Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Friends the Eco-Techno Pioneers

My friends Meenal and Afshin are quite remarkable, though they would be surprised that anyone would think that of them. They are downshifters - they had a busy practice as programmers but a bunch of years ago they decided to dramatically shift to a simpler life. A lot of people make a few edits in their life - that's always been my approach - but they sold their house, moved closer to family, and struck out in all kinds of new directions. They are gradually greening a home they bought and trying out all kinds of new technologies uncommon in these parts.
The scene at their home this week was great fun, as a whole team of folks installed their solar hot water heater, consisting of the water tank & the exchanger in their basement, piped to the photovoltaic panel on their rooftop.
The two of them are great number crunchers. They know how many resources the two of them consume, down to the last cf. In fact they actually know what a cf is! They track their gas, electricity, as well as water and are endeavoring to lower their CO2 emissions as much as possible. Once they made progress on the electrical use by switching to more efficient appliances and cfls, they felt like their hot water heater was a huge energy hog, an interesting flip of the Diderot effect. Diderot was a philosopher who noticed then when he received an elegant robe he immediately noticed all the shabby aspects of his boudoir which he felt the need to upgrade. In this case, what was just a normal American water heater suddenly seemed enormously wasteful. Meenal and Afshin assessed that the payback time for the system is 8+ years, were electricity to remain at today's prices. That seems very unlikely, so they'll probably make their money back sooner - a good return on investment, actually.
I like the way that tying your hot water to the amount of sunlight connects you back to earth. Most of us just think that hot water comes out of the tap, rather than realizing it is heated elsewhere. It takes a lot of energy to have hot water sitting around in our water heaters waiting for us to take showers or run dishwashers. It really is quite wasteful.
Hats off to these early adopters and role models, who are helping create demand for the goods and services we will all be clamoring for once we get our Kyoto act togetherl.
You can read all about their project at their new blog, Hot Water Forever.

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