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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

Wondering about a great new energy-saving device
you found on the Internet? Then CLICK HERE!

Sorry. Jeff no longer answers questions online.
This will remain as a searchable
resource for all BHM website visitors.



Archive for the ‘Apartment/Condo’ Category

 

Condo unit energy solution

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Jeff:

We live in a condominium apartment and a good part of the year we receive a lot of wind. We also have several south facing windows and a deck with good exposure to the sun. With condominium rules and regulations, we’re not able to put solar panels on the roof. Is there a solution to energy independence when you live in a condominium like this one?

Thanks,

Tanna Settle


Tanna,

Yes, been there, done that. My big concern would be reducing my electric loads and emergency power. When we lived a year in an apartment complex in the middle of a large city during the construction of our solar home, there were several power outages. Although this never affected us due to the emergency preparations listed below, we got a big laugh watching everyone bail out of the complex 5 minutes after the power went out and head for Mom’s house or a hotel. I still can’t believe how un-prepared most apartment and condo dwellers are.

First, reduce your energy usage. What difference does it make if you save 500 watts by reducing your electric loads by 500 watts, or keep the loads the same and install a 500 watt solar system – your bill still goes down the same amount, and you didn’t spend $5000 for a small solar system you aren’t allowed to install anyway.

Replace every light, and I mean every light, with compact fluorescent lamps or halogen. Buy the “warm” color fluorescent lights, which may require going to a lighting store. For most applications, a 15 to 25 watt compact fluorescent lamp will work where you had a 75 to 100 watt incandescent bulb. Anywhere you need really good color quality like a bathroom mirror or kitchen, replace with halogen. A 45 watt halogen bulb is blinding and has great color. It can replace an incandescent bulb 2 to 3 times its wattage.

Most likely your next biggest load is your refrigerator, and if it is over 10 years old it was built before major changes were made in the Federal energy guidelines. Also, if it came with the condo, it probably was “spec” quality, which is at the low end of efficiency even if its newer. You can replace this energy hog without the permission of the condo association. Finally, if you do not have one already, replace the standard wall thermostat with a good quality programmable unit, also something you can do without permission and this can really save if you are gone most of the day.

Next, be prepared. Since you have limited storage space take one small closet or under one bed and make that your emergency storage room. Build up a pantry in the upper half with foods that will store a long time and require minimum preparation. Buy a canned heat camping stove. These fold up and take very little room, yet easily heats a pan of water to prepare rice, instant heat-and-serve meals, etc. Add a few gallons of bottled water and 2 or 3 LED type flashlights. Extra batteries is a must have. Add a small battery radio and extra trash bags, paper plates, plastic utensils, and you are ready for anything!

There have been many past articles in Backwoods Home on how to make an emergency pantry and what you should have on hand at all times. I suggest reading these back issues for more ideas.

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago

 

Alternative energy for apartments

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Jeff:

My wife, son and I live in an approximately 440 square foot studio apartment in Queens, New York. We have watched helplessly as our monthly utility bill has increased over the past 6-12 months from roughly $70 to over $120. I am certain that you have heard something to this effect from many people.

Are there any alternative energy sources that we can use to power our individual apartment and reduce our reliance on the local utility? I am envisioning a renewable energy source that can be stored inside the apartment and power, e.g., lamps, television, home computers, kitchen appliances, etc., but that doesn’t cost unprecedented sums of money. Is there something out there to your knowledge?

Thank you for your time and attention.

Mike J.

Forest Hills, New York

Mike:

I know the area well. One of my clients is Rego Park, the shopping center in Queens, and we remotely monitor all the tenants monthly utility usage. There is only a limited amount of things you can do since you are renting and cannot alter the electrical systems and may have only a limited amount of exterior wall and no roof access.

As I have described in many past articles, if your refrigerator is over 5 years old, it is costing you more money to operate than a new model. If it is over 12 years old then it is really costing you money each month, and may represent 15 to 20% of your monthly bill. This is the first thing I would replace.

You can also replace all of your light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. If lighting quality is critical like a work light, replace with halogen having half the watts as the incandescent bulb being replaced. Do not replace only a few bulbs at a time, take a week end and replace them all, then wait a few weeks to see the impact on your bill. Many appliances like TV’s, stereos, cell phone chargers, and anything with a remote control will still be using electrical power 24 hours per day even if they are turned off.

Buy several multi-plug strips and use the switch to turn off all power to all your entertainment equipment when not in use. If you have an electric range, this is also a real energy hog, so limit its use by using a micro-wave oven more often. These also use lots of power, but they cook much faster so are only on a few minutes.

Finally, I am expecting electric rates to climb even higher next year and remember there are lots of city and state taxes added to your electric bill each month by New York which has some of the highest in the nation.

Time to move?

Good luck,

Jeff Yago

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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