State of the Ecoplex

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I am feeling good about things lately – maybe because my bathroom is finally (after over 2 years) not in a state of major construction. I feel like I have come far and have all the time in the world to accomplish all the things on my mental to do list. And I feel happy and comfortable in my life and where I am. The daylight must be returning (5 extra minutes a day!)

Currently, my dad is renting one of my upstairs efficiencies – which is wonderful! It is so good to have beloved family under the roof. The other efficiency has a wonderful new tenant, and because of this the chicken coop has three new hens! The downstairs 2 bedroom is about to turn over. The incoming tenant there is also lovely, and will be house hunting which allows me to hurry up and finish cosmetic upgrades to the main floor two bedroom. That will allow my son and I to rent it out and move downstairs (where the guts of the building are – water shut-off, heater, pumps, etc – really should be the landlord’s unit!).

So what’s been accomplished since purchase of the ecoplex in October 2008? Much of this is a repetitive list for those of us who have followed along, but I’m a western, goal oriented person and I like to bask in the glow of goals checked off. Here we go:
-New, efficient indirect hot water heater to replace two old (end of life) gas ones
-4 inches of blue board foam insulation around entire outside of building including 4 feet below the ground around basement: stuccoed on basement, resided with fiber-cement board lap siding above
-some new triple pane windows
-3 out of 4 toilets replaced with low flush ones (and the last one purchased and awaiting installation)
commercial washer replaced at end of life with energy star model, and set up to charge by water temperature – a pittance for cold water, exorbitant for hot
-commercial dryer replaced at end of life with one that can charge by time (to encourage less drying, more hanging to dry hopefully – sign prompts at point of pay also used to discourage dryer use)
-low flow faucet aerators and shower heads
-fixed/replaced faulty zone valves on the heating system
-4 out of 5 thermostats replaced with programmables (and the 5th sitting there waiting to be installed – but it is a bedroom zone that gets set back manually pretty regularly)
-2 really ugly and in poor repair bathrooms remodeled with Habitat for Humanity ReStore tile, new non-leaky faucets, ReStore paint, and lots of upgrading and reuse of current or ReStore fixtures and trim etc.
cork flooring replacing bad, worn carpet in one apartment
-more insulation in attic and some air sealing – more needed, but correctly air sealed around boiler chimney.
-one dishwasher replaced with energy star model. The only other dishwasher in the building has conked out and currently not been replaced.
-lots of trees planted, garden beds made, soil improved, lawns mulched over, parking areas encroached upon and eaten away, compost bins added
-lot next door purchased to fulfill dream of someday having community garden project
insulated chicken coop built in existing shed, chickens and ducks added
bees attempted – deemed too fidgety for Alaska and my laissez faire attitude to animal husbandry. Lots of bees wax and pollen accumulated though
-2 out of four fridges replaced with energy star models. One tested and already fairly efficient. One left to go!
-Insulation added behind drop ceilings between units for better thermal and auditory separation
-many heat and hot water pipes wrapped in pipe insulation
-all bulbs replaced with energy efficient bulbs, outdoor light replaced with photosensitive fixture, fluorescent tube fixtures in basement, kitchens, and entry replaced with single-bulb fixtures with LED bulb (from 80 to 11 watts – some loss of light, but still plenty for the small rooms these were in)
-Lots of other minor repairs, air sealings, leaks fixed, etc
Recycling provided (Curbside service and self-hauling of some things)

Utility use depends a lot on tenant numbers, habits, etc, but generally gas use is down about 40% from the beginning, electricity around 50%, water a bit trickier to tell – very dependent on number of tenants and bathing, garden watering and other habits.

I have recently discovered I still have some very low hanging fruit in the efficiency department – part of the north side of my salt-box roof has no insulation (just kraft paper and foil – guess it’s supposed to be a radiant barrier – those wacky 1960’s builders!) and I still haven’t managed to seal a massive cold air leak at the basement rim joist where the porch attaches (even though I sprayfoamed well where I thought it was). So some air sealing and insulating that should have a great payback. Other big projects I dream of involve insulating the back shed (which recently got a south facing window), finally adding bike parking and a small greenhouse, and taking out the small, single pane northfacing windows in the basement apartment and earth-berming that north side of the above-ground basement wall.

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