Guest Blogs

Installing a Ductless Minisplit System

Posted on October 31, 2012 by Marc Rosenbaum

The Island CohousingDevelopment pattern in which multiple (typically 8 to 30) privately owned houses or housing units are clustered together with some commonly owned spaces, such as a common workshop, greenhouse, etc. Automobiles are typically kept to the perimeter of the community, creating a protected area within where children can play. Usually, residents are closely involved in all aspects of the development, from site selection to financing and design. houses were designed to have heat and domestic hot water (DHW) supplied by an oil-fired boiler. (Time for a pedantic distinction: a furnace heats air and blows it around a house, and a boiler heats water which is pumped around the house).

They chose a pretty good boiler: a German Buderus G115. The two-bedroom houses got two heating zones' worth of fin-tube baseboard heat, one zone per floor level. The three- and four-bedroom houses have a third zone, for the first floor ell.

Cutting Down Trees and Milling Lumber

Posted on October 30, 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 13th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

An Induction Cooktop for Our Kitchen

Posted on October 24, 2012 by Marc Rosenbaum

We don't often think about the energy we use for cooking. In the most economically disadvantaged countries, gathering energy for cooking is a major component of people's time (mostly women), and smoke from wood cooking fires is a significant health issue. One great solution for these people is solar cookers, and this organization is my favorite non-profit, because it helps the planet's poorest people while doing environmental good.

Designing Superinsulated Walls

Posted on October 17, 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 12th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

I’ve always enjoyed watching new homes being built. From the humble beginnings of a simple hole in the ground, a job site gradually changes as a succession of tradesmen arrive daily to craft concrete, lumber, roofing, windows, drywall, copper pipes into basic shelter, before giving way to a parade of cabinets, appliances and other finishing touches.

Seasonal Changes in Electrical Loads

Posted on October 16, 2012 by Marc Rosenbaum

We all know that residential heating loadRate at which heat must be added to a space to maintain a desired temperature. See cooling load. is highest in the winter and cooling load is highest in the summer. What's a bit more subtle is how the seasons, and how we respond to them, change the loads on other household energy uses.

How to Insulate and Air-Seal Pull-Down Attic Stairs

Posted on October 10, 2012 by Erik North

Pull-down attic stairs are super-sized attic hatches that just beg homeowners to store more stuff in their attic. Besides the air-leakage and insulation problems stemming from having a particularly large hole in your ceiling, pull-down stairs creates a potential storage headache.

For homeowners, a storage problem usually means “not enough space.” For energy auditors, a storage problem means using space that ought to filled with insulation for Timmy’s guitar, his old bike, Legos, his new bike, and the unpacked remains of twelve previous moves.

Looking Through Windows — Part 7

Posted on October 9, 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the 11th article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

There’s a popular saying here in Maine — “we’re all set” — to signify that the current situation is perfectly fine.

Window selection had so far been the most time-consuming and vexing aspect of the EdgewaterHaus project. That was all behind us. We had made a final decision on an Optiwin-designed Bieber-manufactured Passivhaus-certified windows.

Getting Into Hot Water — Part 4

Posted on October 8, 2012 by Marc Rosenbaum

I've now had a year with the Geyser heat-pump water heaterAn appliance that uses an air-source heat pump to heat domestic hot water. Most heat-pump water heaters include an insulated tank equipped with an electric resistance element to provide backup heat whenever hot water demand exceeds the capacity of the heat pump. Since heat-pump water heaters extract heat from the air, they lower the temperature and humidity of the room in which they are installed. (HPWH). With the exception of the puddle on the floor in July 2011, it has performed consistently.

Its performance has not been thrilling, though. In the summer, it was making hot water at about 0.13 - 0.15 kWh/gallon, with incoming water in the mid-60°Fs and basement air temperature around 70°F. In the winter, with basement temperatures in the low to mid 50°Fs, and incoming water at 50°F or a bit below, this consumption ratio increased to 0.25 kWh/gallon.

Looking Through Windows — Part 6

Posted on October 3, 2012 by Roger Normand

[Editor's note: Roger and Lynn Normand are building a Passivhaus in Maine. This is the tenth article in a series that will follow their project from planning through construction.]

Enough suspense on windows.

It’s a Bieber! And yes, that’s our final decision. We’ve made a sizable cash deposit and started precise shop drawings for the windows.

Can Switching to a Dual-Flush Toilet Save Heat?

Posted on October 2, 2012 by Erik North

First off, my wife just joked that I used a photo of a “male bathroom”: seat up and two rolls of toilet paper.

Regarding the heat savings mentioned in the headline, we'll see... I haven't done the math yet. But it is a minor claim occasionally made alongside the claim that these toilets save water.

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