Energy Solutions

Providing Fresh Air in Our Home

Posted on February 6, 2014 by Alex Wilson

One of the features in our new house that I’m most excited about barely raises an eyebrow with some of our visitors: the ventilation system. I believe we have the highest-efficiency heat-recovery ventilator (HRV(HRV). Balanced ventilation system in which most of the heat from outgoing exhaust air is transferred to incoming fresh air via an air-to-air heat exchanger; a similar device, an energy-recovery ventilator, also transfers water vapor. HRVs recover 50% to 80% of the heat in exhausted air. In hot climates, the function is reversed so that the cooler inside air reduces the temperature of the incoming hot air. ) on the market — or at least it’s right up there near the top.

I’ll describe this Zehnder HRV and its impressive specifications and features — but not until next week. This week I’ll provide a little background on ventilation.

Report on Our Ductless Minisplit Heat Pump

Posted on January 30, 2014 by Alex Wilson

It’s been pretty chilly outside, if you haven’t noticed. A number of people have asked me how our air-source heat pumpHeat pump that relies on outside air as the heat source and heat sink; not as effective in cold climates as ground-source heat pumps. is making out in the cold weather. I wrote about the system last fall, well before we had moved in. Is it keeping us warm? We’ve only been living in the house for a few weeks, but here’s a quick report.

On the Benefits of Online Learning

Posted on January 23, 2014 by Alex Wilson

Truth be told, I was slow warming up to online instruction. Ten years ago, in early 2004, BuildingGreen was approached by Boston Architectural College (then Boston Architectural Center — but with the same acronym, BAC) about collaborating on sustainable design curriculum. There is so much value in face-to-face instruction and student interaction, I thought, how could online instruction take its place?

Safe Storage of Nuclear Waste

Posted on January 16, 2014 by Alex Wilson

In my seemingly endless desire to dive headfirst into controversy, let me return to the issue of nuclear waste storage — something I last wrote about in this column five years ago, in January, 2009. This is a relevant issue today because of the pending closure of Vermont’s only nuclear power plant.

Heating System Safety In Cold Weather

Posted on January 9, 2014 by Alex Wilson

The morning paper had yet another story about a destructive house fire — fortunately no fatalities (this time*), but the total loss of another home and another family’s belongings. And like many others, the culprit appears to have been the wood stove.

So many of the home fires we experience in Vermont result from trying to keep warm. Some have to do with faulty installation of wood heating equipment; many others result from improper operation of that equipment or management of the ash.

More Wishes for 2014

Posted on January 2, 2014 by Alex Wilson

Last week I wrote about a handful of product introductions and improvements I’d like to see in the coming year. This week, I’ll focus on a different level of New Year’s wishes: not product-related, but trends and broader change.

What I’m Wishing for in 2014

Posted on December 26, 2013 by Alex Wilson

I spend a lot of time writing about innovations in the building industry — the cool stuff that’s coming out all the time. But I also like to think about what’s needed: stuff that’s not (yet) on the market or performance levels not yet available. This week I’ll describe a few such products, systems, and enhancements.

Industrial Solar?

Posted on December 19, 2013 by Alex Wilson

When the economy-of-scale with wind power led to larger and larger wind turbines, opponents of these installations took to referring to them as “industrial wind power.” Whenever I see a letter-to-the-editor or news story that uses this phrase, I can tell that it’s going to have an anti-wind bias.

Power Storage in Flywheels

Posted on December 12, 2013 by Alex Wilson

The great thing about writing a regular blog is that reader feedback sometimes introduces me to new products and systems. So it was last week when I wrote about a company developing power grid electrical storage systems using lithium-ion battery technology.

From a reader, I learned about another, very different approach for storing electricity to make the utility grid more stable and resilient: flywheels.

Solar Energy Can Make the Grid More Resilient

Posted on December 5, 2013 by Alex Wilson

In my blog last week, I reported on The Navy Yard in Philadelphia, a remarkable 1,200-acre business campus with 300 companies employing 10,000 people — with as many as 35,000 employees projected eventually. What had attracted me to the facility while I was in town for a conference, was an innovative demonstration that’s been launched showing how solar-electric (photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) systems with battery back-up and smart controls can help to create a more resilient power grid.

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