Gloria Ferris

one woman’s view from a place by the zoo in the city

How Can We Work Together To Find Alternative Energy Sources?

with 5 comments


Last evening I was with a small group of neighbors working on a group project when our conversation turned to heating our homes this winter- the cost of doing that, what each of us are doing to achieve that, and alternative ways to do it without a large dependence on natural gas.

Our hostess had apologized for the coolness of her home, and since we had finished our original task we turned our attention to heating our homes.   She said that she had turned the heat on when she arrived home from work but the furnace was still catching up.  She then said she was  looking for alternative ways to heat her home.  Three stories is a lot of square footage to heat.  Of course, she said her third floor bedroom was quite toasty.  It was the public area on the first floor that was more problematic.

Interestly enough, none of us had turned on their heat yet.  We all said that we had been wearing bulky sweaters and vests, wool socks, and heating our homes with electric heaters.   We have had some pretty chilly nights, but all of us were stretching the time line to its limit.  We were all aware that this weekend might be the turning point. 

We all agreed that our relationship with normal gas suppliers was deteriorating daily. The news that the PUCO had agreed to allow them to increase delivery charges, when conservation is at its highest point ever,  does not bode well for natural gas prices this winter.  Additionally, the international news that Russia, Iran, and  Qatar are exploring the formation of a cartel much like OPEC for natural gas should concern us all.  Given the fact that the United States has a 3.5% reserve of the natural resource compared to the 60% the cartel would own  means that this commodity will only rise on the world markets just as oil did.  We will definitely not be controlling our destiny if we continue our dependency on natural gas.

One of our group mentioned Mr. Slim heat pumps good to 0 degrees Farenheit.  He said that the electricity is negligible to run the unit.  Right now, he personally uses two $120 electric heaters to heat his 900 square foot home.  He is looking for alternative sources for heating and cooling for his rental properties.  He believes that low energy bills will be a marketing point for getting and retaining good tenants.  We all agreed.

One of our friends installed a geothermal unit.  He said that it did his heart good when he finally received that first gas bill where they owed him.  So my questions are how do we leverage this discomfort with the old models of heating, how do we cut our dependence on natural gas, how do we continue to conserve energy, and how do we eventually get off the grid and form a new paradigm?  We need more instruction than layering of clothes.  HELP!!    

Written by Gloria Ferris

October 25th, 2008 at 1:42 pm

5 Responses to 'How Can We Work Together To Find Alternative Energy Sources?'

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  1. Sounds like a new business opportunity, getting people off the grid. I can see using a gas hookup to power a backup electric generator, and using gas to heat the water as used, not as we do now in water tanks. I would like to get off gas for central heating using a combination of other means–those wood-pellet stoves, the heat pump, and maybe some solar or electric. I’d also like to reduce electrical dependence by using those LED (?) lights, using DC as much as possible in our electronic gear, and supplementing with gas when the electrical grid goes down.

    I know that if we rethink this actively as a community, we can be among the first to free ourselves of the utility companies, sort of like it was when you and I were little kids.


    25 Oct 08 at 4:36 PM

  2. They have the waterless tanks (instead of reg water heaters) but I have heard mixed reviews about how they work in our NE Ohio climate. I’m still investigating that one.

    I’ve wondered about people installing baseboard heating and just using gas to heat water tank and/or stove. I don’t know how much money that is to install. Might also help to install solar panels. I wonder if a neighborhood bulk purchase of them could greatly reduce the prices, you know, like when a bunch of people on a street get new asphalt driveways and they save money on the purchase.

    I’ll do my part and see what the costs/ramifications/benefits would be regarding solar panels. Gloria, sign of a terrific post is it gives you homework lol

    Carole Cohen

    28 Oct 08 at 4:17 PM

  3. 1. Conservation has the greatest return on investment. See the following site.

    2. You could significantly decrease the costs of a ground source heat pump installation by combining resources with your neighbors to share the well field. It just so happens that in a shrinking city centrally located landbank lots could be owned by a co-op of neighbors. Common wells could serve the heat pumps of the neighbors, while the surface could be a fenced, private communal garden like Rosmead Garden in the Hugh Grant film “Notting Hill”. Reimagine Cleveland as “Garden City”


    28 Oct 08 at 4:25 PM

  4. glen I like that idea too. I think we are all on the prowl now for good community ideas. I still don’t know costs, but because of the volume of people involved in this kind of solar power, it works. It involves generating through panels on homes AND garages, not just one source. And it’s in Alberta Canada so….

    Carole Cohen

    28 Oct 08 at 8:36 PM

  5. In Cincinnati they just raised the electric bill without a vote of the peoples representatives and we won’t take it anymore. Its past time we started a statewide joint venture that includes a electrical power Co-op that would include power generation. We will contribute the engineering [Fred Hargrove, PE, MBA] and Electrician [Lloyds general and Electrical Contractors, started 20 plus years ago by IBEW journeywoman and my wife]. From Cincinnati to Cleveland anyone interested?

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