Energy Solutions

On the Jobsite with Foamglas

Posted on November 29, 2012 by Alex Wilson

In my role with Environmental Building News and our GreenSpec Product Database, I get plenty of opportunities to research and write about innovative building products. That’s one of the really fun aspects of my job.

A Few Product Highlights from GreenBuild

Posted on November 22, 2012 by Alex Wilson

I attended the GreenBuild Conference and related meetings in San Francisco last week. This is the largest conference and trade show in the green building field, and it is increasingly becoming the national event where large manufacturers roll out new building products.

Described below are a few product highlights from the trade show that caught my eye as I wandered around. I only got through about a quarter of the trade show.

Comparing Fuel Costs

Posted on November 15, 2012 by Alex Wilson

If there’s one thing that we can predict with certainty about fuel costs, it’s that they fluctuate a lot. That wasn’t always the case. The price of electricity, natural gas, propane, and heating oil were remarkably stable for decades — up until the 1970s.

Since then, prices of most fuels have gyrated wildly, driven by political unrest in some parts of the world, periods of greater or lower demand driven by periods of strong economic growth or contraction, resource limitations (real or perceived), and the situation in China and other parts of this increasingly connected world.

Gas Lines Point to a Need for Resilience

Posted on November 8, 2012 by Alex Wilson

By now we’ve all seen the photos of houses buried in sand along the Jersey Shore, burned-out homes in Queens, and submerged subway stations in Manhattan. Those spectacular images were in the first wave of news from Superstorm Sandy last week.

Masonry Heaters Burn Hot and Clean

Posted on November 1, 2012 by Alex Wilson

Over the past two weeks I’ve written about wood stoves and pellet heating. This week I’ll focus on another way to burn wood cleanly and efficiently: using a masonry heater.

Heating With Wood Pellets

Posted on October 25, 2012 by Alex Wilson

My wife and I have a sort-of love-hate relationship with our pellet stove. She leans more toward the latter, while I see the benefits outweighing the negatives.

In this column I’ll outline the primary advantages and disadvantages of pellet heating.

Heating With Wood Safely and Efficiently

Posted on October 18, 2012 by Alex Wilson

I’ve been heating primarily with wood since I bought our house 31 years ago, though there were a few years following our installation of an oil boiler when wood consumption dropped considerably.

Wood heat has a mixed record, though. It’s a renewable fuel and, assuming that new trees grow up to replace those cut for firewood, it is carbon-neutral, meaning that it doesn’t have a net contribution to global warming. But burning firewood produces a lot of air pollution; in fact, it’s usually our dirtiest fuel.

Good News, Bad News: A Glut of Solar Panels

Posted on October 11, 2012 by Alex Wilson

When China dives into a technology, it does so in a big way. Nowhere is this more the case than in 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.) panel manufacturing, where dramatic growth has not only taken a toll on other manufacturers around the world, but also now threatens its own PV industry through rampant oversupply.

This has significant implications for us here in the U.S. — both good and bad.

Designing Homes and Communities That Can Survive a Disaster

Posted on October 4, 2012 by Alex Wilson

Some 27 years ago, following a five-year stint as director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (which was then based in Brattleboro), I launched my own company focusing on information about environmentally responsible design and construction.

Drainline Heat Exchangers

Posted on September 27, 2012 by Alex Wilson

Over the past few weeks I’ve written about various strategies to produce hot water efficiently. We’ve seen that tankless water heaters are more efficient than storage water heaters (though are not without their drawbacks), and we’ve learned that heat-pump water heaters produce two to three times as much heat per unit of electricity consumed as electric water heaters that rely on electric resistance heat.

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