green basics

Are Tankless Water Heaters a Waste of Money?

Posted on March 31,2015 by user-756436 in gas water heater

Although tankless water heaters are, on average, more efficient than traditional tank-style water heaters, they’re also more expensive — so expensive, in fact, that many potential customers wonder whether their high cost can ever be justified by likely energy savings.

How to Choose Insulation

Posted on March 31,2015 by CarlSeville in air sealing

[Editor's note:This is an excerpt of the “Insulation and Air Sealing” chapter of Carl's new textbook, Green Building. Carl's publisher, Cenage Learning, has allowed us to make the whole chapter available as a free download.]

Is the Pretty Good House the Next Big Thing?

Posted on March 31,2015 by ab3 in blower door

I love the Pretty Good House concept! The folks up in Maine who've been developing this idea in their monthly green building discussion group (Steve's Garage) have struck a chord with a lot of us who design, build, or verify green homes. The growing complexity and expense of green building and energy programs has led to growing frustration.

Fiberglass versus Cellulose

Posted on March 31,2015 by user-1048334 in batt

The two least expensive and most commonly used residential insulation are fiberglass and cellulose. Granted, fiberglass is about 50 times more common — but a distant second is still second. Unless the homeowner opts for spray foam, the insulation choice usually comes down to fiberglass vs. cellulose. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of each one? How are they similar and how are they different?

The High Cost of Deep-Energy Retrofits

Posted on March 31,2015 by user-756436 in deep energy retrofit

How much does it cost to perform a deep-energy retrofit at a 100-year-old single-family home? Thanks to a recent study in Utica, New York, we now know the answer: about $100,000.

The research was sponsored by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), an agency that administers programs funded by public benefit charges tacked onto electric utility bills. The program paid for deep-energy retrofits at four wood-framed buildings in Utica, New York.

2011 Solar Decathlon is in the Home Stretch

Posted on March 31,2015 by patrick_mccombe in design

After being in the construction business in one form or another for more than 20 years, I often feel jaded by our lack of progress in building long-lasting, energy-efficient homes despite decades of trying. Well, my trip last week to the 2011 Solar Decathlon has given me renewed hope. The young people who designed and built the 19 homes in the event had more smarts and enthusiasm than I could ever have anticipated. And they made really nice houses, too. Even the designs and features I was skeptical of proved thought-provoking and interesting.

Job Sites in Maine, Part Three

Posted on March 31,2015 by user-756436 in energy efficiency

To end my three-part report on my trip to Maine, I’ll describe my visits to two new energy-efficient homes — an elegant home in Freeport, and a compact 1,000-square-foot home in Bath. The Freeport home was designed by architect Chris Briley and built by Dan Kolbert. Since the owners of the home haven’t moved in yet, the rooms are still empty of furniture.

Net-Zero Homes, Part 3

Posted on March 31,2015 by ChrisBriley in architect

In Part 3 of this episode, the net zero conversation winds down as Phil and I talk about the “cost trade-off” game in which the homeowners will likely engage. We also have a bit of a disagreement as to how much the clients need to know about the energy-saving details being incorporated into their homes. (Good stuff.)

A Passivhaus Take on Multifamily

Posted on March 31,2015 by Fretboard in green basics

Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development recently revised its approach to multifamily housing. Approved in December and implemented on April 19, 2011, the Multifamily Code Update for low-rise residential projects represents the first such update since the late 1980s. It also puts particular focus on townhouses, which have grown in popularity as home prices in the city climbed.

Driving to Maximize Your Fuel Economy

Posted on March 31,2015 by AlexWilson in green basics

In this column I usually focus on how to save energy in our homes and businesses, but for many of us, getting around is our largest energy consumer—particularly in the summer months when we’re not heating our houses. Some of us are lucky enough to have hybrid cars, and this gives us a head start in saving transportation energy. I just calculated that the 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid we own, which averages about 40 miles per gallon (mpg) year-round, has saved us about 2,800 gallons of gas over the 146,000 miles we’ve driven it (compared with a car getting the U.S.

Simple Strategies for Keeping Cool

Posted on March 31,2015 by AlexWilson in green basics

We’re into those hot days of summer--really hot--with temperatures predicted in the mid- to upper-90s, even in Vermont, this week. In this column I’ll provide some simple tips for keeping (reasonably) cool in hot weather or, if you use air conditioning, operating that air conditioning equipment most efficiently. Keep the sun out

The Clothes Washer Revolution

Posted on March 31,2015 by AlexWilson in energy-efficiency

In the 1980s, when my wife and I were expecting our first child, we decided it was time to give up our weekly adventure at the laundromat and buy our first clothes washer: a used Maytag. It was rugged and generally dependable despite its age, but it had a big drawback: it used about 50 gallons of water to wash a load of laundry. Our house was served by a spring that often ran dry in the late summer, so we had to watch our water use very carefully. It wasn’t too long before we decided to replace that Maytag.

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