The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Another Report on the Great Ventilation Rate Debate

Posted on May 26, 2014 by Nate Adams in Guest Blogs

Here is my rundown of the recent Affordable Comfort (ACI) conference in Detroit.

It was great to catch up with — or at least brush by — longtime industry friends, in the case of Allison Bailes of Energy Vanguard and Andy Frank of Sealed. It’s really cool that the industry is small enough you can become friends with even the big names.

Earthship Hype and Earthship Reality

Posted on May 23, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

If you are a hippie from Taos, New Mexico, you know what an earthship is. It’s an off-grid earth-bermed passive solar home with exterior walls made of old tires packed with dirt.

Can We Power Our Car With the Sun?

Posted on May 22, 2014 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

I’ve written about a lot of the features we included in our new house in Dummerston, Vermont, to reduce its energy use and environmental footprint, but there’s another one — a big one — that doesn’t really relate to the house.

California Study Shows Big Savings in Home Energy Retrofits

Posted on May 21, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

At the Forum on Dry Climate Home Performance earlier this year, I got to hear three building science experts talk about a really cool research project they've been working on in Stockton, California. Bruce Wilcox, John Proctor, and Rick Chitwood (Wilcox and Proctor are shown in photo at right) filled us in on the Stockton project, which now has two years of data and shows some really impressive results.

New Passive Building Standards for North America

Posted on May 20, 2014 by Katrin Klingenberg in Guest Blogs

By August of 2011, eight years had passed since we completed the Smith House, the first home in the United States to be built to the European Passivhaus standard. Those eight years were heady and full: We founded the national non-profit Passive HouseA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. Institute U.S. (PHIUS). We created a Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) training curriculum and delivered trainings to hundreds of professionals from coast to coast.

Updating an Antique Heating System

Posted on May 19, 2014 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

The multistory brick home in Frederick, Maryland, is an "amazing property that deserves to be lived in and preserved," says a Green Building Advisor reader who calls himself Joe Schmo. Its Achilles heel is a heating and cooling system that costs thousands of dollars a year to operate.

The system consists of an oil-fired boiler that supplies radiators with steam, two air-source heat pumps that provide air conditioning, and back-up electric resistance heat. There's a 4-ton unit in the basement for the first floor, and a 3-ton unit in an attic that serves the second floor.

Solar Hot Water System Maintenance Costs

Posted on May 16, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

I installed my solar hot water system about six years ago. It’s a good system. I have two 4’x8’ AE-32 flat-plate collectors (manufactured by Alternate Energy Technologies), a Superstor Ultra stainless-steel tank (at 80 gallons, it’s a little small, but it’s what I could afford), and an El Sid DC pump from Ivan Labs. Since I installed the equipment myself, it cost significantly less than a professionally installed system.

High-Tech Ceiling Fans for Low-Tech Cooling

Posted on May 15, 2014 by Alex Wilson in Energy Solutions

Winter has barely ended in Vermont, but as I write this the forecast is for 82 degrees tomorrow. This makes me think about strategies for keeping cool in the months ahead. I’m looking forward to trying out the high-tech ceiling fans we installed in our two upstairs bedrooms. I’ll get to those fans in a minute, but first I’ll explain why I like ceiling fans so much.

How to Buy an Energy-Efficient Ceiling Fan

Posted on May 14, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

A little over a decade ago when I was building a house and buying a bunch of ceiling fans, it wasn't so easy to figure out which fans were energy efficient and which weren't. That's not the case anymore because every ceiling fan now has a label on the package that tells you how much air movement you can expect for each watt of electricity you put into the fan.

A Passivhaus Conference in Germany

Posted on May 13, 2014 by Ken Levenson in Guest Blogs

The 2014 International Passive HouseA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. Conference was held in Aachen, Germany, on April 25-26. Produced by the Passivhaus Institut (PHI), this annual conference offered a dizzying and inspiring array of information and networking opportunities.

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