Excellent Design Creates Better Performance

Monday, January 24, 2011

Los Angeles resident Susan Carpenter spent 2 years of her life and thousands of dollars researching environmentally responsible home improvement options. With both time and money in mind, she reviews which upgrades are worth the effort, and which are not.
Her first place spot goes to gray water, which is the waste that comes from laundry, sinks and showers. Instead of going down the drain to the sewers, the water is recycled and used to water plants. Although the system cost nearly $2,000, including installation, it pays for itself very slowly, and it is easy and almost completely "hassle free." Users must double check their laundry detergents to make sure they do not contain salt. But after installation, this is the only daily maitenance necessary.
Second place goes to Solar Power. Photovaltaic panels on her roof both cover her electricity usage and allow for a monthly credit to her power bill. The downsides are that she is still tied to the power grid and susceptible to power outages, and the panels need occassional cleaning to allow for proper energy production. However, $6,000 is a reasonable price for panels that will last 20 years and pay for themselves.
Third place goes to rain barrels, which don't cost a lot and are very low in maintenance. Although each barrel is only able to hold 175 gallons of water, they reduce storm runoff into the ocean and provide water for thirsty plants. Water pressure is inconsistent, but worth the hassle for only $500 for 3 barrels and significant water savings.
Fourth place goes to Earth works, which involves altering the landscape around your house to prevent polluted rainwater from running into the storm drains and the ocean. By adapting your landscape, you are able to retain runoff water to replenish your groundwater. This system is maintenance free and an easy solution to diminish unnecessary pollution.
The first project that ended up not being worth the time, effort and money was the waterwall. It was very expensive and ended up not performing any better than the rain barrels. Edible landscaping also proved to be entirely too costly and time consuming for the average person to sustain. A composting toilet, though not absurdly expensive, was not a very practical solution to toilet water waste, and could be accomplished more conveniently by using low flow toilets and flushing less often. Raising chickens for eggs was also unsuccessful due to predatory animals in the area. Although they seem like an easy option for fresh, organic eggs, they require more vigilance than they are worth.
If you are looking to make changes to your life to become more environmentally responsible, but don't have the time or money for any of these daunting projects, Susan also offers up some cheap, easy and effective options. She recommends buying a clothes line instead of using a laundry dryer, changing your diet to include less meat and dairy, composting leftover foods, and reclycling to reduce your trash.

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