Musings of an Energy Nerd

Yes, We Can

Posted on March 10, 2009 by Martin Holladay

After Henry Ford perfected the automobile assembly line, U.S. industry experienced several decades of explosive growth. Although industrial expansion was interrupted for a decade during the 1930s, it roared back during the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Historians have proposed several explanations for these decades of growing productivity, including the country’s high rate of immigration and access to cheap energy and natural resources.

R-Value Crooks2

Beware of R-Value Crooks

Posted on March 3, 2009 by Martin Holladay

Scammers continue to use exaggerated R-valueMeasure of resistance to heat flow; the higher the R-value, the lower the heat loss. The inverse of U-factor. claims to peddle inferior insulation products, in spite of the existence of strong consumer protection laws. Year after year, naïve builders fall prey to Web-based marketing pitches for “miracle” products like “insulating” paint and 1-inch-thick R-10 foam.

Passivhaus window 2

Equipment versus Envelope

Posted on February 24, 2009 by Martin Holladay

Designers of high-performance homes know that there is always more than one way to reduce energy use. It can be daunting to optimize investments in energy-saving measures: even with the help of computer modeling software, designers need to exercise judgment.

Designers face such questions as: Does it make more sense to upgrade the attic insulation from R-40 to R-60, or to upgrade the water heater to a more efficient unit? Does it make more sense to upgrade from double-glazed to triple-glazed windows or to upgrade from a gas furnace to a ground-source heat pumpHome heating and cooling system that relies on the mass of the earth as the heat source and heat sink. Temperatures underground are relatively constant. Using a ground-source heat pump, heat from fluid circulated through an underground loop is transferred to and/or from the home through a heat exchanger. The energy performance of ground-source heat pumps is usually better than that of air-source heat pumps; ground-source heat pumps also perform better over a wider range of above-ground temperatures.?

Reinventing the U.S. Economy

Reinventing the U.S. Economy

Posted on February 17, 2009 by Martin Holladay

The U.S. economy has run out of steam. Many Americans have concluded that the time has come for economic models based on never-ending growth to be replaced by an economy based on sustainability.

Although it’s easy to describe the promised land — a nation that spends within its means, does a better job of meeting human needs, protects the environment, provides adequate systems for mass transit, and eschews fossil fuels for renewable sources of energy — it’s hard to imagine a smooth transition between our existing “growth is good” economy and a sustainable future.

Slum

Slums of the Future

Posted on February 9, 2009 by Martin Holladay

Peak-oil alarmists have been predicting for several years that rising fuel costs will eventually make large houses and long commutes unaffordable. According to this scenario, American suburbs are destined to become slums.

More Cool Products From the International Builders’ Show

Posted on January 23, 2009 by Martin Holladay

Here’s my latest round-up of cool products from the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.

InSoFast polystyrene panels

A Minnesota company, InSoFast, is selling 2-in.-thick expanded polystyrene panels for finishing the interior of basement walls. The panels have several good design features, including vertical drainage channels on the back side, vertical polypropylene strips that accept screws when attaching drywall, and integrated wiring chases.

Crawl space insulation

Well, They Got It Half Right

Posted on January 22, 2009 by Martin Holladay

At the International Builder’s Show, several demonstration homes have been set up in the parking lot outside the Las Vegas convention center.

The Environments for Living show home has a display promoting the advantages of ventless conditioned crawl spaces; so far, so good. But instead of following best-practice advice and insulating the crawl space walls with rigid foam, the Environments for Living home designers chose to install fiberglass batts between the floor joists — a feature proudly displayed behind a Plexiglas viewing panel.

Logix ICF 2

New Green Building Products — January 2009

Posted on January 21, 2009 by Martin Holladay

LAS VEGAS, NV — Wandering the trade show floor at the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas today, I stumbled upon several intriguing new products. Here are four of them.

Serious Energy windows

Serious Energy, a window manufacturer that recently acquired Alpen Windows, has made several improvements to Alpen’s line of windows with pultruded fiberglass frames. Windows from Serious Energy (formerly known as Serious Materials) are available with Heat Mirror glazingWhen referring to windows or doors, the transparent or translucent layer that transmits light. High-performance glazing may include multiple layers of glass or plastic, low-e coatings, and low-conductivity gas fill. from Southwall Technologies.

Strata-International

Green Paint Sets the Scene

Posted on January 20, 2009 by Martin Holladay

As the plane descends into the Las Vegas airport, every arriving visitor notices the stark contrast between the desert environment of southern Nevada and the modern city of swimming pools and irrigated shrubbery. After arriving today, I took the shuttle bus to the Bally Hotel, across the street from the Bellagio. The Bellagio overlooks an 8-acre artificial lake — in essence, the largest swimming pool in town, in a town known for its large pools — where a few lonely ducks swim in the chlorinated water.

Energy Use Is the Most Important Aspect of Green Building

Posted on January 12, 2009 by Martin Holladay

Articles on green construction, including those published on the Green Building Advisor website, contain information on a wide range of topics, including material choices, indoor air quality, landscaping, and the VOCVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production. content of paint. This wide array of information can convey a false impression — namely, that the covered topics are equally important.

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