The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

A Heat Pump Using Carbon Dioxide as the Refrigerant

Posted on August 29, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

In researching and writing about building products for our publication Environmental Building News over the past twenty-plus years I’ve had an opportunity to cover some fascinating breakthrough products and technologies. One such technology I was writing about a few weeks ago is the use of carbon dioxide as a working fluid for heat pumps. 

Fukushima and Vermont Yankee

Posted on August 28, 2013 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

A year and a half ago, in an article on the continuing nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, I reacted with skepticism to reports that the crisis at the damaged plant was under control. I wrote, “The situation at the Fukushima reactors is still far from stable. … Since the containers at the Fukushima Daiichi are severely damaged by melted fuel and can’t hold water, Tepco needs to pour hundreds of tons of water over the molten fuel every day.”

A Failure That Stalls the Certification of Many Energy Star Homes

Posted on August 28, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

Let me tell you a little story about the day that Jeffrey went to test several Habitat for Humanity houses that are going for certification in the Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. new homes program (the one in the photo here was not one of them). This was a couple of weeks ago, but I wrote down the numbers he told me because I think you may be somewhat surprised.

Improving the Energy Efficiency of Rental Housing

Posted on August 27, 2013 by Vera Novak in Guest Blogs

The odd man out in many of the energy efficiency schemes has been the rental landlord. Unlike homeowners, the landlord often has no financial incentive to make energy efficiency improvements to a building. If apartments are self-metered, the renter would be the full beneficiary. If there is central heat and the fuel cost is already allocated to each rental, the landlord could pocket the difference.

How to Fix an Old Farmhouse Chimney

Posted on August 26, 2013 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Between the spalling bricks and a persistent leak that has damaged a mudroom ceiling, the chimney on Page Hyler's 1900 farmhouse is proving to be a problem that just can't get fixed.

Getting the Biggest Bang for Your Air-Sealing Buck

Posted on August 23, 2013 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Most new homes are leaky. In the typical new home, significant volumes of air enter through cracks near the basement rim joists and exit through ceiling holes on the building’s top floor. These air leaks waste tremendous amount of energy.

Building a ‘Layered House’

Posted on August 22, 2013 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

If you are building an energy-efficient house, you have to address air leakage and pay attention to the the integrity of the insulation layer. We can have the best of intentions and can install lots of insulation, but if we leave it leaky or include details that compromise the integrity of that insulation, then the home’s energy performance can be severely affected.

Take recessed ceiling lights, for example. From a design standpoint, they’re great, since the light source is roughly flush with the ceiling and all of the mechanism is hidden in the ceiling above (in recessed cans).

Solving Comfort Problems Caused by Attic Kneewalls

Posted on August 21, 2013 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD in Building Science

In Texas, they call them “hot walls.” My friend Mike Barcik likes to say they’re what separate you from the blast furnace. Down here in the warmer climate zones, where attics get up to 8,000°F (well, that may be a slight exaggeration), many people call them a liability. (Sadly, architects haven't gotten the message.)

How to Avoid Mold

Posted on August 18, 2013 by Erik North in Guest Blogs

Mold and moisture issues are a common motivation for homeowners to give us a ring. There’s condensation on the windows and water dripping into the window box. One homeowner described how if she opened her front door during the winter, the glass panes on the storm door would fogTo fog a room or building is to use a fog machine during a blower door test, revealing locations of air leaks where the fog escapes. The fogging material is usually a glycol-based solution, completely non-toxic. up within 10 or 12 seconds.

Structural issues in the house, like dirt floors in the basement, sometimes cause these problems. But often the problems are caused by occupant behavior.

Vinyl Windows and Vinyl Siding

Posted on August 16, 2013 by Martin Holladay in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Should vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). building materials be banned from green homes? Some environmentalists think so. There seem to be three categories of building materials that particularly irk the anti-PVC crowd: vinyl siding, vinyl windows, and vinyl flooring. Since there are alternatives to all of these materials, these environmentalists argue, green homes shouldn’t include any of them. (Although the anti-vinyl group sometimes mentions PVC pipe used for drains and vents, it seems that neither plastic pipe nor the vinyl insulation on Romex wiring raises as many hackles as vinyl siding, windows, and flooring.)

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