The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Incandescent light patent

A Short History of Lighting

Posted on December 2, 2008 by AlexWilson in Energy Solutions

Light is one of our most important energy needs. Historically—before the advent of electric lighting—the need for illumination governed architecture. Buildings were designed to facilitate natural daylighting. My office is in one of the old Estey Organ buildings on Birge Street, built in the late 1800s; it’s just 28 feet wide, allowing natural light from the windows to reach fully into the building.

Car idling

Just Say No to Idling

Posted on November 24, 2008 by AlexWilson in Energy Solutions

The easiest energy savings come from little changes in our behavior that don’t cause any hardship—or even result in ancillary benefits. Such is the case with reducing the amount of time spent idling a car engine when stopped. Turning off the ignition at the drive-up window or when pulled over to take a cell phone call not only saves energy (burning less gasoline), but also pollutes less—a big benefit for the teller at the drive-up bank window. You might even improve your car’s operation.

Photovoltaic solar panels

Generating Electricity from the Sun

Posted on November 18, 2008 by AlexWilson in Energy Solutions

Almost all of our methods for generating electricity are fundamentally the same. Coal-, nuclear-, and natural-gas-fired power plants boil water to produce high-pressure steam that spins a dynamo in a “steam turbine.” The wood-chip-fired combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plant that we want to build in Brattleboro works the same way. The heat sources used in these systems, of course, are very different—each with its own environmental and health concerns—but the way they actually produce the electricity is, fundamentally, the same.

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I-joists are not ductwork

Posted on November 11, 2008 by Daniel Morrison in Building Science

What’s wrong with this picture?

a) The rim joist is too heavily notched.
b) Using framing cavities as duct runs is frowned upon by codes and professional associations.
c) This passed the framing inspection.
d) All of the above

Solar Water Heating Systems image

Solar Water Heating

Posted on November 11, 2008 by AlexWilson in Energy Solutions

Brattleboro, Vermont is fortunate to have a long history with solar water heating. When I moved to the area in 1980, the company Solar Applications had been installing solar hot water systems for five years, and a spin-off company, Solar Alternatives, was manufacturing quality flat-plate solar collectors—many of which are still in use in the area. While Solar Alternatives closed down in the 1980s with falling energy prices and the end of solar tax credits, Solar Applications, has continued to install and service solar water heating systems for more than thirty years.

cs-passive solar house in Duluth MN exterior

Passive Solar Heating

Posted on November 4, 2008 by AlexWilson in Energy Solutions

Following the first energy crisis in 1973 there was a rush to heat homes with the sun. It was a tinkerer’s paradise, with all manner of solar heating systems migrating from garage workshops to commercialization. Patent offices were working overtime.

Solar Energy – Insulate First!

Posted on October 27, 2008 by AlexWilson in Energy Solutions

I moved to Brattleboro, Vermont 28 years ago to work for an organization that was all about promoting solar energy—an industry that blossomed out of the energy crisis in the 1970s. When the problem is dependence on an energy source that’s non-renewable, that comes from far away and sucks money out of our local economy, that pollutes our air when we burn it, and that contributes to global warming, it makes a lot of sense to look for an alternative that’s renewable, available locally, and environmentally safe. Solar energy is just such a solution.

Some Breathing Room to Button Up Our Homes

Posted on October 20, 2008 by AlexWilson in Energy Solutions

We faced some pretty tough choices this past summer. Heating oil prices were around $4.50 per gallon, and scary news reports were projecting $5.00 per gallon by January. Some rushed to lock in prices by pre-buying their winter oil. It was a gamble. Were prices going to go even higher (as the heating season approaches, heating oil prices have traditionally risen), or would the bubble burst and prices fall?

Storm window

Should I Replace My Windows?

Posted on October 13, 2008 by AlexWilson in Energy Solutions

I get this question a lot from homeowners wanting to reign in their energy costs. Windows usually account for about a quarter of the heat loss in a typical house. State-of-the-art, triple-glazed windows (with two low-e coatings and kryptonA colorless, odorless inert gas, often used with argon in fluorescent lighting and sometimes used as gas fill in high-performance glazing. gas fill) will dramatically reduce that heat loss, so it would seem that replacing your windows would be one of the most sensible things we could do in buttoning up our homes—right?

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Advances in Windows

Posted on October 6, 2008 by AlexWilson in Energy Solutions

Windows have a huge impact on the energy use of our homes. Fortunately, there have been dramatic advances in window technology over the past thirty years. This column will take a look at factors that affect the energy performance of windows.

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