The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Solar Water Heating Systems image

Solar Water Heating

Posted on November 11, 2008 by Alex Wilson 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 Alex Wilson 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 Alex Wilson 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 Alex Wilson 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 Alex Wilson 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?

Advanced Energy Panel Window Insulation image

Advances in Windows

Posted on October 6, 2008 by Alex Wilson 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.

Michael Chandler Blog Profile

Not all duct design manuals are created green

Posted on September 30, 2008 by Michael Chandler in Building Science

Manual D is about comfort, not energy efficiency. Its requirement in LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. -H makes green certification too expensive to justify the benefit.

I've been building solar and green for 30 years. I have built homes that 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. certify at 76% more efficient than code and score gold on our North Carolina Green Building Program as well as NAHB’s green building program, but I have never built a house that would qualify for even basic LEED-H certification. It doesn't seem likely that I will unless


Life-Cycle Assessment is a Tool, Not a Silver Bullet

Posted on September 30, 2008 by Peter Yost in Building Science

Are steel studs greener than wood? Is plastic pipe greener than copper? And is 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). siding green? A product's total environmental impact must be considered.

There are few green building topics that produce more frustration and uncertainty than claims about the environmental footprint of particular building materials. Life-cycle assessments seem like the perfect tool for summing it all up, but they fall short for many reasons.


Green Products Don’t Make It Green

Posted on September 30, 2008 by Matt Golden in Green Building Blog

Process Comes First, Then Products

Green houses can be built with un-green products and un-green houses can be built with all-green products.

In our common vernacular, “green” has come to mean many things and, at the same time, nothing at all. It has become the de facto term for environmentally sound—appplied to everything from healthy living to energy consumption and global warming. Clever marketing has people choosing hair products and hybrid cars based on their green status.


Are Heat Pumps Green?

Posted on September 30, 2008 by Daniel Morrison in Green Building Blog

Not If the Electricity that Powers the Pump is Generated by Burning Coal
An article in the Home and Garden section of the New York Times titled "Time to Worry About Heat Bills," by Jay Romano, talks about a winter heating option that will save you money: electric heat pumps. With the price of gas and oil skyrocketing, the article reasons, an electric heat pump will be a money saver this winter and eventually will end up "paying for itself."

But is it green?

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