Celebrating Earth Day With An Energy Audit of the Studio

I have been celebrating Earth Day since 1989. In 1990 my university room mate and I sold organic cotton t-shirts with hand painted images to celebrate Earth Day. We sold them in the quad at Bishop’s University while wearing Teva sandals, ripped jeans and a smile.

20 years later, to mark Earth Day in 2009 I undertook an energy audit of our home and the attached 1200 sqft. photo studio. The audit results were favourable for a wood frame house built in 1986. The auditor was surprised to report that our building is very well insulated and has very efficient windows and heating. In our mountain climate cooling is done by mother nature.

The auditor made a list of recommendations for improving our efficiency and we have committed to increasing the building’s efficiency by at least 10%, a considerable goal since the house is already in the high efficiency range for it’s age and type of construction.

Here is a list of upgrades so far:

  • replaced incandescent bulbs with CFL’s
  • started washing about 50% of our dishes by hand
  • use only cold or warm/cold water in the washing machine
  • connected our electronics to power bars so we can eliminate phantom power consumption
  • installed solar powered outdoor lighting that turns off after a couple of hours

Here’s a list of the big savings

  • we unplugged our deep freeze
  • we unplugged an old bar fridge
  • we installed a high efficiency condensing boiler to heat our water and the entire house
  • we added insulation to the pipes that carry heat to our radiators
  • we actively control the passive solar heating of our South facing glass walls
  • we draft proofed both overhead doors and the double man doors to the studio
  • we draft proofed all of the exterior doors of the house
  • we added curtains to our very large windows so we can shut out the sun during the summer and keep in the heat during the winter
  • we programmed the thermostats in every room according to our use of each room
  • we added insulation to light switches and electrical outlets to stop drafts
  • framed and drywalled an unfinished skylight in the studio that let cold air from the attic in while let our heated air out the roof vents

Next Steps

  • investigating the addition of solar water heaters for our domestic hot water and possibly for our hydronic heating system
  • investigating the addition of a wind turbine
  • applying for a permit to sell excess electrical power from the wind turbine back to the energy grid
  • replacing two 13 litre toilets with 6 litre toilets

The recent issue of Dwell Magazine listed about 50 things we can do to become more efficient in our living. Surprisingly our family and this studio were already doing all but one of the suggestions. Most of the suggestions seem obvious and none of them require drastic lifestyle changes. As we make changes and become more efficient in our use of resources I’ll post updates here.

Comment with the energy efficiency improvements made at home or workspace.

All images and text Copyright 2009 Brett Gilmour

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If you would like to reproduce any part of this article written permission is required, contact Brett Gilmour Photography and we’ll be happy to provide it along with hi-res imagery for any print or magazine requirements.

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