Our home was built around 1917 and is half of a twin, similar to four other twin homes on our street. Joyce Chin and Andy Rudin have been living here since December 1992. We have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
We burn about two cords of wood per year in a Jotul stove in our living room, with backup from a high efficiency natural gas boiler with separate heating zones for an indirect-fired domestic water heater, third floor and first/second floors.
We have ceiling fans in most rooms plus an air conditioner in our master bedroom. We haven’t used the air conditioner in three years. This third floor bedroom has two Velux skylights, one of which opens.
On sunny days, the domestic water is pre-heated by two 3’ by 7’ drain-down solar hot water panels mounted on the roof of the sunroom. If the sun does not heat the water enough, a natural gas indirect-fired water heater adds more heat.
The main faucets have flow restrictors. Showers have water-saving showerheads. Toilets are standard type, 5 gallons per flush on the second floor and 2.5 on the third.
We have replaced the lawn with a small brick patio and an enlarged organic garden. Kitchen wastes are recycled through a three-bin composter. We also collect leaves from two neighbors, grind them up and compost them for garden fertilizer. Water from the south-facing roofs drains into the gardens. Tomatoes, broccoli, collards, peppers and salad greens grow well here. Plus lots of flowers.
Walls, Windows and Roof
Most of the first floor walls were pumped full with recycled styrofoam insulation.
The second story of the western wall, on the alley side, has one inch of isocyanurate insulation covered with vinyl siding.
Most standard windows have interior glass and exterior plastic storms. South-facing windows in the second floor bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, sunroom and one of the north-facing windows in the second floor home office have LowE glazing.
Most of our lighting is fluorescent. Outside floods are halogen. Basement fluorescents are a combination of 34-watt tubes with electromagnetic ballasts and T8 tubes with electronic ballasts. The only torchiere floor lamp uses three, individually-switchable compact fluorescent lamps.
The refrigerator is a Roper high-efficiency unit with about 16 cubic feet volume and uses 1.5 kWh per day (545 kWh/Yr). We just bought a Frigidaire high efficiency clothes washer.
Almost all of our electricity is supplied by a grid-tied 2.7 kilowatt photovoltaic array on the south-facing roof. The thirty-six 75-watt panels are manufactured by British Petroleum with an synchronous inverter by Trace.
We have two PECO electric meters to measure incoming and outgoing electricity (two meters because of our solar system). We also have our own meters to measure solar-generated electricity, and electricity used by our refrigerator, fish tank, computer, office stereo, home entertainment center, and basement dehumidifier.
Our payments to PECO for electricity and gas, less our income from solar electric generation, was about $240 for 2008.
Joyce works as an inspector for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Andy has been an energy management consultant for over 30 years.
Andy gave away his car in 1998. Joyce still owns a car, which she uses mostly for work. She tries to use it as little as possible outside work. Andy uses it sometimes, but, when possible, prefers to walk, bike, or use SEPTA and Amtrak.
For the most part, we don’t watch television. We did watch the Phillies World Series games and election debates. We do like to watch videos and DVDs. These days, many people are selling lots of VHS videotapes in yard sales.
Joyce loves thrift stores and rarely buys from normal retailers.
Joyce volunteers at Elkins Park Library book sales. Andy is the president of the Board of the Friends of that library. See www.elkinsparklibrary.org. He is also president of the Melrose Park Neighbors Association. See www.melroseparkneighbors.org. He also volunteers time to the property committee at the Abington YMCA.
We use cloth napkins and homemade tablecloths on commercial-type folding tables. This allows us to have dinner for two by candle light, and Thanksgiving for up to 30.