The Cost of Solar is Down, the Rate of Installation is Up

Monday, July 22, 2013 12:08
Posted in category Clean Energy News
The Cost of Solar is Down, the Rate of Installation is Up
Find Out Why

Enough sunlight falls on the Earth’s surface every hour to meet the entire world’s energy needs for one year. While this abundant source of energy seems like a solution to our energy woes, it all comes down to the ability to convert solar energy into electricity.

Far gone are the days when the solar technology meant concentrating the suns rays to make fire or burn ants. This year, an airplane powered only by sunlight made it across the Atlantic, more and more Americans are powering their homes with solar, and businesses are capitalizing on its rapid rate of return. The technology to utilize the sun’s rays for lighting, heating, cooling, and charging has arrived.

Still, solar has to be able to compete with other energy sources on the market. While solar power may not be able to rival the price of natural gas, it is well on it’s way to becoming a strong contributor to the United States energy make-up.

Making the Case: Why the use of solar will grow in the U.S.

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    How to Insulate a Slab Foundation

    Friday, July 19, 2013 9:21
    Posted in category Technical How-To's

    Insulating a Slab Foundation

    Insulating the foundation of a home built on a slab may sound as though it’s not worth the effort. After all, a slab has very little exposure to the weather. Nor will it leak heated air the way a basement or crawlspace will.

    But heat will take every opportunity to move toward cold. It’s a law of nature. And when you consider that the top few feet of soil around your home is often as cold as the air, the path for heat loss is not insignificant.

    This form of heat transfer is called conduction. It’s what happens when you put a metal spoon in a cup of hot tea. It’s not long before the spoon handle heats up. Concrete conducts heat more slowly than metal, but without insulation the process is ongoing, 24 hours a day.

    Heat energy is conducted toward the slab perimeter as long as the perimeter is colder than the slab. By installing rigid board insulation at the slab’s edges, the flow is slowed considerably. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, insulating the slab perimeter can reduce heating bills by 10 to 20 percent. That can mean a very fast payback in many regions of the country.

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      Are Buyers Willing to Pay for Green

      Wednesday, June 26, 2013 17:55
      Posted in category Clean Energy News

      Environmentalists, policymakers, building professionals, big businesses are united in acceptance of green buildings. Green = Good! But what about the group that matters most, the buyers?

      What the picture is of

      Are buyers on board with green building benefits?

      The introduction of rating systems that certify the green features and energy efficiency of buildings has helped to grow the public awareness of the benefits of green building.

      Surveys indicate that today, the public is generally aware of green buildings and associates them with features such as:

      • Lower operating costs and utility bills due to higher energy and water efficiency.
      • Higher quality construction, since green rating systems often go beyond building codes.
      • More comfortable and stable indoor temperatures.
      • Healthier indoor air quality.

      In the words of Ara Hovnanian, CEO and president of Hovnanian Enterprises, one of the nation’s biggest home builders, all things being equal, consumers would choose green.

      However, things are not equal. To build green, developers have to invest more upfront. It is true that the cost of green construction has been going down: the premium today is 7%, as compared to 10% in 2008 and 11% in 2006.

      Still, the builders will be willing to incur the additional expense only if they believe that the buyers are willing to pay extra for lower electricity bills and better indoor environment.

      Are buyers willing to go the extra dollar for green?

      How much more?

      The data used to gauge buyers’ price sensitivity can come from industry surveys, regional research and even anecdotal information from real estate agents. One of the primary resources of information about buyers’ preferences is the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which regularly surveys builders and home buyers to get feedback on buyers’ demands.

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        The Best Approach to Insulating Your Basement

        Wednesday, June 5, 2013 20:10
        Posted in category Technical How-To's

        Make floors warmer in winter, and save up to $300 per year in energy bills.

        Basement CeilingA typical basement, in winter, is like having an air conditioner running under your floorboards. In summer, it’s akin to living above a swamp, with damp foundation walls and floors, sweaty pipes, musty odors, and many-legged creatures scurrying about.

        There are two ways to solve these problems, according to Larry Janesky, home energy audit expert and president of Dr. Energy Saver: insulate the basement “ceiling” or insulate the basement walls. Deciding which is best for you and your home is best left to an energy expert, but it’s helpful to understand your options.

        Insulating Basement WallsOption one: Insulating the basement “ceiling”

        When most homeowners (and many builders) think about basement insulation, they think about stuffing fluffy pink stuff between the overhead joists (framing) in the basement. It doesn’t do much, but it makes people feel better that there’s some sort of thermal barrier between them and the basement. Many people don’t bother with insulation here at all because of all the obstacles to installing it: air ducts, electrical cables, plumbing, bridging, and light fixtures. In addition, fiberglass bats are notorious for soaking up condensation, sagging out of position, and allowing air to pass through them.

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          Case Study: Active House USA

          Wednesday, June 5, 2013 9:43
          Posted in category Technical How-To's

          Active House – the “building that gives more than it takes “

          There are a few green building standards competing for the industry’s attention in the US: USGBC’s LEED, the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes, the International Living Future Institute’s Living building challenge, the Passive House (aka Passivhaus).  And now, there is also the Active house.

          Active Houses is energy efficient and uses only renewable resources.  The indoor climate of the Active House is designed to be comfortable and healthy, and the home itself is designed to interact positively with the local environment.

          What the picture is of

          Active House is a very new concept, it was first conceived in 2011, at a conference in Brussels, although the movement itself started in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Since then, quite a few Active Houses were built in Europe.  And just this year, the first two prototype houses were built in North America, one in the US, and one in Canada.

          Active House key principles are:

          Energy:

          • a building that is energy efficient and easy to operate
          • a building that substantially exceeds the statutory minimum in terms of energy efficiency
          • a building that exploits a variety of renewable energy sources integrated in the overall design

          Environment :

          • a building that exerts the minimum impact on environmental and cultural resources
          • a building that avoids ecological damage
          • a building that is constructed of materials with focus on re-use.
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            Don’t Overlook Your Crawl Space

            Tuesday, May 21, 2013 12:44
            Posted in category Technical How-To's

            Crawl Space

            Every house is unique and foundation-type is one distinct difference between them.  A home typically has a crawl space, basement or a concrete slab foundation.  In this three part article series author Joe Provey explains how foundation-type should be taken into consideration when upgrading a home’s energy efficiency. Joe’s first article explains how a home with a crawl space foundation can increase their energy efficiency.
            Save energy with the bonus of controlling excess humidity and improving home air quality!

            Like it or not, your crawl space and living space are joined at the hip. Holes for wiring and pipes, plumbing chases, leaky heating ducts, gaps in subflooring, ensure that your living space and your crawl space communicate freely! It is no surprise that the U.S. Department of Energy recommends you insulate your crawl space. Insulation in the floor joists is typically inadequate to offer much of a barrier. To make matters worse, the laws of physics actually cause the air in your crawl space to be pulled up into your living areas. As warm air rises in the upper levels of your home, it creates a draw on the lower areas. As much as 40 percent of the air in your crawl space eventually mixes with the air inside your home.

            This creates a whole series of problems, ranging from energy loss to breathing unhealthy air. In summer, cool air is lost to the crawl space. In addition, excess humidity from the crawl space causes your air conditioner to work harder and use more electricity than it should. In winter, cold air entering through the crawl space makes your floors cold and first level rooms drafty. Heating bills climb. Winter and summer, you’re apt to be breathing unhealthy air laden with allergens and soil gases.

            There are five steps you can take to turn a crawl space into a clean, healthy, energy-efficient part of your home. Here they are roughly in the order you should tackle them:

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              What Glass Architecture Means for “Green”

              Friday, May 17, 2013 11:55
              Posted in category Technical How-To's

              Glass as a design choice

              Glass Buildings

              A look at today’s architecture and design magazines, or at new construction projects in NYC, confirms that the current material of choice is glass.  Floor-to-ceiling windows, 360° views, natural daylight, connecting inside to the outside are the design vocabulary du jour.  Glass, and lots of it, is intended to convey modernity, sophistication, and, increasingly, green design.

              The first glass was made about 2,000 years ago.  It was used to seal off small apertures made to let in light.  However, it was not until many centuries later that the use of glass in buildings became widespread.  Still, window sizes were constrained by practical considerations: impact on the load-bearing capacity of the walls, material limitations, energy conservation requirements, expense.  In the 20th century, the development of structural steel, and later reinforced concrete, allowed to transfer bearing loads from the exterior walls to interior columns.  At the same time, glass came in increasingly bigger unbroken sheets.

              The International Style in architecture, made simple glass façades and huge opens spaces synonymous with modernity.  In the late 1940s, double-pane glass with thermal insulation was created.  Windows were becoming bigger and bigger, until eventually the entire exterior skin of a building was made of glass – it was called the curtain-wall.  Lever House, built in 1952, was the first curtain-wall building in New York.  By 1970s, coated, laminated glass, and other innovative glass products were created.  Today, fully-glazed office buildings are ubiquitous, and in residential buildings, especially on the higher end, panoramic, huge, often floor-to-ceiling windows became a requisite amenity.

              What is it that makes glass so appealing to architects and building owners? 

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                Eco-Fashionable: Eco-Friendly (and Equally Attractive) Window Treatments

                Friday, April 26, 2013 16:32
                Posted in category Technical How-To's

                Energy Efficient WindowJust because you’re doing your part for the environment and instituting more eco-friendly measures, it doesn’t mean you have to throw your fashion sense out your newly-green windows. These days, there are more ways than ever to introduce earth-saving accessories to our energy-efficient windows that are as easy on the eyes as they are on the environment.

                Choosing eco-friendly window treatments is also much easier on the wallet than replacing every window in your home with energy-efficient ones. Including the cost of labor for installation, one can reasonably expect to pay anywhere from $400-$1,000 per energy-efficient window; for someone with even a dozen windows in their home, the costs could easily come in between $4,800-$12,000 for the entire project!

                Once you consider the fact that you cannot take your super-expensive windows with you when you leave and that you will almost certainly not recoup 100% of the costs, other alternatives start to look much more promising.

                Meanwhile, upgrading your window treatments is not only an exponentially more economical choice on the front end, but you are also able to transport them to your next home if you decide to move.
                Here are a few of the most energy-saving options for eco-fashionable window treatments.

                Honeycomb Cell Shades

                In terms of extreme insulators, the honeycomb cellular shades can’t be beat! The unique honeycomb shape works like a quilt in that it insulates your windows by trapping air between the honeycomb cells. They not only block heat in the summer but they also block cold air from entering in the winter.

                On the surface, they have an accordion-esque appearance and come in a variety of colors. Honeycomb cell shades are a good way to incorporate a bit of textural interest to your windows, as well.

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                  An Overlooked Aspect of Energy Efficiency

                  Wednesday, April 10, 2013 14:10
                  Posted in category Technical How-To's

                  Parking GarageDespite the growth of public transportation and other transportation alternatives, parking locations remain necessary in much of the nation. Even though parking consultants and design teams have been using sustainable practices for parking structures in recent years, many do not calculate energy use as part of their standard methodology. Unknown to most, a garage typically uses 15% of the energy that the building that it is designed to support uses.Worse, this energy use is often lost in the periphery of energy efficiency efforts. Parking structures should not be overlooked, though, because the savings potential is immense. Energy use can be reduced by more than 90% over an ASHRAE Standard 90.1 2007 baseline parking structure with typical construction costs.

                  Here are some design elements that can be implemented to improve the energy efficiency of parking structures

                  Ventilation

                  Design the parking structure to maintain an approximate 40% façade openness, which allows natural ventilation on all levels. This will be enough ventilation to preclude the need for mechanical ventilation systems.

                  Daylighting

                  Lighting is typically the largest load, particularly for naturally ventilated structures. To reduce the lighting load to almost zero during daylight hours, perforate the façade with aluminum panels that let in sunlight (while keeping out weather) and, if possible, design to include a “light well” in the middle of the structure to meet a full daylighting effort in the center of the space. If done properly, only a few places in the structure, such as under the stairs, need to be electrically lighted between sunrise and sunset.

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                    LEED Certifications of March

                    Monday, April 1, 2013 17:29
                    Posted in category Clean Energy News

                    The newest installment of CleanEdison’s LEED Certifications of the month series.

                    The month of March had a wide variety of buildings get their LEED Certification. The usual American college campuses were joined by a Holocaust museum and a university in Hong Kong.

                    In no particular order, here are the LEED Certifications of March 2013

                    Philadelphia School’s Ellen Schwartz and Jeremy Siegel Early Childhood Education Center

                    Philadelphia SchoolThe Center, located at 2501 South Street, was recently awarded LEED Silver Certification under the US Green Building Council’s LEED 2009 New Construction Rating System.

                    During construction, a commitment was made to use as much locally produced materials as possible; preferred materials had recycled content. Spray foam insulation and fiberglass batts installed in the ceiling and walls resulted in a high R-value, a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it, and reduced air leakage in and out of the building.

                    A radiant heat system was installed. The size and positioning of the building’s many windows ensure ample natural daylight. Interior materials meet rigorous air quality standards. The drought-resistant landscaping and hard-surfaced areas were designed to help rainwater infiltrate into the ground rather than enter the city’s storm-sewer system.

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