Microgrids, They’re Kind of a Big Deal

Thursday, July 17, 2014 14:17

 

For locals participating in the Pecan Street Demonstration in Austin’s suburban town of Mueller, TX, residential carbon footprint data is about as available as square footage. Their home utility consumption is monitored by the Pecan Street Research Institute at The University of Texas-Austin as part of the institute’s efforts to understand how individuals can lower their collective carbon impact and use energy more efficiently. This new technology, known as a smart grid system, has proven to be much more efficient than the traditional electrical grid used throughout the US. However, smart grids and the smart meters used to track energy usage of individual homes have come under fire for their ‘invasiveness’ as people have vocalized concerns about the lack of privacy that could accompany this advanced monitoring system. Fortunately for the anti-smart meter crowd, there are other ways to make a community more energy efficient.

Microgrid Read the rest of this entry »

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    The Case for CFLs [Infographic]

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014 9:30

    With the cost of energy increasing at a steady rate, and the promise of record breaking summer heat looming in the near future, the time has come for consumers to think of effective and innovative ways to save money on their utility bills.

    The most reliable way to reduce excess spending on energy is to get an energy audit performed on your home. If you’re thinking about getting an energy audit, it is important to ensure that the person auditing your home has received their BPI certification and is knowledgeable about the ins and outs of home energy auditing. In some cases, homeowners can get a free energy audit by contacting their utilities company. Summer can be a hectic time and booking a home energy audit may not be at the top of your to-do list. So until you can schedule an audit, check out this simple suggestion for cutting back on your cost of utilities.

    Bright Idea

    One small change that can have a massive impact is switching the bulbs in your house to energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps, or CFLs. In addition to saving money on home energy bills, CFLs are also better for the environment than standard incandescent bulbs as they pull less electricity from power grids and in turn require less output, and pollution from power plants.

    Since their market introduction in the mid 80s, CFLs have been a widely debated topic in the lighting and home improvement fields as consumers voiced concerns about installing CFLs in their homes and offices as the bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury. Bulb manufacturers took notice and responded to the criticisms and concerns through a well developed series of technological improvements, and safe recycling methods. CFLs have come a long way since their introduction, and the future of this energy efficient lighting source is looking bright.

    Check out this infographic to see why using CFLs in your home or office is a great money saver and a giant step towards becoming more energy efficient.

    DIY Energy Efficiency

    For a full list of energy saving tips, click here.

     

     

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      Convincing Homeowners of the Benefits of Air Sealing

      Friday, April 25, 2014 14:44

       

      A challenge contractors often face is convincing homeowners of the many benefits of air sealing. Often times, homeowners see this as no more than an additional expense that they do not need. However, what many homeowners do not realize is that air sealing can make a great difference in air quality while also lowering energy bills. As a contractor, you want to do your best to look out for your clients. Here are some tips to convince them of the benefits of air sealing. By utilizing these, you may be able to increase air sealing sales, which benefits not only you as a contractor but the homeowners in the long term as well.

      Show Visuals

      Visuals can be a great tool to help convince people about the benefits of air sealing. Some studies have come to the conclusion that 65% of people are visual learners and the effective use of visuals can help decrease learning time, improve comprehension, enhance retrieval, and increase retention. I recommend showing a chart like the one above from the EPA when explaining air sealing benefits to a homeowner. Read the rest of this entry »

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        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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