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a lot of light, a lot of savings

January 20, 2008

Very surely we’ve been trying to make our lighting in our house more energy efficient. Our foyer fixture has been on a dimmer for a number of years now, any new fixture we get has CFL bulbs in it, and old incandescent bulbs are being replaced with CFLs on a sporadic basis. There has been one light in the house that wasn’t being changed, and it was the one light that I really didn’t like: the 300W halogen ceiling fixture in my kitchen.
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automotive challenges I’d like to see

November 23, 2007

During my final year in university, I was a member of the University of Waterloo’s Propane Vehicle Challenge team. This was the second year for the Propane Vehicle Challenge, but the first year for the pickup truck category. The Challenge: convert a pickup truck to 100% propane fuel use, focusing on emissions, fuel economy, range, and driveablility. Our team received a Dodge Dakota V8 and competed against teams from across North America. It was a great experience, especially as we won the top prize, beating out the previous year’s champions despite being one of the least-funded teams competing.

The glow of past victory aside, I find myself asking, “Why did we bother?” Nothing any of the teams did was extraordinary technically. All teams used off-the-shelf propane fuelling systems, with only the fuel delivery side being customized by each team. The fuel tank shape was novel, but everything else about it was entirely standard. Essentially, the challenge came down to how we tuned our vehicles. Nothing any one team did could not have been accomplished by any other company or organization involved in the challenge. So what was the point of it all?
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it wasn’t the biodiesel

November 13, 2007

As it turns out, it was not biodiesel that was giving my New Beetle TDI issues. According to the dealer, there is a techical bulletin from Volkswagen on these vehicles that implicates a valve in the fuel system as the culprit. The small amout of gelling biodiesel may have simply prompted the valve to fail (causing fuel starvation, which I took as a gelled filter), but the vehicle was prone to that failure regardless of the fuel.

Now, I’m still nervous about using biodiesel in an unheated fuel system. The B100 I got actually turned solid below freezing, so it may have been (and likely was) produced from some pretty heavy feedstock (possibly tallow). All fuel is not created equal! So I’ll stick with petrodiesel for this winter, and consider any fuel heating modifications next spring/summer.

I still stand by my recommendations that you know how to change your fuel filter before you start using biodiesel, but rest assured that it was not biodiesel that was causing the vehicle troubles I’ve been experiencing.

more to learn about biodiesel

October 19, 2007

Updated Nov 13/07: It wasn’t the biodiesel’s fault, after all.

I’m going to come right out and admit that I am getting rather disillusioned with biodiesel. At the outset, I was very keen to have a diesel vehicle that could run on biodiesel without any modification, or even waste vegetable oil should I decide to modify the vehicle. Well, that enthusiasm has been pretty much drained, and I’m pretty much ready to put a hold on any further biodiesel use for a while. The most frustrating part of it all is that everything I’ve experienced is avoidable, however due to the fact that biodiesel isn’t mainstream yet, you pretty much have to find this stuff out on your own.

Well, learn from me. Some good has to come of it. If you’re considering biodiesel, please read on…
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what is “sustainable land use”?

September 16, 2007

The cohousing group I am a part of, Laurel Creek Commons is developing quite nicely. We’ve approved our Vision Document, and are sinking our teeth into a Mission Document, membership policy, and other big matters. However, one issue seems to loom large in all of our minds: location. Do we as a community want to locate ourselves in an urban/suburban area, or a more rural/agricultural setting? No small question.

My personal preference is to look for agricultural land. It provides us with room to grow as much food as we could possibly need in a post peak oil world (when it finally comes), first and foremost. It is also two orders of magnitude cheaper than urban land. Extra space will also allow us to become more energy-independent (if not entirely so) without worry of lot line restrictions or by-laws, not to mention the much smaller amount of solar exposure an urban lot gets as compared to a rural acreage.

Of course, those are not the only considerations to where to build. Land stewardship is part of Laurel Creek Common’s vision, and so we have to determine what is best for the land.
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air compressors at gas stations should be free

September 14, 2007

I’d noticed over the past few days that the tire on our other vehicle was looking a little soft. With the only inflating device I own being a bicycle pump (a really cheap one at that), and it being the vehicle that I drive the least frequently, there wasn’t much I could do about it until I could get it to an air compressor at a gas station. Well, what an eye opener that turned out to be.
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is fuel economy the right metric?

July 31, 2007

As I recently reported, I’m getting great fuel economy with my New Beetle TDI. Since starting my commute between Waterloo and Stratford late last year I’ve managed to improve my fuel economy from 8.0L/100km down to 6.5L/100km through driving style changes, and then down to 4.9L/100km by switching to a more fuel-efficient vehicle. It certainly seems like I’m heading in the right direction, but I’m not entirely convinced that’s correct. My fuel economy numbers are great right now – but is fuel economy the right metric to use?
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