The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Settings Matter

Posted on January 14, 2016 by Noah Horowitz in Guest Blogs

Now that the gift-giving holidays are nearly in the rearview mirror and bill-paying season is just ahead, it's a good time to remind you that those electronic devices given or received need not result in higher electric bills.

There are ways to keep your energy use under control without always visiting your brother-in-law's house to borrow a little electricity. In fact, many electronics manufacturers today offer settings that fine-tune the efficiency of their gadgetry — and usually those settings are pretty easy to manipulate.

The Pros and Cons of Skylights

Posted on January 13, 2016 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

Everyone loves skylights. Right? They bring so much light into a room they can turn a Seattle kitchen into a bright and sunny Florida room. Especially at this time of year (in the northern hemisphere), having that extra light can brighten even the darkest days of winter.

But skylights have a dark side, too. If you're not aware of that when incorporating these roof windows into a home, you can end up with high energy bills, rooms that are unusable at certain times of the year, or expensive repairs due to moisture problems.

New Rules for Ceiling Fans

Posted on January 12, 2016 by Andrew deLaski in Guest Blogs

Late last month, the Department of Energy (DOEUnited States Department of Energy.) issued two rules affecting ceiling fans: a proposed rule that would establish the first efficiency performance standards for ceiling fans, and a final rule that improves the efficiency of the lights attached to ceiling fans.

The proposed ceiling fan standards would save about 11% of the energy used by ceiling fans. Energy savings would more than double, though, if DOE adopted a standard level based on advanced motor technology for residential ceiling fans.

Learn the Real (Hard) Work of Residential Design

Posted on January 11, 2016 by Andrew Webster in Guest Blogs

I don’t sit in a hotel room in Boston for two days in the middle of winter, just to have someone tell me how everything worked out just as they planned. The truth is much more entertaining, a lot more flawed, and a lot more useful to me as a professional.

Residential design is difficult work. With few exceptions, every client is an amateur. Every design is a testament to who the client thinks she ought to be. Every project is a wrestling match between the things he always wanted and the ones he can afford. The work is not easy.

Air-to-Water Heat Pumps

Posted on January 8, 2016 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Most air conditioners and heat pumps sold in the U.S. — including most split-system air conditioners and ductless minisplits — are air-to-air heat pumps. During the winter, these appliances extract heat from the outdoor air and deliver warm air to a house through ducts or small fan-coil units. During the summer, these appliances deliver cool air to a house and dump unwanted heat into the outdoor air.

Repairing Rotten Trim

Posted on January 7, 2016 by John Michael Davis in Green Building Blog

If I look hard enough at any house here in New Orleans, I’m sure to see one: a length of casing, fascia or corner board, with a hideous scarf joint only a foot or two from the end. This joint wasn’t put there by the builder; it was added years later to repair a rotten section of trim.

We get a lot of rot down here, and the ends of the boards are often the first to go. When they do, the standard repair is to cut back to undamaged wood at a 45º angle (what’s known as a scarf joint), then attach a new section of trim using yellow glue and finish nails. Sometimes it looks good—for a while.

When Buildings Design Themselves

Posted on January 6, 2016 by Lance Hosey in Guest Blogs

Seven years ago, in my then-column for Architect magazine, I wrote that computerized automation eventually could fulfill the ultimate aims of green building by achieving dramatically better performance. Now the same magazine has taken up the same topic in a couple of recent articles.

GBA Prime Sneak Peek: Green Building in the Cheap Energy Era

Posted on January 5, 2016 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com Prime subscribers have access to many articles that aren't accessible to non-subscribers, including Martin Holladay's weekly blog series, “Musings of an Energy Nerd.” To whet the appetite of non-subscribers, we occasionally offer non-subscribers access to a “GBA Prime Sneak Peek” article like this one.

Choosing a Superinsulated Wall System

Posted on January 5, 2016 by Kent Earle in Guest Blogs

Editor's note: Kent Earle and his wife, Darcie, write a blog called Blue Heron EcoHaus, which documents their journey “from urbanites to ruralites” and the construction of a superinsulated house on the Canadian prairies. GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com first posted a blog about their decision not to seek Passivhaus certification in May 2015, and later posted a blog about how the couple decided to heat their house.

Solar Panels or Exterior Foam?

Posted on January 4, 2016 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Apollo S has been making steady energy upgrades to his pre-war Cape Cod style house in Massachusetts. He's replaced a steam heating system with a heat pumpHeating and cooling system in which specialized refrigerant fluid in a sealed system is alternately evaporated and condensed, changing its state from liquid to vapor by altering its pressure; this phase change allows heat to be transferred into or out of the house. See air-source heat pump and ground-source heat pump., and with help from the state's energy efficiency program, he air-sealed and insulated his attic with cellulose.

As a result, his $250-a-month energy bills are one-quarter what they used to be, and Apollo now has his eye on the next round of upgrades.

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