Friday, October 24, 2014

Are You Up on Your R-Value?

A general rule of thumb for making home an energy efficient place is, simply put, to keep from letting said energy go to waste. A great way to do this? Insulate thoroughly from top to bottom.

There is a lot of technical information and specific terminology to take into account when insulating, so a home-insulation project can range anywhere from a complete DIY to something better left for a professional installer, but one key player you’ll want to get to know is R-value.

R-value is a measure of resistance (R) against heat transfer, or how well the material keeps heat from passing through. Heat, or thermal energy, travels by way of conduction, convection, and radiation. It’s important to take all three methods into account when insulating, but R-Value represents conduction, by and large. The higher the R-Value, the better the material insulates, the smaller the rate of conduction – less thermal energy passing through your house.

Are You Up on Your R-Value?

Adding R to Your Home

Most homes look solid, but in reality there are countless tiny holes and cracks that wind and cold can creep into, so there’s always room to insulate. There are a number of factors that determine what R-value to use, and where, in your home. If you dwell in a colder climate, you’ll want a higher R-value. The type of heating and cooling system you use, along with what part of the house you plan on insulating, play into the R-value you’ll need.

Types of insulation

The older the home, the more important it is to increase R-value. Modern homes typically have R-19 wall insulation and R-30 roof insulation, but upping the R-value even more is an energy-saving trick that will pay for itself within a few years. To determine if you need insulation of a higher R-value, start by finding out your current insulation situation. A home-energy auditor can provide a thorough energy assessment to help locate insulation, figure out the R-value, how to improve, and can also identify where you could afford to install air sealing, moisture control, and implement other energy-saving strategies.

Particularly important areas of the house to insulate are the ceiling, attic, windows, basement walls, and the area between the basement and bottom floor (get rid of those cold kitchen tiles once and for all!). High R-value insulators are bulky materials like fiberglass, cellulose, and foam boards.

Efficiency Made Easy

Doing a whole insulation makeover can be time-consuming and pricey, depending on the project, so if now isn’t the best time to start such an undertaking, there are plenty of smaller-scale ways to keep your thermal energy where it belongs and revel in all that efficiency:

  • The seal around your window frames breaks down over time – caulk it back into shape!
  • In a similar vein, the molding around your bathtub breaks down due to age and mildew, resulting in cracks that air loves to pass through. Caulk that up, too!
  • Wrap older, tank-style water heaters with an insulation blanket, available at your local hardware store.
  • Seal doors with draft excluders. They are cheap to buy and easy to make!
  • Insulate the gap between electrical outlets and drywall with expanding foam.
  • Cellular shades act as an insulating barrier between the window and the room, effectively reducing heat transfer.
    Cellular shades act as an insulating
    barrier between the window and the room,
    effectively reducing heat transfer.
    Windows have a drastically lower R-value than walls do. The difference is like sleeping under a down feather comforter or sleeping under a tarp! There are several types of insulating shades out there, like EcoSmart Shades, that greatly reduce heat transfer and can give your windows an additional R-4.7!

Once you start researching how to insulate your home, it’s sort of like opening Pandora’s box. For every part of the house, there are several various solutions. The trick is to figure out what you currently have, get a sense of where you want to go from there, and let R-value be your guide.

Images courtesy of Make It Right, SUPWINCO, and EcoSmartShades

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vegan Recipes - Halloween Treats

Vegan Recipes - Halloween Treats

Witches and Goblins and Monsters ...

Oh My!

All Hallows' Eve is approaching.

Vegan Recipes - Halloween Treats

Soon the streets will be crowded with little ghouls and ghosts, creatures of the night looking for treats.

Vegan Recipes - Halloween Treats

What's scarier than a graveyard at night?

The list of ingredients on common Halloween treats!


This year, how about opting for healthier, vegan treats? Here are some of my favorite, creepy yummies:

Follow Sml's board Vegan Halloween Treats on Pinterest.

Maybe your "tricksters" would enjoy these delicious cupcakes (click on the photo for the recipe):

Vegan Recipes - Halloween Treats
Pumpkin Spiced Cupcakes with
Maple Cinnamon Butter Cream Frosting

I'll end this post with some things to ponder:

Vegan Recipes - Halloween Treats

Question: What was the witch’s favorite subject in school?

Answer: Spelling!

Vegan Recipes - Halloween Treats

Question: When does a skeleton laugh?

Answer: When something tickles his funny bone.

Vegan Recipes - Halloween Treats

Question: Why was the jack-o-lantern afraid to cross the road?

Answer: It had no guts!

What's your favorite Eco-friendly, vegan Halloween treat?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW) - Small Things

Welcome to Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW)!

Wondering how to live greener? You've come to the right place. Each week we challenge ourselves to try a new task ... or "amp up" something we're already doing. We raise our awareness, learn from each other and develop Eco-friendly skills which will improve our lives and protect our planet. Doing so together gives us power ... the power to Change The World!

If this is your first visit, please click HERE for information and a complete list of all the challenges we've taken on so far.

This post contains great information and I encourage you to read through it at your leisure ... however, if you are short on time, you might find the following quick links helpful:

Last week proved that green living is often about making a small change. We fine tuned our computers to make our monitors run more efficiently. I have a laptop which runs on a rechargeable battery. Resetting my power saver settings, by just a little, had grand results. My battery lasted most of the day rather than just a couple of hours. That means that I recharged it far less often and saved electricity. Even if your computer comes with pre-set power saver settings, you can save a lot by adjusting them just a bit.

The Honor Society are those people who help us spread the "green" word by writing an article about our challenges and/or leaving pertinent comments.

Argentum Vulgaris was out watching nature last week. He found a creature which took him some time to identify. It's beautiful! He also shared his technique for saving energy via the computer monitor. You'll find all that, and more, by clicking HERE.

One of our previous challenges discussed needs versus wants. Laurel wrote an interesting post about travel and whether it's necessary or not. Her conclusions might surprise you. That post is entitled "Travel: Is It a Want or a Need?". She also wrote Monitor, What’s a Monitor? You might want to bookmark that post because it could come in handy for this week's challenge.

Lisa joined us and said this: "Thanks for featuring my post! Another great challenge this week. Simple steps make a difference!"

Mrs. Green accepted our challenge and shared this: "I'm so excited about this challenge SF, because it just goes to prove how EASY being green can be. This is the simplest challenge for anyone to take part, for sure! I'm having a little brag about the desktop I have - I bought it earlier this year and am so pleased with some of its eco credentials ;)" Wow, Mrs. Green ... your new computer is awesomely green!

Clare has no problem with her monitor but knows some folks who do: "Done (I'm a bit obsessive about it) but I've forwarded the challenge to my hubby and friends - perhaps someone other than me can change their minds! :-) Thanks Small!" So I'm curious, Clare ... did your husband and friends make a change?

This edition of Shopping Charity included my tweet of a CTWW article. Was it yours?

Marc Zazeela stopped by and kicked this challenge up a notch. He said, "How about reading a book instead of a monitor? Books don't use any power at all. And they don't break if you drop them."

Mary accepted the challenge and said this: "This is a great challenge! It's simple enough to lower your screen's brightness a few notches! Thanks for sharing this!"

Our Twitter friends joined the conversation and shared the following:

From @GiveTreeGifts
- I adjusted screen tone on my monitor long ago - both to save my eyes and to save power.

From @artysmith2
- Wednesday's #quote "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." Unknown

The #CTWW Gang are those folks who tweet our challenges using the hashtag #CTWW. If you're a Twitter member, I recommend following them ... they share great things. Let's meet them:

@2kidsandacoupon @allcollegeplan @almosttruth
@andreaptak @artbysandra @artysmith2
@aussiemoose @backyardforest @bananagrabber3
@beatepdx @bethcooperart @biculturalmama
@bulla_adriano @cannyhighlander @cellomomoncars
@charismayoonyh @climately @climately_news
@climatelycheryl @clothaddicts @collegegogreen
@comusetravels @corneliagracchi @csevenm_uk
@debsmikdav1 @dieselelephants @disssnippets
@ecoexpert1 @emmywinnermoses @etsyrecyclersgt
@factorydpromos @familyfocusblog @fleurdeb
@foggybottomgal @forloveofadog @freshcleanersaz
@geisheker @ginavalley @givetreegifts
@goldforestgrain @greenglobaltrvl @greenqueenofmod
@groovygreenlivi @herbgir1972 @homesustainable
@indiapaleale35 @justanotherhat @kaitlingarder
@kayhahn1 @kindlesgalore @kriswetherbee
@krmbalclothing @laalicia @ladyjcmuses
@laurelhounslow @looseseal27 @luthienthye
@marjoriemcatee @momsmadhousex6 @myzerowaste
@mzazeela @nolafusion @parker83591697
@rainbojangles @ramradasukonsar @rckweddings
@realityarts @romerojewelers @sfcouncil
@sjoecable @solaradvocate69 @solarkoala16
@solarkoalatweet @spafloating @suppressthis
@sxycowgirl @tamlanding @theworld4realz
@treesgroup @turningclockbac @tweetformoolah
@uasource @urban_mining @wasteeguru
@wastejobs @wencdj @whopaysthepiper

My Final Thoughts:

Changing the power settings on our computers took mere minutes to accomplish. While there was a potential for each of us to conserve a little energy, there was a huge potential if a whole bunch of us make the change. There are two lessons here. 1) Small actions make a difference and 2) together we can have a huge positive impact. Pretty good return on a small investment of time.

Thanks, everyone! If you wrote an article, I Stumbled, Tweeted, Facebooked and posted it on Google +. You can help spread the "green" word by using the share features located below this post.

This Week's Challenge:

Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW) - Small Things
Straws = A lot of waste
Last week we saw how a small thing can make a difference.

So how many more little actions could we take to live greener?

That's the question ... and the challenge. Here you go ...

This week, search your life for a small difference you can make. Need some ideas? Try these:
  • Don't use a disposable straw ... either drink directly from a glass or use a reusable straw.
  • Use one less square of toilet paper per visit. Some CTWW participants use no more than 6 squares ... can you do better?
  • Turn off a light, or appliance, which you normally leave on.
  • Add a living plant to your home and improve air quality.
  • Go meatless for at least one day this week.
  • If you're used to taking baths, take a shower instead. And if you're used to showers, reduce the duration of yours by at least one minute.
The idea, this week, is to dig real deep and do one more small thing which you're not already doing ... or to amp up something which you are doing (like eat vegan if you're already eating vegetarian).

Are you ready to search out the small things? I know that you are!

Until next time ...