Cool, Clear Water Not So Simple

April 8th, 2013


The cold, deep, fast running water is the healthiest as it harbors the fewest bad bugs and bacteria.

Hello Eco- Mom!
Please explain to me why leaving water running is bad! Fresh water is a limited resource; how does running it and using it end up ruining the fresh water?!
Love, Your Daughter

Hello Wonderful, Curious Daughter,
In order for water to get to your faucet it must first:

  1. Be pumped from  sewers, storm drains, resevoirs to a water treatment plant. Pumping takes lots of electricity
  2. That water must be filtered, stirred (again more electricity) and treated (lots of not so nice chemicals)
  3. Bad stuff from filtering must be lifted out, transported somewhere (more electricity and gasoline to transport to waste disposal site)
  4. Good treated water must again be pumped from the plant all around the city through the water mains (again more electricity)
  5. If you’ve used hot water, there is also the natural gas or electricity used to heat that water that is just going down the drain to no good purpose

20% of energy in the US is used just to pump, clean and filter water. Even if you pour clean water back into the drain it gets mixed up with the dirty stuff and has to be re-pumped and re-cleaned endlessly.


PS. Here’s a wonderful design concept to clean your water at home.


Going Solar: How going off-grid can and can’t help

February 13th, 2012

We installed solar electric in July 2007 in Northern California. When you install solar in PG&E territory you change from a residential customer to a commercial producer and receive a monthly accounting. As days become shorter and colder we use more electricity and we’re starting to eat into our summer surplus. Next July will tell if we properly projected our usage and size of our system. Real Goods Solar  (then operating as Marin Solar) did our installation and we are extraordinarily pleased with their service and work. We used Sunpower panels which, at the time, were the most efficient panels available.

Being an accountant, a cost-benefit analysis was a must. Being house rich and cash poor we took out a HELOC loan to pay for the system but our monthly payments are equal to our previous average electric bill. The previous 3 years electric bills increased annually an average of 12% so, just keeping the monthly payment the same  for the next 20 years will protect us from energy inflation.

Many of the Federal & State tax credits which allowed us an affordable system are no longer be offered but at least one utility CEO has gone on record as projecting that your own solar will be cheaper than the grid between 2014 and 2016 due to decreasing PV costs

I’ve been considering a solar battery charger to keep those pesky batteries on cell phones, iPods & cameras on ready call. Some research though is making me reconsider. The jury is still out on this decision.

Update, July 2011: PG&E, calculated our year-end discrepancy and we owed the equivalent of one to 1-1/2 month’s bill to them at year-end. This is mainly because much of the family decided that “since we have solar, it doesn’t matter how much electricity we use” – NOT! All being said, I think we calculated our optimal usage and number of panels appropriately. As the children move out of the house we should be able to run a surplus and sell back to PG&E under California Public Utilities Commission ruling on Net Energy Metering (NEM) .

We’re looking into solar thermal (hot water).  I understand it, there is great variation on recommended systems depending on what part of the country that you live in so read this \”Homeowners Perspective\”, based in the San Francisco Bay area, with that in mind. Search out solar hot water information based in your local area for the best info for you.