Monthly Archives: May 2016

Save Water, Time and Money – Part 2

by,
Rob Rutledge

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Smart Water Control – iPhone

Continuing the exploration of Smart Sprinkler controllers:  The goal is to save water, time and money but not have a dead lawn or landscaping.

There are many Smart Sprinkler controllers, and many definitions of what makes a sprinkler controller ‘smart’.  For instance, simply attaching a moisture sensor or rain sensor may qualify for some definitions of a Smart Sprinkler Controller.  However, I would like to think we can do better than simply attaching static sensors.  Therefore, I will limit my evaluation to those controllers that get weather data wirelessly and allow for control via mobile phone and computer, as well as allow for more intelligent watering by inputting landscaping and/or sprinkler information.  After all, I would like to think that better decision could be made rather than just automating the same binary decision of watering or not watering.  The final requirement is for the smart controller to adhere to the watering limitations of my water provider.  With these in mind, I return to the extensive list of Water Sense Smart Sprinkler Controllers.  Since most, if not all, of these controllers involve using the service associated with the controller (other than RainMachine which has a hybrid option), it seems as though there should be some consideration of the stability of the company.  After all, it would be unfortunate to make the investment in time and money to acquire and setup the controller, only to have it revert back to a normal controller or worse stop working all together due to the company providing the service going out of business.  Several of the companies are private, which limits the amount of due diligence that can be performed, so instead I will use longevity and multiple product offerings as a proxy for stability.  This is, of course, flawed.  But the best that can be done without extensive effort.  This only eliminates one that I thought looked intriguing, Skydrop.

 

Save Water, Money and Time – Part I

by,

Rob Rutledge

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Part I

My water usage and associated bill is about to go up.  It happens every year.  In the next several months, my water bill will more than double, costing me an extra $40 or $50 each month.  I want to continue my Smart Home exploration of options, but not necessarily limit my options if I come across something even easier than smart home solutions.  For instance, the vast majority of my extra water usage is based on maintaining the plants and grass around my home.  I will focus on this aspect of water saving for now, but I also realize there might be some options to further reduce my water usage inside my home.  Although we have already used low flush toilets, low flow shower heads and better dishwasher usage.  Thankfully there is good information to leverage through programs like Water Sense, an EPA program that certifies products which save water, from 20% to 50%.  The technology portion of Water Sense narrows down the discussion to the areas that are of most interest to me, the sprinkler related savings opportunities.  Again, I need a criteria to go about selecting what options I want to explore.  I will use the same criteria as I am using to curtail electricity usage:

  • Easy to understand and install myself
  • Proven benefit for my environmental impact
  • Financial benefit of reduced monthly bills (at least during the summer)

Given those criteria, there are two options that seem most appropriate to explore.  Rotary Spray Heads (Nozzle), and Smart Spinkler Controllers.  The Rotary spay heads deliver water in a stream instead of a mist and therefore reduce lost water due to evaporation and wind blowing the water where it isn’t needed.  Smart Sprinkler Controllers use better information about your landscaping and external factors (like weather forecasts) to make better watering decisions.  Rotary Spray heads are valuable, but not nearly as interesting to explore here as Smart Sprinkler Controllers, so that is what I will focus on here.

 

Smart Home & Smart Investment? Part 3

Part III

by, Rob Rutledge

Ecobee Thermostat (ecobee.com)

Ecobee Thermostat (ecobee.com)

Nest Thermostat (nest.com)

Nest Thermostat (nest.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Furthering the journey towards a Smart Home, both the Nest and Ecobee thermostat optionshave very good reviews, and both have very cool technology behind them.  As an example I could adjust my home’s temperature while I am out of the house from a convenient app on my phone. The price of both is about the same (within $10).  It will come down to how I want to use them, and what will work best for my specific situation.  For instance, both have a motion sensing capability, and both will learn from how I adjust the temperature.  The motion sensing capability is particularly interesting to me as I only need my home to be cooled if I am currently using it, not while I am at the grocery store or out for a walk.  The challenge is that when I am at home, I often work from my office for hours at a time and that is not where my thermostat is located.  While I could schedule a walk by my thermostat every so often, that does not fulfill my desire to use technology to make my life easier rather than more complicated.  The EcoBee has a solution built in with remote sensors that I can place in different locations of my home.  That can provide the added benefit of helping keep the temperature consistent throughout the home.  I don’t have that issue with my home temperature, but I do want the motion detection of the remote sensor to eliminate having to walk by the thermostat or risk it thinking I am not home and trying to save some energy at the expense of my comfort.  Therefore, I will give the Ecobee a try and let you know how it goes.

Food as Fuel

by,

Liz Rutledge

dreamstime_s_37124190

You’re probably thinking this is a blog post about bio-diesel.  Well, it’s not…not this time, at least.  A good friend of mine who is busy and travels for work a lot recently challenged me to take on “Food as Fuel”.  The challenge is to create a meal plan of sorts such that said friend can eat 80% food as fuel and 20% food as a social activity.  Because my friend travels so much, I can only really assist with the home times.

I have always loved food.  My mother tells me that I ate green onions in my high chair.  I have always eaten my veggies without being told to and I have been vegetarian.  I took a nutrition class in college and was a weight loss counselor for a time.  I am passionate about food.

Not everyone loves eating their greens, which is why I think the green smoothie was invented…to mask the taste and texture of spinach, kale, collard greens and other green foods that some people don’t like in their most natural state.

I have started a quest to analyze daily recommended nutrition and come up with solutions that make life easier and maintaining our health more sustainable.  My quest, potentially much to my family’s chagrin, will include making easy “fast food” that fuels us and nourishes us.  I will include investigation in to the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” as well as when organic is important in general.

Solutions will include not only green smoothies, but also mason jar salads, mason jar pancake mix and burgers made up of so many foods, they may very well be all you need on your plate.

Suggestions are welcome, so feel free to comment!

Smart Home & Smart Investment? Part 2

Part II

by, Rob Rutledge

SmartHome 2

In previous years I raised the thermostat temperature as much as I could to remain comfortable during the day, which reduced the need for as much air conditioning.  At night, when weather gives us the opportunity, we open all windows and sleep with minimal clothes.  There are so many other options to reduce to need to cool, such as using the environment’s own changing temperatures.  Using shades to shield from the heat of the sun and opening shaded windows as soon as the temperature outside is lower than inside temperature.

However, there are times that I am not at home, or that our two story house is only used on one floor even though both are being air conditioned.  Remembering to turn off the air conditioning or raising the temperature every time is not easy or convenient. Some type of smart thermostat might be a solution to help further reduce my electricity bill while allowing me to remain comfortable. Upon further exploration, there are two front runner options.  The Nest and EcoBee thermostats appear to offer some options to help reduce my usage.  Back to my selection criteria, it appear as though I could install either myself.  The environmental impact seems to be positive from various viewpoints, including that many utilities are currently offering rebates for both of these thermostats, sometimes for up to $75.  Although there is a cost upfront for either of these thermostats that will not pay back for some time, even with the rebates there seems to be the promise of a reduced monthly bill, which is not unlike many other environmental options from solar panels to LED light installation.  Besides, there might even be energy savings year around, rather than just the summer, which is an added bonus.