Green Living

Make your own non-toxic bathtub cleanser

I found this recipe on Apartment Therapy (they credit Natural Home magazine with originally publishing the recipe). Seems to me you could go green AND save a bunch of money using this to clean your bathtub, instead of buying expensive commercial brands of cleansers.


Silky Bathtub Scrub


1 cup baking soda in a medium-sized mixing bowl
1/2 cup liquid castile soap
5-10 drops of antibacterial essential oil, such as lavender, tea tree or rosemary (optional)


Pour baking soda into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add liquid soap a little at a time, stirring continuously. Stop adding the soap after the mixture begins to resemble cake frosting.  Mix in drops of essential oil.  Store in an airtight jar for up to 1 year.


This sounds really interesting to me! I'm going to give it a go, this afternoon. Would you ever think about trying it? Do you have any money-saving or green tips for household cleaning tasks?

The New Normal: save money on laundry detergent

A while back I re-posted a money saving laundry tip from the blog HomeEc101. It mentions the many ways white vinegar can help you save money when you do your laundry at home. See the original money saving laundry tips there and over here too.  Then the super-awesome Sarah Cooper of CoopCrafts dropped by and mentioned that she makes her own laundry soap.


Wha???


I was baffled, and intrigued. I googled around her site and found the CoopCrafts recipe for homemade laundry soap. I got more intrigued. I went shopping. I decided to give it a whirl.




[caption id="attachment_8858" align="alignleft" width="105" caption="retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner"]retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8857" align="alignleft" width="107" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer "washing soda" laundry additive"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8859" align="alignleft" width="109" caption="Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap"]Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8860" align="alignleft" width="79" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda"]retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda[/caption]

First you grate the bar castile soap very finely (this is especially important for cold water washing).


I used the smaller of the 2 lemon zester options on my kitchen box grater.




[caption id="attachment_8861" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="box grater for kitchen use"]box grater for kitchen use[/caption]

Then I mixed the soap crumbles with 1 cup each of the Borax, Washing Soda,  and baking soda.


Et voila! Laundry detergent.



Estimated total cost for about 5 cups of detergent = maybe $2.00.  Use 1 tablespoon per laundry load, 2 for big loads or very hard water.


GoogleCalculator tells me that's 80 loads of laundry worth of detergent... for about $4! I stored it in my laundry room, in an old heavy-duty plastic bucket with lid.





retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap
retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap


Dr. Bronner's isn't the only castile soap out there. It does come in many scents, but it's a bit pricey at a little over $4 per bar. I found a cheaper version at my local supermarket where Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap is about $1.39 per bar.  I found all the ingredients I needed locally, at my regular supermarkets.


I also have begun adding about 1/3 cup of white vinegar to the rinse water and gave up my regular fabric softener. Holy laundry revelation, Batman! I can hardly even begin to describe the positive difference: Soft, fluffy towels. Super clean and clean-smelling laundry. No static cling. No more chemicals going down my drain into the public water supply. No more rendered animal fat on my clothes.**


Making my own laundry detergent and using white vinegar in the rinse water has been a revelation to me. I can't believe I spent a fortune for all those years on commercial laundry soaps.  Never again will I buy All, Cheer or any of the others.


You should try this at home. It's a ridiculously easy way to start if you're baffled by how to live a little greener and reduce your carbon footprint on the planet. Plus your laundry will come out cleaner with no static cling.


**you do know that fabric softener is largely made of rendered animal fat, don't you? that's a bunch of dead, boiled animals all over your clothes


disclaimer - I do not own sticky-stain-makers, otherwise known as children. Your mileage may vary. Parents, you might want to try this on your own laundry first and work your way up to the truly nasty piles of laundry-like filth kids can create.

Clean your dryer lint trap

clip_image002clip_image004

Did you know that the stuff they put in dryer sheets to make your clothes soft comes from…

...well forget about it. Trust me, you don’t want to know what it comes from. Suffice it to say that I found out what it comes from one day when I stumbled on a vegan lifestyle website.

But, did you know that your laundry fabric softener builds up on the dryer lint catcher? That decreases air flow and makes your clothes dryer work harder. You won't see the waxy film but it's there.

Pinch a few pennies and keep the planet a teensy bit greener by cleaning your dryer’s lint catcher every once in a while. Old Republic Home Warranty company recommends you do this every 6 months. Even Snopes.com says "clean your dryer lint trap."

Remove the lint catcher and wash it in hot, soapy water. Scrub it with an old toothbrush to remove the built-up fabric softener. Air dry and replace. (save this up for that random, dateless Friday night when you re-organize your sock drawer)

disclaimer: this blog does not  accept sponsored/paid product or service reviews. Blog authors received nothing of value in exchange for writing this post. But if anybody wants to offer to clean our clothes dryer lint catchers, we’re totally open for that. totally.

Related Posts - save money on your laundry/random uses for vinegar , ketchup the magic stain lifter , 2 cheap cleaners you MUST have in your kitchen

Arizona tops in alternative energy

8/4/10, from AZCentral.com

Business Facilities magazine recently ranked Arizona tops in solar energy and sixth in economic growth potential.

It’s more long-term good news for our area, and similar to what we’ve been saying for several years already – survive long enough and everything will be ok.. the growth will come back…  (why do I feel like I need to click my heels together while I say that 3 times?)

Your wonders why there aren’t more parking lots shaded by solar energy collecting covers Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Are CFL bulbs dangerous?

CFL bulb from ipaa dot org slash Blog slash question mark p=301


(image courtesy of http://www.ipaa.org/Blog/?p=301)


There’s a lot of kerfluffle around the Interwebs lately about the supposedly dangerous levels of mercury released if you break a CFL light bulb.


I believe the most widely spread story crazy Internet rumor is about a woman in Maine who broke a CFL bulb in a bedroom, was quoted $2,000 for cleanup, and a month later that bedroom is still closed off with tape and plastic.


I did a little research, being the sort of library-law nerd that I am. Before I spring my findings on you, a question: how many times in your life have you broken a light bulb?** Me? Never. Not one broken light bulb in 22 years of living on my own. How about you?


On with the myth busting: The story above about the woman in Maine is only sort of true and blown way out of proportion.


The Maine resident did break a CFL bulb in her bedroom. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection says they told the woman that one option was to hire a HazMat team (at great expense, no doubt). How about that room being taped off for a month after the breakage? The homeowner did that herself.


Read the full report on Snopes.com <here>, which also includes links to the federal Department of Environmental Protection’s guidelines on handling broken CFL bulbs. In addition . . .




**If you’re old like me, you might remember when most thermometers contained mercury too. My Mom broke one once. We scooped up the mercury blobs on a piece of cardboard paper, put them inside a plastic bag, wrapped the bag in paper towels and tossed it in the trash. It was kind of fun to see the little blobs rolling around the linoleum. I actually touched one. And I’m not <very> crazy. Yet.


True, you shouldn’t lie down and roll around in the stuff, but you don’t need to panic and succumb to crazy internet rumors either.



24 Rooms in a 300 sqft condo

Think your house is too small?  Need an extra bedroom, home office, or garage bay?  We’ve written several times over the years about making the most of the space you have, but nothing compares with this…

Architect Gary Chang lives in Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated cities on Earth.  But that didn’t stop him from designing an uber chic pad to call home.

(4 minute video)

Wow – now I feel really bad complaining about my place…

Thanks to www.freshome.com for sharing this amazing video.

Your wonders what Gary Chang could do with an average sized home in Phoenix Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Would you live in a shipping container?

You know those ubiquitous corrugated metal boxes you see on trains and around industrial centers?  AZCentral ran an article this morning about a local architect, Lorenzo Perez, who's planning to build studio apartments out of them!

My first thought was "come on, give me a break."  But a little more research changed my mind.

Turns out this isn't the first project of its kind.  In fact, there are several residential and commercial projects around the world using shipping containers.  Check out this home in Manhattan Beach, CA (a VERY expensive area!)

manhattenbeachurban

image courtesy of Zach Smith's Shipping Container Architecture website:  http://firmitas.org/, a great place to learn more about this topic.

The containers are almost 9 feet wide & tall, come in 20' and 40' lengths, and are virtually indestructible.  They reduce our environmental impact by reducing the use of other materials (that recycling thing we keep talking about), and at a cost of $2,000, how can you NOT be a fan?

Your learned something new today Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

 

The Results are in: We met our energy savings goals!

It's nice to know that one family can make a difference.

Last year my wife & I decided to make a conscious effort to do a better job of conserving energy around the house.  We didn't want to do any major home improvements, but we thought we could make an honest effort to do some good.  I wrote a few posts as we identified our goals and built our strategy:

My Family's attempt to conserve energy - and our challenge to you.

Our energy savings plan.

Energy use of household appliances.

We started the process in mid-November last year, so it's been almost a year.  I've reviewed our APS usage in 4 distinct categories:  Total kWh used, Highest Peak kW usage, Percentage of off-peak usage, and Billable charges.  Here are the results:

Total kWh Used.

This was the single most important goal.  Time-shifting is important, and hopefully all our effort would lead to saving money, but the driving force behind the project was to use less energy.

Result:  We used 15.4% less energy than the previous year, trouncing our goal of a 10% savings by more than 50%!

image

Highest Peak kW Usage.

In plain English, what was the most energy you needed at any one point in time, during peak hours, during the course of the month?  Obviously the more appliances you have running at the same time, the more energy you'll require at that moment.  This is an important number, because APS uses it to calculate the largest percentage of your monthly bill.  (this means that if you have one bad hour, with everything running and the doors open, you're going to pay dearly at the end of the month!)

Result:  Our average Highest Peak kW Usage was down by over 10%.

image

Percentage of off-peak Usage.

This matters for 2 reasons.  A) We have a plan that charges us less for off-peak usage, and B) by shifting our usage off-peak, we're reducing the aggregate demand for Highest Peak kW Usage, which means we're helping to reduce the overall amount of energy needed for our city.

When we started this challenge, our average off-peak usage was 57%.  We set our goal of raising that to 67%.

Result:  We exceeded our goal by averaging 70% off-peak usage!

image

Billable Charges.

This one was disappointing.  I had assumed that since we did such a great job of using less energy AND switching our usage to off-peak hours, we would have saved a fortune.  Not so fast, my friend (to quote football analyst Lee Corso.)

Result:  We saved a grand total of $124 over the course of 11 months.  (granted, APS had a rate increase at about this time last year, so who knows what our bills would have been like if we didn't reduce our usage.  But still - I had hoped for better...)

image

Bottom Line - it feels good to know that we can have a significant impact on the environment without making significant changes in our lifestyles.  If everyone reading this could reduce their usage by 10%...  Talk about environmental impact!

Your doing his share Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Pet Safe Pesticides

photo credit to eravariel at Stock Exchange


I have been suffering for a few days with a mob of home-invading ants. I blame myself, actually. Unknowingly, I'd brought them into the house in a recyclable shopping bag.  After hanging on a door handle for about a week, I took  the bag down and set it on the floor, getting ready to take it back to the car and shop.


The bag tipped over and instantly, I had a gazillion little black ants swarming over the floor!!


Luckily they were swarming on blond hardwood so I could see all the little beasties pretty easily. It turns out that flip-flops are a very effective weapon of mass destruction when applied with strategic precision. "Strategic precision" means wildly slapping the floor with said flip-flops while shrieking at the top of one's lungs.


However, the collateral damage for this particular WMD is the wind shear that sends a few dozen beasties flying for every shoe swing.


And here's where I (finally!) get to the post point. I have cats. Cats tend to eat off the floor. It's like having perpetual toddlers in the house - anything the cats find even mildly interesting is instantly eaten or licked. So..... traditional pesticides are out of the question.


After much internet research I discovered that there are several non-toxic ways to eradicate ants.  Boiling water poured on the anthill is supposed to be effective. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is also said to be effective because it gets into the ants' little joints and dehydrates them from the inside out. I did find some online articles that seemed to prefer DE from plant stores over the pool-grade DE that's often used in the desert southwest for filtering pools. Pyrethrin is supposed to be a plant-based pesticide safe for use with pets. Except that  I found an online chat room where one member claimed the pyrethrin poisoned her cat and it took over $200 at the vet's office to restore the cat.


My problem with all the advice I found online is that I didn't feel I could trust the sources. The information I found came from websites with names like EcoChem.com, 4TheBirds.org, ThePetShrink.info, OccultCorpus.com, ArticlesBase.com and FreePatentsOnline.com.   I've never heard of these! I'm just not sure that I'm going to trust my feline babies' health to those sources. If I'd found something from Cat Fancy magazine or even a single vet's office, I'd have felt more reassured.


So in the end I decided to try the two easiest and least harmful sounding options - white vinegar and powdered cinnamon. I knew the ants were drawn to the cat food crumbs on the floor, so first I baited the little buggers.




  • I put the cats into a locked bedroom away from the action. Then I laid out a trail of cat food across the floor of the ant infested room and waited about a half-hour. Sure enough, an ant swarm. I followed it to the source at the patio sliding door in the master bedroom and poured a little powdered traditional pesticide on the entry point.

  • I walked back the line of ants to the food crumbs, killing them with the flip-flop WMD method noted above with a speed adjustment to minimize the wind shear factor.

  • Next up, a vinegar water wash down for every floor and baseboard surface in the two rooms affected. Websites recommended a mixture of half-and-half white vinegar and water. Whew, what a smell!

  • Finally, a border of powdered cinnamon (from the spice rack) on all window ledges, sliding door tracks and around the baseboards. I vacuumed up the poison powder from earlier and covered over the ant's entry spot with a generous mound of cinnamon.


The whole process took two hours and it was midnight before I was done. Exhausted, I added a ring of cinnamon around my bed because the entry point was in my bedroom. Thoughts of little ants crawling onto my bed in the night was enough to send me screaming out the door to a hotel that accepts cats! (By the way, Motel 6 is pet friendly, should you ever travel with your beloved furry family members.)


The result? Success. Apparently ants really don't like cinnamon. Nary an ant in sight since I broke open the spice rack. Hope you find my ant saga helpful if you ever get infested yourselves!

Recycle CFL light bulbs at Home Depot

Here's a quick update to an earlier post I wrote about Disposing of CFL fluorescent light bulbs back in February of this year.  In it I wrote "I bet that before too long there will be enough public pressure that the places who sell the most bulbs (WalMart, Home Depot, Target, Lowe's) will begin collecting them for recycling..."  One down, three to go!

image



There's a Home Depot on just about every corner these days, so you shouldn't have any excuses for not recycling your mercury-filled CFL light bulbs!

Your feeling greener Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Pickens Plan goes live today

T. Boone Pickens opened a website today: www.pickensplan.com. You might not have heard of it yet, but you're going to hear about soon, and you're going to hear about it a lot, during the next 4 months.

T. Boone Pickens made a fortune in the Texas oil industry. He made another fortune as a corporate raider. He's garnered a lot of publicity for his efforts in shareholder-rights, philanthropy, and as a big-time contributor for conservative politicians. I read recently about his efforts to buy massive amounts of underground water rights in northwest Texas, as he believes water will be the next oil in Texas.

Well, this one's going to trump them all. He's proposing a massive shift to harness the power of the wind, on a national scale, and he wants it to be the cornerstone of this year's presidential election. Wind energy isn't new, obviously, but it's never been done on a scale this large.

Anyone who's read my blog for awhile knows I'm a big proponent of alternative energy – it actually drives me crazy that we have so much sun, and heat, that isn't being harnessed for energy here in Arizona.. But that's another topic for another day!

Give the video below a look – it's an eye-opening 4 minutes.










 
 

Your thinking T. Boone Pickens is on to something big Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] wind energy, green living, t. boone pickens [/tags]

Rain Gutters are useful – even in Phoenix

Here is a picture of my old house – the one we moved out of a couple years ago.

Regardless of size, style, number of garage bays, or area of town, this is a pretty typical design for most homes built in & around Phoenix over the last 20 years. The garage is on one side, the front room with a big window is on the other, and in between them is the walkway to the front door. (it's not always as long and narrow as my old house, but the point is still valid.)

Notice how anybody walking up to the front door is going to get drenched by 3 different parts of the roof!

Granted, it doesn't rain too often in Phoenix – a couple of times in December (right after I hang my Christmas lights), a few times in February and March, and some summer monsoons in July and August. However, since it doesn't rain very often, there's a lot more buildup of dust, dirt and debris in between rains. This all gets washed onto our front walks, driveways, and patios, in addition to any erosion along the sides of our homes.

Rain gutters can help to alleviate all these problems – they'll keep you and your guests dry(er) while helping to keep your property clean and well maintained. But if you plan ahead, they can do even more.

Use your rain gutters to direct water to strategic points in your yard, and then let your grading (along with some berms, bricks, rocks, or other natural tools) work to help water your plants and offset some of your sprinkler system – especially during the hot summer months. You can have healthier plants while conserving water!

Your getting into gutters Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] rain gutters, grading [/tags]

Aura at Camelback: Green Luxury Living

Coming Soon – luxury living, urban living, and sustainable living will come together at The Aura at Camelback.










 
 

I've seen lots of residential "green living" options, but they're generally on the small side, and usually outside of town. I've also seen several commercial projects using a sustainable approach (we've even written about some of them before), so I know it's possible to do larger buildings. This is the first time I've seen larger homes with extra amenities.

The Aura at Camelback will feature 36 three or four-story townhouses, with floor plans ranging from 2,469 to 3,147 square feet. Each home will have a 2-car underground garage, a 400 sqft underground air-conditioned storage unit, and a 400 sqft roof-top garden. Homes will range from $900,000 to $1.3 million.

The project will be located in the Biltmore area, at 25th Street and Campbell (south of Camelback).

I expect this to be the first of many projects we'll hear about over the next year or two. Solar energy is getting cheaper and more efficient; there are more options available; and there is a great public demand for sustainable living. (but that's a topic for another post..)

Your looking forward to the future Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] Aura at Camelback, green living, sustainable living, Fletcher Heights [/tags]

Disposing of CFL fluorescent light bulbs

I've been a big proponent of conserving energy around the house, and have written about it several times on this blog. One of the easiest energy "fixes" is to switch your light bulbs to Compact Flourescent Bulbs, since they are ultra efficient and last for a very long time. The bulbs say right on the packaging that they contain mercury, but that it's safely contained within the bulb and will not cause any harm (much like a thermometer). However, that leaves two new questions unanswered – What to do if one breaks, and what to do with them when they eventually burn out?



What to do if a CFL Bulb breaks?

The frightening thing is how few people know the right answer. The NBC affiliate in Chicago did a survey recently, calling various stores and governmental agencies, and their answers varied greatly. According to the EPA's website, the correct response is:




  1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

  2. DO NOT VACUUM.

  3. On a hard surface, carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag. (wear gloves or other protective gear – no bare hands.) Then wipe the area with a damp cloth or wet-wipe, and place it in the plastic bag as well.

  4. On a carpeted area, pick up the larger materials (no bare hands), then use a sticky surface like duct tape to pick up the smaller pieces and the powder. Place everything into a sealed plastic bag.

  5. Seal the plastic bag, and seal that bag inside a second plastic bag. Then you may properly dispose of it.

  6. Now you can vacuum, but you'll want to throw out the vacuum bag, or empty and wipe out the container (for a bagless vacuum), and dispose of those contents in the same manner.


How to properly dispose of a CFL bulb?

This is where it gets tricky, and the EPA's website isn't very helpful edited April 2010 to add that EPA now has a Fact Sheet on CFL bulbs' use and disposal, and what to do if one breaks. You can see it <here>. There's a second Fact Sheet produced by the EnergyStar folks which you can view <here>.




  1. I can't find any Arizona laws against throwing them away with your regular trash, and Peoria's website does NOT list CFL Bulbs in their list of Household Hazardous Waste. Yet, filling the landfills with millions of lightbulbs containing mercury can't be a good thing, so I'd like to recycle them.

  2. Click <here> for a list of places listed as recycle centers.

  3. Edited Sept 2008 to add that Home Depot now recycles the CFL bulbs for you. Take them back there, hand 'em in.


Your hoping not to break a bulb Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] CLF Bulbs, recycling, compact fluorescent light bulbs, Fletcher Heights [/tags]

Proper disposal of old computers

We've had an old computer sitting on a shelf in the garage for a long time. To give you an idea of how old, it was an IBM PC (remember when people actually had IBM brand computers?) which ran a high-tech operating system called Windows 98. (who knows when that came out...?) At some point over the years technology moved far enough ahead of this computer, whose speed & memory (measured in Mega, not Giga) just couldn't keep up.

Well, it turns out that your neighborhood Staples store has a computer disposal program for just this case. Well, for any computer, really. They will see to it that your old computer is recycled as much as possible, and that any non-recyclable parts are disposed of in the most environmentally friendly manner. They charge $10 per major component (computer, monitor, printer) for the service, and all peripherals (mouse, keyboard, speakers, wires) are free.









 

Way to go, Staples!

Your trying to do his share Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] computer disposal, recycling, Staples, Fletcher Heights [/tags]

We’re saving energy – right on schedule

Last month I challenged us all to use 10% less energy, and then I outlined my family's plan for achieving this goal. Yesterday our APS bill came in the mail, and I'm optimistic our plan is working.

Good news is that our usage is down by 9%, and we didn't implement our plan until the middle of the month! (I'm measuring usage in Kilowatt Hours per Day, and comparing to the same time period last year.)

Bad news is that it's really hard to compare with only one month's data, especially since our A/C unit is the biggest driver of our energy usage, and that's very dependent on what the weather is like. We had perfect weather this month – I don't think we ran our A/C or the heater at all.

In addition, we actually went backwards in our attempt to shift usage from peak to off-peak, but this is explainable. We started practicing restricting our usage between Noon and 7:00pm, but APS did not adjust our meter until the end of the month. So by using electricity in the morning and evening, we were driving our peak usage up. I expect this to get better next month, now that we're officially on the new plan.

Your one step in the right direction Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Energy Use of Household Appliances

We've been putting our energy-savings plan into action over the last couple of weeks. We accepted the challenge to try and conserve energy, and then we outlined a specific plan of attack designed around getting the most bang for the buck.

It took a little bit of effort to figure out where our savings could come from, so I thought I'd take a minute to share what I learned. Here's a list of the household appliances we decided to focus on (click here or click here for a more detailed list):







































































Area of FocusWattskWh / Hr
A/C Units (per unit)4,0004.00
A/C Unit (portable)1,0501.05
Ceiling fan (each)600.06
Clothes Dryer5,0005.00
Clothes Washer5000.50
Computer Equipment (each)1500.15
Dishwasher1,3001.30
Water Heater4,0004.00
Range12,50012.50
Fan (portable)1150.12
Light bulb (60w) (each)600.06
Light bulb (100w) (each)1000.10
   

To calculate the actual usage of each item, divide the Wattage by 1,000 to get the kWh/Hr, and then multiply it by the number of hours that item runs.

Keep in mind that the number of hours an item is used will have a great impact on the overall figures; the Clothes Dryer looks like a big ticket item, but we don't use it more than a few hours in a week. While the ceiling fans look like small items, but turning off 4 of them for 12 hours at a time will add up to saving 2.88 kWh per day!

I'm not certain about the Range – does this refer to the oven or the stove, or both? I couldn't find a more specific break-down.  Obviously, any cooking that can be shifted to the barbeque or the toaster oven will have an immediate impact..

Your feeling a little greener Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] energy consumption, green living, APS, Fletcher Heights [/tags]

Our energy-savings plan

This is a follow up to my earlier post about my family's goal to conserve energy around the house – and my challenge to you to do the same.

We've had a chance to review how much energy our various appliances use, and we've built a game-plan we think will help us reach our 10% usage-reduction goal AND our goal of shifting more of our usage from Peak to Off-peak hours. We've decided to focus our attention on the items that have the largest impact and/or the items that are easiest for us to address. (we're going to start by picking the low-hanging fruit.)

Here are the 10 items we're going to change first:

  1. Change our APS service plan to the Combined Advantage 7pm to Noon. Off-Peak prices are a fraction higher than our current plan, but the Peak period is reduced to Noon to 7pm, Monday – Friday. That's it. 7 hours a day, 5 days a week is all we have to worry about. This should enable us to reduce our peak usage for the items we can control, as well as our 'demand' charges.

  2. No Dishwasher, Washer, Dryer, or Showers (hot water heater) between Noon and 7pm weekdays. These are the four main items we have the most direct control over.

  3. Replace light bulbs with CF bulbs. I'll start with the 5-10 lights that are on the most often. Then, I'll use the monthly savings we begin to generate to buy a few more bulbs here & there. Eventually we'll have all of the high-use lights on CF bulbs.

  4. Monitor A/C usage, especially in the hot summer months, and especially between Noon and 7pm. We can't turn it up to 82 or 84 (not practical), but we can try to be more cognizant of how cool the house is.

  5. Portable A/C unit should not be on unless someone is in that room.

  6. All computers, monitors, and printers should be turned off at night.

  7. Monitor for open doors and open refrigerator. (yes, we have kids!)

  8. Keep extra fridge and freezer full, even if it means using containers of water/ice. (We have a dorm-size fridge that we use to keep soda & bottled water cold, and we have a freezer for long-term food storage.)

  9. Look into window coverings for the small/extra windows that let in some afternoon sun. (This will become a larger factor in the spring & summer.)

  10. Turn off bedroom ceiling fans during the day.


The first 2 deal with shifting our load from Peak to Off-peak. The last 7 deal directly with saving energy. Number 3 will save some energy, but will cost me a $30 investment. I think these 10 items should enable us to reach our goals. If not, we'll have to keep looking for additional savings...

Your looking forward to the challenge Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] energy consumption, green living, APS, Fletcher Heights [/tags]

My family’s attempt to conserve energy – and our challenge to you.

I've said before that one person cannot effect meaningful change by himself. I could stop driving my car, install solar panels on my house, and begin harvesting rainwater, but none of that would make a bit of difference to the greater Phoenix area. The key to change is to have many people make a little effort. This month my family is going to begin making changes towards consuming less energy (and sending less money to APS!) And I'm going to challenge each of you to do the same.

Our Goals


  1. Reduce our energy consumption by 10% compared to the same month last year, or the average of the two previous years when applicable.

  2. Shift our usage so that 67% is during off-peak hours.

  3. Reduce our APS bill by 20%.

  4. We are not going to make any drastic lifestyle changes, spend large sums of "investment" in capital, or make major home improvements. (at least, not at this time. We should be able to achieve our goals without doing this.)


Our Back-story


We moved into our current house about 18 months ago. We haven't purposefully wasted energy, but we haven't really gone out of our way to conserve energy, either. I've replaced a few light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, and we try to be careful about things like the thermostat setting and not leaving lights on, but that's about it. Earlier this month I downloaded our usage history from APS, and I was blown away by how much we've used! Now it's time to make some changes...

Our Current Scenario


We've been on the APS Combined Advantage 9pm to 9am plan, although with two kids and both of us having hectic schedules, we don't pay as much attention to on-peak/off-peak as we should. (when we have a few extra minutes, we're throwing some clothes in the wash, regardless of the time). We currently average about 56% of our usage during off-peak times – slightly more in the winter months and slightly less in the summer.

We both basically work out of the house, so the typical idea of turning up your thermostat while you're gone during the day doesn't work very well for us.

We have a 2-story house, with 2 A/C units. We also have a portable A/C unit, which vents out a window, to help keep the warmest bedroom cool during the summer (rather than freeze out the rest of the rooms by turning down the thermostat).

Our Strategy


We are still working on the specifics of our strategy. What are the major contributors? What can we do that will have the greatest impact on our usage with the least impact on our daily lives? Determining what we can do differently is going to be the first step in the process. I will post our specific strategy once we develop it, with exactly what we will do differently from what we've been doing in the past.

Our Challenge to you


We challenge each of you to attempt a similar plan: use less energy, and save more money! (without making major lifestyle changes or home improvements.) Obviously, each of us will have a different strategy, or differing parts of their strategy, but we can also compare with and learn from each other. I would love to see all of us make a 10% reduction in our energy consumption.

In Conclusion


Everyone has different energy uses and needs. Larger homes use more energy. More people living in a home will require more energy. Some people tolerate higher temperatures that others. Some homes already have great shade trees. Yadda yadda yadda. No excuses. What can you do to make a difference?

I am going to post updates along the way to let you know of our progress (and hopefully our success!) I would love to hear from any of you who decide to take us up on our challenge.

Your excited to do his share Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] energy consumption, green living, APS, Fletcher Heights [/tags]

Solar powered homes selling quickly

Need proof that there's more public support than ever for environmentally friendly homes? Clarum Homes is building a community of 47 zero-energy homes in Menlo Park, California. They began selling these homes this summer, and have already sold 44 of the 47!

As a community, Menlo Park's real estate market is trending downward, but is still considered fairly good, especially when compared with many other parts of the country. So 44 out of 47 isn't quite the astonishing feat it would be in today's Phoenix market; it's still impressive nonetheless. Kudos to Clarum Homes, and Kudos to those who bought the homes.

Hat tip to RenewableEnergyAccess.com for finding this story.

Your thinking green Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] Clarum Homes, renewable energy, zero energy homes, solar energy, Fletcher Heights [/tags]