Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eco-Crafting

Recycled artwork is not a new idea. I remember visiting Ripley’s Believe it or Not! in Pasadena and eyeing a pretty impressive lint “painting” of John Wayne. There are plenty of creative ways to make use of unwanted items, but where to start? I stumbled across Eco-Artware, which lists different craft projects that you can do on your free time. You don’t have to be a Martha Stewart to tackle these ideas, as each project is comprehensive, easy, and fun! It offers economical, eco-friendly ways to recycle old items, such as a cereal box gift box, an envelope holding shutter, and many more.

Other project ideas can vary depending on the item you would like to get rid of. I once came into a home with a bar made completely out of bottle caps, smashed and laminated into an interesting piece of art. I saw some caps from bottles decades before, and when I asked the artist of such an ingenious creation he said, “I collected whatever I could for years. See this one?” He actually had bottle caps from around the world, including Iraq! (Where he served during 2003.)

One of my favorites includes t-shirt makeovers..! I actually didn’t need to use a sewing machine for several shirts, but with some I dusted off my old home economics textbook and re-visited what I was taught in middle school. The greatest thing about eco crafts is that you are recycling and giving new life to objects that may otherwise spend the rest of its existence in a landfill!

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Green Roofing...What?

As we are building more urban areas, we are also losing green space. A great way to revitalize the urban landscape is to invest in green roofing. Green roofing involves high quality water proofing and root repellant systems, as well as a drainage system, a filter cloth, and a lightweight growing medium along with plants. Some of you may be wondering, “Why a green roof? What can it do for me?”

Green roofs will typically last twice as long as conventional roofs because all the sun damage that reaches bare floors will be used to grow plants. There is a lot of energy saving potential as well, depending on the size of the building, climate, and type of green roof. In Ottawa, Canada, Karen Liu found that 6” of green roof reduced heat gains by 95% and heat losses by 26%. Green roofs also absorb sound pollution from airplanes and traffic.

Green roofs also provide a space of serenity and aesthetic beauty. It can be a place for day care, meetings, and recreation. Instead of taking a break in a dull and enclosed room indoors, employees can take breaks taking a scenic stroll on the roof. For the Fairmount Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, the kitchen saved up to $30,000 annually by growing it’s own greenery,

Although green roofs are still immature in North America, it is an investment worth looking into for your business. Give your employees a place to look forward to while they are at work!

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Winterizing Your Home Saves You Money and Reduces Greenhouse Gases

Winter has just begun and energy costs are on the rise. The average American household spends up to $2000 annually on energy bills, and some have speculated that this number may even go up by almost 50% this year. Therefore, taking a few small steps now in reducing energy use can make a big difference in lowering your energy bills and even reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the first and foremost steps in winterizing a home is to stop air leaks in a home. If air leaks aren't stopped, other weatherizing measures like installing insulation will be a complete waste of money and effort. By sealing holes, cracks, and openings in your home first, you can stop the flow of heat through your walls and ceilings, and also cost-effectively reduce energy bills, avoid potential moisture problems, and perhaps most importantly, stay warm this winter. With this in mind, here are few helpful tips published by the Environmental Protection Agency on how to seal your home:

1. Be sure to insulate and weather-strip your attic hatch or door to prevent warm air from escaping out of the top of your house.
2. Holes leading from a basement or crawlspace to an attic are a huge energy waster. Be sure to cover and seal them with spray foam and rigid foam board if necessary, and don’t forget to seal any holes in the attic that lead into a house.
3. Seal holes with caulk or spray foam where wires, pipes, and vents enter or exit your home, and be sure to check behind and under sinks.
4. Caulk window frames and door frames inside your home with clear or color-matched caulk to reduce drafts. If caulking an area outside of a home, use long-lasting exterior caulk.
5. Reduce any drafts in your home by putting foam gaskets around electrical outlets, and weather-strip doors and windows that do not seal tightly.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

DIY Solar Roof Heater - Save Money on Your Heating Bills!


Heating and cooling systems account for over half of a household’s energy bill, and simple, do-it-yourself solar projects can help drastically reduce your heating bills. Relatively inexpensive solar hot-air collectors and thermosiphoning panels capture the sun’s energy and direct air warmed by the sun through a window or wall opening into an adjoining room.

Using your roof as a space heater can also help supply solar heated air to your home. When the roof is heated by the sun, the air underneath is naturally heated, rises, and can be collected to heat your home. Because most metal roofs and some other types of clad roofs have an insulating membrane underneath, harvesting this warm air to heat your living space can be an inexpensive project.

If you’d like to cut your home heating bill this winter, try using your roof as a space heater and follow these directions:

Materials:
-Foil insulation
-Foil ducting
-6” ducted fan
-Hand tacker
-Thermostatic switch
-Profile seal that is the length of the roof
-Optional clear plastic cover

Directions:
1.
Find the roof space of your home and make sure that there is an insulation membrane under the roofing sheets. From that point, locate the top two purlins on either side of the roof ridge and clean up any excess insulation. Use a hand tacker to secure the insulation to the purlins along the whole length of the ridge. Your roof should now have insulation running from the gutter to the top of the purlin.
2. Cut strips of insulation wide enough to fix across the underside of the top two purlins and long enough to run the length of the ridge. Using the hand tacker, attach the insulation to the underside of the top two purlins to form a header between them. These will cause the air between the roof sheeting and the insulation to be heated by the sun’s radiation.
3. Fit a suitably sized duct outlet near the center of the ridge and attach it to the underside of the purlins. Seal this to the foil using silicone, and fit a ceiling duct outlet to the ceiling of the area that is to be heated.
4. Fit a ducted fan somewhere between the duct from the ridge and the duct to the ceiling, and measure, cut, and fit two lengths of foil ducting (one to connect your ridge duct to the fan and one to connect the fan to the ceiling duct).
5. Fit a thermostatic switch near the duct at the header and position the sensor bulb inside the header near the duct opening, and secure this bulb to purlin. Wire the fan to the thermostatic switch so that it will only run when the temperature of the air in the header exceeds the control temperature of the area to be heated.
6. Lastly, move this to the outside of the roof and be sure to seal any air gaps between the ridge of the roof and the roof sheeting profile. For best results, cover the top meter of the ridge with a clear plastic cover. Your heater is now complete, ready to use, and will provide many hours of free heat during days where the sun is shining (even if the temperature is cold).

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

DIY Air Purifier

The EPA has noted that indoor air can be almost ten times worse than the air outside. Thus, air purification has rapidly become a multi-billion dollar industry. While a small, no-frills air cleaner for your personal space can be had for less than $100, a state-of-the-art medical-grade air purifier aimed at microbiological abatement can cost over $1000. For those who wish to breathe in healthier air without spending a lot of money, read the directions below on how to create your own air purifier from inexpensive materials:

Materials:
1 PVC water pipe
1 Replacement window screen (a piece of cloth will also suffice, or for aromatherapy, use a scented dryer sheet)
1 cardboard box
1 HEPA filter
1 small fan

1. Drill a small hole in the wall to the outside
2. Place a section of the water pipe in the hole and extend it all the way through the wall
3. Place your filter material on the outside of the pipe to prevent insects, pollen, and other particulates from entering inside
4. Place your HEPA filter inside the cardboard box and mount the box on the pipe
5. Cut a hole in the box and mount the fan inside the box. This will help draw outside air through the HEPA filter and blow the clean air into the room.

Keep in mind that although this air purifier may not be able to completely remove pollutants from your air, it may help filter your air in a pinch.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why Do Some Outlets Look Different From Others?

Buying new appliances or performing home upgrades can be a headache for those who have little knowledge of concepts such as volts and amps. Some of you may have noticed that the outlet used to plug in your desk lamp may be different from the outlet located behind your refrigerator, and you may have been frustrated when you learned that the new space heater you just purchased can’t be plugged into the standard two-pronged outlet found in your living room.

Because our lives are becoming more complicated and high tech, we are becoming increasingly dependent on these holes in the walls but may not be aware of how they work. The purpose of an electrical outlet is obvious: to provide a point to plug in your various electrical appliances. A standard outlet in the United States is usually of the 125-volt, 15 amps, alternating current variety. These types of plugs are often used for small appliances and devices such as toasters, lamps, and computers. However, for larger appliances such as air conditioners, clothes dryers, electric ranges, and other major appliances, you will be dealing with 220-240 volt outlets.

It is very important to never exceed the above ratings in order to avoid damage to the outlet or a fire inside the wall. In other words, never power a 15A outlet from a circuit breaker larger than 15A, even if multiple outlets will be fed from the circuit breaker. With that in mind, when looking at a standard 125-volt outlet, a few common types can be noted: non-polarized, polarized, grounded, and ground fault circuit interrupter outlets.

Non-polarized Outlets:
These outlets have two vertical slots of the same size that are side by side. These types of outlets are no longer used, and modern polarized plugs will not fit in them.

Polarized Outlets: These outlets are different in that the slot for the neutral wire is wider than the slot for the hot wire, making it difficult to insert the plug the wrong way. This is often seen in appliances such as toasters and lamps, which have exposed parts that can have electrical current running through them.

Grounded Outlets: These outlets have a round hole for the grounding conductor, in addition to the vertical slots. Generally, electronic devices such as computers require these to provide a solid ground for the case so that the device to work properly. This type of outlet is also used for safety reasons in appliances such as vacuum cleaners, and grounded outlets are always polarized.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Outlets: These outlets always have two buttons on them and are always polarized and grounded. The purpose of these outlets is to detect ground faults and shut off the power if they occur (such as when a hair dryer has fallen into the bathtub). This type of outlet can be found in the bathroom and near the kitchen sink.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Alternative" Air Conditioners

Although the cooler months are upon us, in areas like Southern California where there have been a wave of brush fires, air conditioners used to ventilate homes from smoke and pollution may still be helpful. However, for those who don’t have conventional air conditioners installed in their homes, "alternative air conditioners" should be considered. Here are some suggestions and low cost options to help you keep cool, ventilate your home, and save money.

Passive Cooling
Passive cooling uses nonmechanical methods to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. One of the most effective passive cooling methods involves keeping heat from building up in the first place. The primary source of heat gain can often be attributed to sunlight that is absorbed by your home through the walls, windows, and roof. Secondary sources can come in the form of heat-generating appliances and air leakages.

Prevent heat gain by reflecting sunlight away from your house, shading and blocking the heat, removing built-up heat, and by reducing heat-generating sources in your home.

Save Energy
Sometimes the above strategies may not provide enough cooling, and mechanical devices may have to be used as supplements. Ceiling fans and evaporative coolers can be energy efficient choices, as they cost less to install and run as standard air conditioners. Ceiling fans have the ability to lower the air temperature by about four degrees, and evaporative coolers use one fourth the energy of conventional air conditioners. However, keep in mind that evaporative coolers are only suitable for dry climates.

Contact your local utility companies and inquire about rebates and cost-incentive programs when you purchase or install energy-saving products such as lighting, appliances, and insulation.

Consider a Whole House Ventilation Fan
If you are looking for a lower-cost, natural alternative to an air conditioner, whole house ventilation may be the solution. Installing a whole house fan costs only a fraction of central of central or wall-mount air conditioning (around $300-$400 versus up to $2500), and operating costs may be as little as 10 percent of the cost of operating an air conditioner.

When the fan is activated, cooler air from the outside is drawn into the house via open windows and doors, and warmer air is pushed out of the house through ventilation spaces in the roof or gable end walls. This air movement cools your house by replacing hot air with cooler air; by flushing out hot air; and by creating a gentle breeze that cools occupants by an evaporation effect.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Houseplants Can Save Your Life


Because we often spend up to 90% of our time indoors, we are susceptible to many health problems associated with poor indoor air quality. These problems can often be the result of poor ventilation, toxic mold, and chemicals. Therefore, in addition to being exposed to outdoor pollutants, pollutants can also be found in our homes and workplaces.

In an attempt to find solutions to indoor air pollution, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) participated in a two year study which suggested a common, but sophisticated pollution-absorbing device: the common houseplant.

Plants remove substances out of the air through their stoma, or the tiny openings in their leaves. As well, they breathe through their leaves, and allow their roots and soil bacteria to help remove trace levels of toxic vapors. Essentially, houseplants create a "living air cleaner" by combining activated carbon and a fan with the plant. The roots of the plant grow in the carbon, and they slowly degrade the chemicals that are absorbed. Dr. Bill Wolverton, former senior research scientist at NASA, stated the following: "We feel that future results will provide an even stronger argument that common indoor landscaping plants can be a very effective part of a system used to provide pollution free homes and work places."

In order to conduct the study, each plant type was placed in sealed, Plexiglas chambers in which chemicals were injected. Philodendron, spider plants, and gold pothos were the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules. For removing benzene, flowering plants such as gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums were extremely efficient. Other good performers were the Dracaena Massangeana and Spathiphyllum. In conclusion, the study consistently showed that living, green, and flowering plants were able to remove several types of toxic chemicals from the air in building interiors.

Fortunately, because houseplants are plentiful, inexpensive, and relatively easy to maintain, they make great, "natural air purifiers." As Dr. Wolverton noted, "Combining nature with technology can increase the effectiveness of plants in removing air pollutants."

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