April 18, 2014
That was how Philippe Benoit, the head of the International Energy Agency, described the perception of achieving energy efficiency versus what it’s often like. Suggesting that people feel they are not plucking a ripe apple off a tree but having to lift a heavy watermelon when it comes to fixing their homes in order to make them energy efficient.
The BusinessWeek article also quoted him as saying “It’s perceived as boring and intangible, and the combination of the two makes it more difficult to understand. It’s much easier for people to understand putting solar panels on their roof and seeing the kilowatt-hours they generate than putting insulation in their home and noting the savings in energy consumption.”
My great grandfather was a farmer in the Midwest. As a kid, my father would visit the farm with siblings and cousins and they would all go out to the fields with grandpa where the watermelons were. I imagine it seemed like quite a walk when you were young. The mission was to bring melons back for later, to share with the family, but somehow, my great grandfather managed to drop every time on the walk back. “Well…” I can imagine him saying, “guess we’ll have to eat that one here.”
Solar panels are a great technology and for many make sense, but they are only part of a larger solution for you at home. At the risk of adding another food metaphor, they should be the icing on top of the cake, the cake being a well insulated and air-sealed home, designed to provide the fresh air you need, and having efficient heating and cooling systems inside.
Watermelons are only big and unwieldy when they are whole. Breaking them up makes light work of what seemed like a big task. And there’s nothing more satisfying with sharing the rewards of your labor with your family immediately. Maybe we can’t make energy efficiency flashy and exciting, but the fruits are worth the effort, GreenHomes can help.
April 7, 2014
Having your ductwork cleaned can be a good thing. With the arrival of spring some of us throw open the windows and start cleaning everywhere, but it’s probably best to find a pro for ducts. They have the right equipment and training to do a thorough job.
If you think the ductwork in your home needs a tune up, it pays to do a little homework first and ask why. Are they musty or dusty? Do they go through a crawlspace, basement or attic? Will you be fixing the problem or just a symptom?
Duct cleaning is not a cure all, and in some cases, unsubstantiated claims are made from contractors taking advantage of our fears of mold and poor indoor air quality. Some unscrupulous contractors present pricing so high that for the same price you could get a new set of ducts installed instead! I’d suggest finding someone who understands that ductwork is part of a house as a system. In other words choose a home performance contractor to do the work, since cleaning ducts won’t help if they constantly pull dirty air from attics and crawlspace every time they run. That’s treating the symptom and not the problem.
Take a look at what the EPA has to say and do it for the right reasons, and have them cleaned knowing you are doing the right thing!
April 2, 2014
It sounds like science fiction, but having contact lenses that would see infrared might be a great thing for our energy auditors. I’m not sure how soon technology like that will be available, but IR imaging is something our advisors use often.
Many of us use infrared on a daily basis. TV remotes for example use an IR beam we can’t see with the naked eye. A TV remote is not the same spectrum as our cameras pick up, so don’t try and do an energy audit with one.
Thermal cameras were tried briefly in professional baseball; focused on the strike zone they picked up the heat of the ball. It’s this kind of technology that can help an auditor.
IR is useful to see cold or hot spots on a wall that should be insulated, or maybe moisture damage that has gone unnoticed. It can also be combined with a fan run in the home to show air flow issues. The picture shows warm air making its way into a home from an attic hatch.
Building science, not science fiction is how we approach our audits. But, if someone wants to send out a pair of contact lenses, I’ll give them a try. Even just one may be too Sci-Fi to see everything in infrared.
March 24, 2014
For those in the eastern part of the country, experiencing record breaking cold temperatures and another round of storms, you may be wondering if the continent has shifted north to the arctic, or if winter will ever go away. To cheer myself up, I’ve been reading a book called “The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage” by Anthony Brandt. Winter doesn’t seem so bad anymore, nor does Spring.
Wintering over in the arctic at -30F with your ship frozen in the ice just so you can go further North when it thaws seems… kind of crazy. It’s not for me, but what I did find fascinating with this history, was the ingenuity that came from these voyages over two centuries ago and how little it transferred to home.
One explorer, Captain Parry spent some time with a stove maker to design a better system that not only kept the ship warm and melted ice for the crew, but also handled condensation build up in their makeshift home for the winter. Below zero outside and 70 degrees inside must have felt pretty good. It was not simply a better stove. It was a system. Insulation was added, heat was distributed and in addition to comfort, they burned less fuel. Just like your home should be!
Brand writes: “Mr. Sylvester and Captain Parry had invented a remarkably efficient form of central heating. It’s a shame the system was not applied to British housing, which remained heated entirely by coal fireplaces into quite recent times.”
Past explorations led to eating leather boots to survive and worse, and Captain Parry learned a thing or two. Don’t eat your boots to survive at home. Consider making your ship more bearable for the rest of this season and for the next! I’m guessing the good Captain made himself comfortable at home too.
Spring is coming!
March 19, 2014
March Madness bracket filled out? There’s nothing like the passion and drive in college basketball. We’ve got the same thing when it comes to energy audits and delivering the information you need to understand and to fix the problems in your home.
Comfort comes to mind first in the Final Four of Home Performance. While it may not be the most important on our list it’s the most thought of. An energy assessment and the improvements that follow can change your home into a place of comfort to watch the game.
Efficiency means we can pay the bills, save a little money and help the environment. Making sure your home’s components, work like a team on the court, every aspect playing its part, means a big win in the end.
Health and Safety round out our final four in this game and go hand in hand. Safety testing and identifying health concerns in your home are a part of our assessment and recommendations every time.
March 10, 2014
Mad as a March Hare? We tend to get a bit cagey at the end of the winter ready for spring to well, spring. At least there’s college basketball! It’s great to see these teams move their way through the roster towards April, warmer weather and the Final Four!
Guard against foul weather and center your home with the slam dunk of comfort, efficiency, health and safety. It’s what every home should be!
February 28, 2014
Nobody wants to hear about rising energy costs. For utility customers in New York, prices have going up this winter. Some of it was an accounting error, but increased demand for Natural Gas due to the swerving polar vortex helped.
Propane costs have gone up too, article from Kansas Cityreferences pricing as high as $5 a gallon. All of this reminds me of the days when crude oil prices were all over the proverbial road, never mind a little swerving polar vortex.
It’s not just about heating and cold winters. California is experiencing a lack of winter which sounds kind of nice coming from the Northeast. They are also seeing a drought and I’d expect a long hot summer which means an expensive cooling season ahead.
We can’t control fuel prices, but we can take control of our homes. There’s a great thing in being able to “weather the storm”. In our homes, that means comfort, but also peace of mind that we are protected from the elements. Integrating resilience, in our homes is as simple as insulating a home well and air sealing it properly. It is like preparing for a long voyage across the sea, and helps when weather or high fuel costs hit us broadside. Batten down the hatches!
February 14, 2014
Since this month is American Heart Month and it seems an appropriate metaphor for our homes. I’ve mentioned some of the similarities already, but here is a big one…
Think of your heating and cooling system as your home’s heart. The ductwork or piping can be like arteries and when it all works well, you stay comfortable.
But there’s a lot more to it than that, the body is a system where all the parts work well together. Homes are like that too. Heating, cooling, distribution, ventilation, roofing, siding, air sealing and insulation all come together and when it works great things can happen. We stay warm or cool comfortable and healthy.
Clearly it can be a complicated system, and I won’t say our advisors are doctors, but they sure know homes and how to make them work at their best. One thing’s for sure, we make house calls!
February 7, 2014
Heart disease is a significant issue for many Americans and encompasses a number of conditions. The American Heart Association is a great resource to start with if you have concerns. February is American Heart Month and you may ask what that could possibly have to do with a home.
Where do you start when it comes to a healthy heart? Your doctor is a good place. Being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease means a change, but it is change you won’t be working at alone, that’s why we visit one doctor for physicals and see a specialist if need be.
We take the same type of scientific approach to diagnosing homes and making recommendations. We start out as a general practitioner would in your home looking at everything. When we find something that needs special attention we can bring in the specialists. It might be the ductwork or the cooling system. Maybe it’s the insulation in the attic. But you won’t know until you get that physical and you won’t get better until you take action!
We know Home is Where the Heart is and this month help yourself and your family to a check up for your heart’s sake and also for your home!
January 29, 2014
How do you turn a nuclear warhead into a source of power that lights your living room? The answer came from Dr. Thomas L. Neff who conceived of, and carried out, the atomic recycling program called Megatons to Megawatts. You can read more about Dr. Neff in this The New York Times article. It’s quite poetic if you ask me, cold war era weapons meant to destroy our American cities if need be, in the end powering them.
I love hearing stories of triumph and ingenuity, embracing adversity and making the best of it. The “sword” of nuclear warheads being repurposed into “plowshares” we could harvest light heat and cooling from in our homes, should inspire all of us. While we don’t often encounter “swords” like this in our daily energy life, we do have the opportunity to make a change. Reduce. From the same NYT article Dr. Neff was quoted, “The lesson of the story, he remarked in an interview, is that ‘private citizens can actually do something’”. You can too, right at home.
Reducing the need for any energy source by creating a home that is energy efficient does a few things. It creates more affordable energy bills, makes you more comfortable and it allows our limited resources to last that much longer. The Megatons to Megawatts program expired in 2013, although there are other programs on a smaller scale in the works. We can run out of warheads, oil, gas, coal, or any other non-renewable resource. Do something at home, we can help.