Monday, 7 July 2008

Carbon Shock, Trees & Sheds

I'm having a bash at Green With A Gun's carbon accounting. At this early stage I'm tracking most things, but estimating water and power use from my records, which are pretty extensive. I'm a compulsive grapher of such things, and get excited when a new water or power bill arrives, until I realise that I have to pay for it as well as graphing it... I figure we're going to get the worst up front, and in future months when we have a chance to make some changes we can measure the figures more accurately.

So how do the numbers look so far? Pretty poor to be honest.

For a household of 5, two adults and three kids, we're going to be spending more than ¢1200 this month, leaving us with a deficit of over ¢700. Can I put it on the credit card???

There will still be numbers for purchases, compost, rubbish & recycling, and fuel use to come in over the course of the month, but the big numbers, water and power use, are already in there, and they're huge! I thought we were doing fairly well given that I work out of home, one of the reasons for the big power bill I guess, that and the oversized off-peak water heater we were left by the previous owners, designed to fill the massive spa for lazy lounging in steaming bubbly water, a legacy of times before people considered the environment in advance of leisure time activities.

Still, there are surely ways to reduce this overall usage, even given the fact that we wont be spending up big on major changes due to the fact that we are hoping to move on sooner rather than later. Teaching the kids to turn off taps and lights properly would be a good start, and being more rigorous in turning off my computer would help as well. Until we get the power and water down then everything else is dwarfed in comparison. A bit like changing to compact flouro light globes and then driving to the corner shop four times a day.

Yesterday I potted on the elm seedlings we started last year. Eighteen tiny elm trees now in individual pots. They'll be grown on for another year before being planted out in one of the hedgerows-to-be out at the new farm. We've got six oaks begun at the same time that will go out this winter if I can organise some form of tree guards for them. I'll have to choose my month carefully for those, ¢900 back on the account would be nice! I'm leaning toward some recycled apple bins, knock the base out of them, and replace a couple of the boards on the north side with old netting, as well as slinging a bit it over the top. We've got a gully full of the stuff, ready to be recycled, so it seems like a carbon saving plan to me.

I love propagating trees, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, but we're faced with two challenges now that we have enough land to put in (almost) as many trees as we can imagine. Water and protection. Whilst the water is around, getting out to the block weekly during summer may be a challenge, though Mum has kindly offered to help out there, so one challenge may be surmountable. Hares and roos are the other challenge. There isn't much we can do about the roos, they're a part of the environment that we need to learn to live with, but the hares, well, we might be sampling a few new dishes in the coming months. I hear jugged hare is a winner.

I'm also working on some plans for a shed. I've recently come into possession of a large pile of steel that would be suitable for the roof spans on a nice shed. After spending some evenings over the weekend working up a suitable rough plan I did some costings. Then I compared those costs to some kit sheds that are available. I was in for a nasty shock. Even with the savings from all the steel, the major component of the cost of the shed will be cladding and roofing. Roofing alone would cost over $6 000, walling another $4 000, so changing the walling material is only going to reduce the cost to around $10 000, before the costs of fitting out for temporary accommodation. The kit shed costs around $10 000 complete (not including fitout for accommodation of course), with the added bonus of not needing to visit engineers to get it certified, and certainly enjoying an easier journey through the council gauntlet. We're not rushing into anything just yet, who knows, another couple of tons of steel could turn up, or a shed's worth of corrugated iron, but at this stage the sensible option would seem to be the kit shed. Now, what can I possibly use 20 odd curved spans of I-beam for?


green with a gun said...

Water use has very little Carbons cost. The big ones are power/gas, transport and food.

If you start buying wind power then that'll drop heaps in Carbons cost. It costs about 1/3 more, but some basic things can reduce power use by 1/2 on average.

Average Aussie household is 18kWh/day with 2.6 people, ours is 6kWh/day with 3. Of course there are economies of scale, like if the tv is on for an hour it entertains five people as well as one, same with lighting and so on. You know that Telstra advert where the whole family is all in separate rooms separately connected online and doing their own thing? Recipe for humungous power bill.

In my household, me and my woman made a deliberate decision to have our computers in the lounge. That was for family reasons not energy, so we'd make sure to be around to talk to each-other, not suddenly turn around and realise we hadn't spoken for days! But it has an energy payoff, too - one light instead of two, we each use our computers for less hours than we otherwise would, etc.

Anyway, you ought to be able to get your power use under 10kWh/day if you have gas cooking and water heating, if those are electric it's harder.

Maybe you need a $ budget as well as a Carbons budget, mate ;) To lessen the pain of the bills I find it's better to make partial payments as you go along. For example, our power bill is about $160 for three months, that's $12.30 a week - so I chuck $20 a week on it, by the time the bill comes that's $260, I'm $100 in credit. That's a hedge against a higher bill or a drop in income later. Same with gas and water, and of course my mobile is prepaid.

Geoff said...

We're currently running at 22kWhr/day, about half of that is for the excessive hot water service, and between 7 and 9kWhr of the other half is spent on the computer for work (and blogs etc ;-) )

The obvious easy solution would be gas boosted solar hot water, immediately wiping 10kWhr/day off the bill, the trouble with that is we're trying to sell this place and get the new one set up, and money isn't a renewable resource ;-)

Using a laptop in place of the desktop would make a big saving, down to 2.5 - 3kWhr/day, in theory, but the number of servers running off of it would slow it down to a crawl. Still, it will have to happen in the end, so I'll need to figure a way around that one, especially if we move to a RAPS on the new place.

It does seem a bit unfair to leave these carbon problems for the next owners to deal with, but the hope is that they'll be planning on staying here for a while, so will be happy to make the needed changes.