Musings of an Energy Nerd

All About Water Heaters

Posted on February 10, 2012 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

If you want to save energy, there are lots of exciting appliances and building materials that you might want to specify for your home: triple-glazed windows, an efficient refrigerator, and compact fluorescent or 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. lighting, for example.

When it comes to choosing a water heater, though, clarity evaporates. Simple, affordable water heaters aren’t very efficient, and efficient equipment is complicated and costly. So how do you go about choosing a water heater?

New Green Building Products — February 2012

Posted on February 3, 2012 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

My folder of interesting new building products is getting thick, so it’s time for another new product roundup. I’ll review three brands of 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. roofing designed to integrate with asphalt shingle roofs. I’ll also discuss several new types of insulation: a new type of rigid foam, batts made from plastic fibers, and batts made from hemp.

Is This Building Passivhaus-Certified?

Posted on January 27, 2012 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

UPDATED February 7, 2012 with a response from Wolfgang Feist

The first residential PassivhausA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. building in Canada is the Rideau Residences, a duplex at 279 Crichton Street in Ottawa. The building has impressive specifications: an R-70 foundation, R-50 walls, an R-70 roof, and triple-glazed low-eLow-emissivity coating. Very thin metallic coating on glass or plastic window glazing that permits most of the sun’s short-wave (light) radiation to enter, while blocking up to 90% of the long-wave (heat) radiation. Low-e coatings boost a window’s R-value and reduce its U-factor. windows. The building’s air leakage rate was tested at 0.58 ach50.

Service Cavities for Wiring and Plumbing

Posted on January 20, 2012 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

Conventional wood-framed walls perform many functions. Exterior walls are supposed to support the roof load, resist racking, and provide insulation. They must also provide space for routing electrical cables and (in some cases) plumbing pipes or even ductwork. If the walls are built properly, they should also include 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..

Fukushima’s No-Entry Zone

Posted on January 13, 2012 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

UPDATED February 27, 2012

Why is it that trivial news stories (for example, reports on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress) often receive disproportionate coverage, while important news stories are sometimes neglected?

Here’s my vote for the most neglected news story of 2011: the radioactive contamination of hundreds of square miles of land around the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan. Although most news outlets have reported some details of this story, I think it deserves much more attention than it has received.

An Introduction to Thermal Imaging

Posted on January 6, 2012 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

Energy auditors and insulation contractors have been using infrared cameras to diagnose home-performance problems for over 30 years. Without opening up your walls or ceilings for inspection, a trained specialist can use one of these cameras to locate insulation voids, air leaks, moisture intrusion, thermal bypasses, and thermal bridges. It’s even possible to use an infrared camera to locate leaks in hydronic tubing embedded in a slab.

Energy Predictions for 2012

Posted on December 30, 2011 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

As the sun sets on 2011 and we all turn our eyes to 2012, it’s time for journalists and consultants to publish their predictions for the coming year. I was briefly tempted to create such a list — something along the lines of “energy prices will be higher, the planet will be warmer, and many regions will be affected by drought” — until I remembered that I’ve always been bad at predicting.

For example, back in the late 1970s, I was convinced that energy prices would rise steeply during the 1980s. I was wrong.

Payback Calculations for Energy-Efficiency Improvements

Posted on December 23, 2011 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

If you are considering investing in an energy-efficiency improvement for your home — for example, additional attic insulation or a 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. system — you probably expect the investment will lower your energy bills. So it’s only natural to ask, “Is this a good investment?”

For example, let’s say that you are considering spending $5,000 on an improvement that will save you $350 a year on your energy bills. Does the investment make economic sense? The answer, of course, is “it depends.”

The Third Annual Christmas Parody

Posted on December 16, 2011 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

Act 1, scene 1. An empty lot near Scotland Drive.

Thunder and lightning. Enter three sisters, all RESNET-certified.

First rater:
When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second rater:
When the drywall work is done,
When the zoning battle’s won.

A Plague of Bad Energy-Saving Tips

Posted on December 10, 2011 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

Although I usually only publish one blog a week, I can’t resist posting a rare Saturday blog to rail against bad advice to homeowners from the Federal government and a national green building organization.

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