A Comprehensive Approach To Energy Efficiency – Doing less with more

To Not talk about how disastrous Trump’s Presidency will be for the environment and the energy industry I decided to return to my roots in the residential market. Todays article is a bit old but its message is timeless. We have been concentrating on single devices like furnaces, refrigerators, windows seen as a whole instead of a holistic approach to a house.


We’re Doing Residential Energy Efficiency All Wrong

Utilities are now spending nearly $7 billion a year on energy-efficiency programs. It seems we have little to show for it aside from expensive consultants who will model any results you would like.

These programs tend to focus their marketing on the energy savings or money savings from the projects. Consumers don’t care. If they did, we would see geometric growth instead of a resounding “meh.”

Others focus on better financing products, slicker sales pitches, faster energy audits, higher rebates or any of a myriad of other things.

In the residential sector, none of these are the problem. The lack of sales is the problem.

Projects are not being sold and implemented in substantial numbers. We need to slow it down, build relationships with consumers and educate them, learn and think systemically about the problems they have, and arrive at solutions that fit homeowner budgets.


Go there and read alot. It is a long article. More next week.


Green Investments Pay – Not according to the FHFA

This is an interesting Blog and an interesting post. I am no good at posting videos so:


Are PACE Financed Residential Energy Improvements Capitalized into Home Prices?

September 9, 2012

The FHFA believes that an unintended consequence of obtaining a PACE loan is to increase the risk of mortgage default.  The FHFA’s  logic is that if the green investments are not capitalized into home prices then the home owner’s equity decreases as equity =  sales price – debt owed.   Under these assumptions, the green investment doesn’t raise the sales price but does increase the debt owed. My recent research convinces me that this pessimism is false.  Here is  My letter to the FHFA. Here is my July 2012 peer viewed paper on solar panel capitalization effects in San Diego and Sacramento   dastrup-zivin-costa-and-kahn .

We need more regulatory scholarship focused on empirical work and hypothesis testing.  I have an incentive to say this because that is what I do.


Go there and see the video. More tomorrow.


Some Of These Energy Tips Seem Aimed At The Dim Bulbs

But then again they could be 10% of the population and the tips are supplied by Dominion. I mean really a producer advising you how to not consume. Still.


10 Tips to Save Energy and Keep Cool This Summer

  1. Raise your thermostat to 78º. This is the number one way to conserve energy.
  2. When you are away from home for more than eight hours, raise the thermostat setting and you can expect to see a 1% savings for each degree of setback. This will reduce the amount of energy used to cool your home while you’re away. You can learn more about your thermostat online by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy website.
  3. Keep shades closed when the air conditioner is on. Sunny windows account for 40 percent of unwanted heat and can make your air conditioner work two to three times harder.
  4. Check and clean filters. Cleaning and replacing air conditioning filters monthly allows the system to run more efficiently.
  5. Install ceiling fans. Don’t underestimate the importance of ceiling fans. Moving air over the body provides a cooling effect. The use of ceiling fans can mean savings of around 25% on cooling costs and can make the temperature seem 10 degrees cooler.


Go there and read. More tomorrow.


Summer Energy Saving Tips – With both days in the 90s this last weekend was hot

So I guess it is time to share some summer energy saving tips. This site is not bad. I mean it is California where they have to take energy use seriously. I know there are winter tips, and spring tips and there are even tips on tips.



These tips are designed to help you choose effective ways to reduce your energy bills. Some measures may not be relevant depending on climate, the age of your home and appliances, and past improvements made to your home.

The savings numbers are based on your total summer electric bill. Equipment mentioned must be electric powered for estimates to be accurate.

Also check out our What To Do Before It Gets TOO HOT! page.



The average home spends about $1,900 a year on energy costs. But you can lower your energy bills and help save the environment at the same time!

Be a speedy chef


  • Nothing is more energy efficient for cooking than your microwave. It uses two-thirds less energy than your stove.

Push a button to wash your dishes


  • Surprise! Your dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand. Then let dishes air-dry to save even more!

Fill up the fridge


  • Having lots of food in your fridge keeps it from warming up too fast when the door is open. So your fridge doesn’t have to work as hard to stay cool.


Cutting back unnecessary energy use is an easy way to reduce energy consumption while saving money. Here are some additional suggestions you can do at home, at absolutely no cost to you.


I just put up the beginning. Go there and read. More tomorrow.


Insulate Your Basement – Even in an already built home

Yes, you can get a backhoe and dig a trench around your house for relatively cheap but, it really is a waste of time. Parging the walls first pretty much means coating the walls to make sure moisture does not get behind the insulation that you are going to put up. I suggest using a modern basement epoxy of some sort and I recommend rigid insulation after you have done that. Rigid is easier to work with and you can make the whole project into an adhesive affair where you adhere the furring strips to the epoxied walls and then you adhere the foam board (or whatever) to the furring strips. Boom, you are done unless you need to paint them for someone else in the house that hates the color of the “naked” board. You know who I mean. Like the article says as far as the vapor barrier placement you have to call your local building code people cause I got no idea,



Exterior wall insulation inside the walls

Insulating outside your exterior walls is often too expensive or impractical in existing homes. You can insulate the inside of your basement walls but you may exacerbate the problems associated with moisture if you don’t do the job correctly.

Parging: If moisture is seeping into your walls, parge the masonry walls to seal any cracks and strengthen any weak or porous masonry. This will help prevent water from seeping in from outside.

Vapor barrier: Vapor barrier should be outside the insulation if you are in a hot climate and only cool your home; it should be on the inside if you are in a cold climate and are mainly heating your home. Consult your local city building permits department to find out what are the suggested or mandated insulation and vapor barrier configurations for energy efficient basements in your area.

Framing: If possible, leave a gap between your framing and the exterior walls, to prevent moisture from the masonry from causing wood rot in your framing. Use small spacers behind 2×3 studs, rather than 2×4 studs against the outside wall, and you’ll still have room to install the standard insulation for 2×4, 16-inch-stud construction.

Insulation: If there is any likelihood of moisture getting into your basement, use a rigid foam insulation rather than batt or other fiber-based insulation. Moisture seeping through exterior walls will dampen the insulation and reduce its R value significantly within a few years, so you’ll start with an energy efficient basement and in a few years be losing as much heat to outside as before the renovation. Moisture will not have much effect on the R value of foam insulation. Buy the highest R value insulation you can – you can get an R value of 6 per inch in some insulating foam sheets. If you want both insulation and waterproofing, you could consider having Icynene insulation applied to exterior walls after framing but before drywall is installed.

Other places you should insulate

A couple of other important things to consider about basement insulation:

  • In an older house, where a shower stall is already installed against an outside wall, check the insulation level behind the shower. A prior owner or contractor may have installed the shower without adequate insulation. If you are remodelling or can access the wall space behind it, inject foam insulation or otherwise upgrade the insulation. You’ll have more comfortable showers and you’ll cut down on overall heat loss.
  • Insulate the perimeter of your basement ceiling (an area called the ‘rim joists’), from the outside walls to about 16″ to 24″ from the outside walls, to prevent moisture from creeping in between the upstairs


In this case, go there and read a bunch. More tomorrow.


What Happens If Fossil Fuels Are No Longer Feasible

I should have made the topic of this meditation explicit yesterday. What effect would the absence of fossil fuels have on major sectors of our society? Some people think society would collapse other people think it would mutate. I think it would slow down but not change much. So I started thinking about the transportation sector. Yesterday the topic was walking, and today’s topic is water transport. It maybe academic but walking may have happened after swimming. That is the true upright bipedal walking. Some monkeys love to swim and swimming is the original transportation system. Going back to our talks about Abraham Lincoln. Two of the most important events in Abe’s life were boat rides. The first barge he took to New Orleans got stuck on the dam at New Salem and the people there helped him get the boat free. When his family decided to move to a farm in Southern Illinois he paddled to New Salem to start his adult life. Finally he took another barge to New Orleans where he bought his first horse. Now this next “history” believes that travel by boat started much later in man’s evolution than I do. I believe that boating could be as old as 20,000 or 40,000 years old. Nonetheless it is a good discussion of the sequence.


As man overcame the boundaries of land travel, his curiosity about the world around him increased. To his aid, man had developed a means of traveling on water even before he had domesticated the horse. The origin of the dugout boat is one of history’s great mysteries. Historians are unable to pinpoint when or where the very first water vessel was set afloat, and even speculate that it might have been purely an accident the first time. But, however it happened, the addition of the boat changed the face of transportation. Boats allowed man to, for the first time ever, cross bodies of water without getting wet.

Over time, the simple boat evolved to include a large square of cloth mounted on a central pole. This cloth, called a sail, would turn the boat into a sail-propelled ship. This new addition gave man the ability to use waterways as a means of swift travel from one place to another, and even to travel against the current of rivers. However, the evolution of water travel didn’t stop with the sail. Ships would eventually take on a sleekness as they increased in size. Before long, they would add oars and rudders, then deck covers. By Greek and Roman times, ships had grown clunky shipboard towers, as well, which developed, over time, into the Medieval stern- and forecastles. By the late Medieval era, these castles were built solid, as a part of the ship’s basic structure. Then, by the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration which followed, ships had gained tiers of rigging and sails, becoming sleek and speedy.

Then, in the 1800s, ships began to shed their sails on the rivers once again. The advent of automation was changing transportation forever. The very first automation in ships was the cumbersome paddlewheel. Due to their bulky form and inability to turn easily, paddlewheel boats were confined to river travel, where they would experience calmer currents and need less manueverablity.

After the paddlewheel came the steamship. These vessels used coal or wood, burned to heat water, which in turn created the steam pressure used to work the pistons which moved the ship. The steamship was to enjoy a long and trusted run on both rivers and seas. Then, in 1912, the first diesel-powered ship, the Danish Selandia, was launched. That diesel engine design was to become the industrial and military standard until after World War II.

Then, in 1958, the first nuclear powered ship was launched. However, nuclear power was soon discarded by industry as too expensive and risky, though it would continue to find use in the military community.


More tomorrow.


Beautiful Energy Efficiency – Most housing designs include solar

All these new builds include some form of solar planning. Either in orientation, or window protection, or solar electric generation, the sun is never far from these planners minds.


Five Models of Energy Efficiency: A Guide to Beautiful, Energy-Efficient Homes

Five US builders are being honored for their exceptional achievements in high performance building at the second annual BASF Builders Challenge Awards.

Led by the U.S Department of Energy (DOE), the Builders Challenge is working with homebuilders across America to build a new generation of high-performance homes, working toward the ultimate goal of providing cost-effective, net-zero energy homes by 2030 for all Americans.

To qualify for the Builders Challenge, homes must meet at least a 70 on the EnergySmart Home Scale (E-Scale) — which means they must use at least 30 percent less energy than a typical new home built to code.

Colorado Builder’s Net-Zero-Energy House Costs Just 7% to 8% More

Ecofutures Building Inc. developed four certified Builders Challenge homes (two with minus-three HERS ratings). These net-zero-energy measures represented only 7% to 8% of the total building cost.

See how they did it so cost-effectively >>

Treating the Home as a Whole System

By treating houses as a complete system, David Weekley Homes qualified 280 homes for the Builders Challenge with HERS scores averaging 67. The homes ranged from 1,500 to 5,500 square feet.

Get better results by treating the house as a whole system >>

College Students’ Habitat for Humanity Home

Yavapai College students built a Habitat for Humanity house that achieved the remarkably low HERS score of minus-three. Their 1,207-square-foot home cost only $92 per sq. ft. cost to build.

Learn how the students got it done >>

Homebuilder Adds Net Zero Energy Upgrade Package

Artistic Homes of Albuquerque offers a net-zero-energy upgrade option on all their homes. They’ve completed and sold 11 true net-zero-energy homes ranging from 1,305 to 2,905 square feet and costing between $160,000 and $300,000.

Find out about the upgrade option >>

Builder Promises Zero Energy Bill for Five Years

Tim O’Brien, a fanatic about eliminating air infiltration, actually got $400 back from the utility the first month after construction was finished. He guarantees a zero energy cost for the first 5 years on his home.

See what makes this builder so confident >>


More next week.


Beautiful Energy Conservation – This Company, Master Remodelers, is very nice

Look it is summer. It is 95 degrees out. I am a sailor in a calm. So yes I am kinda mailing this in. But in my defense this stuff has really turned interesting. So here is another installation of beautiful energy conservation.



Master Remodelers is committed to using “green” building science to maximize your energy savings and comfort and your home’s durability. Our green home remodeling efforts in Pittsburgh are on the forefront of our nation’s initiative to address climate change and lessen our dependence on foreign sources of energy. We will show you how your home remodeling project or home addition can be beautiful, energy efficient and a smart investment. That’s why we proudly say that we’re about “Advancing the Art and Science of Living.” 

Take a look at our 2010 award-winning kitchen as an example and our blog on the subject for more examples of green home remodeling in Pittsburgh.


We are one of only a handful of home remodeling contractors in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania dual-certified to deliver whole house energy savings for your remodel.


home energy audit shows air leaks

While your home remodeling can include new, renewable building materials that are beautiful, healthier and sustainable, our main focus is on energy conservation. This is best determined by a home energy audit. Done right, going green has many benefits:  much lower utility bills, lower mortgage rates, higher resale value… and you’ll enjoy a healthier home for you and your family. Learn more at HomeEnergy.org

(right: Our infrared camera sees leaks that you can’t)



In the home remodeling Design and Planning process you make decisions about how green you want to go.  “Lite green” home remodeling could mean simply better insulation and doors and windows.  Or low flow showerheads and strategically planted shade trees. Maybe add bamboo floors, recycled-content counter tops, and low VOC paint. “Deep green” could mean solar, a geothermal heat pump or complete energy independence.

Home energy audits

A great place to start your decision-making is with a home energy audit to determine your home’s current energy efficiency.  We offer three different levels of audits plus other ancillary tests to choose from. For most homes, the greatest energy leaks are in floors, walls and ceilings.  Leaky ductwork follows, and then heating and cooling systems.


Today there are many benefits and incentives for you to go green.  Ask us about low interest loans, grants, tax credits and rebates, plus monthly utility savings.

Master_Remodelers_DifferenceCall 412-341-6585 today to set up an appointment to discuss green remodeling for your home. Or email us your questions.


More tomorrow.


The Intelligent Optimist – Who knew

Pretty cool magazine and pretty cool article:


Passive House: Super energy efficient housing

Ursula Sautter | June/July 2009 issue

The Smith House, in Urbana, Illinois, “has a simple, compact shape that conserves energy,” says its architect, Katrin Klingenberg.
Photo: Passive House Institute US

How a new kind of home which produces more energy than it consumes, can drastically reduce fuel bills and CO2 emissions. Governments around the world are scrambling to address the twin crises of our times—the recession and climate change—by investing in infrastructure and green energy projects. The Obama administration’s stimulus package, for example, contains billions in incentives for alternative power sources and energy-efficiency increases affecting millions of homes. The question is how to identify “shovel-ready” projects that can quickly deliver the economic boost and CO2 reductions we so urgently need. Rolf Disch, an architect and environmentalist in Freiburg, Germany, has an answer: houses that produce more energy than they consume.

“What if each house became a power plant, if it created even more energy than it used internally?” Disch, 65, first asked himself 15 years ago. To design that home, he built on the ideas of the “passive house” movement that started in Europe in the early 1990s. Instead of relying on the electricity grid for power, a passive house taps available energy sources—sunlight, the body heat of occupants, even the thermal gains created by ordinary domestic activities such as cooking, bathing and using electrical appliances. The building is well-insulated and airtight so it retains most of this energy and, through highly efficient heat-exchange ventilation technology, uses it to cool itself in summer and heat itself in winter. The houses are called “passive” because most of the power consumed is collected from ambient energy in the environment. When extra juice is needed, renewable power units supply it, like the solar array on the roof of the residential and commercial complex Disch built in Freiburg in 2004.

“I only ever had to switch on the heating once,” says Stefan Sattler, a 32-year-old lawyer who has rented a penthouse in the Disch-designed complex since October of 2007. Even then, Sattler only needed the extra heat—purchased from the local heating grid—for two or three hours. Since he and his fellow residents sell the surplus energy produced by the building’s solar panels back to the city’s utility provider at a profit, Sattler is one of the few people who opens his utility bills with real glee. He’s earning money from solar power rather than paying for oil or gas. The average unit in the Freiburg complex earns $5,075 a year this way instead of spending $4,625.

Passive homes can save consumers a bundle in fuel bills—and the planet even more in CO2 emissions. According to the German Passive House Institute (PHI), founded by physicist Wolfgang Feist, who co-created the passive house concept, energy consumption can be reduced by up to 90 percent compared to average homes, up to 75 percent compared to newer buildings. While an existing home uses some 160 kilowatt-hours in heating energy per square meter of living space (kwH/m2) annually, residences built to the passive house standard use a maximum 15 kwH/m2.


More Tomorrow


Carbon Neutral, Energy Neutral, And Carbon Set Asides – The world can be soooo confusing

Everybody wants to be green but nobody wants tell you what that means exactly.


Carbon offset

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Wind turbines near Aalborg, Denmark. Renewable energy projects are the most common source of carbon offsets.

A carbon offset is a financial instrument aimed at a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) and may represent six primary categories of greenhouse gases.[1] One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.

There are two markets for carbon offsets. In the larger, compliance market, companies, governments, or other entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit. In 2006, about $5.5 billion of carbon offsets were purchased in the compliance market, representing about 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2e reductions.[2]

In the much smaller, voluntary market, individuals, companies, or governments purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources. For example, an individual might purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by personal air travel. Many companies (see list[3]) offer carbon offsets as an up-sell during the sales process so that customers can mitigate the emissions related with their product or service purchase (such as offsetting emissions related to a vacation flight, car rental, hotel stay, consumer good, etc.). In 2008, about $705 million of carbon offsets were purchased in the voluntary market, representing about 123.4 million metric tons of CO2e reductions.[4]

Offsets are typically achieved through financial support of projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in the short- or long-term. The most common project type is renewable energy, such as wind farms, biomass energy, or hydroelectric dams. Others include energy efficiency projects, the destruction of industrial pollutants or agricultural byproducts, destruction of landfill methane, and forestry projects.[5] Some of the most popular carbon offset projects from a corporate perspective are energy efficiency and wind turbine projects.[6]



Carbon Neutral – What Does It Mean?

Recently, there have been a lot of environmental buzzwords floating around. It can be difficult to find a clear definition. I’ll explain what the term “carbon neutral” means, and why it’s important.

You might think that carbon neutral simply means that something does not release any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is true to an extent, however it is too simple a definition. It is possible to release CO2 into the atmosphere and still be carbon neutral, so long it is balanced by a CO2 reduction elsewhere.

Biofuels are carbon neutral, even though burning them releases CO2. How can this be? Well, the carbon in the biofuel comes from photosynthesis, where CO2 is captured from the atmosphere by a plant and turned into glucose. The glucose can then be turned into more complicated molecules such as sugars, starches, oils and proteins. Sugars and starches can easily be converted into bioethanol, while oils can be converted into biodiesel. Carbon is removed from the atmosphere, stored in plants for a few months, then released when the biofuel is burned. For every gram of CO2 released by burning a biofuel, there was a gram removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis just a few months ago. This perfect balance is why biofuels are carbon neutral.

Alternatively, the term carbon neutral can be used to describe energy that does not cause the release of any CO2 at all. For instance, solar cells, wind turbines and hydroelectric turbines generate electricity without releasing CO2. Nuclear power does not release CO2 during the generation process either.

There is a problem with this, however. Currently, virtually all forms of carbon neutral energy actually involve the burning of fossil fuels. The crops for biofuels are harvested using machinery that burns fossil diesel. This is because fossil fuels are a great deal cheaper than biofuels. Some ways of producing biofuels are controversial because so much fossil fuel has to be used in the production process. Some sources of bioethanol are in this grey area. Solar cells, wind and hydroelectric turbines are all produced and transported using fossil fuels to some extent. The technology exists to make these things truly carbon neutral, but it is hopelessly uneconomic at this time. Nuclear power involves the burning of fossil fuels in the mining and transport of uranium, the building of power stations, and the disposal of waste. When uranium becomes scarce, mining it will consume even more fossil fuels:}



The meaning of ‘zero’

By Bruno De Wachter / Published on Wed, 2010-05-05 05:30

‘Zero energy building’ and similar terms

Picture by Ian Britton on FreeFoto.com

Picture by Ian Britton on FreeFoto.com

You would think that no word has a more unambiguous meaning than ‘zero’: nothing is nothing. Not so in today’s world of green building. Labels like ‘zero energy building’, ‘nearly zero energy building’, and ‘zero carbon building’ are frequently used, but lack any standardised or official definition. The same can be said of the expression ‘bâtiment à énergie positive’ that is used in France.

‘Zero energy’ might play well commercially, but it is a clumsy label from a scientific point of view. No house or building can be built and maintained without energy. Strictly speaking, even manpower should be considered energy, and it brings along carbon emissions via food production and by the simple act of breathing. This illustrates that the meaning of ‘zero’ depends entirely upon where you draw the system’s boundaries.

The most narrow and also the most deceptive definition is to take only the electricity consumption of the building into account. The annual electricity production of the PV cells on the roof equals the annual electricity consumption of the building, and hey presto, you have a zero energy building. Who cares about the natural gas boiler in the basement?

Nearly zero energy


Nearly zero..ha..haha…more tomorrow.