Archive for the ‘Energy Geeks / Energy Policy’ Category

Can you see that? Contact lenses of the future see infrared?

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.IR_0538
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.
Thanks, Jason

Cutting edge science! Circa 1891

January 23, 2014

Dr smithThis time of year our homes are often closed up tight and we can get a little stir crazy by it.

Dr. Smith, pictured in the print, subjected himself to this voluntarily, we find out in a text book on ventilation printed in 1891.  His little home was made of lead and the window was there so he could break out if no one would let him out. A more trustworthy assistant would have been nice.

The door was weather stripped with an India rubber tube.  Funny how over 100 years later we still could use doors on our homes that work as well as his did!

Well Dr. Smith discovered that fairly quickly the room got unpleasant and moist.   He lasted for 100 minutes and then “three persons then went in and at once, pronounced the air to be very bad.”  Not sure this counts as science, but it works for me.  If it smells bad it is bad.  Good enough.

Ironically even today there are ongoing arguments about how much ventilation is needed but we need it.  I’ve written about controlling the airways and it’s a good idea to have your ventilation strategies worked out too.  Expert advice is only a call away.  Don’t worry at GreenHomes America, we don’t use lead rooms and emergency glass.

Thanks,

Jason

image comes from a google book in the public domain

BAM! Home Performance on Steroids

February 26, 2013

If you could reduce your energy bills by more than 50% would you?  In Syracuse, New York, our office has been working on ways to excel at making your home more energy efficient.  Call it Home Performance on Steroids, an Extreme Energy Makeover or Deep Energy Retrofit, it is a new tool in our tool belt to increase comfort and save energy in your home.

DER

As part of a research project for NYSERDA, GreenHomes America has been experimenting with “kicking it up a notch” as Emeril would say. Last summer in our top secret labs (we had to park a truck elsewhere) we spent some time fine tuning ways to improve homes above and beyond what we usually do.

The projects from this fall and early winter have gone great, and the Steroids metaphor sounds good but really, these results have been achieved with honest hard work, side effect free!  I will be talking more about these projects as well the benefits of Deep Energy Retrofits in future posts.   Stay tuned!

Thanks,

Jason.

 

Building Science Principles: consider going PRO?

January 15, 2013

bpi logoSome of you out there may know builders, home inspectors, Realtors, Bankers and Students, or may be one yourself.  Well, we all have something in common, “homes!” We live in them, own them, rent them, some work on them and we sure know when they are not working right.

Making a home comfortable safe and healthy takes a lot of work, and I think it only helps if we share that knowledge.  That is why we help educate homeowners on how they work and don’t work and how we can make them better.

Maybe you, or someone you know, is in a profession that could benifit from a little insight into building science.  Maybe you are looking to explore new career opportunities.  This could be a first step towards great things.  The certificate is a preview of some of the things one needs to know for the professional level certification our advisors obtain and we live by here at GreenHomes America.

At GreenHomes we pride ourselves in the training and certifications our employees will attain as well as sharing their knowledge with our customers. The study guide for the certificate is over 200 pages.  And more information can be found here:  http://www.bpi.org/professionals_certificate.aspx

Even if you are not interested in a certificate in building science, BPI has some good information for homeowners and explains why we do what we do, check it out!

Thanks,

Jason.

 

Wave that Geek Flag! It’s not Flowers, Peace and Love Anymore

May 2, 2012

Many Americans love their TVs, and it must be “love” otherwise why would we spend so much on something that takes up so much real estate on the living room wall!   Until recently they used a lot of energy too.

According to a recent posting from the NYT, “Incorporating LED and laser technology has helped slash the energy consumption of new TV models by nearly 50 percent within the last three years.”   But really it’s not efficiency claims selling these sets in some parts of the country, its “technology” or “better picture quality”.

What sets these TVs apart is the Energy Forward label which identifies a small group of the most efficient Energy Star appliances.  The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a utility supported non-profit organization based in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, is behind the label and they have taken an interesting approach.  Since TV watchers are prone to “geek out” by wanting the best set, it seems leveraging this “weakness” and making the best sets energy efficient is a win-win situation.

Collectively, small savings add up when everyone tunes in to the evening news on a high efficiency TV.  The important shift recognized here is that comfort and efficiency don’t have to conflict.  We fix homes to make them more comfortable.  It just so happens that is a wonderful side effect of reducing energy usage as well!

Peace,

Jason

Energy Efficient Tax Credits For 2011 and 2012

March 20, 2012

It’s that time of year again, and although we have written about Energy Efficiency tax credits for 2011 before, if you had work done this past year, it might be time to review.  You can also go to our learning center for solutions to common problems we fix in homes just like yours, as well as links to our franchise locations; they can provide details about incentives available in their area.

Many of the federal tax credits ended in 2011, but not all of them.  What will continue for 2012, are credits for some renewable energy systems.  Solar water heating and photovoltaic systems, small wind systems, and geothermal heat pumps, are all eligible measures through 2016.  If you are thinking of alternatives, consider our interactive online home to get a better sense of whether or not these types of improvements are really what you need this year.

Alternative energy systems can be expensive, and it often makes the most sense to install them in homes that are very efficient from the start.  You might be surprised by what some simple measures can save you money.  Tax credit or not, insulation, air sealing and efficient heating and hot water systems can pay for themselves in short order.  Simple measures that cost less and save you more!

Thanks,

Jason

Can Google Heat Your Home?

November 28, 2011

Looking down the road with our sister companies at The Linc Group, and Linc Lighting & Electrical, GreenHomes is already exploring how a shift toward electric vehicles will impact home energy use and the need for home energy efficiency.  There are some big ideas being experimented with.

And another interesting idea was discussed over the weekend in a NY Times article on “data furnaces”.  Very timely given the “Cyber Monday” heat we anticipate today.  The basic premise is to use the tremendous amount of heat generated in data centers—from the servers that run Google, Netflix, and the rest of the internet world—to heat homes.  It’s not so far fetched.  We have examples of co-generation heat in this county dating back more than a century.  While this used to be centered around industrial heat sources, high tech is part of that industrial base.  Further, there are intriguing benefits of distributed capacity on both the energy and the internet sides.

Don’t look for Google to be asking to install servers in your basement this year.  But don’t be shocked if the opportunity comes soon.  Just one of the exciting things we’re working on!

Thanks,
Mike

Don’t wait for Congress. Start SAVE-ing now.

November 8, 2011

Earlier this year, we featured a post from Laura Stukel on the total cost of home ownership.  Historically in the mortgage industry, this has included—or I should say been limited to—“PITI”, Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance.  Laura wisely argues that misses several costs, including the non-trivial cost of utilities.  While the average homeowner may pay $2,000 in utility costs, some people pay 2-3 times that amount, and those electric, gas, or oil bills can take a huge chunk out of the family budget.

As Consumer Reports highlighted yesterday, a new bill introduced in the Senate would change the underwriting and appraisal guidelines used by the mortgage industry to add to PITI the cost of heating and cooling a home.  (Maybe we’ll call it PITIU?).  This would help prospective buyers avoid budget-busting homes where they’ve get into trouble and have to choose between mortgage, utilities, or food on the table.  It would also reward more efficient homes.

Of course, readers here know that you don’t have to wait for an act of Congress to more your home more comfortable and energy efficient.  You can start today with a good energy audit, make the improvements that make sense for you, and start SAVE-ing right now.  Go figure!

Cheers,
Mike

Occupy…St. Louis?

October 28, 2011

We all know that energy-efficiency is a way to shrink utility bills.  Aggregated, energy-efficiency means we don’t have to pay for as money power plants or as costly distribution upgrades (oddly enough, power lines aren’t free—we pay for them).  The rub is that utilities make money selling electricity, and generally they don’t make money selling less electricity.

And thus, it’s not surprising, although it’s surely disappointing, to read that Ameren Missouri is slashing its efficiency spending by 70%.  Better for them to build more power plants that they charge us for, and sell us more electricity.  We get whacked twice, with higher rates and the same or higher usage.  People and companies deserve to profit from their investments–but it sure smells better when someone else benefits, too. 

Saving energy at home saves you money at home.  When a lot of us do it together, we save even more, because we avoid the costs of new power plants and power lines (and dirty air and dirty water).  Unfortunately, as individuals, we don’t get to decide who the public good is protected from Ameren’s short-sighted behavior.  We need our elected officials to make smart decisions there (someone should start an office pool on that one!).  But we can take steps to insulate ourselves from activities like Ameren’s in Missouri.  We can slash our own utility bills, and invest in our homes and our futures instead of Ameren’s.  That we can start doing today.  The rest, well, we may have to wait until election day…although I do wonder what a tent would like on Ameren’s front lawn. 

Thanks,
Mike

Coming down the road–Nissan Leaf to Power Homes?

August 15, 2011

A few weeks ago, I showed an example of the Nissan Leaf charging stations that our sister company, Linc Lighting & Electrical, is installing in California.  That’s cool.  And it’s even more exciting when we’re able to look at the whole house while we’re there, and boost the energy-efficiency to help offset the car’s electricity us.  [And the Energy Upgrade California incentives are a financial boost!] 

Looking down the street and around the corner, there may be even more interesting possibilities integrating Home/Car/Electricity.  For example, Nissan has unveiled and is testing a new system allowing the car to supply electricity to the house.  This has applications from off-peak (and lower rate) power storage to emergency back-up power.  We’ll have to wait and see how this pans out.  Roll this in with smart meters, renewable generation, and community-scale projects, and things get even more interesting.  And that is what is keeping the elves in our Energy Hub workshop busy!

Meanwhile, one thing we know for certain, focusing on efficiency first makes sense!  And at home you get to do this by making your home more comfortable, durable, and healthier.

Thanks,
Mike


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,084 other followers

%d bloggers like this: