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Which Green Retrofits Are Worth It?

During the last two years, Southern Californian homeowner and writer Susan Carpenter put in thousands of dollars and put in many several hours of work making renewable improvements to her home. But for Carpenter, as for many owners, simply benefiting the environment has not been enough: she wanted to know which of these retrofits were actually really worth the time and money spent.

Carpenter, who publishes articles the great Realist Idealist column for the Mis Angeles Times, recently written a thorough and lighting assessment of that which was worthwhile it in her two year experiment -- and what wasn't.

Worth it: Grey water

Most beneficial, according to Carpenter, was the gray water taking system she had installed to divert wastewater from her automatic washer, showers, and faucets to irrigate the yard. Gray water is non-septic wastewater which is not suited to drinking because of its soap content. But assuming there usually are too many harmful chemicals going down the drain, gray water is properly suited to watering plants, even edible ones.

Carpenter put in just $312 on the laundry-to-landscaping plumbing retrofit and has saved about 15, 000 gallons of drinking water in two years. This kind of has translated to almost $100 in water invoice savings and also reduced sewer charges can be a third. The kitchen and bathroom extensions were somewhat pricier but Father was so happy with the initial system that she was eager to expand it.

Worth it: Solar

The photovoltaic system Carpenter had installed on her roof covers not only her full energy use, but also creates a credit onto her invoice from the power company. Carpenter has also improved her electric meter to a so-called "smart meter" which charges more for workday peak hour use and fewer for evenings and weekends - when most households consume the majority of their electricity.

Carpenter paid less than $6, 000 (including a local rebate and a federal tax credit) to ensure at least 20 years of independent, solar-powered electricity.

Worth it: Rainwater barrels

Rain barrels were another green improvement Father deemed worthwhile. Originally suspicious about how precisely much difference a 175 gallon container could make, she eventually discovered to see their small size as a positive, making them manageable and affordable. The barrels are fixed to drain spouts from the roof and are meant to store rainwater runoff for flower irrigation in the dry out seasons. The barrels cost just about $150 each, and Carpenter was able to get one free from metropolis.

Lastly, Carpenter has found much value in the landscaping improvements the lady has made to help lessen storm water runoff from her property, which not only reduces her normal water consumption but eases the pressure on the city's drainage infrastructure during heavy rainfall and prevents probably harmful pollutants from getting into the ocean. This was a straightforward "earth works" task that merely ensures that water that falls on the property stays on the property, through draining ditches lined with vegetation and mulch.

Not worth the cost: Waterwall, edible garden, composting toilet, chicken coop

Yet there are also several renewable home improvements that Father considers a waste of time and money, or simply not worth the power and water savings. One of them are the Waterwall (a rain container that is much bigger and much more expensive than the regular rainfall barrel), her edible garden (much more time- and knowledge-intensive than first imagined), a composting toilet (either prohibitively expensive or not very effective), and a chicken coop (outsmarted by possums and raccoons).

Father also learned that effective sustainable living doesn't always require getting complicated and expensive systems, and implies three ways that you can make a huge big difference without having to layer out too much: by drying clothes outside, composting organic and natural waste, and recycling where possible.