September 16th, 2009
While it’s easier than it used to be to find truly green products out there, it’s still not that easy. It’s often hard to find that Energy Star label on appliances or home electronics, even if the product qualifies. And there seem to be five dubious green claims for every one legitimate one.
Through time, better programs are being put in place by governments and companies to separate out the green from not-so-green, and journalists (including bloggers) are always there to poke holes in undeserved claims.
The past week brought a couple of items that all green shoppers will find useful / interesting:
- Inhabitat’s Evelyn Lee reviewed the green claims made by Method home products. Her verdict? Very green! Read her original post here.
- CNET wrote about the revised Energy Star standards for TVs, just released by the EPA on September 3rd. The new standards are pretty tight and draw a brave line in the sand: TVs over 50″ in size have to meet the same Energy Star limits as those under 50″, regardless of how it performs against its supersized peers. The standards for TVs smaller than 50″ have been tightened significantly too.
And, of course, you can make use of the green shopping tools we profiled awhile back. The Good Guide is always adding new products and categories to their 70,000+ item database, so with their help you’re likely to be able to find many green options in a store near you.
Popularity: 23% [?]
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% [?]
June 10th, 2009
As part of BKLYN Designs 2009, a fabulous green design event that happens every May in Brooklyn, NY, Dwell Magazine toured five homes in the area to showcase innovative, contemporary and thoughtful design. Of the 5 homes we were so impressed with two of them because of their energy efficiency and use of sustainable materials. Sadly, we weren’t there first hand to tour the houses ourselves, but we may just have to make a trip to Brooklyn next spring to be there so we too can tour gorgeous homes like these.
The Dwell Homes Tour in Brooklyn was a chance for local designers to showcase their remodels and new construction as well as to inspire design enthusiasts who were on hand for the BKLYN Designs show, which ran May 8-10th. Our two favorite homes were designed by the same firm, Coggan + Crawford Architecture Design and built by Giancola Contracting. Each residence is ENERGY STAR rated and is a remodel rather than new construction. The Clarke Residence is part of the Star Complex, a two-unit building, while the Barr Residence is part of the Cobble Hill Lofts, a condo development in Cobble Hill.
The Clarkes and Andrew Giancola, the contractor for the project, reside in the two-unit Star Complex. It received its name after it became the first Energy Star rated building in Brooklyn. The beautiful remodel sits next to a church and even has views of the Statue of Liberty from its rooftop deck. When the new owners took possession of the building they wanted to retain as much of the original infrastructure as possible, but also update it and add on to create two residences. The original home structure was retained, refaced with stucco and given a number of new windows. Meanwhile, the addition was constructed from more modern materials like steel, concrete and metal siding.
With an Energy Star rating, this means the building uses 30% less energy than required by code. Along with the significant energy savings, the southern facade in the rear boasts many windows that let the sun in during winter months to heat the concrete floors, which provide thermal mass to help heat the interior. In the summer, the metal balconies for the fire escape provide shade to keep out the summer sun. All of the windows are Low E and Argon filled. The roof has been slanted towards the south for photovoltaic panels. Lighting is provided by energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs and the air conditioner is non ozone depleting. Flooring for the rest of the house is either renewable bamboo or carpeting from Interface, which has a Cradle to Cradle™ certification.
One of the duplex lofts in the Cobble Hill Lofts, the Barr Residence is also Energy Star rated and a remodeled building. Originally it was two story, long, dark industrial building, which was transformed into a beautiful residential complex. In order to let more light and air into the individual units, Coggan + Crawford designed an open courtyard into the middle to give each unit more windows and natural daylight. Each unit has a very open loft-like floor plan with remnants of its electrical warehouse past present everywhere.
During the remodel the original masonry shell, wood floor and roof joists were kept, minimizing demolition material that was sent to the landfill. Original concrete floors were also retained and refinished. And all appliances are Energy Star rated, and water saving devices like low flow toilets and faucets, and recirculation lines were used.
Both houses were constructed from existing structures with the expert knowledge from Coggan + Crawford are shining examples of sustainable urban construction. As homes and buildings in our urban centers start to fail, we can only hope that their reconstruction is done as well and as sustainably as these two structures have been.
[Update: The Barr Residence was incorrectly reported as being part of The Sillouette Condos. It is acutally part of the Cobble Hill Lofts.]
Popularity: 4% [?]
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% [?]
March 3rd, 2009
Many people think of energy-efficient appliances when they hear Energy Star, but they also rate buildings. The EPA today is announcing the top 10 US cities with the most Energy Star-rated commercial buildings.
Why is this important? Well energy use in commercial buildings and plants accounts for nearly half of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 50 percent of energy consumption nationwide. In 2008 alone, more than 3,300 commercial buildings and manufacturing plants earned the Energy Star rating for excellent energy performance. These energy-efficient buildings saved more than $1.1 billion in energy costs and reduced more than 7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, which is a savings equal to the emissions from electricity use of more than 1 million homes for a year.
The Top 10 cities announced today are, not surprisingly, led by two California cities– Los Angeles at number 1 and San Francisco at number 2. Los Angeles weighs in with around 250 Energy Star buildings, and San Francisco has around 200. Quite surprisingly Houston, Texas is number 3, with 150 buildings. (They prove once again, Don’t Mess with Texas.) Also on the list are Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, and Washington DC. You can see the full list of the Top 10 and learn more about their green buildings here.
What makes a building an Energy Star building? To qualify for EPA’s ENERGY STAR, a building or manufacturing plant must score in the top 25 percent using EPA’s National Energy Performance Rating System. Buildings can be rated on an energy performance on a scale of 1-100 relative to similar buildings nationwide using the EPA’s Portfolio Manager tool. Buildings that earn a rating of 75 or greater may qualify for the Energy Star designation. Buildings are rated on such factors size, location, number of occupants, number of PCs, heating and cooling systems, etc. You can learn more about the Energy Star building system here.
Popularity: 3% [?]