Posts Tagged ‘green homes’

It’s Baby Safety Month

September 25, 2014

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The  Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) calls September Baby Safety Month.  Their tagline this year is Making Baby Safer, Room By Room.  Safety is something we hold as high regard at GreenHomes America.  In fact, during our home energy audit, we do a list of health and safety tests while in your home so that you can have the peace of mind knowing that the systems in your home are functioning correctly.  When we learned about Baby Safety Month we couldn’t help, but jump on board.  Below are some helpful links to baby safety information for different rooms in your house.

Thank you to JPMA for raising awareness to the importance of educated consumers, retailers and manufactures to help protect the little ones of America.  After all they are our future and the ones we are working to conserve energy for.

Share this post with any parents you might know and help them be safe.

Thanks for stopping by!

-April

Happy Labor Day!

September 2, 2014

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This past weekend, we celebrated Labor Day.  A holiday we regard as the end of summer, but it is so much more than that.  Labor Day is a holiday dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.  Each of us who have had a hand in contributing to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country this day is a tribute to you.  Each year, we hope you enjoy it, whether it’s taking the last trip of summer or just relaxing at home watching football.  We hope you take time to kick your feet up and relax.  You deserve it.

And, if you find your home uncomfortable, let us know.  Our contribution to this country is conserving its resources while helping to improve the homes across America.  We’ve already helped over 10,000 families and are looking forward to helping thousands more.

Thanks for stopping by!

-April

Go ahead…Relax

August 21, 2014

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Last Friday was National Relaxation Day, a day devoted to simply taking it easy.  I like whoever came up with this one.  We all desire a break from time to time so why not make a day for it?  Oftentimes, we think of our home when it comes to relaxing.  We all have a favorite spot on the couch or a favorite room in the house to unwind.  I know I do, I have a chair in my bedroom by a big window where I sit and read.  If the window is open, a slight breeze carries in the sound of birds singing just outside.  It’s peaceful and it’s comfortable.

What if every room in our house could be that comfortable?  Every room where the temperature is just right, no change of clothes needed or an extra blanket.  I’m not dreaming.  I know this is possible.  Home Performance and a home energy audit are foreign terms to many, but they are terms that encompass making your home more comfortable and efficient.  This means even temperatures from room to room, lower utility bills every month, and no wasted energy.

So, go ahead, relax.  And if you’d like, improve the comfort in the rest of your home.  You never know, you might find a new favorite spot to unwind.  Share this post with a neighbor or friend, comfort is something we all deserve.

Thanks for stopping by!

-April

Summer is here. Be safe!

June 17, 2014

Summer SafetySafety is a top priority for us in the work we do in your home. We stress it every day.  In fact an energy audit is only partially about saving you money.  It is also about keeping you and your family safe.  As part of our audit, we check for gas leaks on the combustion equipment in your home like your furnace or gas stove.

While we keep you safe inside, here are a few tips to keep you safe outside as summer closes in:

  • Watch out for Bugs!  Mosquitoes and ticks are the most common.  Repellants are helpful for both.  If ticks are an issue in your area there are some simple landscaping efforts you can do to help deter them.
  • Enjoy the sunshine, but cover up! Hats, sunscreen and shade are encouraged.
  • If it gets too hot inside your home and even hotter oustide, maybe energy efficiency improvements are what you need for safety’s sake!

 

Thanks,

Jason

 

Photo by Steffen Flor  from wikimedia commons

Great Green Holiday Ideas from GreenHomes America Partner WESCO

December 17, 2012

One of our newest locations, Washington Energy Services, recently posted some great tips on greening your Holiday season.  Love the local focus here, nothing like supporting your community and also enjoying the season while you do it!

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Please read on here, and if you are in the area, reach out to a part of the Green Team, you will be glad you did.

Happy Holidays!

Jason

Boy has it been a busy year for GreenHomes America!

October 1, 2012

Young’s Air Conditioning of Los Banos, California came on board before the start of the New Year.  Young’s is a family business with strong roots in Los Banos and a reputation as the area’s leading provider of energy efficient heating and cooling services.

In the early part of the winter, we added three locations with Carolina Green Energy Systems.  CGES is one of South Carolina’s oldest and largest comprehensive Home Performance Contractors, and we are proud to include them in the GreenHomes Network.

Also new in town is Air Rescue Air Conditioning of Tampa, Florida. This is our first partner from the Sunshine state.   Air Rescue started in 1965, and is one of the oldest and largest residential HVAC contractors in the Tampa Bay Metro area.   Air Rescue will service customers in over seven counties.

This is only the beginning as GreenHomes grows to better serve you nationally!  Stay tuned for more!

Thanks,

Jason.

The R House: even the best intentions can use a little home performance

November 22, 2011

Our very own Maggie Mauer form the Syracuse branch of GreenHomes America was recently featured in a Syracuse article on the R House  that she now calls home.  The R-House as it is called is a result of a design competition by local non-profit and University groups.

The home was built to Passivhaus standards.  Very little heat is needed since it is so well insulated, and in Syracuse NY that is impressive.     Passivhaus is an extreme example (and typically applied to new construction) of what we do with homes everyday: excellent insulation and air-sealing, reducing the heating loads, and controlling ventilation.  

Maggie’s house was designed to include big windows which allows for the sun to heat the space quite well.  It’s called passive solar and has been worked into design for many years…and is the reason you can usually find a cat sitting in a window on a sunny day.  But in the R-House there was one oversight, those big windows help in the winter but It sure gets hot in the summer.  Unbearably hot.  

Home Performance can be needed even for high performers.  To keep it cool, we installed a ductless mini split to air condition the space in the summer time, maybe not the usual approach, but it’s an unusual home!

There were a few other design and installation details that we had to correct, including a heating system that didn’t really shut off fully, inefficient lighting, and some leaky doors that allowed the cold winter winds to whistle through.  And this is an award-winning house! 

This goes to show, the the details matter.  A lot!  And it highlights why we’re called out not just to fix 100 year old homes, but those that are only a year or two old, too.  (Maybe the should have called us in during the construction phase to help get it right the first time!)

photo from http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/projects/rhouse

Energy and National Security

May 4, 2011

I know, I know, I’ve been harping on this lately.  But only because it is really important.  Our security is inextricably linked to our energy use.  And increasing enerfy-efficiency, is a key part of this.

It was interesting, therefore, to see an article in the NY Times yesterday about this very issue, A National Security Strategy That Doesn’t Focus on Threats.  It discusses the connection between sustainability and national security–and a paper written not by Greenpeace, but by two high-level military strategists.

So often, the military has led the country, on social issues, with technological advances.  And it looks like they’re doing it again.  We should pay attention.  Energy-efficiency is not just a feel-good, personal virtue.  It is a national imperative, and we can all play a role, starting at home.

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.  http://www.pressherald.com/news/the-renewable-argument_2011-03-13.html 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.

 Thanks,

Jason

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.


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