Archive for the ‘Energy Audits’ Category

Is Your Air Conditioner Feeling the Heat?

August 17, 2012

Visiting family last month in the south brought home the importance of comfort.  After all, it was vacation and we were visiting a wonderful home able to accommodate a few families coming together.  It was a relatively new home too, clearly built to entertain, with large open spaces and expansive porches.   While it was great to relax on those porches, the afternoon sun often caused us to retreat inside for some cool air.  The air conditioners seemed to run the whole time we were there and I’d bet that was the case for much of the summer.

Always thinking about how efficiently a house works, I have to say there were a few rooms that always seemed to be on the warm side.  They were second story rooms above the garage with small closed off side attics.   The air conditioner had to work particularly hard to keep these spaces cool and the rooms really didn’t cool off until the sun went down.

Built to code, spacious and beautiful with all the bells and whistles, this home only fell short in one area:   performance.  For me this translates into more than just a loss in energy efficiency but also a lack of comfort.

I can’t stress enough the benefits and values from a comprehensive home assessment, even for new homes.  In fact, next time I visit I might bring along a blower door and infrared camera to conduct my own assessment.  Then I would be able to provide the family with some real solutions for their home performance.  After all, it’s the least I can do considering how well they fed me!



Transparent Refrigerators: Keeping Your Cartons Cool

July 31, 2012

Transparent RefrigeratorIt has been said that if engineers, instead of architects, designed efficient buildings, there would be no windows.   Refrigerators are boxes just like our homes, and for good reasons most of them have no windows.  You can get a commercial refrigerator with a glass door, but the sacrifice is efficiency to get that view inside.  This one becomes transparent as you approach it, which is pretty neat and might save energy if it is well insulated and you don’t have to open the door as much.

Seems like a good idea to me.  What if we were the milk cartons and our home the fridge?   This time of year keeping cool can mean keeping the door closed on our homes because your air conditioner works double time when the door is left open.    It also works harder when there’s a lack of insulation and lots of air leakage in your home.   Hey, if you are the produce and don’t wish to perish, consider keeping cool by improving your home. We can help!



In Home Performance Safety is Our Number One Concern!

June 19, 2012

Our advisors and installation crews spend a lot of time in houses.  We use ladders and power tools and crawl around underneath and above homes, especially attics.   We look for air leaks, low insulation levels, electrical concerns, and other hazards.  Safety is a great concern, and occasionally we come across the unexpected; such as sharks.

Sharks: A major safety concern in attics

Sharks: A major safety concern in attics

I’m sure that air leakage from the electrical box is providing plenty of nice indoor air smells, steak cooking, people sleeping.  Seal those leaks and I’m guessing the sharks won’t be so interested.  More insulation in this space is needed too.  Summertime air conditioners have to work twice as hard when there’s so little insulation and air sealing in your attic.  When you want to keep the conditioned air conditioned, hot or cold, putting a good cap on your home is a great start.  What shark would stick around after that?  No good indoor smells, no cool air, not a great place to hang out.

What's for dinner?

What’s for dinner?

If you have sharks in your attic consider a home performance assessment, it’s a great way to take a bite out of your high energy bills and make a home more comfortable and safe.



Is It Getting Smart in Here or Is It Just Me?

June 12, 2012

It used to be that thermostats sat on the wall waiting to be turned.  It was a very manual affair.  A simple dial to turn or lever to push and if you left the house and forgot to change it, you kept it warm for the cat and houseplants at least.  And with that, we did not think much about our energy bill, kind of dumb.

The nest thermostat is elegant in design but also learns in a sense.  The little leaf guides you (it’s lets you know you’ve set the temperature to one that is efficient) and you guide it, as it learns your behavior.

Another thermostat is the Ecobee, somewhat more conventional looking, but just as “smart”.   Both of these devices, as well others on the market, are wireless enabled and allow you to connect to your phone, tablet or computer.

You can also get weather information or be alerted when things aren’t working at home (good to know if your pipes could freeze in the winter, or you do butter sculpture in your living room in the summer).

I like these but I’ll say it again, monitoring our usage isn’t worth much unless we change our behavior, and I think devices like this might help.  Maybe it won’t really make me smarter, but it reminds me when I’m not being smart about energy, and that can only help.



Home Energy Audits: Worth the cost?

May 21, 2012

Recently Fox News had an interesting piece on energy audits.  It asks an excellent question; are they worth the cost?  As homeowners we can identify some issues in our homes, but it often takes and expert to pull it all together, and catch some of the bigger issues affecting our utility bills.

The article points out that not all auditors are created equal.  It mentions that blower door tests, Infrared imaging, as well as duct testing, are important for and auditor to perform.  And we agree.  In fact, we spend numerous hours training individuals to use the equipment, as well as getting them certified with the Building Performance Institute (BPI).  BPI’s focus is not on just energy efficiency, but also health and safety, and that in my mind is more important that just saving money.

It is important that our advisors have ongoing training and support, because homes—and the building science behind them—are complicated.   If I relate this to the medical profession, would you want an intern performing surgery while figuring it out on their own? Or, would you rather have an experienced doctor teaching the intern?

One thing not pointed out in the article is that saving energy is only part of it.  Don’t forget comfort, the reason we heat and cool our homes in the first place.  Acting on the recommendations in an energy audit can make our homes a more comfortable place.

Is it worth the cost?  If you take action, absolutely!  An audit isn’t worth anything if you don’t fix the problems, which is why it is so important to identify them—and provide cost-conscious improvements—making your home more energy efficient, healthy and comfortable.  You can learn more in our learning center.



Death, Taxes and Energy Bills!

May 11, 2012

The Alliance to Save Energy posted this graphic comparing some common costs for U.S. homeowners.

As Benjamin Franklin said in 1817 “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” seems to me energy bills should replace taxes.

I’m guessing things are more comfortable in your home than they were for Mr. Franklin and I’m certain you want to keep it that way.   But addressing energy efficiency issues in the home can keep you comfortable and Ben Franklin honest, and save you more than a few of those bills with his face on it.



Congratulations to GreenHomes Partner ABC Cooling and Heating!

May 8, 2012

GreenHomes America Partner ABC Cooling and Heating, was recently presented the 2012 Energy Upgrade California Highest Performance Award.  This award is presented to the contractor that has completed the highest number of Home Performance projects within the PG&E territory in the state of California.

This is a significant achievement since 75% of all Energy Upgrade California projects were completed in the PG&E territory.  I won’t steal ABC’s thunder but, collectively GreenHomes America Partner locations have performed close to half of all completions in the State of California!   I know this won’t be the last award we will see from ABC Cooling and Heating!

Jerry Unruh
President & Owner

We’re proud to support ABC Cooling and Heating’s locations in Fresno and Hayward as they perform both energy assessments and upgrades from Santa Clara County/SF Bay Area to the Central San Joaquin Valley.  Their dedication to quality, hard work and customer service has paid great dividends.

Rest assured that when a GreenHomes America Partner works on your home, those dividends will be more than energy savings.  You will experience the service and quality that instills the trust to recommend a company from friend to friend and neighbor to neighbor.

Fixes for Hidden Costs Reveal Hidden Benefits!

April 12, 2012

The offender in many folks’ minds when it comes to pollution is the automobile, not our homes.  It seems to be ingrained in our heads that automobiles are the worst offenders; I won’t discourage alternatives.   But, in fact, we generate twice as much carbon dioxide emissions as we consume coal, oil, and natural gas—directly or indirectly—in our homes.

Hidden CostImagine what happens if we cut the energy use in our homes by half?  The scale might balance out for sure, but there are definitely more benefits, saving money for one.  We do this on a daily basis.  Improving their home’s insulation and air tightness, heating and cooling systems, and more, will typically save our customers at least 25%, but often much more.

It all starts with a comprehensive home assessment which helps drive pollution and energy cost reduction in the home.  But the biggest impact we hear about from our customers is how comfortable that drive can be!  The end result we sometimes forget about is the level of comfort revealed after the job is done.



Image from the DOE’s home energy saver website

Leaving the Door Open – I Cry Fowl!

April 6, 2012

GHAOne of our top advisors a few years back had a unique experience on an assessment visit.  Leaving the doors open to his vehicle, he unknowingly acquired some unwanted guests.  It made me think about our homes and another unwanted “guest”: uncontrolled airflow via attics and elsewhere in the home.  (A great resource if you haven’t seen it already can be found in our learning center)

When we test airflow in homes we use cubic feet per minute as a unit of measurement.  Ideally this can help people visualize how much air moves through your walls ceilings and floors.  The large fan we place in the doorway of the home measures this flow and allows us to compare the amount of leakage in your home to others of similar size. Many of us don’t often think in terms of cubic feet, but you know, I’d guess it’s about the same as a good sized chicken.

You would be surprised by the amount of leakage in the average home when you can’t see the holes.  They are hidden behind walls and floors, connections in the ceiling.  In places we don’t really think about.  Every chicken’s worth of air that moves uncontrolled in or out of your home costs, not only in terms of money, but also comfort.  There could be GHAhundreds of them entering or leaving your house every hour.  Not sealing those leaks is like leaving the door open all year long.

Keep the chickens where they belong.  Close the doors.



Photos courtesy of John Scipione Branch Manager, Syracuse NY.

What’s in your attic?

February 27, 2012

Miracle Material, Modern Curse:  Vermiculite 

Vermiculite insulation can be found in older homes.  It was installed in attics often by homeowners, many years ago and sometimes made its way into walls. Vermiculite insulation, on its own, is not a bad thing.  However, the problem is, Vermiculite insulation may contain asbestos.

Maybe you’re looking at this picture and thinking about the holiday decorations you just tucked away in the attic. You’re thinking “uh oh…” hold on.  When our advisors investigate a home, they keep their eyes out for this stuff. If they find it, they proceed with caution because it may have asbestos in it.  On the other hand, it may not have asbestos in it. Unfortunately, you can’t tell simply by looking at it. So be cautious and don’t disturb it.  The EPA  has a good deal of information on vermiculite and so will your energy advisor.

As you can see, it’s important to consider health and safety when improving the efficiency of our homes. The Building Performance Institute (BPI) has standards regarding suspected asbestos containing materials such as vermiculite. Yet another reason why every GreenHomes America advisor is BPI certified.  Shaking the “curse” is easy. Not only can we help you figure out what is in your attic, but also what to do with it, and most important how to stay safe right at home.



photos used with permission from Asbestorama on Flickr


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