Replacement bulb for Coleman lantern

So way back in 2010, I reviewed the Coleman  Rugged Rechargeable Full-Size Lantern with U-shaped Fluorescent Bulb (Model 2000000867) . My main complaint was that the light it gave was a really horrid blue color. As the years have passed, I’ve come to associate that color with emergencies, stress, and wretchedness.

Last week, the power went out, and we discovered the bulb had burned out. (10,000 hours, my left foot…) The replacements from Coleman are close to $20 each, so I looked around to other places. Turns out, this lantern uses a pretty standard 4-pin, U-shaped bulb. And when I got to looking, I found bulbs the right size, shape, and wattage…in a totally different color spectrum from Bulb was delivered today. It fits perfectly, and the color is a nice, warm, yellow – just like all my favorite home light bulbs.  The key is to look for bulbs with color temperatures of 2700 or less.


p.s. – They don’t make this lantern any more; all new lanterns seem to be LEDs.


Power outage lessons learned

Hi, folks! We recently went through a 3-day power outage, and I wanted to share some notes on things that worked and things that would have made the whole thing easier.

Worked really well

  • Wood stove for heat, as per usual. House was normal temp throughout.
  • Water barrels and this hand pump (OEMTOOLS 24472 Fluid Pump ) for sanitation water. I keep water barrels in the sunroom for watering plants, and have gone through a lot of pump and siphon trials before finally getting one that works well for filling watering cans.
  • Jerry cans of water for flushing toilets. The handle on top AND back is key. This Midwest Can Water Container is the closest I can find to what I have.
  • Single burner butane stove. For outdoor use only; I set it up in the sunroom. Half a can of butane let us heat soup, water for hot water bottles, etc. for two days. I’d count on one can of fuel for day – and stock up; I can’t find fuel locally anymore. We did heat some stuff on the wood stove, but it’s not a great cooking tool because the soapstone disperses the heat.
  • Battery-powered, motion-sensitive lights. Cheap hardware store model. Great for dark rooms and hallways.
  • Charging phones and lanterns in the car and at work.
  • Our usual coffee press worked fine, because we had other ways to heat water.
  • Food in the freezers (small chest freezer, and fridge freezer) remained icy, and therefore safe, for 3 full days.

Made life way more pleasant

  • Good reading lights. Ours died halfway through – death by static spark, it seems.  We were left with other lanterns, and it was awful for two people who read so much. Task lighting – from above the work – turns out to be more important to us than area lighting. The NanoGrid gave good light, but was always a pain to use, and of course died about 10 uses in, so I’m looking at other options. These are on their way (with a bigger power pack to recharge); we’ll see how they go. Headlamps might be practical, but a pain to wear for days straight.
  • Using phones for Internet access, and rechargeable power packs to charge phones. I beat myself up about “internet addiction” for several outages before admitting that Internet access is crucial to fighting boredom and restoring a sense of normalcy. Not to mention, it’s super useful for reporting outages, finding places with needed supplies, checking weather, and whatnot. I’ve not been able to get an iPhone to work as a hotspot so other devices can connect to it.
  • Buying a 5-gal jug of drinking water. We have good filters, but found the mistrust factor (If we filter water that’s been stored for 2 years, is that safe?) and the convenience factor (pouring water into the Berkey is rather tedious) made it totally worth it to just get a big jug of water from the store. And we already had a crockery base with a stand and spigot, so boom…drinking water solved.
  • Putting a small squirt of toilet bowl cleaner (pine scent) into the toilet, as we were only flushing 2x/day.
  • Once the food in the fridge had officially gone off, I just cleaned out the fridge and quit worrying about it. It was oddly liberating.

Wished for better

  • I need some kind of kettle with a spout that can heat on the woodstove and the burner. I sloshed a lot of hot water on my hands trying to pour from a saucepan.
  • Wanted to know temp of fridge/freezer to determine how long food was good. Perhaps a thermometer with a record of high/low and how long it’s been above a critical temp will help.
  • Oh, how I wish we could run the well pump through a power outage! Showering and dishes just seemed like too much trouble, so we ate out a lot and didn’t really bathe. (I need to see if there are showers at work we could use – I know the students have locker rooms, so it’s not impossible.)
  • Felt we couldn’t use any frozen food, because opening the freezer would let the cold out, and then you’d have a block of something frozen with no safe way to thaw it!
  • So much quick/easy/instant food is so salty and carb-heavy. I’ve been thinking about getting a vacuum sealer for garden veg; I might experiment with packaging my own “just add water” meals and seal those up, too.

New house = super energy-efficient!

Total carbon production June 2012-January 2013

Total carbon production June 2012-January 2013

I continue to be thrilled by how energy-efficient (or really, carbon-efficient) the new house is! In the summer, we only needed air conditioning in July (when it was over 100 for several days, and over 80 at night, and we hadn’t sealed off the sunroom well yet). In winter, we have only run the propane furnace in the last week or so, and that only for an hour or so a day to take the chill off before the wood stove kicks in. Otherwise, we’ve heated with local wood. This saves not only the propane, but a rather significant amount of electricity, too. (See below.)

Electricity usage June 2012-Jan 2013

Electricity usage June 2012-Jan 2013

I think I can now say that at our old house, 125kwh was used for heating water, 100kwh was used for the furnace, and 200kwh was for everything else (cooking, laundry, lighting, electronics,  etc.).  In this house, hot water is from propane, and we essentially haven’t used the furnace. So the ~210kwh/month we use is for “everything else” plus the sauna. We used the sauna two or three times on this billing cycle, and our usage didn’t really jump at all.

Propane is probably the most astonishing reduction. In the chart below, 2008 was the first year in the old house that we burned wood in the fireplace insert. We still used over 300 gallons of propane in January alone. This year, we used 25 gallons. I know wood is not a perfect fuel – even with our efficient stove, soot is an issue – but it’s local, renewable, and isn’t dependent on fracking or other damaging extraction methods. I think next year, we might even be able to source from the farm around the corner that harvests almost exclusively deadfall from storm damage instead of less eco-friendly practices like land clearing.

Propane use 2012-2013

Propane use 2012-2013

I’m not sure if we’ll be able to keep the furnace off for February and March. It was really cold at the end of January and our thermal mass is now very cold and working against us. But who knows? A week of sunny days could reverse that.

Overall, we are on track to use this year:

  • 36% of US average gasoline
  • 23% of US average electricity
  • 25% of US average heating fuel

It’s not exactly Riot levels, but I’m pretty happy with the electricity and heating fuel, especially.


Which is greenest? Shower, bath, or sauna?

We have a big bathtub, a standard bathtub, 1.85 gpm showers, and a sauna. When I’m feeling the need to soak my body in some serious heat over the winter, which is the most eco-friendly choice*?


  • Showerhead: 1.85 gpm x 15 min = 27.75 gallons
  • Standard bathtub, waist-deep: 20 gallons water
  • Non-jetted spa-size tub (no heated recirculation), waist-deep: 30 gallons
  • It takes 83,000btu (.9 gallons propane) to heat 100 gallons of water from 55 degrees to 120 degrees
  • It takes 4.5 kwh (15,354 btus) to run one sauna session (heat for 40 mins to ~150 degrees, then residual heat only)


  • 15-minute shower: 23,240 BTU + 28 gal water
  • Standard bath: 16,600 BTU + 20 gal water
  • Spa bath: 24,900 BTU + 30 gal water
  • Sauna: 15,354 BTU  + 2 gal water + 1000 BTU to heat water to 95 degrees (quick rinse shower after)

So – if what I want is to be very warm for as long as possible, the sauna is by far the best bet. Warmer than a standard bath, and I can stay in as long as I can stand and it’ll still be warm. Add to that the fact that my husband will usually join me in the sauna (but not the bath), and it looks like an even better option.

This is pretty much the opposite of how I thought this would pan out – I’m really glad I did the math!


* I am fully aware that doing any of these is a total luxury and “none” is the greenest answer…but if I’m going to do something, I want to know how these options compare

Carbon production at the new house

Does not include work travel.

Does not include work travel.

The first six months at the new house have been interesting in terms of energy use. Overall, we’re holding steady at about 1450lb/mo – on track for 4 tonne/person this year. Though winter’s coming up, and that’s likely to skew the trend upward due to winter heating.

Electrical usage went down almost exactly what I thought it would – we switched from an electric water heater to propane – and we’re now averaging around 225kwh/month (with a huge spike in June/July when it was 100+ for days on end and we didn’t have adequate ways to prevent solar gain in the sunroom and warm air from rising to the upstairs).  We’ve had a rotten time getting DTE to read the meter correctly – they’ve read it wrong 3 of the 6 months so far, which makes me wonder how off the June/July reading is. So the figures below are mostly my own readings of the meter.

It’s also December, and we’ve not had to turn on the propane furnace yet. We’ve used about 1/3 face cord of firewood, and the sunroom does a fantastic job heating the house when it’s sunny. This not only saves propane; it saves the electricity for running the blower. This shows up very clearly on the graph of our electrical use in the last five years:

Our drive to work is about 6 miles longer each way now, but for whatever reason (terrain?), the car is getting about 5mpg better gas mileage on this commute. There’s no denying that we’re driving further, though – average of 1250/month instead of 800-900/month.

Still, overall, from June 1-Nov 30, our carbon this year is below the average of the last 5 years.

If we’d been able to avoid that huge electricity spike in June/July, we probably would have broken our all-time low carbon for this time of the year by 1000lb. And I’m confident we will be able to avoid using A/C almost entirely once we get the ventilation in the sunroom situated and are able to seal the vents to the upstairs better. I am also sure we will drastically reduce our winter carbon over previous years due to wood heat instead of propane. I’m sure at some point this winter, we’ll need to turn the furnace on, but I think we’ll be able to keep usage way lower than the last house…and maybe even keep the house a little warmer, too. It was getting to be a wrench to feel chilly all the time.

So, despite moving a little further away from work, it’s looking like this move will be carbon-neutral or possibly even carbon-negative. It sure is nice to have the place stay cool most of the summer with no air conditioning – our cool burrow in the shady hillside is great for that!

Energy audit

We had an energy audit done in November. It was quite useful – moreso than I’d really expected. We were able to determine that the vents to the rock pile constitute about 1/3 of all the air infiltration to the house – even with the steps we’d taken to block the drafts. I could also see on the thermal scanner where cold air was pouring in around windows (and easily blocked with caulk), and got great info on the best way to insulate the utility room to keep the bathroom above it warmer. (Hint: insulate the whole room – don’t just insulate the joists/floor above.)

The insulation work was done in two days the week of Thanksgiving – one day for all the foam work, like sealing the rim joists, the utility room, and the headers on the wall studs into the attic. Day two was blowing in insulation into the attic.

The difference is amazing. The upstairs used to always be colder than the downstairs, and the upstairs bathroom had been too freezing to use. Now the upstairs holds its temp pretty steadily at a comfortable 63-67 degrees, and the bathroom is cool but usable. (The tile floor is still really cold; once we get the shower leak sorted and really start using that bathroom, we may turn the underfloor heating on for a bit in the morning. We’ll have to see what kind of energy hog it is.) There hasn’t been much noticeable change downstairs, except that the utility room is about 5-6 degrees warmer. We still need to do better air sealing between the sunroom and the living room – though on sunny days, we don’t mind at all. If the sun is out all day, it’ll be 70+ in the living room!

How to downsize a transport network: the Chinese wheelbarrow | Energy Bulletin

Ok – I totally, TOTALLY want a Chinese wheelbarrow now! Especially if I’m going to need to schlep yards of dirt into my new garden…down a narrow, winding path on a hill.


How to downsize a transport network: the Chinese wheelbarrow | Energy Bulletin.

Lower energy towels

Though we probably do less laundry than most households, we do wash a fair number of towels.  My husband is a champion exerciser, and a clean towel is a must every three days or so. The towels we bought shortly after college are starting to wear out, and several of our newer towels have a bit of lingering mankiness to them due to poor ventilation in the bathroom – they sometimes just don’t dry out completely from one use to the next.  We also find we have to dry them in the dryer – probably 2/3 of all our dryer loads are towels, because all shirts and pants get hung up to dry. Not great for our kwh tally…

A while back, I bought some flour sack towels from Lehman’s.  I’m completely sold on them for dishes – terry towels just seem to push the water around.  So one day, I thought, “These things are huge. Would they work on me?” Turns out, the answer is “Yes.” My sweetie likes them, too.  We both have very short hair – if you have longer hair, you might need a second one just for you hair.  We’ve also found it’s best if you crumple the towel up a bit before patting yourself dry – one flat thickness of cloth gets soaked through instantly.  The beauty is that they take up a fraction of the washer space of an equivalent number of terry towels, and they can be air-dried even in our setup (indoors with relatively low air circulation).


Five terry towels (left) compared to five flour sack towels (left). This should reduce laundry by quite a bit around here.

And of course, it’s probably not actually saving any energy to go out and buy these if your existing towels are still good (though they seem pretty low-impact…so maybe it would be a net savings).  I bet you could also hem up a couple sections of old cotton bed sheets to similar effect.  Considering that all our fitted sheets also seem to be biting the dust at the same time, that could be a good next use for them.  But hey, we had these already, so I think we’ll be using them instead of buying more terry towels.  They’re a whole heck of a lot cheaper, too – $2 each instead of $10+ each, which is what you pay around here for towels that don’t evaporate into a puff of lint the first time you wash them.

Eco-friendly humidity reduction?

Anyone know a way to reduce humidity in a house besides using the A/C? It’s only about 73 in the house these days but it’s so humid you can hardly breathe.  It’s worse outside, and hotter, to boot.  Anyone have any brilliant ideas?

Propane mystery and comparison of heating fuel saving measures

As I’ve been doing the last few years, I tracked our propane usage this year. It was a rather nasty surprise. We used more this year than last year, despite getting some new windows, a new patio door, and switching from heating the living room to only heating the “library” a couple times a week.

Here are the data. BTW, a “heating degree day” is the unit they use to talk about how cold the weather actually is. (Look them up on the Almanac feature of Weather Underground.) I calculate usage on a gallons-per-heating-degree-day basis to control for variations in the weather.

Gallons of propane Heating degree days Gallons per heating degree day Thermo- stat (away or asleep/ home and awake) Improve- ments in effect this year Comfort
2004-05 892 6126 0.1456 60/66 Programmable thermostat; window plastic
2005-06 719 5545 0.1297 60/66 Turned heat up when getting home instead of
programming; window plastic
2006-07 818 6715 0.1218 55/66 Attic insulation; inflatable flue blocker;
no window plastic
2007-08 844 5771 0.1462 55/66 Window plastic
2008-09 690 6993 0.0987 55/63 Fireplace insert; used on weekends Warmer than last year despite lower thermostat
2009-10 395 6562 0.0602 55/62 Using fireplace more evenings; wall insulation;
window plastic
Need to heat whole house every few days or
55 is too cold at night
2010-11 470 6893 0.0682 55/60 New windows and patio door; no window plastic;
evenings in library
Sometimes chilly; bedrooms warmer – 55 is fine.

The drop between ’04-’05 and ’05-’06 came from turning the heat up manually when we got home, instead of having the programmable thermostat turn it on at the same time every night. See, we have activities a couple nights a week that kept us out of the house until 8 or so…so all that heat was wasted from 5-8pm.

The big drop between ’07-’08 and ’08-’09 came from installing and beginning to use our fireplace insert.  Not only did it provide heat, it also stopped the biggest draft in the house: the unused chimney.  We used it even more in ’09-’10. Notice that we felt warmer with the thermostat set 3 degrees cooler.  I think some of that change was also the attic insulation. We didn’t see any savings the year after we put the insulation in because we were leaking propane at the tank.  I have no idea how much was wasted that year even before we could use it.

In ’10-’11, we replaced some fairly draft 10 y.o. vinyl double-pane windows with Andersens (bedroom, “library,” and kitchen patio door).  I still felt a breeze on my head in bed, though my nose was no longer cold all night. I think the breeze was convection, not infiltration.  We also repurposed the spare bedroom into a “library” with a futon.  We would heat that with an electric space heater several nights a week instead of stoking up the fireplace. Comfort-wise, that heat was not as satisfying as a fire.  We also had an incident where a loose wire overheated and melted and could have caused an electrical fire if we’d not caught it.  The electrician said this was because the space heater was drawing more load than the circuit was really rated for.

Despite all those measures taken this year, we used 75 more gallons of propane this year than last.  The winter was colder, but if we had used propane at the same rate as last year, we would have only burned about 415 gallons this year. So why did we end up burning 55 more gallons of propane?

Here are my theories. I would love to have the input from all you smart people out there.

  • The fireplace and the thermostat are both in the living room.  Last year, when we’d heat with wood, the living room temp would go up from the time we got home until well after we went to bed – meaning the furnace didn’t run at all for at least six hours each day.  This year, when we would heat only the library, the thermostat still thought the whole house was cold, and so the furnace came on more frequently.
  • We didn’t put up any window plastic this year.  The large picture windows in the living room could have lost a lot of heat.  We also didn’t seal the patio door shut this year, so we would occasionally open that door to take out the compost or go to the greenhouse, which lets outside air directly into the kitchen.
  • There’s a leak at the propane tank, or someone stole propane, probably during October.
  • The tank was filled in July ’10.  The decrease in volume between July and October was due to temperatures, not actual propane use, so the reading suggesting we used 20 more gallons of propane between May and October this year compared to last is spurious. (That still leaves 35 gallons to account for.)
  • The pattern of when it was cold is as important as how cold it was.  We had a much colder Nov/Dec this year as compared to last…but supposedly, from May-Oct it there were far fewer heating degree days this year (803 vs. 1130).
  • There’s some weird thermodynamic benefit to really heating the house thoroughly once a day. (This sounds like hokum to me.)
  • It was much less sunny this year and we got less solar gain, especially in the living room.

What seems most plausible to you?  Got any other ideas?

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