Posts Tagged ‘home energy’

Stop Heating your Home this Summer

July 31, 2014

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, out of the total household’s energy usage, 6% is devoted to air conditioning.  Each homeowner is spending around $11 billion to power their air conditioner.  That is quite an investment.  Too easily we cost ourselves more money trying to cool our homes by what appliances we use.  Here are a few tips on how to avoid heating your home in the summer:
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  • Cook outside. Ovens and stoves create extra heat in your house.
  • Get rid of those incandescents. They are producing heat with 75% of the electricity they consume.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
  • Take short showers, no baths.
  • Turn off computers, curling irons, hair dryers, stereos and televisions. They are all generating heat.

Our homes are where we should be most comfortable.  We can increase our comfort and decrease our utility bills by eliminating some of the heat we produce.  Your AC is already working overtime for you.  Give it a break and leave the heat generation to the sun.

Share this post with a neighbor and help them cool off this summer.

Thanks for stopping by!
-April

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Do you drive with the windows down or blast the AC?

June 12, 2014

This summer you might be spending some time on the road.  It’s a great time to vacation.  Seeking fuel efficiency in your vehicle means going easy on the pedal, but how do we keep cool on the hot summer road trips?  Do we drive with the windows down or blast the AC? Road Trip Efficiently Apparently keeping your windows down is more efficient  than blasting the AC.  We can safely argue that it is not as efficient as keeping the windows up and not using the AC.   I wouldn’t recommend this for a summer trip unless you want to know what that bug feels like under the magnifying glass! Cranking up the AC at home means comfort of course, and for some it’s a matter of health and safety especially when it gets hot.   We wouldn’t think of not using the AC when the temperature is soaring outside, but like your car, you can run your home more efficiently. How?  Keep your AC tuned up!  Regular maintenance helps avoid unexpected repairs.  While you are at it, tune up your house too.  Recommendations from an energy audit help you keep the cool where you want it, inside and the hot where you like it, outside.  In fact air sealing and insulation improvements can reduce the amount of cooling you need. Thanks, Jason Photo from Nicholas A. Tonelli under  creative commons license

Reduce first!

October 30, 2013

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, the call for environmental responsibility, is well known.

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The demonstration home in San Diego, I’ve been discussing over in the last few months, has been a great success allowing GreenHomes America partner ASI Hastings to show, as well as tell, their community of the great work that can be done in their homes tackling these R’s in particular the first one Reduce.

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We’ve talked about some of the high efficiency equipment they installed, some of the exterior improvements which helped to reduce water usage, but a homeowner can reduce their usage simply by improving the building itself.  GreenHomes America locations combine building improvements with equipment improvements for a win-win situation.

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This is exactly what ASI Hastings did, they insulated the walls, attic and air sealed the home. By insulating and reducing the amount of uncontrolled airflow in the home they reduced what the home’s systems needed to produce for comfort.

Thanks,

Jason

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

Fall Clean Up!

November 16, 2012

In New England it is easy to see the seasons change. It’s a time of harvest and preparation for our comfort through the coldest part of the year.   There’s plenty to do outside the home never mind on the inside. 

 For one thing it is time to tune up the furnace or boiler before the heating season begins.    Preventative maintenance is a good thing and worth the minor expense to ward of a major one in the middle of the heating season.  With a contractor you trust, that clean and tune may be part of a service agreement and can save you even more.

Your heating system is not the only thing that should get a tune up though.  For many of us, it’s the home too!   Even with the cleanest running furnace or boiler in your home, it is important to consider how well the building is insulated, resists air leakage, deals with moisture and provides indoor air quality.   

Since heating systems and buildings interact with each other, it’s a great idea to consider treating them together.  Seek out certified and experienced heating and cooling technicians, and the same for your home.  Consider a BPI accredited contractor that will look at your home as a system and help you prepare for the coming season making it healthier, safer and more energy efficient.

Thanks,

Jason

Energy Efficient Tax Credits For 2011 and 2012

March 20, 2012

It’s that time of year again, and although we have written about Energy Efficiency tax credits for 2011 before, if you had work done this past year, it might be time to review.  You can also go to our learning center for solutions to common problems we fix in homes just like yours, as well as links to our franchise locations; they can provide details about incentives available in their area.

Many of the federal tax credits ended in 2011, but not all of them.  What will continue for 2012, are credits for some renewable energy systems.  Solar water heating and photovoltaic systems, small wind systems, and geothermal heat pumps, are all eligible measures through 2016.  If you are thinking of alternatives, consider our interactive online home to get a better sense of whether or not these types of improvements are really what you need this year.

Alternative energy systems can be expensive, and it often makes the most sense to install them in homes that are very efficient from the start.  You might be surprised by what some simple measures can save you money.  Tax credit or not, insulation, air sealing and efficient heating and hot water systems can pay for themselves in short order.  Simple measures that cost less and save you 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

Breaking the dependence on oil

November 15, 2011

Maine Governor Paul LePage has recently called for a 50% reduction in the use of oil for heating in the state.   Maine is a heavy user when it comes to heating oil.  80% of our homes here are oil heated.  To cut that useage in half by 2014 is an ambitious goal, for sure.  LePage suggests doing this by switching to natural gas and wood pellets. 

There are efforts to move towards natural gas in the state, and I encourage it.  It won’t be fast, however.  While the distribution system is slowly growing, it is not there now.  As for pellets, they are readily available, but if demand for them increases so might cost.   Furthermore, most residential wood burning systems require the user to be hands on.  The pellets don’t fill the stove themselves, and the ashes don’t empty themselves.   This is the same reason why 80% heat with oil instead of wood, also abundant in the Pine Tree state.

What is missing in this discussion is our dependence on BTU’s.  In other words, the focus should be on energy use, first, not fuel source.   Switching fuels doesn’t solve the problem of inefficient leaky homes heating the great outdoors.  It’s like an addict going from one fix to another because it’s cheaper, and they can get more for less.   Fuel switching is treating the symptom and not the problem. 

Weatherization efforts, increased efficiencies of heating equipment, and fuel switching when it makes sense, can have a much greater impact, and a much lower long term cost, than fuel switching alone. Efficiency Maine and the many contractors who have worked with these programs have been chipping away at this.  Tux Turkel from the Maine Sunday telegram reported recently, “Maine residents slashed their heating oil use by 45% between 2004 and 2009.”  We routinely save people that much off of their oil bills.  Governor, we can do this, but let’s treat the real problem and break our dependence on wasteful heating.   

Photo by David L Ryan  boston.com

“Amish” Heaters: Trick or Treat?

October 20, 2011

OK, one sign of halloween, as made clear from his zombie post yesterday, is that Jason has been watching (too many!) horror movies.

Example of an Amish Heater Ad

The ads are different this year, but the advice is the same--don't waste your money on the so-called "Amish" heater.

But the other sign, all too predictable over recent years, is that those darned full-page “Amish” heater (the Heat Surge…or it is the Heat Scurge?) ads are running again.  Miracle?  No.  But predictable and scary, maybe even scarier than one of those Zombie movies.  And from the ad, it looks like Sears has joined the game.

And although they’re now advertising the ” Heat Surge HT” with their trademarked “Hybrid-Thermic” technology, it doesn’t change what we’ve talked before (see reviews and commentary here, and here, and here, for example).  I won’t spend a lot of time on the retread except to warn people NOT to waste their money.  A lot of hype, expensive ads, and a tremendously overpriced product.  This gets my “Don’t Buy” recommendation once again.

In some circumstances, space heaters can help, but in most homes it’s usually less expensive to heat your whole house with gas or oil than it is to run even a couple electric heaters.  And even then, you can find units that will deliver the same heat at a much lower price (albeit without the goofy ad).  Save your money.  Make your home more comfortable and save energy with both simple tips and more extensive–and  smarter–home improvements like insulating and air-sealing.

Thanks,
Mike

Keep your eye on the ball…at home!

October 17, 2011

Baseball fans, great technology comes to the World Series.  In fact it’s the same technology we bring to your home.  The AP recently reported That a number of Infrared cameras will be trained on batters in the upcoming World Series games.  The cameras will be used to pick up the heat generated from friction, say when a fast ball skims off a bat or a glove.  The Fox network is trying them out this year so they won’t be used in making calls, but they could be.  Hey at least maybe we will get a glimpse of this great technology just watching the games.

At your home base, we don’t need to see the heat patterns of a knuckle ball off a bat to cry foul, but the cameras our advisors bring along in assessing your home do help you avoid the curve balls of missing insulation, moisture problems, dangerous wiring, and un-controlled airflow.  Rest assured with the right technology and skills, troubleshooting your comfort problems with GreenHomes America will help you knock it out of the park!   

Thanks,

Jason

Photo by Tyrone Turner, in this National Geographic 2009 article


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