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2006 November » Our Sustainable Home
Archive for: November, 2006

$20 shower head cuts water use 30%

November 9th, 2006

An interesting press release about a shower head insert developed by CSIRO in Australia that claims it can cut water usage by 30%:


The result is, apparently, a shower which feels just as wet and strong as an unmodified shower head.

Posted by Colin

Collecting and blocking light

November 7th, 2006

Today I was out measuring the position of existing electrical, water and gas services, in addition to gathering more information about the trees that will shadow our house.Positioning your house and windows to best take advantage of the sun (to capture it in the winter and avoid it in the summer) is one of the easiest ways to improve the efficiency of a home.

All buildings and most trees were already on our survey, but it didn’t include unusual details such as how tall and wide the trees are. This can have a big impact on the amount of light we’ll need to avoid in the summer and somewhat reduce the sun we’ll receive in the winter.

I don’t have any tools to precisely measure tall heights so for the time being I just put a standing tape measure, extended 6′, at the base of various trees and took a photograph. I then counted the number of pixels in the photo that made up the 6′ tape measure, and compared it to the object in question.

The obvious problem with this method is that the tops of the trees are farther away than the bottoms of the trees, so the taller the tree is, the more inaccurate my measurement will be. But it should give us a good estimate.

The attached images illustrate why deciduous trees are useful to have around your property. With leaves, the trees block the sun in the summer. Without, they allow us to gather more heat through our windows.

Elevation of tree across the street Tree coverage to the south-west Elevation of power hookups

Posted by Colin

How we got here (technically)

November 4th, 2006

I would be remiss if I didn’t start this blog by commenting on the incredibly useful services that allow you to see this page (and which you may want to use if setting up a site, yourself).

  • We registered the domain with DomainInvestigator. They’ve been my primary registrar for many of sites over the last 5 years. They have decent technical support, good domain administration tools, and excellent pricing.
  • This site is hosted with pair Networks. Pair isn’t just a great host; it’s a great company. The web hosting industry is overrun with horrible companies that are only surviving because of the huge demand for web real estate, and customers who don’t realize their host isn’t supposed to go down from time to time. If you want to host a web site, you want to host with pair. They offer: insanely reliable service; incredibly knowledgeable, fast and efficient phone and email support; very good pricing (incredible pricing, considering what you get); and they only run freeBSD UNIX, so security isn’t nearly the big issue it is, as when your host chooses to run Windows.
  • And the entries you are seeing were all entered, managed, sorted and displayed using WordPress. Their claim of a ‘5-Minute’ install is entirely true! And it’s only taken me about 30 minutes to get this first post live (which included time playing with slogans, titling, colours, setting up users, learning the WordPress interface, and actually writing this post).

One of the hats I wear is as software engineer for the Mac and a variety of web technologies. The first two recommendations above come from years of professional experience with several different providers. But I settled on WordPress after about 10 minutes of research. I had heard it was good, checked it out, and found it was very good. We’ll see if it trips me up over time, but so far it’s been fast and easy!

We’re still using WordPress templates for the site. There will likely be many style changes over the next few months but we really wanted to start documenting our process (we’re already months behind).

More information about how we got here, philosophically, is available in the ‘About’ section on the right.

[Edit (Nov. 18, 2006): It’s now on the left.]

Posted by Colin