Archive for Living Green

IDEA: Dehumidifying Clothes Dryer

This would be a short post, but I've realized that some people don't know how a dryer or a dehumidifier actually work. So, real quick – a dryer passes air over wet clothes, the moisture evaporates and is carried away by the air, warmer air can hold more moisture, so a hotter dryer setting will dry things faster. A dehumidifier passes air over a cooled coil where the water will condense (like on the side of a drinking glass) and is then pumped away.

Here's what bugs me about clothes dryers – they heat up the air, remove some moisture from the clothes, and then pump that air out of the house. It seems a lot like turning on your furnace and then opening up all the doors and windows in your house, it just wastes energy. Also, since the pressure in a house will always try to equalize itself with the outdoors, outside air will sneak in (through window/door cracks) at the same rate as the air being pumped out by the dryer.

My idea is to put a dehumidifying unit inside a dryer. This way air can be heated up and recirculated within the dryer. The only thing that will leave the dryer will be the condensing water, which would be pumped to a drain. This idea would only work with electric dryers though, since a gas dryer has to vent the fumes out of the house, otherwise bad things happen to you.

I'm not sure of the efficiency of dehumidifiers, or the cost to run them, but if people leave them running in basements it can't be too horrible. Plus, it seems like it'd be very hard to be less efficient than heating up a bunch of air and then pumping all of that heat outside. This dryer/dehumidifier setup would also probably be a lot more efficient than your standard basement dehumidifier for two reasons – 1) it's a small enclosed area and 2) the air it's removing the humidity from has been heated up and has more water to pull out of it than normal room temperature air.

Someone build one of these, and make it affordable. I'm thinking of making a small unit that can be retrofitted onto an existing (electric) dryer.

And while we're on the topic of efficient clothes drying.. I've just started running the dryer less, and then hanging the slightly damp clothes to finish air drying. If I'm going to be using an inefficient beast of a machine to dry my clothes, I might as well use it less. (The clothes from my last couple of batches that I dried like this are also less wrinkly.)

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IDEA: Fitness Power Plant

I like things that "kill 2 birds with one stone".. it's even better if nothing dies, and if I don't have to look for any stones. So here's the non-bird killing idea of the day: a fitness center/power plant.

This is an easy one, it only has 3 parts:

  1. Start a fitness center
  2. Modify exercise equipment to generate electricity (machines with spinny parts are easy to modify to act as generators – ellipticals, exercise bikes, etc)
  3. Use electricity generated by club members


Startup costs for a fitness center are not low, it would be quite an investment. Building and equipment costs would add up crazy fast. Modifying the equipment to turn them into generators (even in the easy cases) would be a lot of work. Most commercial equipment doesn't look like it's very friendly to the necessary modifications – it might be cheaper and easier to build everything from scratch. And from a power stand-point, it would take a lot of people working pretty hard to generate any sort of usable power.

BUT.. if someone were starting a new fitness center somewhere, it would be really cool if they looked into doing something like this. It would be a great gimmick at least, and would create a small amount of 'green' electricity from energy that would have been otherwise wasted. You could even encourage people to work out by subsidizing membership fees by the amount of electricity that each user generated – the more you work out, the less you pay.

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General Updates – 9/17/07

Another weekend.. and another Sunspot filled Saturday night. Sunspot played at The Mad Planet in Milwaukee, WI with The Buskers and Fly Neurotic. It was a great show, and an excellent night. I should have some pictures from these last 2 weekends in a few days, I'll flickr them and add them up here as well.

For those of you (I think there's only one) that are following my attempt at minimizing my energy use.. last month's energy bill put me at another $30 month. I've been almost spot-on $30 since I've moved into my new apartment in June. This last bill is still slightly skewed though. It includes the cost of running the air-conditioning solely to dehumidify things after my dishwasher flooded my apartment. I tried to reduce usage in other areas to balance things out, so I'm sure that next month (as long as I can avoid any freak accidents) I can lower it a bit more.

The facebook app is still in the unstarted stage. I may have to push out the beta testing timeline by another Sunday. I've begun setting things up so the programming will go as smoothly as possible.. but there still isn't a single line of code in this project.

Non-update related – if anyone knows of a decent and free Flash authoring tool, please tell me. I'm having zero luck finding anything free and usable, and I have a few projects that I'd like to start on that I need to use flash for.


Living green

The goal that I set for myself when I moved in to my new apartment was to try to live as simply as possible. This meant, mostly, trying to use as little energy as possible. I did a pretty good job during July – my total energy bill ended up being just over $30. I knew I could do better though, since I hadn't even replaced all the bulbs in my house with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

And up until Monday night I was on track for an even better month. Being more conscious of turning out unneeded lights, taking shorter showers, still not running the air conditioning at all. And then.. the flood.

It's amazing how one broken appliance can completely screw things up so immensely. And it's hitting on so many different fronts.

  • First, all the hot water that the dishwasher decided was best used to attempt to create a swimming pool in my kitchen and living room
  • keeping the lights on all night and all morning as I cleaned up the water
  • the blower that's been running nonstop to dry out the carpet
  • the extra loads of laundry that i'm doing to wash the towels that i used to try to soak the water out of the carpet
  • and, the last thing that comes to mind right now – having to turn on the air conditioning to dehumidify the house, since drying the carpet doesn't do any good if it's still humid enough that mold starts to grow

Maybe it won't be as bad as I think. I hope not, because I'm not sure how I'll afford the extra expense. But all I can do is wait and see how things turn out, and hope for the best. The washing machine just started filling, and I have to admit, the sound of running water on the other side of this wall just freaked me out for a second.

Anyway, this is where I'll put the updates, so if you care, keep reading. 🙂

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Energy saving idea.. if at first you don't succeed..

Last weekend I found myself waiting around inside a Home Depot store. I had all kinds of time to kill, so I figured that I'd just wander. And wander I did!

I decided that since I was going to be in a home "stuff" store, that I might as well look around and see if they had any good deals on multi-packs of compact fluorescent lights. I'm the type of person that very rarely asks the friendly store people for help finding things, so I went into the "Lighting" area and began looking. Three or four aisles full of lighting stuff. Fixtures, switches, ceiling fans, decorative lamps, security lights, tons of light bulbs. But I couldn't find any compact fluorescents. There was even a "Fluorescent" aisle. Just the tubes and circular tubes. Useless. So I looped again. After the second time I was sure that I was just an idiot and was walking right past them.. so I went again. No luck – but by now, the lighting associate had seen me go past several times, so it was past the point of asking. I walked away.

My next wander led me to a small rack of window films. $30-40 per roll of thin plastic, with choices like "privacy" to give the window that frosted "don't look in my bathroom" finish, to a mirrored look, to ultraviolet and heat blocking film. That last one seemed interesting. I'm refusing to run my air conditioning, so blocking solar heat from entering my house seemed like a great way to keep things cool. Except at $40 for enough to do (maybe) half my windows, this didn't look like a very cost effective way to go about it.

Wednesday I woke up with a brilliant idea. I have a roll of mylar film left over (used it as a light reflector for plants) that might do an excellent job at blocking light and, in the process, heat from entering through the windows. Awesome. Until I realized that if my neighbor looked towards my house while the sun was shining from that direction.. well, they'd most likely be blinded by my window. To shorten this a bit, I ended up buying a cheap white sheet to put out towards the window, and then attached it with double sided tape to the mylar, and attached that all with tape to the window. I had originally thought of using magnets, but I guess the windows are vinyl. Ugh. To make things worse, the tape didn't hold very well.

Next time I run to the store I'm going to pick up some more of those 3M "Command" adhesive hooks (I think that's what they're called at least.) Then I'll attach those to the window, punch some holes in my magic-heat-reflecting window covers, and hang them on the hooks. I can't see how that can go horribly wrong, but if it does, I'll go into detail about it here. Aren't you excited?! 😉

My phone is being obnoxiously silent right now, so it's time to finish this post and get in some reading.

Until the next post..


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The Apartment

June 22nd, I moved into my first apartment. For the last few years I've been renting rooms, and there was a 6 month period where I was "renting" a house from a friend while it was for sale and unoccupied. This is the first time in my life when I've really had to be "responsible" and act more like an "adult." (I'm in a quotation mark mood right now)

This apartment is costing me about twice what I was paying for the last room that I was staying in, and I'm thinking about picking up a second job to help offset that cost, and pay down some other bills (car) a lot faster. I'm reluctant though, because I think right now a second job would probably kill me.. but we'll see how things turn out. One of the biggest benefits, and this offsets the cost quite a bit (but not nearly enough), is that I'm now less than 2 miles from work, and closer to my family, whereas before I was about 30 miles away. 4 miles vs. 60 miles saves a lot of gas driving to and from work, and then there's the bike, that saves even more when I can manage to wake up before the last minute.

The first thing I did when I moved in here was try to reduce the energy usage as much as possible. The first step was compact fluorescent bulbs. Here's a breakdown of what has been replaced:

  • Bedrooms (x2) – 2 60watt bulbs (each) replaced with 20watt CF [240watts to 80]
  • Bathroom – 6(!) 60watt bulbs replaced with 4 13watt CF [360watts to 52]
  • Kitchen (just replaced this morning) – 5 60watt replaced with 3 20watt and 2 13watt [300watts to 86]
  • Dining room – these are on a dimmer, but i'm thinking of replacing the 3 60watt bulbs with 2 40watt incandescents.. unless I can find some decent (and cheap) dimmable fluorescents
  • Living room – no lights in room, added 2 20watt lights
  • Hallway – 1 60watt bulb, unchanged
  • Water heater – reduced the temperature considerably, done by maintenance so I don't know the actual temperature change

My first utility bill was for $65.. but both of the meter readings were estimates, and pretty far off. There was a charge for 11 therms of gas (the meter shows no change,) and 399kWh (the meter puts me at about 198kWh.) After re-figuring my usage, when an actual reading is done, my bill for last month should end up being around $33. Not bad, but I think I can do even better this month.

Any good energy saving tips that you think I could try out? That's what the comments are for. 🙂

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