Posts Tagged ‘solar’

A Worldwide Energy Transition

November 6, 2014


Last month, as we celebrated Energy Action month, we took a look at the Residential Energy Consumption Survey.  It showed that we are using more energy than ever before.  Efforts are being made not only nationwide, but worldwide to improve that number.  The Energiewende is what they are calling it and Germany is leading the push.  The New York Times writes, “Germany will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources.  Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era.  It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.”

It sounds like we have some catching up to do and we, at GreenHomes, couldn’t agree more.  There’s no better place to start saving energy than our homes.  Making your home more energy efficient whether that’s through proper air sealing and insulation, a right-sized AC or furnace, or even solar panels, can all help decrease our energy consumption.  And, if it helps, saving energy in your home will leave you more comfortable and lower your utility bills.

Read the full New York Times article referenced above, here:

Thanks for stopping by!


Not Just Cosmetics, Quiet, Comfortable, Energy Efficient and Clean Air Make a Home a True Thing of Beauty!

September 4, 2013

1DSC_0150 DSC_0412

Demonstration home before and after

GreenHomes America partner, ASI Hastings, demonstration home had a number of improvements to help show homeowners how their homes could improve and how they could save in the process.  But cosmetics are the type of improvement we think of when we talk about home improvement.  Make it look good, new coat of paint, maybe a new countertop.

There’s much more that can be done and this demonstration home improvement list included: peace and quiet, comfort, and indoor air quality in addition to energy savings. There’s savings to be had outside too.

The team at ASI Hastings teamed up with Padre Dam, the local water district; they planted a less water intensive yard around the home.  The front yard is referred to as xeriscape. Reducing water usage makes sense here! More money is spent pumping water in the state of California than for any other electrical usage.

They also installed a lighter color garage door, which reduced some of the solar gain on that space.  That keeps equipment in the garage cooler and the house as well since the garage buffers part of home from the heat outside.

There’s no avoiding sunshine in San Diego, and it was put to good use in the as well adding panels to the roof, that’s not cosmetics, that’s great savings! We will cover solar, but more importantly what was done before it was even considered, in the coming weeks!



The White Glove Guys… aka The Save You Money Guys!

July 15, 2013

Ken Justo from ASI Hastings Heating Air and Solar was interviewed on the Front Page show in San Diego a few weeks ago.   He talked about the great work they do as a GreenHomes America partner, their common sense approach to energy improvements, rebates in their area, and reducing usage before adding solar.

Great work Ken, here’s to the White Glove Guys, the doing it right Guys!



Mandatory Common Sense

March 18, 2013

We often preach “reduce first” as the sensable approach for homeowners who are looking at installing expensive renewable energy.  It just makes sense.  If it costs a lot to install solar panels, make your home more efficient first reducing the number you need, and then install less of them!  Same goes for heating and cooling equipment.  Reduce the need for cooling or heating and install a smaller unit.

sun wiki

As reported by KCET, one town in California may be looking at mandatory solar panels on every roof.  Lancaster CA, a city of 160,000, is one of the top three cities for generating solar.  Clearly it’s an area that has succeeded with solar as you would expect in such a sunny place.

Using solar to help reduce energy costs for lighting, water heating, and air conditioning is all well and good, but there are some simple steps to take first.  Improvements such as adding efficient lighting, reducing air leaks and increasing insulation go a long way and cost far less.  Our GreenHomes America folks in Fresno, Hayward, San Jose, Los Banos, and San Diego, know that, how a home performs matters a great deal, and they know solar too.

I vote for mandatory common sense with a side order of solar!



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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?



May 19, 2011

OK, I’ve been too danged busy. But my neighbors are out—between the crazy frequent rain storms this spring—working on their yards. Landscaping, planting flowers, planting trees. Energy geek that I am, I’m paying particular attention to the trees. Not because they’re sexy (they are!) or because I’m a treehugger (I’m not—too scratchy—I prefer to hug my wife), but because they can have a real impact on the comfort and energy use of a home.

The trees to the South and West around this Vermont home provide shade from the summer sun, but drop their leaves and let winter sun bathe the house.

The right tree (or bush or vine—you homebrewers, grow your own hops and save energy!) can provide shade (good in the summer), serve as a windbreak (good to protect you from those cold North winds), and chip away at your energy bills in other way.

What you should focus on with your shrubbery (said in my best Monty Pythonesque voice) depends on the climate—and the microclimate where you live. The Department of Energy dives into the weeds with some good guidance on landscaping to save energy. Here are the basics.

  • Maximize shade on the walls and windows, especially on the South and West, and the roof in the summer. A mature shade tree can dramatically reduce cooling costs. With enough trees, transpiration, can actually reduce air temperatures by up to five degrees.
  • Even ground cover, including grass, small plants, and bushes helps, staying cooler than bare ground. But use native plants that thrive with little water and minimal babysitting.
  • But…allow winter sun to hit south facing windows, especially in colder climates. And thus, think deciduous trees that drop their leaves in the fall. The heat from the sun helps warm your house.
  • Protect your home from cold winter winds…and hot summer winds if you use air-conditioning.

So planting the right tree in the right place is green times two. Or three.


What’s wrong with this picture? Efficiency before renewables usually makes the most sense.

January 29, 2011

Thanks to GreenHomes America’s Home Performance Training Manager, Jason Todd for passing along this photo which begs a few questions.  When we’re looking at home energy, we like to focus on energy efficiency before we starting adding on renewable energy sources like solar and wind.   As Brett Knox likes to repeat “Reduce before You Produce”.  This picture suggests that someone may have taken another path.

We’ve certainly talked a lot about icicles and ice damming here.  And the summary version is they are not good and indicate you’re wasting energy and money.  The snow melt patterns on the roof and the icicles suggest that this house is losing a lot of heat through it’s attic and roof.

The cost to correct this (with good air-sealing and insulation details) on most homes is generally less than the cost of a solar hot water system as pictured here (partially buried under snow in the center of the photo).  And the energy savings,  carbon reductions, and other benefits, are typically greater with the efficiency measures than with this system.  Further, correcting the heat loss problem helps prevent the possible roof and structural damage that can result from ice build up.  This is a case where the economic, environmental, and comfort advantage of efficiency make a lot more sense than starting with solar.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a fan of solar, and we install it.  Solar hot water makes sense for a lot of people, and it is a great entree into renewables.  Most of the time, though, renewable energy makes the most sense AFTER you’ve taken the low hanging fruit offered by energy-efficiency.  Efficiency First!

[BTW, regarding solar hot water systems, in many cases I prefer the flat-plate collectors show in this video, over the evacuated tube collectors pictured above.  Flat-plate collectors  tend to be less expensive, more durable, and we’ve seen fewer issues up north with snow building up and inhibiting the collector.  Conversely, a lot of people report that snow collects around the nooks and crannies of the evacuated tubes and doesn’t shed off easily.]


Solar hot water can be a smart option.

September 1, 2010

Scott Adams’ WSJ article continues to keep me thinking… in it he talks about the solar photovoltaic array he installed on his roof, and his disappointment with the results, or rather the lack thereof. According to Wikipedia, Scott lives in Pleasanton, California. If you’ve ever been to Pleasanton you’ll know that it is a fairly sunny place with a pleasant climate (perhaps why it’s called Pleasanton). A photovoltaic array probably seemed like a good idea. An even better, and less expensive, idea might have been to install a solar hot water system on the roof.

Solar hot water can be a great entree into renewable energy

Pleasanton has an average temperature of about 63 degrees Fahrenheit, which means the water that comes out of the taps is around that temperature. This is because water pipes are buried a few feet below the surface of the ground, where daily fluctuations are negligible and seasonal effects are minimal due to the insulation afforded by the soil. If you want to know the average temperature where you live, stick a thermometer in a glass of tap water (taken after the faucet has been flowing for about a minute), it should be fairly close in the lower latitudes of the continental US. If you live up north you will probably notice some seasonal effects (i.e. your tap water is a little cooler in winter and a little warmer in summer).

The upshot of this is that in Pleasanton homeowners typically use fossil fuels to heat water from ~63 degrees to the temperature of choice for clothes washing, dishwashing and showering, somewhere around 100 degrees. Solar hot water lets the sun to do some of the hard work – heating the water from 63 degrees to say, 90 degrees – and relies on fossil fuels to kick in for the final push to ~100 degrees. In this example the sun has done almost three quarters of the work, which would reduce your expenditure on water heating by almost three quarters.

Solar hot water can reduce water heating expenditure by nearly 100% in favorable regions in the summer months. In Pleasanton we would expect annual saving to be on the order of ~70 – 75% of water heating costs. Given that 14 – 25 % of energy consumed in the typical home is used to heat water, this could result in significant savings.

Of course the suitability of your house for a solar hot water system depends on many factors and only a qualified professional, such as those at GreenHomes America, can tutor you on the best options for your building. Having said that, here is a link to a quick video tutorial on solar hot water from our V.P. Mike Rogers.

A Customer Discusses Solar PV

August 19, 2010

John Scipione and a customer discuss a recently installed solar PV project in this video.

FHFA doesn’t like PACE, but nobody can argue against home energy efficiency upgrades.

August 10, 2010

Everyone’s talking about PACE, but what does it all mean?

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates secondary mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks, released a statement slamming PACE loans.

PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) programs are county or municipality based schemes offering homeowners loans to improve energy-efficiency of their home or equip their properties with photovoltaic solar panels. PACE loans are held as a lien against the property, and are repaid in the form of increased property tax payments over many years.

FHFA doesn’t like PACE loans because property tax assessments get first dibs in the case of default. This means if a property is foreclosed upon the county or municipality gets its money back first, and the mortgage holder gets whatever is left. Given that photovoltaic solar arrays commonly cost in the range of ~$20,000, we’re not talking about pocket change here.

What does this mean for your home energy efficiency plans? For most of us, nothing at all.

The fact of the matter is that in many locations taking simple steps like ensuring your home is properly sealed and insulated can save more energy than you could generate using an expensive solar array, and such home improvements are eligible for a Federal Tax Credit of up to $1,500.  As designed, PACE loans would be helpful (if they were permitted) for many homeowners, but many projects wouldn’t have qualified, especially those that focus on non-energy benefits like improving comfort or the safety of the home.

The Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency provides a tax credit of 30% of the cost of energy efficiency upgrades up to $1,500. The only caveat… the program expires on December 31, 2010.

So what are you waiting for?

Save money on the purchase and installation of home improvements, save money on your heating and cooling bills for years to come, improve the comfort and safety and your home, and help protect the environment as well. It’s a win, win, win, win–quadruple win!–situation.

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