Posts Tagged ‘Burlington’

It’s official–Monday was COLD!!

January 25, 2011

Monday’s temperatures in the Northeast with numbing.  In some places, the mercury droped so low it almost disappeared.  Why the temperature was so low it could sit on a dime and dangle its feet.  The temp was so low it could crawl under the belly of a snake–although the snake would have been frozen solid in this case.   Here’s a sampling of locations where they probably didn’t go through a lot of ice cream yesterday:

  • -36  Saranac Lake, NY
  • -35  North Troy, VT
  • -28 Fryeburg, ME
  • -20 Burlington, VT  (as measured on my back porch)
  • -13  Syracuse, NY
  • and a relatively mild -1 in Providence, R.I.

Syracuse is on a pace that might challenge a couple records for snowfall–already 111 inches this year–and cold.  And folks in the Northeast, brace yourselves.  Although it’s warming up into the 20s and 30s, there are forecasts pointing to more subzero weather this weekend.

Stay warm and safe.
Mike

Fire prompts warning about space heaters

December 29, 2010

The Burlington Free Press reports an all-too-common winter story about a house fire started by a space heater.  Fortunately the house wasn’t completely destroyed, and no one was injured in this case.  But it could have ended very differently.   As Kathryn touched on last month, space heater safety is very important.   As the Fire Marshall’s Office said in this case, space heaters should be used only temporarily and kept clear of combustible materials.

Stay warm–but be safe!
Mike

Biomass Energy Salvation?

June 21, 2010

There’s some chatter, including in this weekend’s NY Times, about a Massachusetts Forest Watch report calling biomass energy a “false solution”.  Many in the biomass industry and others refute that study.  I’m going to stand somewhere in the middle.  Biomass energy is likely to be part of the solution to our energy needs.  It certainly is in the city where I live in Burlington, VT, where the McNeil generator is a big part of our energy equation.  Biomass will be one plank of a good intermediate energy policy.  On the other hand, it isn’t a panacea, and the energy we’d create from burning trees and plant matter isn’t going to satisfy our energy needs–at least not the way we consume right now.  And we certainly saw an impact in food prices when we start selling food crops for fuel.  What’s the alternative?

Not really an alternative as much as a starting point is energy-efficiency.  Regardless uf how we produce energy–biomass, Gulf oil, nuclear, coal, solar, wind, hydro, or a generator attached to a bicycle–these less energy we use, the easier it is to produce it.   The less energy we waste, the less energy we use.  This is true at the macro scale for the country as a whole just as it applies in the micro scale down to individual homes.  In homes, we can gain efficiency while actually improving comfort and the durability of the home (do it right!).  When our clients ask for solar–and we do install solar–we’re happy to oblige, but we point them to energy-efficiency as the first step and the way to get more results for less.

So biomass or not, think efficiency first.

Thanks,
Mike

It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Snow hits New England

April 27, 2010

As shown in this photo (which looks a lot like the picture out my window) and story from the Burlington Free Press, Vermont and elsewhere in New England are getting more of the white fluffy stuff.

At least it doesn’t usually snow in July.   Enjoying that insulation right now!

Icicles Follow-up

January 9, 2010

A few days ago, we showed pictures of various roofs with evidence of heat loss as demonstrated by strange snow melt patterns and icicles.  Now, a few days later, I wanted to show what’s going on with couple of the homes.

First, the best performing roof still shows a remarkably even snow melt pattern.  Remember, this roof assembly is well air-sealed and insulated to R-60.  We do see a few small icicles on the left side of the roof.  An important point is that it is impossible to completely eliminate icicles, even with a great insulation and air-sealing job.  Outside temperatures, sun, and even depth of snow (since snow itself provides some insulation value) all are factors.  You’ll also see a chuck of snow missing on the right.  This actually didn’t melt off.  A thin layer of melt water under  the snow actually caused a section of snow to slide off the metal portion of the roof this morning.

This second shot, shows another house from the earlier pictures.   This second house is on the same side of the street, facing the same direction, and just a couple hundred feet from the house shown above. Snow on the main part of the house continues to melt fairly quickly.  The snow at the eaves of the two gable ends–not directly above the attic–is more than twice as deep as over the house showing the the house is a big contributor to the melt.  The snow on the addition roof to the right is almost completely gone showing much higher heat loss from this part of the house–an issue that should have been much better addressed at the time of construction.

Again, you can’t completely eliminate heat loss or icicle formation.  But with proper  insulation and air-sealing you can greatly reduce the problem, save a lot of energy, and help your roof last longer.   A good energy audit can show you the way.  And energy-efficiency tax credits and state and utility incentives can often help pay for the improvements.

Read more about icicles, ice dams, and solutions on our website or in a varierty of posts on this blog.

Thanks,
Mike

Snow in Northeast creates conditions for roof icicles and ice damming—signs of wasted energy

January 6, 2010

Burlington, Vermont got hit with a 33 inch snow storm (and several more inches from a couple other storms) last week. Syracuse, Fulton, and much as Central New York are getting pounded with snow much of the last ten days and more on the way. Snow on rooftops often leads to problems with icicles and ice damming, as we’ve discussed here before, but primarily for homes with air leakage into the attic and poor insulation. (Some will tout inadequate ventilation as the cause—but roof ventilation is often insufficient, it can make energy leakage worse, and it’s possible to solve this issue with no roof ventilation!). I thought I’d take a quick stroll and capture some examples of signs that we look for to help spot problems.  These pictures were taken within 30 minutes of each other on homes within a half mile radius of the first home shown.  What a difference good insulation and air-sealing makes!

This first home is an example of what we’d like to see.  An even snow pattern with no signs of excessive melt or ice build-up.  The attic is well-sealed and insulated to R-60+.  This particular home is more than 80 years old–so existing homes can indeed be made more energy-efficient.

This example shows that “New” isn’t always better.  After an extensive remodel completed within the last two years, this home should perform like a newly constructed home.  And in many ways, it does–unfortunately that means not as well as one would expect.  Too often new construction detailing isn’t done well and homeowners don’t really get the performance they should.

Cape Cod style homes are notorious for the poor air-sealing and insulation installation.  The changes in the roof plane and top and side attics require special attention.  More often than not, the details are missed, and the homeowner is left with deficiencies that create an inefficient home.

It’s hard to see in this photo, but there are some interesting melt patterns which probably mean some big air leaks and/or missing insulation.

Again, more recent remodeling means a big missed opportunity to improve efficiency.  I suppose this much ice, though, does make it harder for the neighbors to sign in the first floor windows!

Notice the melting along the ridge, and heat loss at the rafters telegraphing through the snow.

This looks like a semi-cathedralized ceiling, with a fair amout of air moving through the insulated rafter bays–and the ridge vent at the top may be accelerating the heat loss.

Something to think seriously about.  Excessive melting and ice damming is a good way to wreck your roof.  Now, I don’t know if that’s what happened here, but winter is not the best time to replace a roof–it’s generally done only in an emergency.

A fair amount of this home’s heating bill goes toward melting snow!

Now here’s an example of what we’d like to see those Cape Cod roofs to look like (even if this isn’t technically a Cape Cod style house)!

Whoops–looks like someone missed insulation in a couple of bays…

And several more examples follow.  Any ideas what’s going on with these?

Senator Bernie Sanders: Good environmental policy is good economic policy

November 1, 2009

Bernie Sanders in both Senate hearing and other writings with respect to environmental policy, energy policy, and economic policy, “the low-hanging fruit and a real job creator is energy efficiency”.  

[Speaking of Senator Sanders, check out this video from July 2009 from a hearing on Green Jobs, and note that Burlington, VT despite healthy growth and the increase in gadgets seen everywhere, today is consuming only 1% more electricity than it did 20 years ago, essentially handling growth in electricity needs by efficiency rather than building new power plants. ]

Thanks,
Mike


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