# Musings of an Energy Nerd

### Choosing an Energy-Efficient Refrigerator

Because federal appliance efficiency standards have gotten more stringent, new refrigerators use much less energy than those sold in the 1970s. These days, it’s fairly easy to find a full-size refrigerator that requires only 350 to 500 kWh per year — significantly less than the 1,000 kWh/year energy hogs of yore.

### When Do I Need to Perform a Load Calculation?

In my last three blogs, I discussed the basics of heat-loss and cooling load calculations. The unfortunate truth about these calculations is that fast methods aren’t particularly accurate, and accurate methods require making measurements, checking specifications, and entering data into a computer program — in other words, a significant investment of time.

So how should builders go about making these calculations?

### Calculating Cooling Loads

A few decades ago, residential air conditioning was very rare in colder areas of the U.S., and cooling load calculations were usually unnecessary. These days, however, new U.S. homes routinely include air conditioning equipment, even in Minnesota, so most U.S. builders are faced with the need to calculate cooling loads.

### Report from the NAHB Green Conference

The NAHBNational Association of Home Builders, which awards a Model Green Home Certification. Green conference is being held this week (April 29 to May 1, 2012) in Nashville, Tennessee. Several GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com employees and bloggers — including Dan Morrison, Michael Chandler, Peter Yost, Ted Clifton, and me — are attending.

Nashville has a number of famous buildings, including a full-scale replica of the Parthenon. Nashville's Parthenon isn't made of quarried marble, however; it's made of concrete. So how's the concrete quality? Do the columns resemble marble?

### How to Perform a Heat-Loss Calculation — Part 2

To continue last week’s discussion of heat-loss calculation methods, let’s consider a simple rectangular building, 20 feet by 30 feet, with 8-foot ceilings. Let’s assume it has an 8-foot-high basement with uninsulated concrete walls; the below-grade portion of the basement is 7 feet high, with 1 foot above grade.

To keep things simple, we’ll assume that the house has a flat roof, and that each side of the house has two windows (each 3 ft. by 4 ft.) and one door (3 ft. by 7 ft.). The house doesn’t have a chimney.

### How to Perform a Heat-Loss Calculation — Part 1

I’m going to devote the next several blogs to a discussion of heat-loss and heat-gain calculations. These calculations are the first step in the design of a home’s heating and cooling system.

In order to address this big topic in little bites, I’ll start by discussing heat-loss calculations. I’ll get around to heat-gain calculations and cooling equipment in a future blog.

### Heat-Pump Water Heaters Come of Age

The least expensive way to heat domestic hot water is with natural gas. Homes without access to natural gas usually choose an electric water heater, since electricity is generally cheaper than propane.

### Are Tankless Water Heaters a Waste of Money?

Although tankless water heaters are, on average, more efficient than traditional tank-style water heaters, they’re also more expensive — so expensive, in fact, that many potential customers wonder whether their high cost can ever be justified by likely energy savings.

### Energy Modeling Isn’t Very Accurate

Energy consultants and auditors use energy modeling software for a variety of purposes, including rating the performance of an existing house, calculating the effect of energy retrofit measures, estimating the energy use of a new home, and determining the size of new heating and cooling equipment. According to most experts, the time and expense spent on energy modeling is an excellent investment, because it leads to better decisions than those made by contractors who use rules of thumb.

### A Real Chainsaw Retrofit

When workers need to insulate the walls and roof of an existing building with exterior rigid foam, it often makes sense to cut off the roof overhangs first. With the eaves and rakes removed, wrapping the building in rigid foam is a snap. The missing roof overhangs can later be rebuilt by scabbing the necessary framing on the outside of the foam.