Making Vacations More Sustainable

Over the past decade we have continually upgraded the cabin to improve our sustainability.

When we bought the cabin in 2008 we started by installing a 96% efficient condensing propane furnace and a tankless propane water heater.  We put in a new refrigerator, dishwasher and high-efficiency front-load washer and dryer.  We upgrade all toilets to dual flush units and replaced all faucets and shower heads to help save water and energy.  Our automation system is the hub of our smart cabin and allows us to turn off the Heater, A/C, lights and water when the cabin is vacant.  The real benefit to all this automation is that our guests arrive to find the porch lights on and the cabin already at a comfortable temperature.

By utilizing PG&E;'s solar choice program we use 100% renewable energy to power the cabin.  We have been working for the past several years to improve the sustainability of the cabin, while improving guest comfort.  We had investigating installing solar panels but due to the shading and pitch of the roof it was not feasible to do so.  We just signed up with PG&E; Solar choice and now all of our power is provided by solar, wind and hydro sources.
Five years ago we began converting all of the lights in the cabin to LED lights.  Four years ago we added a variable speed high-efficiency heat pump which provides cooling in the summer and heating in the winter down to 30 degree outdoor temperatures.  This year we completed installing our smart lighting control system and converting the remaining lights to LED and adding motion occupancy sensors.  Guests can now control all the lights inside and outside the cabin from four keypads.  We even have an "All Off" button to turn off the lights from the front entry when leaving to go exploring.  As with all automation the challenge is less about technology and more about usability.  All of these enhancements are carefully designed, installed and must achieve a WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) of 90% before we roll them out for guests.
Although the cabin still uses propane, we have significantly reduced our propane consumption by using our heat pump and adding a small electric buffer-tank to our water heating system.  Overall the Lazy Bear Lodge uses 70% to 80% less propane and has an estimated 95% lower carbon footprint than neighboring cabins.  This year we changed our trash configuration to two recycling cans and one trash can.
By joining the solar choice program our electric bill will increase by only $10 to $15 per month on average.  If you are interested in the solar choice program you can get more information here:
http://www.pge.com/solarchoice/