Friday, February 24, 2012

energy conservation

A small passion of mine has been to reduce the energy usage in our house.

Some background about our house.  It's pretty big for a wanna-be minimalist, around 2000 sq ft.  It was built in the 1960s with brick siding, but there is a 400ish sq ft addition that has wood siding.  Most (all?) of the windows are original with wood frames.  The smaller windows are single pane with storm windows and the bigger windows are double paned.

Last winter, we had Illini Home Improvements add insulation to the attic as well as to the walls of the crawl space.  That was expensive!  Since then, I have done a series of smaller things (plastic film over single pane windows for winter, caulk cracks, plastic covers for crawl space window wells, programmable thermostat), basically everything I can think of that costs nearly nothing.

The next steps will likely be a lot more expensive, so I need to do some cost-benefit calculations.

So, here is how we stack up with 100 of our nearest neighbors for gas usage during the last year:
Not bad (efficient neighbors are the top 20% (least usage))!  We're getting better!  For total energy usage (electricity + plus gas) last month, we ranked 13 out of 100.

I'm quite please considering our current conditions.  3 adults, 2 children (2 women, 1 man).  Jill and the kids are home much of the day.  I'm married.  That last one places a very hard limit on the thermostat temperature setting.

Big thanks to Ameren for starting this 'compare to neighbors' program.  I would love to visit the top 5 houses to see how they do it (and the top 5 worst users.  Hello, Al Gore wannabes!), but I can understand why this information is not available.

Finally, some updates about the kids.  Janny still has a single tooth.  She loves to walk while holding our hands and can do so with only one hand, but she hasn't walked on her own yet.  Nearly every other night she is sleeping straight from 10p until 8 am.  Clara often says, 'Let my do it.'  She loves Curious George.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Park City snow

I took no photos from my ski day at Park City Mountain, as I was alone for most of the day.  PCM added some trail names to runs in Jupiter.  My favorite spot is now called War Zone.  I sent an email suggesting an alternate name.  How about Overhang?  

I continue to look forward to the day when my nieces can ski the steeps with me.  I heard that they improved this week.

Jill and I snowshoed somewhere between Kamas and Mirror Lake.  For about half way up, we trudged along a well packed trail.  This was much appreciated because the snow was deep and I am far removed from high altitude acclimation.  The place was super crowded as we saw 4 other people during our 3 hour  walk.

 The local moose watering hole?
 We got to a local high point. Not the tallest peak around, but it felt like an accomplishment.

We visited the Park City museum on Friday.  I talked a while with Karl, one of the last living silver miners in the area (fun facts:  the 'rich' silver ore was 1.25% silver, or 25 lbs of silver for every ton of rock.  Dynamite was set off every 8 hours to break up the rock.  George Hearst, father of William Randolph, owned one of the mines.)  Karl has amazing hearing considering he was close to the explosives and also served as a spotter for a mortar group in Japan during WWII.

A final fun fact about PCM is that for a short time, mining cars took skiers up the hill through an underground  tunnel in Thaynes canyon.  At the top of the canyon, an elevator took them 1800' to the surface.  The ground level equipment is still there next to the Thaynes chairlift (final fun fact:  Thaynes has been a favorite run of mine, but I didn't get around to skiing it this time.  I almost feel bad, but Jupiter is so much nicer).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Park City trip

My side of the family took our nearly annual trip to Park City, Utah last week.  Not surprisingly, we had a fantastic time.  During my youth, I would ski every day with my dad.  This year the schedule went like this:  Sun: church and super bowl, Mon:  downtown Park City wandering, Tues:  skiing at Park City Mountain (Jill and girls went to Red Rock), Wed: Chad and Jill snowshoe, Thurs: indoor playground, Fri:  downtown wandering, Sat: back home.  We swam three times (Clara went into the big pool with cousin Anna on the 3rd trip) in the outdoor heated pool (no small amount of energy needed to heat said pool).

I was 2 years old on my first trip, exactly the same age as Clara this time around.  Unlike when I went, Clara and Janny had two older cousins to play with.  Clara and Erin demonstrate a surprising amount of attitude here.
We think Urbana should have an indoor playground.  However, the view from the wi-fi and big-screen equipped parents' lounge (to which a local deli will gladly deliver your sandwich) would not look like Monkey Moutain's.
 Clara and Janny had so much fun there.  We played for about 3 hours.

 On Friday night, we drove to Heber City to eat at Dairy Keen, the most insane kid-oriented restaurant I can handle.  They serve burgers and corn dogs along with shakes while a train circles the room along the ceiling.  Being Utah, most families have about a zillion kids and there are a zillion families at the Keen on a Friday night.
I was pretty sure that no one was allowed in the cockpit since 9/11, but Clara used her charm to claim the co-pilot's seat.  She also scored a whole bag full of peanut snack packs from the snack guy.  She thought that was the best thing ever until she learned that she was carrying peanuts.  Clara no likey peanuts.
In part 2, I'll show more pictures with snow.  Despite this being a relatively poor snow year, there was some fine skiing and snowshoeing to be had.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

working overtime

Recently, both girls have slept through the night on a few occasions.  My mind feels like it's coming out of a fog, and I'm not that impressed with myself.  I have done very little to develop friendships in the last year, and am now dealing with a bit of loneliness.  I was quite surprised by this discovery-- how can you be lonely if you spend all your free time with wife and kids?  A mystery of life I suppose.

The kids are getting the hang of life around the house.  Janny is involved in all household chores. 
 The girls can now take baths together.  Convenient and fun for all.
 Clara remains our star dishwasher.
 Janny is best at rearranging dishes in the dishwasher and checking for water spots.
Clara loves buses.  She regularly points to them and says 'Clara bus'.  So we took a bus ride last weekend.  We walked the half-block to the stop, waited 2 minutes, and got on the Red bus to the Champaign terminal.  Then we walked to Pekara where we happened to meet some friends and ate lunch together.  We had to wait 15 minutes at the terminal for the return trip, so we checked out the artwork.
Still the bike plus trailer is our primary means of getting around town.  After over 2 years of using the Burley trailer daily, the rivets for button snaps on the cover have broken.  Hopefully repair will be a snap.