Posts Tagged ‘green’

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.




September 13, 2011

I’m not convinced that the steps NASCAR is taking–as discussed in this NYTimes article “Gentlemen, Start Conserving“–really mean the oval track is green.  But it does point to something we already know.  Saving energy, producing energy, and even recycling, often make good business sense.  At the end of the day, do you really want to burn money if you don’t have to?


What Earth Day means to me

April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day. 

But what is Earth Day?  To me it is about responsibility and stewardship.  And at the end of the day, leaving a world that is at least hospitable, and preferably much more than that, for my children, and my grandchildren should I someday be so blessed.

We have the ability, and the responsibility, to help things go well.  As individuals and as societies, we can get in hint of this by looking at the consequences of actions are ancestors took—or didn’t take.  And rest assured that our actions—and inactions—will effect generations to come.

Making smart energy decisions fits right in.  Not only does energy-efficiency help the environment—something which is intrinsically good in its own right, but it also saves money and makes us more secure.  It’s why I do what I do, working with a company that makes people’s home more energy-efficient.  And safer and more comfortable.

Responsibility.  With compelling benefits to boot.

What does Earth Day mean to you?

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.



Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

March 2, 2011

And I think it’s fitting today to offer a quote from the Lorax:

 Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Ah, that applies to so many things…

How to Make Your Business Greener–as in More Profitable

February 5, 2011

While we usually focus on homes here, a couple of business articles in the NYTimes on Thursday took me back to a post from a couple of years on Amory Lovins and his common sense approach to saving energy.  The whole post is worth revisting, but I’ll sum up with one quote from Amory:

It doesn’t matter what the climate science says, or even whether it’s right, because we ought to be purchasing energy efficiency anyway just to save money.


It’s just good business to cut costs by adopting energy-saving actions for lighting, equipment, heating, air conditioning, transportation and water use.  And energy-efficiency can offer an excellent ROI.  Check out the two articles:


Energy-efficiency and “green” at the Consumer Electronics Show

January 16, 2011

Like most of you, I did not attend CES last week.  But I did scour the reports, blogs, and tweets for news of what might be coming down the pike from a green or energy-efficiency perspective.  And this is a real issue.  And we grow the number of gadgets (my Android phone is charging right now–and I do like it!)  in our homes and the size of our TVs, we gobble up increasing amounts of energy.  Over the last year we’ve talked about home electricity use, smart metersphantom loads, and a favorite, the CREE CR6 and LR6 LED lights.  Home electricity use is an issue that won’t go away.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t at the show.  And I haven’t seen most of the new stuff first hand.  Here, though, are a few links I found interesting, not so much for individual products but for the trends they hint at.

Some things to keep an eye on, anyway.


What’s Greener: A Prius or a Home Energy Retrofit?

August 5, 2010

Thinking about purchasing a Prius to reduce your environmental impact?

You may want to consider all of your choices before stepping into a shiny new hybrid because in many cases, investing in a home energy retrofit may have a bigger impact on your carbon footprint and a faster return on your investment than purchasing a Prius.

number crunching

The Prius vs. A Home Energy Retrofit

So, how does buying a Prius compare with improving your home’s energy efficiency in terms of reducing your carbon footprint and seeing a return on your investment? While these the answers to this question will vary depending on the driver and the driver’s home, our team did some research and found that what might shrink your neighbor’s carbon footprint might not be as cost effective for you.

We’ve crunched a bunch of numbers in hopes of getting people thinking about energy efficiency from a new perspective. The points made here are not meant to convince you that you shouldn’t buy a Prius. We’re using the Prius as a symbol of a more fuel-efficient way to get around; we could have done the same calculations with any fuel-efficient car.

Let’s do a little example to illustrate.

Meet Rebecca — An average driver with a home built in the ’90s. Rebecca drives 12,000 miles per year in a car that gets an average of 23 mpg, and she lives in a house built in 1992.

Buying a Prius:

Rebecca would double her fuel efficiency to 46 mph by purchasing a new Prius. As long as she continues to drive 12,000 miles per year with gas costing $3 a gallon, Rebecca will:

  • Use 267 fewer gallons of gasoline per year
  • Reduce her annual carbon footprint by 1,530 pounds
  • Save $800 in fuel every year
  • See an annual 3.2 percent return on her $25,000 investment

From a carbon footprint perspective, the manufacturing of a new Prius is an energy intensive process – the equivalent of consuming 1000 gallons of gasoline. So, Rebecca will spend the first four years with her new Prius paying off the “carbon debt” associated with making the Prius.

Cost-Benefit of a New Prius for Rebecca: $25,000 invested, 3.2% ROI. Assuming she keeps her car for 7 years, her average annual carbon savings will be 655 lbs per year.

Making Home Energy Upgrade: In a 1990’s era home, comfort and indoor air quality issues are common, and duct sealing is typically the single greatest opportunity for energy savings, followed by air sealing and improvements in the ventilation system. In a house of this era, it is reasonable to expect a savings of 10 – 30 percent in energy efficiency from a $3,000 investment.

Let’s say Rebecca consumes 12,000 kilowatt-hours (average residential consumption) of electricity per year in her home, and purchases her electricity at 10 cents per kWh (the national average). If she improves her home’s efficiency by 20 percent, she will:

  • Save 2,400 kWh of electricity per year
  • Lower her annual utility bills by $240
  • See an 8 percent return on her $3,000 investment
  • Reduce her carbon footprint by 1,360 pounds (with coal as primary fuel source)

Cost-Benefit of an Energy Retrofit for Rebecca: $3,000 invested, 8% ROI, annual carbon savings 1,360 lbs.

P.S. — Rebecca might be able to save a big chunk of the initial investment if she took advantage of all the tax credits and other incentives for retrofitting her home.

Which is the Greener choice?

In this example, an audit and retrofit of her house will provide Rebecca — an average mileage driver in average mileage vehicle living in a newer house — with a greater return on her investment and nearly twice the reduction in her carbon footprint as buying a Prius, for one-eight of the cost.

Of course, we left out a lot of detailed factors on both sides in an attempt to simplify the numbers. But if you think we missed something important, or you’re in Toyota’s marketing department and you want to argue with us, contact us and share your thoughts.

What is the greener choice for you?

Whether you’re better off retrofitting or buying a Prius depends on your unique set of factors: what era house you live in, how much you drive, your current vehicle’s mpg, etc. However, there are tremendous opportunities to reduce your carbon footprint and fuel costs, both at home and on the road. And, while choosing a more fuel efficient vehicle is an obvious step towards reducing your carbon footprint, investing in a more comfortable and energy efficient home can often provide an equal, if not greater, reduction in your carbon emissions — and, in many cases – at a fraction of the cost!

Scott Case is the VP of Product Management for, a company dedicated to making energy efficiency easy and accessible for homeowners throughout the U.S. through tools and resources such as an online energy audit and a directory of energy tax credits and rebates.

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!

Reminder: Don’t forget to claim any energy-efficiency home improvement tax credits

April 14, 2010

Many people scrambled to get qualifying improvements installed before the end of 2009 to be able to claim tax credits—don’t forget to claim the credits if you did!  It’s important to remember that ARRA extended these energy-efficiency home improvement tax credits through December 31, 2010.  And thus the $1,500 credit is still available for qualifying insulation, furnace and air-conditioner replacements, window and door replacement, and other measures.   We’ve got a good summary of measures that qualify and answers to some frequently asked questions on these federal tax credits for energy-efficiency improvements. See also IRS 2009 Form 5695 which includes instructions and requirements.


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