The most recent blogs at Green Building Advisor

Pastiche Architecture

Posted on September 9, 2014 by Greg Labbe in Guest Blogs

Drive out to any of the bedroom communities outside the greater Toronto area and you’re likely to stumble on huge, clunky homes that are so complex in shape that their energy performance is degraded. These homes include uncomfortable rooms, are often challenged by ice dams, and require higher expenditures for maintenance.

Having no more usable space than much smaller (but better designed) houses, these large homes squander conditioned floor space with ostentatious frills. Buying more is really less.

Coping With a Wrong-Sized AC System

Posted on September 8, 2014 by Scott Gibson in Q&A Spotlight

Florida is not the kind of place where you'd want to be without air conditioning for very long, so when Chris Marriner's old system died last spring, he didn't waste much time in replacing it. But what should have been a ticket to indoor comfort hasn't exactly worked out that way.

Marriner's HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. technician decided to replace the 4-ton system with one of the same capacity, even though Marriner knew that because of improvements to the building envelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials. the new system probably would be oversized for the 2200-square-foot home. The tech told Marriner the system could be "tuned."

All About Microwave Ovens

Posted on September 5, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

A microwave oven uses less energy than a conventional oven. Even though this statement is broadly true, a microwave oven isn’t always the most efficient way to cook.

So what appliance should you use to heat up or cook your dinner: A gas stovetop? An electric-resistance stovetop? An induction stovetop? A gas oven? An electric oven? A countertop toaster oven? A crockpot? Or a microwave oven?

If all you care about is energy efficiency, it’s possible to come up with an answer to this question — but the answer will depend on the quantity and the type of food you are cooking.

Seeking the Elusive Grade 1 Batt Installation

Posted on September 4, 2014 by Carl Seville, GBA Advisor in Green Building Curmudgeon

Having spent much of my time writing for GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com whining and complaining about the state of the insulation industry, it is now time for me to eat a little crow. The insulation work at one of our multifamily certification projects has, amazingly, met – and even possibly exceeded – my expectations for quality.

How to Tell If Your Air Conditioner Is Oversized

Posted on September 3, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

Back in 2009, I had a new air conditioner installed our condo. The previous one was an ancient 25 years old and barely limping along. It wasn't cooling much, and the summer electric bills had risen.

Cold Weather Slows Progress at the Potwine Passivhaus

Posted on September 2, 2014 by Alexi Arango in Guest Blogs

As they set out to build a single-family PassivhausA 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. on Potwine Lane in Amherst, Massachusetts, Alexi Arango and LeeAnn Kim asked themselves, “Is it possible to live without burning fossil fuels?” One measure of success would be meeting their goal of net-zero energyProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines. performance. This is the second blog in a planned series.

Overheating from South Windows

Posted on September 1, 2014 by Ted Lemon in Guest Blogs

For the past two years, Ted Lemon and Andrea Lemon have been living in a single-family PassivhausA 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. which they built in Brattleboro, Vermont. Ted Lemon wrote the essay below in July 2012.

Get Ready for Smart Appliances

Posted on August 29, 2014 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor in Musings of an Energy Nerd

Utility executives and some energy-efficiency experts have been dreaming for years of a smart electricity grid connected to smart appliances that can be remotely controlled. In many North American cities, however, the installation of smart meters has faced strong opposition from some homeowners. The resulting fallout has amounted to a public relations nightmare for electric utilities.

Origami-Inspired Homes

Posted on August 28, 2014 by Greg Labbe in Guest Blogs

There’s a reason that every high-performance car is sleek and compact in shape; sleekness improves performance. The same principle applies to centuries-old sculptures that keep their features and endure centuries of weathering and the test of time: keep the shape simple.

Unfortunately, the current trend is to build large homes that have poorly designed floor spaces. The physical shape of these origami-like buildings impacts our lives, our comfort, and our energy bills.

Is Oriented Strand Board as Impermeable as They Say?

Posted on August 27, 2014 by Allison A. Bailes III, PhD, GBA Advisor in Building Science

Oriented strand board (OSB) gets blamed for a lot of problems that are really the fault of the designers and builders. Part of the problem, of course, is the perrenial confusion between correlation and causality. OSB hit the market as we really started getting serious about insulation and air sealing.

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