Energy Solutions

Designing Houses That Keep Their Cool

Posted on July 4, 2013 by Alex Wilson

Summer is here, with a pattern of hot weather and (in our part of the country) high humidity. We can be glad in Vermont that we’re not dealing with temperatures approaching 120°F, as are Phoenix and Las Vegas. (Death Valley was predicted to hit 130°F the other day, just four degrees shy of the highest temperature ever recorded on earth — 100 years ago.)

What’s New with Water-Resistive Barriers

Posted on June 27, 2013 by Alex Wilson

I remember years ago — I hate to remember how many; it must have been around 1982 or 1983 — writing for New England Builder (now the Journal of Light Construction) about Tyvek housewrap. It was then a fairly new product — and really a new idea: a material that would wrap over the outside of a house to provide an air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both. and improve energy performance.

Defining Habitable Temperatures

Posted on June 20, 2013 by Alex Wilson

Over the past five months, the New York City Buildings Resiliency Task Force has been working to figure out how to make buildings in the City more resilient. The Task Force, which was created at the request of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and facilitated by Urban Green, the U.S. Green Building Council Chapter in New York City, issued its recommendations on June 13, 2013.

Our Barn Roof Gets an 18-kW Solar Array

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Alex Wilson

When we started planning the rebuild of our house and the rest of the farm in West Dummerston, Vermont, my wife and I knew that we wanted to produce all of our energy on-site. That meant a solar-electric or 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. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) system that would generate as much electricity as the house and barn are consuming — net-zero energyProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines..

A Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro, Vermont

Posted on June 6, 2013 by Alex Wilson

For the past three years, the Slow Living Summit has been an important ancillary event to the Strolling of the Heifers parade in Brattleboro, Vermont, which is now one of the state’s leading tourist attractions. With a nod to Spain’s famous Running of the Bulls, the Strolling of the Heifers is a relaxed walk along Main Street that focuses attention on farmers and local food.

Energy Use by Buildings

Posted on May 30, 2013 by Alex Wilson

I’ve long appreciated the adage that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, so I’ve spent a good bit of time looking at numbers — especially relating to energy. (Apologies in advance to readers who don’t think quantitatively.)

One of those numbers that I’ve always been intrigued with is how much of our nation’s total energy consumption relates to buildings. That sounds simple enough.

America’s Greenest Office Building

Posted on May 23, 2013 by Alex Wilson

I’m just back from a week in Seattle, where I attended the Living Future Conference, which this year had a theme of resilience and regeneration — a major focus of mine with the Resilient Design Institute. While there I visited what is almost certainly the greenest office building in America, if not the world.

Mineral Wool Boardstock Insulation Gains Ground

Posted on May 16, 2013 by Alex Wilson

Readers of this Energy Solutions blog may be aware that I’ve been critical of some of our foam-plastic insulation materials. I’ve come down hardest on extruded polystyrene (XPSExtruded polystyrene. Highly insulating, water-resistant rigid foam insulation that is widely used above and below grade, such as on exterior walls and underneath concrete floor slabs. In North America, XPS is made with ozone-depleting HCFC-142b. XPS has higher density and R-value and lower vapor permeability than EPS rigid insulation.), which is made both with a blowing agent that contributes significantly to global warming and with a brominated flame retardant, HBCD, that’s slated for international phaseout as a persistent organic pollutant.

A Good Time for Energy Audits and Weatherization

Posted on May 9, 2013 by Alex Wilson

Wait a second. Spring has barely sprung, and you’re saying we need to start thinking about energy audits already? What’s up with that?

There are several reasons why now is a good time not only to focus on energy auditing and weatherization work — not only for your clients, but also for your own home.

What’s Different About Unity Homes?

Posted on May 2, 2013 by Alex Wilson

In my blog last week, I provided a little background on Tedd Benson and his evolution that ledLight-emitting diode. Illumination technology that produces light by running electrical current through a semiconductor diode. LED lamps are much longer lasting and much more energy efficient than incandescent lamps; unlike fluorescent lamps, LED lamps do not contain mercury and can be readily dimmed. him to found Unity Homes. This week, I’ll describe some of the features that set Unity Homes apart from both standard home construction and other panelized and manufactured home production.

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