Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Apprehension sinks in - Bike Trip starts tomorrow.

I fly out to Washington state tomorrow morning to start my bike trip. I am very scared - just afraid of the unknown as I haven't done anything like this in about 30 years.

I will posting a journal on the best bike touring website -

My permalink is See you there.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Planning on a Bike Trip - that's green, isn't it?

I haven't been here much lately. I kind of got into "crafty" mode as opposed to "make my house more green" mode. I've been blogging on my other website - making little cardboard houses. Now truthfully, I make my houses out of cardboard that would be thrown away or possibly recycled so they are a little bit green.

The fairly green thing I am getting ready to do is go on a long bike trip on the west coast. Before I started my medical career I rode my bike across the country with my 16 year old sister. Now 40+ years later I am going to go cross country again only in a different direction. I am going north to south or SOBO (Southbound to borrow an phrase from the Appalachian trail) along the Sierra Cascade trail which parallels the Pacific Crest Trail through Washington, Oregon, and California. In this direction you start in Canada and ride to the California border with Mexico.

Because of scheduling constraints at my current job I am not able to leave until the end of September which may prove to be challenging. I will avoid the serious heat of the California desert but I will be riding during wildfire season and could conceivably run into snow. Also morning temps will likely be cool every single morning. Oh, and I miss the bugs - mosquitos specifically.

I hope to finish by the end of November because I will have to be at work on December 1st.

Anyway, I had not ridden a bike since I rode Cycle Oregon in September of 2013 so it has been a bit of a challenge getting back in shape. I have been very consistent with riding since I got my touring bike in few months ago. I haven't had big mileage weeks, but I have ridden hard rides (for me) in the mountains of NC.

My last ride was a doozy. It was only 42 miles but it was very hard. I got back to the car around 9PM after riding down the Greenville watershed (the most famous section of the bakery ride) almost in the dark. It was incredible. I was in my biggest gear pedaling the whole way downhill. I was also whistling because I didn't want to surprise any bears. Not that I've ever seen or heard of a bear on the ride, but most people aren't riding down at almost nighttime. I figured if there was going to be a bear on this road, this would be the time.

[Aside: Google bakery ride and see what comes up. One the first page, every reference save one refers to the Greenville bakery ride. It is a phenomenal ride.]

This ride was not strictly speaking the bakery ride but it did include a large section of it.

Anyway, I really look forward to my bike tour and I am training hard. I hope to update some more information on this site, such as my home energy usage and plans for the future energy upgrades on my house and my family's houses, but that won't happen very soon because of the work required for my bike tour.

Rather than post my bike touring journal here, I think I will blog about my trip on a great website for bike touring And if you want to read one of the best cross country journals ever written, read Dan Schiemdt's journal "Looking for America". He's finished his tour but not his journey. He's driving a friend's car back from Oregon so he's still blogging a little. His journal will make you want to hop on your bike and ride away.

That's what's going on now. I will not ever totally abandon this blog, though I will not be updating like I did when we were in the midst of building an energy efficient house. Unless somehow, somebody gets me involved in building another energy efficient house. I would love that.

Take care everybody.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

October 2015 Energy Usage - Still Good

I know I haven't been posting here much lately. I am still in crafty mode. That will change substantially after Christmas. I've got to get a new kitchen done in Kathy's house, then it's time to work on new kitchen at my house as well. Both kitchens will be gutted to the studs because I want to insulate and air seal the outside walls better. One rate limiting step is that my brother will be making the cabinets. The good news about that is that I will get really nice custom cabinets for a very low price (in my house the only cost will be materials and the cost of John's co-worker, Mike). The bad news is that he has to make them on his weekends off which takes a LONG time. It's ok though, because I'm not speedy about the stuff I do either. Several of my little cardboard Halloween houses took a month to do.

Ok, so here is the excellent report on my October energy use from Duke Energy.

Ok, remember my sister and brother-in-law moved out at the very end of September last year so this graph shows my energy usage with only me (and my animals - 6 cats, 1 dog) in the house. I put a continuous layer of insulation in my attic that adds up to about R-20. I also air sealed fairly well up there. That's the only change from last October. 

The insulation at this time only goes between the attic joists so I do have thermal bridging from wood joists. The plan is to add a substantial amount of cellulose on top of the current batt insulation when I beef up some of the roof framing. I don't know when that will happen, but I plan to have it done well before next summer. 

I am often amused at the suggestions Duke Energy lists to make your house more efficient. Usually I've done these suggestions long ago as in choosing an Energy Star washing machine.

I don't consider this month's recommendation for spray foam insulation amusing, however. I also don't understand the current fascination with spray foam as insulation as noted in this month's report. It has so many significant drawbacks that I would never consider it as an insulation material. 

The serious disadvantages are:
1. Cost - very expensive insulation
2. Flammable - it's highly flammable (
reaching flashover conditions in 44 SECONDS as opposed to cellulose which did not reach flashover conditions after 15 minutes.
3. Oil product - it's made from oil rather than some much more environmentally friendly material such as cellulose
4. High Global Warming Potential - known as GWP. That means that the gases it gives off as it cures contribute to global warming far more than regular carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels
5. If not installed properly at the right concentration and temperature, it can give off aggravating fumes that can make a home if not unlivable, certainly very unpleasant. 

Here are some articles about spray foam insulation and why to avoid it.

2. National Fire Protection Association Testing of Various Types of Insulation in Wall Assemblies - NFPA286 2006 testing You tube video

3. 475 High Performance Building Supply has several articles on avoid foam insulation and why it is important to do so. 

4. Green Building Advisor article on lawsuits against spray foam manufacturers

There are multiple questions on the Green Building Advisor website from consumers who ask what to do about the problems they have had with spray foam insulation.

Well, that's it for today. I will continue to post on this blog, just not so much during craft season (where I post mostly on my other blog -

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

August 2015 Energy Reports

I haven't been doing much stuff on my house because I am still building my little cardboard houses for the Head Start Fundraiser.

I do have my most recent energy report from Duke Power for August 2015. And John brought me his report as well. It's kind of interesting the comparison because we use almost exactly the same amount of energy. I'll talk about that in a minute.

This is my report for August. Still doing very well. We are still very much in hot summer mode, still requiring air conditioning frequently. I am very interested to see what will happen in the winter with my improved insulation though I have probably 2 months before I will use any heat.

The chart shows things better than the graphic above. You can see that I am WAY down from last August but there were 3 people living here at that time.

Ok, so here is John's report from his new highly insulated house. My house is about 2000 sq ft and I think his is about 1300 sq ft.

So why did he use almost exactly the same amount of electricity as me? Well, he keeps 3 TVs plugged in while I have none. My computer and router are on power strips that are turned off when I am not using them. But most importantly, he keeps his house at about 65 degrees all summer where I pretty much only use the AC at night to sleep and I turn it down to 74. When I am cooking I may turn on the AC for a little while, mostly to combat humidity.

Ok, so here is John's energy chart for the past year.

John did not move into his house until the middle of September 2014. We were over there a lot in August and September painting, doing the floors, but no one was actually living there so that explains why his energy usage is higher for this August and September. John asked me why his electricity usage was higher than the energy efficient homes in January through March. It took me a second to figure it out - his all electric house is being compared to NON-ELECTRIC homes for heating. We'll have to call Duke Energy and get him in the right category.

That's it for now. I finish my fundraising project in early October, then it is back to air sealing and insulating more on my house.

Thank you for reading.