Archive for Lighting & Energy

Celebrating Earth Week with Cleaner Energy

Many kids celebrate Earth Week by planting gardens, walking to school, composting, packing waste-free lunches, and even hosting a “no carbon footprint day” when lights and computers throughout school stay off.

At the Healthy Home Project house, one goal is to become less energy dependent (though we can’t exactly live off-the-grid in such an urban area). A great choice would be investing in solar, but there are economical choices anyone can do, such as switching to “green” power. What does that mean exactly? Instead of a utility provider sourcing electricity via a company of their choice, a renter or homeowner can choose a supplier offering renewable energy. The delivery and billing process stays the same, which makes the switch pretty seamless.

Our home’s new supplier offers a choice of 50% renewable energy (for the same or slightly less cost), or 100% renewable energy (slightly more per month). With the 100% “green” energy option (from wind power), I’m noticing that making the switch instills a greater awareness of energy use overall. We’re more apt to turn off the lights in the first place, making this choice closer to budget neutral. Kids can easily get involved by helping to reduce electricity use every day.

As the Dr. Seuss classic The Lorax says,

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.”

There are more ideas for any home on the HHP Pinterest pages. Just one switch can be a great start to a healthier home and planet.

Lights Out: Energy Efficiency

As with any old house, the next surprise is just around the corner.  With several to contend with, I have to believe they’re all an open door of opportunity to make some much-needed changes.  The most surprising (and expensive) was when the public utility came to investigate how half the electricity in the house went out, and discovered it’s not them…

After reviewing the options, it’s time to upgrade the house’s electrical panel, and in the meantime figure out how to do more renovation work myself to keep the controllable costs, well, under control.  Researching how to fix things right the first time might be time-consuming, but it means saving time down the road when the repair doesn’t have to be done twice.

There are many ways to keep energy costs down overall, and the EPA has some great tips.  The Healthy Home Project will include energy-efficient lighting retrofits and appliances. Since budget is a priority, most of the lighting fixtures are from Green Demolitions, which keeps gently used building supplies out of the landfill by giving them a second life and donating the store proceeds to charity. The fixtures in this house will hold LED light bulbs, which are healthier than CFL’s (compact fluorescent lights).  CFL’s contain small amounts of mercury, a known neuro-toxin.  When a lamp gets knocked over and a CFL breaks, that mercury gets released into the room and poses a health hazard. EPA has recomended cleanup instructions which any homeowner can follow.  

For now, here’s to getting the lights back on, conquering the fear of being on top of a ladder as I take on more “sweat equity,” and knowing the best opportunities are those that aren’t planned.

Day One: Family Safety During Reno

We closed on the house today!  As a single mom, I’m grateful and blessed for this opportunity.  After all the formalities, my first trip was to the hardware store to get “outfitted” for reno this afternoon with protective goggles, face masks, and heavy-duty gloves. The EPA covers the basics of what’s needed in protective gear in their “Good Work Practices During Remodeling” — definitely a must-read before starting any home reno project.

Children need special protection from the pollutants lurking in old homes because pound for pound of body weight, they take in more air, consume for food and drink more water, according to the Alliance for Healthy Homes, an essential resource for parents thinking about remodelling. Kids also tend to play close to the ground, where toxins such as lead often settle.  Frequent hand-to-mouth activity also places children at greater risk than adults.

In short, kids should not come in contact with any remodelling or construction work area.  Despite their curiosity, they need a safe space until both the work is done and completely cleaned up, whether that means living with family or friends temporarily, or sealing away the work area according to EPA standards.  Keeping kids completely off the property is the family rule for the Healthy Home Project.

With this house, the asbestos was thankfully removed several weeks ago when the boiler leaked and had to be replaced. I got the certification papers at the closing showing that the house is now asbestos-free.  When choosing an abatement contractor, the company must be licensed and have a good reputation…to avoid surprises. I asked for certification of their work on company letterhead documenting what was done.

This afternoon I took down drop ceilings in four rooms.  Two of the rooms had two ceilings each…one over another. It wouldn’t have happened without assistance from a young man who works at the local hardware store and was an amazing help!

Recapping Day One…have in place a safe family living arrangement during renovation, keeping children away from the work area, get proper protection for the job at hand, and accept help when needed!