July 26th, 2009
I know it’s depressing to think about, but it won’t be too long before we start thinking about taking the sweaters out of the closet and putting the swimsuits in their place. While the weather is still nice, though, it’s a perfect time to identify and fix those pesky energy-sucking leaks around windows, electrical outlets, and anywhere else where the insulation behind your wall or ceiling isn’t quite perfect.
Fortunately, there’s a new tool out there from Black & Decker called the Thermal Leak Detector that will make this task much more accurate than guesswork or incense sticks and much less expensive than a full-blown energy audit. We mentioned it back in December, but it’s now widely available and can be found at LIL’s partner Energy Federation and at Amazon. (note: if your heating or cooling bills are high and your home is > 10 years old, a professional audit is most likely the best way to go. They’ll be able to do a much more comprehensive job than you will, and can help to identify which fixes are most important. We have a great list of auditors near you on Low Impact Living).
The Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector is very easy to use and pretty accurate. Simply scan it across a wall or other surface and a light emitted by the device will change from red to blue as you scan over zones that are hotter or colder than a reference temperature you select. Try to pick a day when the difference between inside and outside temperatures is high and scan away!
Popularity: 4% [?]
July 13th, 2009
Want to get a first hand glimpse of a net-zero energy home that generates all its necessary power from renewable energy? You may get a chance if you live in one of the areas that the Living Zero Home Tour is traveling through. Starting just a week ago in Chicago, the Living Zero Home Tour is showcasing a net-zero energy home featuring energy efficient appliances and building technologies. The home will continue to travel through November so you can experience and see for yourself how energy efficient technologies are integrated and how they can easily lower monthly utility bills as well as your reduce environmental impact. (more…)
Popularity: 7% [?]
July 5th, 2009
Written by Susan Kraemer, courtesy of GreenBuildingElements.com
If every building had a white roof, we would be able to cool the surrounding areas. That is the reasoning behind a California law about to go into effect next month requiring light reflective roofs on all new buildings. It is already the law for new flat roofs here.
Here, architect Richard Meier and his partner Michael Palladino have apparently created a design to go one further. It’s entirely white; roofs, walls, and interiors.
So this luxury design of a cool and airy Southern California beach house is glamorous and climate friendly.
Well, no. The McMansion-sized size of the thing at 4,280-sq.-ft is not so planet friendly; because it takes more energy to heat and cool a larger space. But this house would be well suited for a ground heat exchange to passively heat and cool itself with 55 degree air cooled from 10 feet under the ground.
As architects in California get closer to 2020, they will need to think more about passive cooling and heating and zero energy houses, as that will be the law by 2020. All new building must be zero energy by then.
Incorporate solar roofing on the white roof, and this could be a zero energy house.
The blue of a solar roof would visually extend right out to the ocean. (And conceal that horrible mess of mechanical contraptions on that roof.) White elastomeric cool roof paint under the solar panels would help cool the modules making them more efficient on hot days.
But are architects thinking about these things?
With 2020 almost upon us: “The beams at the roof, located above the horizontal framing, express the structural rhythm and layering of components,” explains the architect. “This cadence is repeated with the joinery of the painted aluminum exterior wall panels and modular windows. The mass of the exterior plaster walls are juxtaposed to the transparent glazed facades, creating a mosaic of layered materials.”
Blah, blah, blah.
Popularity: 21% [?]
June 14th, 2009
Major League Baseball teams have been working hard these last couple of years to get better, faster, stronger and greener. In the spring of 2008, the MLB and NRDC partnered up to help major league teams become more sustainable, waste less, reduce energy use and educate their fans. The new effort is due to a number of interwoven factors, like concern for the environment, money savings, and a sense of responsibility to to their fans. Major League players and teams have hero status anyways, so it’s no surprise that many teams are proving to be excellent examples of eco-warriors.
Popularity: 7% [?]
June 8th, 2009
Water heaters may not be the sexiest energy device out there, but they’re certainly important. In a typical home, they account for 20% of energy use, and even more if you live in a warmer climate (average of 35% in California, for instance). And there’s a major difference between the most and least efficient options, so making the right choice for your budget/household is important. The most efficient combustion heaters can save 50% compared to standard models, while a solar water heater could cut 80% or more from your annual water heating bill (you can find out how much they’ll save in your home by selecting various water heating options using our Environmental Impact Calculator. It covers tankless, high-efficiency storage and solar hot water heating options).
Over the past few years, the upper end of the performance spectrum has been pushed outwards, and the latest entrants from Navien set a new high. Standard storage water heaters routinely exceed 60% efficiency, manufacturers such as Takagi and Rinnai have pushed tankless water heater efficiencies over 80%, and AO Smith has introduced tank-based versions exceeding 90% efficiency.
All of these are well below the performance of the Navien CR line of tankless water heaters, which top out at a whopping 98% efficiency! This means that 98% of the energy contained in the natural gas (or propane) fuel is converted into hot water and only 2% is wasted. How do they do it? (more…)
Popularity: 6% [?]