Posts Tagged ‘efficiency’

Is Your Home Energy Efficient?

October 23, 2014


Pictured above is a snapshot of an infographic about your home’s efficiency.  The full version can be found on our website.  Our homes are one of the biggest investments we make in our lifetime.  We, as homeowners, should be determined in getting the most out of our home and that starts with its energy efficiency.  There are many ways you can make your home more energy efficient on your own like we talked about in our last post, Home Energy Saving Tips.  Kudos to you if you began to implement them!

There are, however, a number of things in your home that can’t be seen by the naked eye or fixed on your own.  For example, outside pollutants can seep into your home through small holes built into the structure of the home.  This isn’t something you would see.  It often translates itself into uneven temperatures in your home or unhealthy living conditions.  If you are experiencing either of these, the chances are you won’t find the culprit.  Since a lot of the holes are in the structure of the home, they will be behind walls or between floors where our naked eye cannot see.

At GreenHomes, we understand home efficiency.  We know the importance of conserving our resources and our pocketbooks.  And we specialize in home energy audits.  A home energy audit uses tools that can identify the holes that may be in the structure in your home.  It does more too.  We can tell you where energy is being used, where you are losing energy, and how you can save energy.  And of course, with saving energy, comes saving money.  Not to mention, your home will be more comfortable than ever before.

Feel free to share this post with a neighbor; let’s all play a part in saving energy this October!

Thanks for stopping by!


March Madness and the Final Four

March 10, 2014

BasketballMad as a March Hare? We tend to get a bit cagey at the end of the winter ready for spring to well, spring. At least there’s college basketball! It’s great to see these teams move their way through the roster towards April, warmer weather and the Final Four!
Guard against foul weather and center your home with the slam dunk of comfort, efficiency, health and safety. It’s what every home should be!



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!



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.

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!



Renewable Energy?

March 16, 2011

There is a lot of good in trying to be green, if you know what it means.    There’s a bill being reviewed in Maine to consider burning trash a renewable source of energy. These facilities are called waste-to-energy plants and in some parts of the country are considered renewable sources. 

The bill asks whether or not Mainers should subsidize the facilities since they would be displacing some fossil fuels by offering “waste to energy” kilowatts.  Since homeowners would be charged higher rates for the “renewable” electricity generated, there is some opposition.

I never thought of burning trash as something renewable, or actually a good idea at all. It’s said that it’s cleaner than it used to be, whatever that means, and it would displace some fossil fuels.  What struck me in reading about this is the word “renewable”.   If our trash is such a great resource, might it be good to reconsider why? 

Green products raise questions for me as well.  Bamboo flooring is considered a “green” option for a new (or old) home.   It’s renewable since bamboo grows so fast, but we have to ship it from overseas, and given the limited regulations and the high demand for bamboo, pesticide use has increased and extensive planting and harvesting has caused new environmental problems.  Never mind that for some products there are high levels of formaldehyde from cheap glues.  That’s not to say using bamboo is bad—but it’s not a miracle and it’s not the place to start.

I’ve been talking about new homes lately and touched on green certifications and renewable energy.   What is behind these words renewable or green?  Sometimes trying to get it right we lose track of the goal and it is important to look at what is behind the label, or what we are trying to do.  “Greenwashing” doesn’t help the consumer or the cause.

I suggest sticking to the fundamentals.   The things that can make a home better for the environment and its occupants are often not the flashiest and they get overlooked. Like I’ve mentioned before, think about the “foundation” and “building blocks.” 

First and foremost, make sure the house is an efficient performer. A Prius is an efficient car because of the exceptional mileage that it gets.  For efficient homes that means consistent temperatures since its well insulated and air sealed.   But I can guarantee that most owners also appreciate that it is comfortable to drive.  I’m going to bet that the popularity of the Prius also has to do with the company’s reputation for durability and longevity.   What good is an efficient home if its not comfortable or for that matter ends up falling apart. 

Certainly renewable or green energy is a great thing and incorporating it in our homes is smart when we’ve done everything we can to use less energy to start with.  Make alternative energy the icing on the cake, not the cake. 

And “high-end”, doesn’t have to be “enormous”.  See the “Not So Big” writings of Sarah Susanka for a examples of beautiful, comfortable, livable, and energy-efficient homes.  

Where it makes sense keep stuff local: maybe flooring or countertops are produced in your state.  It helps our neighbors as well as keeps us all accountable for our actions.

Plan for the future:  This means good design now and for potential future remodeling.  

Remember one of the best renewable ideas is using a house that already exists it’s a great way to be green and recycle.  Building from scratch uses a lot of resources, and an old home already built can be safe, comfortable and efficient with a little bit of work.  GreenHomes America can certainly help with that!

And the less garbage and waste we produce, and less energy we use, the less we have to worry about whether burning garbage is a smart source of “renewable” energy.



Looking for the best in a new home

March 8, 2011

We all want our investment in a new home to include beautiful finished surfaces, maybe a nice view (let’s put the wall of windows there to see the view of the snowy mountains to the north!), maybe just more space.   And as readers here know is possible, we want a comfortable, durable home that is safe and doesn’t waste a lot of energy.    

And in a high-performing home, you’ll have unmatched comfort and quiet, not to mention, reduced operating costs.   Following a mortgage, energy bills are often the next biggest expense in a home. Reconsider what the “building blocks” of a good home are.   Starting new with the key elements we use retrofitting older homes, health and safety, efficiency, durability make sense.  A rock solid “foundation” is one that everything else is built upon.  That means you are building a home for the future.  And with concerns about the price of gas or oil in 10 years, in 30 years, a well-performing home is something you can bank on.

Even for those in the know, workhorses of the home, insulation and air sealing, windows and efficient mechanical systems remain unseen and too often these important features are shortchanged, they quickly play second fiddle to flashier items, even some touted as “green” which unfortunately is often at best putting the cart before the horse.

What to do?  Certainly there are building codes and new energy codes as well as ventilation standards in place that will make new homes better for us and for the environment.  Keep in mind though that building codes are what a builder has to do.  If I made it through school doing just what I had to, I wouldn’t have failed. That’s it.  A home that just meets the code gets a D-, just one step above failing.

When building or looking for a new home, consider at a minimum one that is or could ENERGY STAR qualified. This is one that will have an efficient home envelope with effective levels of properly installed insulation, a proper air barrier, and high-performance windows.  There will also be efficient equipment for heating, cooling, and water heating as well as efficient Lighting and appliances that meet the ENERGY STAR guidelines. 

How can you do better?  Look for a home energy rating.  A rating from a certified Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) rater can tell you how your home scores.     The Index they use is a scoring system in which the Reference Home scores a 100, while a net zero home scores a 0. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient.  If it is above 100 it would not meet the energy code.    (You can get a rating for your older home, too, but a rating doesn’t tell you what to fix.  Before you spend money on a rating, read Mike’s post on the subject or visit the GreenHomes America website to learn about what to expect from a home assessment.

There is also LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  But it has been a system that has encountered criticism over the years.  Buildings can earn silver, gold, or platinum designation depending on how many of the possible credits they collect.   Some argue it is a point system that can be gamed making a building look good on paper but perform miserably, especially from an energy perspective.  And a cornucopia of other labels makes it even more confusing.  We expect this to improve over time, but labeling a home “green” doesn’t always mean it’s a top performer.  

The Department of Energy has good climate-specific recommendations and case studies.   It’s worth reviewing these before you buy or build to get an idea of the possibilities.

It always makes a lot more sense to do it right the first time.  Insist on that if you’re buying a new home—or insist on the concessions needed to make it right.  Have the home verified with a rating.  Set ENERGY STAR as the minimum target.

And if you want your current home to perform better, don’t think that you’re stuck with an energy hog.  We can help on that front.

“Why does my new home have such high energy bills?”

March 2, 2011

We have too often heard the cry “my home is brand new and my energy bills are skyrocketing through the roof!”  Homeowners have falsely accepted that old homes have to be drafty, uncomfortable and costly to heat or cool, and most people just assume that a new home will automatically be efficient.     

It’s frustrating when you invest a great deal of time and money in a place meant to be special to us and quickly realize  that lighting, heating and cooling our home costs a great deal more than expected. On top of that it’s drafty, some rooms are too hot, or too cold, and you just can’t stay comfortable.  It’s unfortunate that energy and performance concerns are often left at the bottom of the list, if they’re considered at all. 

The problems in a new home may look different at first glance than the ones in a home 100 years old, but often they are one in the same.  Heating or cooling the air in the home too frequently because the home isn’t tight enough happens regardless of age.  Builders often overlook critical details needed to air-seal a house.  New homes like old ones can suffer from too little insulation in places, or insulation in the wrong place.   Poor duct work, inefficient or incorrectly sized furnaces and air-conditioners, and poor window performance plague new homes, too.  Refrigeration, lighting and other electrical loads often aren’t any different in a new home.  The good news is there are certainly ways to make new homes more comfortable and waste less money on utility bills.

Our customers who own newer and older homes  have happily discovered that with air-sealing, improved insulation and/or upgrading heating and cooling systems  as well as  lighting, comfort and savings can be achieved.  By acting on the recommendations of a good energy audit utility bills can be slashed in winter and summer.

Our advisors understand a house does best when it acts as a system and their recommendations work to truly fix the problems that make homeowner’s comfort levels go up and bills go down.  This works in a home 100 years old or only 1 year old. Stay tuned and we’ll talk more about how we can turn your brand new “old” home into what it ought to be.  And we’ll give  you pointers on things to look for and insist on when buying a new home—it’s always easier and less expensive to do it right the first time.  Unfortunately they’re building them faster than we can fix them!

Service agreements – a smart way to save.

January 25, 2011

Expensive things, like cars, come with a warranty, which is the manufacturer’s guarantee that your purchase will keep on working the way it should for the life of the warranty… IF you uphold your end of the bargain. When you buy a new HVAC system, read the fine print of your warranty, and you will find that in order to keep it valid you must have the unit serviced annually.

Is this just a scam for these companies to get more money out of you?

Actually, no. There are two very good reasons to make sure you have your heating and cooling system checked and tuned annually.

First, if there is a problem with your HVAC system it can become a serious health risk to you and your family. A licensed contractor can ensure that carbon monoxide is not leaking into your home.

Second, the cost of annual maintenance has been shown to pay for itself in operating cost savings during the peak season alone.

Together, these are reasons that the EPA and DOE recommend annual maintenance on your system—you should do it whether under warranty or not.

So it makes sense to have your HVAC system maintained each year, and if you’re looking to save some money it makes sense to enter into a service agreement.  This ensures your  heating and cooling system operates safely and efficiently and your protect your warranty.  Even better, service agreements allow for planned visits during regular hours, and thus we can plan for and control costs and offer special services and priority treatment to customers who sign up for these plans.  Check out the extra perks we offer to service agreement customers here at GreenHomes.

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