Yesterday, we talked about whether replacing old but perfectly good and working appliances with new, more energy-efficient models made sense (see here). We crunched numbers to do with the "embodied energy" and environmental impact of the manufacture of the new appliances versus the amount of energy potentially saved.
[This just in: I majorly screwed up yesterday's calculations causing the embodied energies of the steel to be over estimated by a factor of five. Ugh. So sorry. The argument is not as straightforward as I had hoped and I will have to look into it more for the future. I'm afraid
I'm back, for now, to being unclear about the embodied energy versus
energy saved balance. Anyway, yesterday's post and its conclusions are, for
Today, I wanted to discuss what we've done in regard to appliances here in the household formerly known as No Impact (but still, hopefully, low impact).
I should start by saying that before we started No Impact, our little apartment contained the following appliances (I'll explain the numbers below):
- 46-inch, rear projection TV (1)
- TiVo box (1)
- Laptop computer (N/A)
- Under the counter fridge (4)
- Under the counter freezer next to the fridge (1)
- Food processor (0)
- Electric rice cooker (0)
- Blender (0)
- Air conditioner in the bedroom (4)
- Air conditioner in the living room (2)
- Electric dishwasher (4)
- Vacuum cleaner (6)
- Natural gas stove and oven (N/A)
- Laundry machine (10) and dryer (5) in the basement of our building and shared with 95 other other apartments.
During the course of the No Impact project, we turned the mains electricity off and put away or didn't use all of the appliances except the laptop computer and the gas stove. We powered the laptop from a single solar panel we sneaked onto the roof of the building in order to maintain this blog. We did our laundry by stomping it in the bathtub and hang drying it in the bathroom.
What I've done, for fun, is put numbers in parentheses above indicating, on a range from 0 to 10, how much we missed the particular appliance. 0 means I wouldn't destroy a snowball for the amount we missed this appliance, leave alone a planet. 10 means we missed this appliance so much that I believe we should we should find a sustainable way for everyone on the planet to have access to one.
Looking at the numbers, I gave the TV and TiVo box a 1 because once in a while we missed it, though overall we were and are happier without it. The fridge got a 4 because our food spoiled quickly in the summer, though it still wasn't terribly hard (just a bit like camping). As for the A/C, none in the bedroom made it hard to sleep a few nights. The dishwasher grade comes because Michelle dislikes washing dishes by hand.
As for the laundry machine's 10 rating, we hated washing our laundry by hand. It was long, hard work. Maybe if we had had different equipment it would have been ok. Trying to squeeze it dry particular bugged us.
Anyway, as a result, now that No Impact is over, here's what we still have or use:
46-inch, rear projection TV (1)
TiVo box (1)
- Laptop computer (N/A). I bought a second laptop computer (an Apple PowerBook, which I love) because the other one is on its last legs. I bought the computer second hand in an effort to save resources (and also saved $1800). Isabella gets to watch a couple of DVDs a week on the old computer.
- Under the counter fridge (4) We turned it back on, but we've adjusted the thermostat to keep food cool not cold. We still eat largely local and so buy our food frequently.
Under the counter freezer next to the fridge (1)It's still in the apartment but we haven't turned it on. Believe me, our tummies don't miss the Ben and Jerry's
Food processor (0)Given to thrift store.
Electric rice cooker (0)Given to thrift store.
- Blender (0) We never use it but couldn't, for some reason, part with it on the day we were taking things to the thrift store. Probably next time.
Air conditioner in the bedroom (4)Air conditioners were by far our greatest use of energy. The bedroom unit is the one thing that feels like a mild sacrifice, but one we're willing to make.
Air conditioner in the living room (2)
Electric dishwasher (4)We intended to use it but it died. We went out to buy another one but couldn't bring ourselves to do it. I don't believe that the water saved--hot or not--would equal the embodied energy. We have a flow restricter on our kitchen faucet (.38 gallon per minute).
- Vacuum cleaner (6) Cleaning the house is much easier with the vacuum cleaner and it doesn't use that much energy.
- Natural gas stove and oven (N/A)
- Laundry machine (10) and dryer (5) in the basement of our building and shared with 95 other other apartments. The laundry machine is the one appliance I believe makes the difference between a life of drudgery and not. If cars are the Devil, as I think they are, then laundry machines are God. Sadly, we use the dryer, too, because we find it hard in our 750 square foot apartment to hang dry with three people and a dog. I'm still hoping we might get back to hang drying.
Apropos of the question of replacing old appliances with more energy efficient versions, I can't bring myself to believe that, the way we operate our fridge, the embodied energy and impact would be recovered by the energy savings. As Vicki commented on yesterday's post:
"If it is broken and the repairman can fix it then he fixes it. If he just shakes his head then you buy a new one. Seems simple to me."
I just prefer the wear-the-old-one-out-first philosophy. It seems to me to have the most respect.
By the way, here's what some other sites have to say on these and related issues:
- Treehugger: Should I replace my old cooker and fridge
- Grist's Umbra: On replacing appliances
- Casaubon's Book: What to do with your appliances when you get over them
- Ecogeek on refrigeration systems that work by pumping cold air from outside
- Sietch Blog on seven ways to save water at home
- GreenOptions on using off the grid energy-saving principles while still on the grid
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