cool.

To paraphrase Amory Lovins, "Most Americans don't care about kwh or CCF or gallons; but they do care about cold beer and hot showers." If hot showers are so important then why isn't there an option to test-drive shower heads at the hardware store? In Home Depot, almost all shower heads seem to be rated "low flow". But not all 2.0 gpm heads are created equal, as I can attest. I want to use a shower at Home Depot dang it!

I'm certainly not offering my house as a shining example of water conservation, but I have acquired a few good habits. I have a 2gpm rated shower head which is probably caked in rust and delivering pine needle sharp mist at a rate more like 1.2 gpm. I shower with cold water and finish by the time a top 40 song finishes-- so 5 gallons/shower easy. This perhaps covers the multitude of sins going on with my home-office toilet. It uses about 5 gpf and I used to flush it probably 12 times per day. I drink several gallons of water per day to keep me hydrated for all the running and cycling I do. I now follow the ol' "If it's yellow let it mellow" adage as much as my wife can tolerate it when she gets home from work.

I'm not sure my urine has a single fertilizing nutrient left in it for my garden because it is usually crystal clear (except on the weekends after I've had too much to drink and gotten too dehydrated on my long runs and bike rides).

Water conservation has a bigger bang than we usually give it credit for in the world of multifamily real estate. If my 5gpf toilet were in a 100 unit apartment complex, then I've seen first hand that switching 100 toilets to 1.6gpf poopers can cost about $200/toilet, amounting to $20,000 for the complex.

Now, this might save about $20,000 in sewage and water expenses in the first year. At first glance, this looks like a 1 year payback-- a genuine "no brainer". But it's WAY WAY better than that to a landlord. Because now, his building's operating expenses are $20,000 less per year and this means the building is $20,000 more profitable per year. And this means that depending on the real estate market's capitalization rate, when he/she sells the building, her asset's value is worth 8-12 times the income the complex can bring in in one year. So, that $20,000 investment in low flush toilets is leveraged to make the property value $200,000 more valuable... IF SOMEONE HAS MONEY TO BUY THE APARTMENT COMPLEX AT ALL.


Chris, it is hard to imagine taking a cold shower in winter. Oy-yoi-yoi. That American hot shower idea has merit in my book, so I'd vote for keeping that. In fact, with our new strategy of using the waste heat in the water heater to warm the radiant floor -- instead of turning off the water heater after morning showers like John does, and we used to -- we can set our house's thermostat down to 60*F for the winter and not be cold -- AS LONG as we adjust our clothing styles and use more body-contact heat like more hot water and hot foods. So the hot showers, blow-dryer and the radiant floor allow us to save energy on space-heating. The radiant floor concentrates the heat from the water heater in the lower levels of the home's space, which is all that humans need. Up near the ceiling is useless heating -- wasted in our book. So 60*F with a radiant floor is warmer than it sounds and can be quite comfortable with sensible changes in lifestyle -- clothing and food and hot water.

I don't think you're going to sell HD on in-store testing of their products when they are so lenient on returns if you're not satisfied after you take it home. So I'm assuming you're reprehensible idea on wet-testing shower-heads is another one of your humorous devil's advocating ideas.

As for the urine's potency, why don't you simply try using it on one of your garden plants, maybe tomato. Last summer, my sister and I both planted similar gardens. She's the one with the greener thumb but last year my tomatoes were outproducing hers -- early and late. My son even managed to coax a couple of our pepper plants that he took indoors to blossom and fruit in midwinter in our woodsy home.

Interesting that you should mention the health monitoring potential of noticing changes in urine. There are a lot of urine testing kits available that I've seen online and I'd recommend getting to know your own testing results when you're healthy, which is easily done when you're capturing urine for garden use anyway. I've been using a kit that measures pH because our bodies maintain an optimal pH as best they can -- just like they maintain a uniform body temperature of 98.6* or thereabouts. If your diet isn't supplying the nutrients for the maintenance of the pH, you can detect and fix that before things go astray, not waiting til things are unaffordably in need of big-pharma, surgery and other nightmares.

Nifty insight you brought up on the multiplier effect of savings on water bills when preparing to sell an investment in an apartment house. Wish I'd known that a couple years ago when the landlord at our old apartment decided to dump an artificially uniform bill-sharing scheme on his tenants when the collective water bills exceeded his expectations, which was contrary to the lease agreement but we were already trying to get the new home ready for move in so we just ignored it. But now I can aggravate him with the idea that he missed his chance to retire to Florida if he'd just replaced those 5gallon toilets and boosted his investment's value. He then could 'swap' those highly profitable apartments here for some seriously underpriced condos down on the Suncoast waterfront near where I have real estate contacts. Will mention it to my Florida folks too. Thanks Chris. Really great idea.

I don't suppose you have any good news for us on those EIMs – Energy Improvement Mortgages, right? Care to update us? You'd think now would be a good time to push that idea into the stream of 'CHANGES'... .


Thanks Jeanette,
It tickles me you asked about my "dead horse", the Energy Improvement Mortgage. As a matter of fact, I had an energy audit this very morning for a homeowner who is trying to do an Energy Improvement Mortgage.

I was surprised out of the blue with a phone call from the broker from Countrywide (of all the banks!) who was working for a real estate agent's son (of all people interested in exposing inefficiencies!) to get his client refinanced with an EIM.

I've spent the past 2 years trying to educate banks and real estate agents on the intrinsic beauty of this concept of reduced energy bills to pay for slightly higher mortgages with higher performance homes. I've had HUGE HUGE HUGE resistance from real estate agents who dry heave at the idea of slowing down a deal and exposing energy problems for the their potential deals. They hate when I come into a home and start talking home energy weaknesses. Now, real estate agents are starting to get certified as "Eco-brokers", and so are warming up to the signs of the times, I suppose.

The homeowner is a young couple about to give birth. They want (above all else new windows) before the delivery. FHA's loan guidelines limit home energy improvement dollars to 5% of the value of the home or $8000, whichever is greater. Their 17 new windows were quoted at $4500, but all my calculations are showing that even with the envelope-tightening benefits and fewer air exchanges, the financed cost of the windows over 30 years far exceed the anticipated energy savings (at today's energy prices).

The good news, is that I have mapped out several self-financing plans, including a $20,000 plan to turn their stick frame house into a veritable beer cooler. I know that the $20,000 exceeds FHA's EIM limits, but for some crazy reason, FHA has another competing program known as the "Streamline K" which allows homeowners to refinance and request up to $35,000 for EVERY sort of home improvement (not requiring blueprints) completely UNrelated to reduced maintenance expenses. These two programs are stackable too, which means the owners could request $35,000 for a DaVinci mural to be painted on their privacy fence and another $8000 on a new dual fuel heat pump system.

I'll keep you updated on how it goes. I plan on doing a ton of publishing of the results if this ever gets done. Wish my clients luck!


Jeanette.... Regarding water, there's a lot of energy consumption around it too. Imagine all the energy going into water treatment, then it gets used just for flushing or car washing, or even worse, leaking/dripping faucets which so many folks are too lazy or busy to keep fixed.

Amory Lovins was once quoted as saying (in a SF - CA speech) that one of that city's highest energy usages was pumping water. Way back when, I once heard that water treatment and pumping was one of Cincy's major energy costs, ranking up there with vehicle fuel and building utility energy.

So when I added it as a category to my household survey, while not specifically identifying its related energy, I was recognizing that it is yet another energy consumption facet of our modern lives. For homes and companies which have lots of leaks, it's not unlike phantom load. Consider that the Assn of Energy Engineers gave an award a few years back to Sam Adams brewery, for its cutting 50,000 gallons per day from its water use! A lot of that was finding and fixing leaks, but a huge amount of reduction came from re-using water. They now reuse some water 3 times. Very cleverly.

And just as Duke/Cinergy/CG&E offer discounted rates to folks who use more electricity per month (i.e. guzzler discounts) October thru May, Cincinnati Water Works (like Northern KY Water District) also charges way less for greater use than lower use. Ironic about NKY Water Dist., since none of the KY electric utilities offer more electric power for lower per-kWh rates. Anyway, I believe whenever prices go down for using more, people have less and less incentive to try to use less. And when they do reduce, their average cost per unit goes up, very unfair, even stupid. At least from an energy- or environment-focused perspective.

BTW, my household paid the highest price per gallon for water in my survey last year. When we first moved here, we noticed immediately that our water cost shot up hugely from what we'd been accustomed to from Cincinnati Water Works. Our 2008 water usage average was 2250 gallons per month.

As for the ParkAndVine event(s), I did sent them an email on Friday morning, after seeing your suggestion. No response yet. No information at the website about who gets the emails. All inquiries are directed to one address.


Thanks John, these facts are staggering. It boggles the mind to visualize 50,000 gallons PER DAY being WASTED at a brewery -- a business designed to make money. Water used for production is an exciting possible source of nega-gallons.

When we first explored the greywater system that Sally Ransohoff had installed, a fairly decent system before the local implementer got his hands on it, the figures for leaks as a major waste water percentage was a knockout at 13% -- about 1 gallon out of every 8 !!

Lovins' idea that water treatment and pumping are such opportunities for energy saving is just super as a magnifying reason to conserve water. And it applies here in our area.

Just for the record, that survey of water usage that I was using shows that John and Gail's usage is barely 50% of the average two-person home, so there's another example of the opportunity for 'the average Joe and Julie' to adopt if they hear more about these experiences.


Jeanette, ENERGY used in production is also an exciting possible source of nega-energies. I often chuckle people ask me about paybacks after I point out some kind of waste. As if they SHOULD GET REIMBURSED to end or reduce the waste!

That's why I now support progressivity in all shared energy, water and pollution pricing even though we're libertarians. Just this morning I heard about the possible re-instatement of local government annual vehicle emissions checks. Reminded me of my proposal to charge by the mile and pollution rate per mile. Big polluters would pay 3 or 10 times more than the least polluters.

I sometimes joke that I'd even support "exponentially progressive" rates for "repeat overpollution". After all, we need new funds to help implement what needs to happen, funds we need from some kinds of new sources. But I'm a realist. Government and utilities incentivize higher resource use and pollution intentionally. More is better, according to the standards. But simultaneously, we offer occasional incentives to use or pollute less, sending signals somewhere between confusion and hypocrisy. Like Donella Meadows often said, we shouldn't focus so much on the ends of our spigots. Instead, change the paradigms and practices which create the demand for so many spigots as well as the flow rates which are available from them! If she hadn't died of natural causes, I'd have suspected somebody might have poisoned her.

Wow, aren't I a cynic this morning! Sorry... My initial point is that there are HUGE MIND-BOGGLING potential savings from cutting wastes in all our resource streams. One main reason I don't take much hope from supply-expansion ideas like "creating a smart grid". Just makes more waste possible...

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