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Save Water, Money and Time – 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.

by Rob Rutledge

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Save Water, Time and Money – Part 2

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.

by Rob Rutledge

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“It’s Too Hard” – Easing into Sustainable Living

If you are not already living a more sustainable lifestyle, it can be daunting to even think about it.  Overwhelming, you might say.

“It’s too hard!”

“It takes too much time!”

“It’s a pain in the a**!”

“Why should I have to when none of my neighbors are?”

“My neighborhood doesn’t recycle – or doesn’t do single stream so it’s too much work…”

Well, about eight years ago, my neighborhood didn’t do single stream recycling and it WAS burdensome having so separate – and the city didn’t recycle nearly as much as they do now.  I helped form a group of people in conjunction with Denver Recycles and the now Governor of Colorado.  Before I knew it, we had large wheelie bins that could hold two weeks’ worth of recycling.

I didn’t grow up composting or gardening, but now our waste to the landfill is minimal and we use our food scraps to nourish our small garden which then becomes food for our family.

It doesn’t take that much extra time and the feeling of knowing where my waste is going and reducing our family’s impact on the city landfill and the planet-at-large makes me feel better as a person.

When I go out to harvest in the garden in the summer months, it’s like my birthday every time – gifts just present themselves asking little in return…like fresh, organic raspberries, tomatoes, squashes, beans (SO many beans).  And then, they give the gift of seeds so, over time, I have had to buy fewer and fewer seeds in the spring…completing the cycle.  It’s satisfying and exciting and cheap.

Setting up a compost bin probably takes half an hour…maintaining it takes little time as all you have to do is “feed” it regularly, but not even daily…ours is out by our garage, so whenever I’m going out, I can just dump the compost into the bin/box and leave the bucket from the kitchen in the garage.  Then, I bring the bucket back in on my way back home, rinse it out (to prevent smelliness) and start the refilling process as I cook.  The bucket is a small step-can that lives on my counter/kitchen bench by the sink.  About once a week, I stir the compost and about once a month I add leaves in (from autumn).  The leaves are stored in containers in our garage.

Let me say it simply…it saves money and doesn’t take that much time…and it helps reduce the amount of stuff going to the landfill.

Here are some helpful links to get you started:

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=where+to+buy+a+compost+bin

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=where+to+buy+a+small+step+can

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=how+to+start+a+compost+bin

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=how+to+start+recycling

Please feel free to leave comments on this site with your suggestions on what you’d like to see discussed on SustainableThree.com!

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