Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Keep on the Sunny Side

Illinois Solar Energy AssociationLast weekend I finally carved out the time to attend a seminar I've been meaning to for awhile sponsored by the Illinois Solar Energy Association that covered the technologies and applications of solar energy and wind energy, with information specific to Illinois. Since it was down in Pekin, I was able to get my brother to come over from Chambana and attend too. As an electrical engineer working on commercial projects and an interest in sustainable building, it was a natural fit. This was also curious timing as this was 2 days after the Summer Solstice.

The seminar was packed full of information and it was interesting to see how people from central illinois planned to try and go "off the grid" with their homes. Living in a rural area, they have a greater luxury of being able to harness wind energy by installing tall towers with hopefully little or no complaints from their neighbors. At least in theory anyway.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the seminar was the discussion of the economics involved, both from a cost-savings perspective (fixed rate for utilities) as well as from a valuation perspective. There was even a study from The Appraisal Journal cited! Anyway, the bottom line is that solar is both feasible and comparatively affordable to other home improvements, and can postively impact property values. We'll have to investigate this for Humphrey House.

Those in Chicago can learn more this weekend (June 23) for free at Taste of Chicago - Going Green Tent - Solar & Wind Energy Talk 2pm & 4pm. There is also a Chicago-based version of the Solar 101 and Wind 101 workshops offered in July.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Nothing says Summer like Rest(oration)

Things have been quiet lately as we settle into our completed renovations upstairs. It's so nice to rediscover little things. For example, our queen-sized bed seems infinitely more spacious in our new master bedroom than it did when we had it in a tiny room in the basement (with ductwork over our heads).

And it's nice to feel some of the design decisions we made pay off so well. With summer in Chicago, we've mostly just been using our second HVAC system to keep the second floor from becoming too hot, and just Powerzoning our basement's cold air to cool the main floor. This has held up pretty well so far, unless it gets really humid out, which saves us from using both AC systems.

Also our decision to incorporate Velux daylighting suntunnels in the converted attic makes it seem brighter and more open. These amazing 10" light sources keep us from using any lights almost all day long. All that electrical work for nothing! :-)

Jen and I have discussed delving into the next major project (kitchen remodel!), and decided to postpone this until fall. We'd like to spend 1 summer NOT in the middle of a major project, and actually get to enjoy it some.

But remembering that there is no "rest" in "restoration", we will still tackle some loose ends here and there. For example, the front porch is no longer a storage area, and I was finally able to hang the 2-seater swing we purchased 2 years ago.

Other projects on the horizon include wrapping up some loose ends upstairs (trim) and installing a floor for the tiny laundry room so we can move our washer and dryer up. And I'm also planning to disconnect some downspouts and install a rain barrel to conserve water, and slow-water our garden.