The Cool House: eco
Showing posts with label eco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eco. Show all posts

Monday, November 08, 2010

Draught free

I had to ask the help of the twitterverse and facebook so I could write this quick post. Thanks Jenni for the correct answer and Heidi for making me spill my drink.
Yesterday while I was screwing up the last socket plate in the mud room/back hall I noticed a howling draught coming from under the garage door. Since the hardwood was installed and a new bullnose on the garage steps there has been a small gap that we hadn't noticed until now. Apart from the draught I didn't want our energy bills to increase so we needed to find a solution pronto. That's when I realised that "draught excluder" is British English and the locals had no idea what I needed. I was offered weather stripping that goes around windows and even a stuffed dachsund. It was also suggested I roll up a towel and stuff that in front of the door - great for when the door is closed, not so good when I've left in the car and there's no one to put it back in place after me!
Anyhow, after weighing up the options I had a Eureka moment and remembered I'd seen a metal strip with rubber attached in the back of the book closet and I wondered if we could screw it to the underside of the door rather than the bottom as a "draft stop". The answer was we could and, even better, it fitted perfectly. Hey presto, no more draught - in the nick of time for this morning's hail/sleet/snow/howling wind weather extravaganza. I have since learnt this strip is called a door sweep, I call it magic.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Good for another 25

Another CFL downlight blew in the kitchen last week. They are supposed to last 5 years but we have averaged 18 months, not really good enough considering the price ranges from 5 to 9 bucks a pop. I was so mad I decided we were going to try the Cree LED lights I posted about here, which come as bulb and housing in one piece. They are reputed to last 25 years - far longer than I expect to be living in the US, let alone this house - and take no more than a few minutes to swap with the old cans. We set out to buy one as an experiment - if the unit was as easy to install as the video promised we'd replace them all. By sheer good fortune, we found out Home Depot is having an eco-friendly sale so those $50 lights were only $35 each. If the trial LED fit, I'd go back and buy the other thirteen.

We watched the video, read the enclosed instructions, turned off the power and went for it. The old housing had a plate we had to take out, and The Guy had to undo the wires to take it off but that was the only scary part of the process. He scewed the new housing on to the old socket, pushed the unit up until it clicked in place. Then we turned on the power and stood by. Unlike the other LED lights I bought for the mudroom the Cree Ecosmart are instant on and have a nice bright light. The best thing is that bulb is enclosed behind a diffuser so that lightbulb isn't noticeable. We were sold.

The most difficult part of the LED downlight changeover? Getting our hands on fourteen light bulbs. It took four trips to three different Home Depots in two counties to garner all thirteen.

I delivered the first nine home and by the time I got back with the final four The Guy had walked the dog and installed all the downlights. All. By. Himself. No drama, no emergency call for help. Who is this chap and what has he done with The Guy?

Twenty minutes later we had three piles of trash - plastic, cardboard and original plates and a kitchen with one-style eco-friendly lighting.

Thanks to Cree Lighting and The Guy we can enjoy a maintenance-free lighting system in the kitchen and see what we are doing without getting overheated... like painting the walls and ceiling!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

LED Downlights

I was wandering through the eco-friendly section of the lighting department of Home Depot the other day in search of a replacement bulb for the recessed cans in the kitchen when I spotted something new - LED downlights from Philips. Normally I'd be the first one to jump on an eco-friendly upgrade (which is why I have 6 different bulbs in my kitchen - all different lumens and kelvins) but the price made me choke. The Philips Ambient LED was pennies short of $70. To do the job properly I should replace all 14 lights in the kitchen, plus the three in the mud room/corridor, which would cost ::GASP:: well over a thousand bucks.

When I got home I started to look around for other LED manufacturers and found one Cree Lighting that offers an Ecosmart bulb for an affordable $50. The company claims each bulb will save $300 over its lifetime and that lifetime should be a long 35,000 hours or approximately 30 years. They are basically telling me I'd never have to change a lightbulb again. And the video shows how simple it would be to install.

What do you think? Obviously no one can test the veracity of the claim to the longevity of these bulbs but has anyone out there tried these LED lights? Is the Easy White color as natural as they claim? Is there a reason they are twenty dollars cheaper than the other brands? I'd really like to have the lighting issue in the kitchen sorted once and for all but I can't justify spending such a huge amount of money on a promise.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

11-Year-Old Draws for Gulf Relief

11-Year-Old Draws for Gulf Relief.
Anyone who doubts the impact that ordinary people can have should click the above link to see the interview with Olivia Bouler and her family that aired last night on the Assignment America segment of the CBS news with Katie Couric.

Visit Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations to help too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sustainable Energy vs Fossil Fuels

Just over a year ago I wrote this post about a sustainable beach house in the process of being constructed on Long Island's beautiful south shore. With the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on everybody's mind right now it seemed the most appropriate time to re-visit the project and ask what measures we can take - and by "we" I mean residents, homeowners, architects and designers - to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while continuing to enjoy abundant heat, light and electricity.

Built by Bouler Architecture, the house at Oak Beach received the highest energy rating on Long Island. With its geothermal system, photovoltaic solar panels, white EPDM roofing material and use of passive solar techniques - basically careful placement of windows and roof-lines to shade the sun in summer and heat it in winter - it has been performing at a far more efficient level than predicted. Even in the short, sunless winter days the house was producing electricity.

For the moment these "green" technologies incur a greater initial cost than power derived from carbon but they have irrefutable and overriding benefits. Using renewable energy sources, wind or solar, means less pollution of the air and water, and as we have experienced since April, when a disaster occurs in the extraction of oil or gas, the cost to wildlife and the local economy can be devastating.

For more on this sustainable project click on over to Bouler Design's blog where I guest-blogged today.

To help the wildlife affected by the BP oil spill visit Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations

Friday, May 14, 2010

Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations

It's seems odd to me that some people blame natural disasters on other people's lifestyle - or even their dress - and point to this as God showing his displeasure (anger of the gods always struck me as an pagan concept, ironic that it's much touted by "people of faith") while man-made disasters don't seem to incite the same rhetoric from the fundamentalists.
But enough with the negativity, there's a crisis going on in the Gulf of Mexico and other people are doing what they can to mitigate the environmental impact of the oil spill including one 11 year-old Long Island schoolgirl, who with the support of her family, is raising money to save wildlife by drawing birds for donors to various environmental charities. That's my Greater Crested Tern up top. Thanks Olivia!
Support Olivia's project to make a difference here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The big bed bust or the super kitchen table steal deal

The DWR Annexe sale in Secaucus last weekend had plenty of bargains - there were lots of King-sized beds on sale, including the Matera that I loved, and all these tables that I've previously considered to replace our cafe kitchen table were substantially reduced. Not that we were looking for tables on Saturday but we were there and they were there, so...

This oval Saarinen had a black marble (Nero) top, too dark for our house - and we decided too big

This round Saarinen had the white Carrera top but it was the same size as the present kitchen table - too small

I was leaning towards the Matthew Hilton Cross table but it was only available in bleached oak - too light

The Warren Platner table that I didn't even consider because The Guy had vetoed it a few years back. The same Guy who called me across the room as I was checking the beds out. He had his whole hand on it and I think he would have licked the top if anyone other than a salesperson had come near him. He wasn't going to give it up. What could I say? It's the right period (1966), right shape, unique, classic, eco-friendly (Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified) and Warren Platner worked with Raymond Loewy just as Andrew Geller had done. Bonus - it has exactly the right dimensions for the kitchen. SOLD!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Framed Up

Recycled picture frame ceiling - an exercise in colorful creativity, and thinking outside the box - from a house built using other peoples' trash. Recycle, repurpose, reuse taken to a whole new level. From the New York Times.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Green Beach House

The first full day of summer 2009 is the date homeowner Jill Kornman has set to be lounging on the porch of her newly-built green beach house. The determination she shows to finish construction in the next six weeks is a tribute to her vision, the design plan of architects Bouler Design Group and the skill and dedication of her team of builders.

Situated on a strip of land where the Atlantic Ocean meets Long Island's Great South Bay, the house with its geo-thermal heat pump, solar panels, extra insulation, and use of green building materials, is a premier example of sustainable architecture. I've been following its progress since I first heard that BDG was building a modern house with a zero carbon footprint in Oak Beach, NY. I was lucky enough to be invited by Creative Advisor Nadine Bouler (seen here on the right with Jill on the left) to see the house at 90% complete.

BDG worked with the owner to create an energy-efficient beach house that fits the scale of the surrounding properties on this barrier beach. Although the house has a unique design, traces of the original cottage can still be seen in the north side of the building - in the remains of the screened-in porch, the arches and of course the ubiquitous shingles.


Superimposed upon the original footprint are two soaring towers. One of these, with its tapered walls and clerestory windows, gives the playroom/library/zen retreat (the purpose hasn't yet been finalised) the feel of a monastery within and a lighthouse outside - and superb views of the bay to the south, east and west.

Facing south the angled roofs are covered in EPDM, a non-polluting synthetic rubber roof that will support enough solar panels to provide for all the electrical needs of the 2000 sq ft house. Naturally the design of the house takes full advantage of the beautiful site. Huge sliding glass doors with transoms above allow 180 degree views of the ocean to the south, while to the east a wall of windows will flood the house with light at sunrise. But Jill goes that extra mile: mindful of the aesthetics of the building and the surrounding shore, she is having the power lines seen in this photo re-routed underground.

Although most of the finishes are chosen: polished concrete floors with inset stone though out the house; reclaimed white oak treads on the staircase and bamboo on the barrel ceiling in the living room, some have yet to be finalized, including the kitchen cabinets and guest bath. All are sustainable, but perhaps the best examples of environmentally-friendly fixtures are the banister posts made from reclaimed pilings.

Jill has been hands-on throughout the process. She interviewed several architects before finding one she believed truly shared her dream of building green and she's been able to keep a close watch on the construction, renting the house next door while her dream house is built. She chose BDG because they believe in efficient design; building smarter, not necessarily bigger, houses. For more information on the Oak Beach house and other sustainable designs visit the Bouler Design Group website.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Green Kitchens

Maybe it's Spring, maybe it's the Zeitgeist that reflects an era of environmental awareness, but green kitchens are all over the style magazines. Some are green in colour, others manufactured to "green" principles, but all appeal to me. Once I'd have worried that picking such a strong color could quickly feel dated but these kitchens are so fresh and modern I think they'll go the distance.

Andy and Karen Lacey, the UK based designers behind retro children's furnishings collection Olli & Lime, shared their appropriately lime green kitchen with Design Public's Hatch blog. The kitchen pairs bright green cabinets with soothing grey concrete counters. It may be tiny but it's very efficient - when everything is within reach you edit your kitchenware down to the indispensable, and you limit your movements, too. Small is gorgeous!

UK design magazine wallpaper* features another compact kitchen, this time in Hunter Green, in their May issue, styling it with abundant herbs and vegetables. Hunter Green has long been a standard in British kitchens, with AGA stoves to cook on (and warm your house) that have been available for decades but this takes the deep colour to the rest of the kitchen.

Bon Appetit magazine showed an award-winning eco-friendly kitchen from Arclinea San Diego that pairs chartreuse green (they call it Papaya Yellow) cabinets with stainless steel counters and all the bells and whistles you could possibly want from a kitchen.

Think green cabinets are too modern for your traditional house? Check out this pantry that's part of a "green" article over at The Kitchen Designer blog. It's sure to change your mind.
What do you think of the green kitchen trend? Strikingly beautiful and sure to stand the test of time or too reminiscent of the seventies avocado nightmare?
This post is part of Friday's Hooked on Houses blogfest

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kohler Save Water America

Do you know how many gallons of water you use every time you flush the toilet? Take the quick quiz on the Kohler website and they will donate $1 in water-saving products to Habitat for Humanity for every household that enters. Save water, build America.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Recycle, reuse, resent and refuse

A little gem from the local market.
As I handed the cashier my cloth bag he said he knew it was Earth Day because a lot of shoppers had been using their bags today. "Everyone's saving the planet" he said.
Everyone it would seem except the adjoining cashier who whined "But I like plastic bags"..........
"Why?" I asked "because you can use them to line wastepaper baskets at home? Or because you can re-use them?"
"I just like them"
Rather than bang my head against the wall, I'm off to throw this morning's coffee grounds under the rhododendron bushes. Micro-composting, good for the planet, good for my yard.
But here's some environmental information for anyone else still clinging to their bright, new, shiny plastic bags.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lovely Lulworth

We changed the fitting on the lamp I got on ebay so it could take the spider fitting on the Mibo Lulworth shade but I think it's not quite right. While I love the drum shape and the pattern, the shade really needs to be an inch or two lower at the bottom to cover the fitting. Rats. There's nothing I can do about it until I feel strong enough to tackle the shade shops out in the real world.

On the plus side, though, the 75 watt CFC light bulb provides enough light to illuminate the whole of that side of the kitchen so we no longer have to switch on the five floodlights in the ceiling. Think of the money we must be saving. Each of those spots is between 60 and 100 watts. Ka-ching. And one measly little energy-saving bulb lights it better (light shines out the top and bottom of the shade) and doesn't scorch the top of your head either. Who knows, maybe we'll save enough to be able to buy a Mibo lamp base for the Lulworth shade?