Categories
Environmental

The Secret Garden at Phipps

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Speaking of spring, my husband and I visited the Spring Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory this past Saturday. We enjoyed the new show inspired by The Secret Garden, as interpreted in the landscape by designers at Terra Design Studios.

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Look for the interpretive signage and bird sculptures throughout the garden rooms.

Categories
Environmental

Winter to Spring in a few days

This was the scene out of our front window last Wednesday. Over the weekend I took a run in shorts and had my plants sunning in the outdoors.

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We aren’t far off from spring, I hope!

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Categories
Architecture Building Sustainably Environmental

Architecture Layering

A few buildings and spaces that have caught my attention lately have had one thing in common -an integration of planes and material, held off or touching one another, laced over or glossed expressing a mirrored place, unraveling as one walks through a place. The architecture is cognoscente of being touched and lived-in and I am fascinated by it! Enjoy~

Navy Federal Credit Union – Rheinzink

supergres

Ceramiche Supergres has won the prestigious ECOHITECH 2009 AWARD in the “Hi-tech eco-virtuous products” category for its latest innovative porcelain stoneware collection, A.I.R. (Architecture in Respect), manufactured using a high percentage of post-consumer recycled material (CRT glass) derived from the recovery of the cathode ray tubes of obsolete TV sets and PC monitors.    – Ceramic Industries

JetsonGreenLibertyTile

Liberty Tiles post industrial recycled content glass tiles that look like sun streaked stain glass through a cathedral window on a sunny day. – Jetson Green

Step Up on 5th in Santa Monica, CA by Pugh & Scarpa

These screens not only play with color, but they dapple light to amuse the passerby and serve as an exterior screen, a passive house strategy, that blocks the sunlight from a window on the exterior side of the glazing. -Architecture Record

pugh_scarpa_aia_architecture_firm_award_10_3

Pugh + Scarpa have been on my favorite architect list since I was introduced to their work surrounding the rebuilding of New Orleans. Their Make-It-Right duplex has the true lines of a house that I appreciate. Their houses look like houses, and when they need to rise above the ground they do so with a barely noticeable way of growing.

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Architecture Building Sustainably Environmental

Heating your Ohio Home

~ How to efficiently heat your renovated Home ~ 

Five Ideas

1. Geothermal

by The Greenest Dollar

Energy Star reports that a geothermal heating system is the most efficient and environmentally-friendly way to heat your home.

Geothermal literally means “earth heat”. And, to put it bluntly, they’re awesome systems.

 Traditional forced-air systems (like most of us have) use the outside air as a base to heat the house. So, if it’s 10 degrees out the furnace has to heat that 10 degree air up to 70 degrees to make it comfortable inside. This, as you can imagine, takes a lot of energy to do.

A geothermal system, on the other hand, uses the constant, stable temperature of the earth as a base to heat your home. The earth’s temperature stays at a constant temperature, usually 45 degrees to 75 degrees, depending on your latitude. Because the temperature of the earth is much higher than the outside air, it takes a lot less energy to get it to 70 degrees.

The unit works with large coils that are buried in the earth. A liquid, usually a mixture of water and anti-freeze, runs through the tubes. That water (which is the same temperature of the earth) is then run through your home. A compressor extracts the heat from the water, and then raises the temperature to what your thermostat is set at.

The system also works in reverse: in the summer, your geothermal unit can easily cool your home using the earth’s temperature at a fraction of the cost of your air conditioner.

Now, the costs for installing a geothermal heating system are pretty steep. You can bank on spending $7,000 to $15,000 for a complete system.

But, here’s the good news. Depending on your part of the country, the system will pay for itself in 5-8 years and add significant resale value to your home.

Plus, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that geothermal heating systems run at 300%- 600% efficiency on the coldest nights, versus 175%- 250% of air-source heat pumps on cool days.

Many experts claim that a geothermal system in a 1,500 square foot home will heat and cool your home for $1 per day. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty awesome.

And the best part is that you’re not using any fossil fuels to heat and cool your home.

~

2. Fire Place Heat Exchanger

by Green $ense

A fireplace heat exchanger upgrade or and EPA certified insert which I looked up on E How to try to understand a bit better. The idea is that you can insert a new energy-efficient unit into your existing hearth and allow the heat generated by the fire to help generate heat into your home through a blower door.

Inserts for wood-burning fireplaces improve the safety and efficiency of the unit. An insert is a metal firebox, often with a glass door for visible flames, which fits within the fireplace opening, allowing the smoke to be vented through the existing fireplace chimney.-E How

3. Furnaces

by Lennox

I reviewed gas and electric furnaces, and have based the following on efficiency ratings. ‘A natural gas furnace that operates at 80 percent efficiency–80 percent of the energy used to run the furnace goes into warming the air–will perform better than a gas furnace rated at 70 percent. An electric furnace rated at 90 percent will be closer in cost to a gas furnace rated at 80 percent than one at 90 percent.’ –E How states.

So, the first furnace I looked into, a Lennox SLP98V, is a 98% efficient  gas furnace.

Consumer Reports breaks down a review on the most common brands on their website too here.

Consider also a programmable thermostat that allows you to have heat when you need it most. Not when you aren’t at home, and not when you are under the covers. Places where you have a lot of southern light will be warmer, and tend to need different air conditions than do the shady Northern facing rooms.

4. Heat Pump

I’ve recently been introduced to the Fujitsu Mini-Split heat pump by a friend who uses the system to create a warm room in his super-insulated home. It is a ductless system that runs coils through your walls to a wall or ceiling mounted unit that heats or cools your air for comfort. Though, some people may not like the wall mounted aesthetic.

5. Insulate!

As always, I think it’s best to keep in that warm air with great insulation and to caulk around openings, penetrations and drywall connections.

A few insulation products that I have researched are:  Weka – Wool insulation through Artemis, Ultra Touch Cotton,  Bonded Logic, EcoBatt,  Greensulate by Ecovative Design, Cell Pak Blow in Insulation, Green Fiber Loose Fill Insulation, Icynene Spray Foam formaldehyde-free, and recycled newspaper is used in cellulose blow-in applications such as NuWool, and USA Premium Insulation. Insulation board can provide up to a 7 R value per inch as well!

There you have it.. now develop a  plan to keep warm this winter!

Categories
Architecture Book Review Building Sustainably Environmental

The search for The Greenest way I can build a new Home

The best methods, The best materials

What is Green Building in the Northeast U.S.? I’ve consulted the following book many times in designing new spaces. I’ve found the information in what has been provided to me through searching The Passive Solar House links.


The Passive Solar House by James Kachadorian

Book Review

Rule #1: Build in Reference to your Surroundings

Position the long direction of the house in the East/West direction and plant deciduous trees along the South. James gives direction for how to know your site. ‘Make a point of being on site at sun rise and sunset at different times of the year. Develop a sense for which direction the prevailing wind comes from…in addition to solar orientation, consider access, view, wind, direction, snow removal, power, septic and water.” In the past when I have mentioned Slow Building, this is the direction I was seeking.

Rule #2: Design on a 12 month basis. ‘Accommodate and benefit from the sun’s shifting patterns and other natural seasonal cycles.’

Rule #3: Provide effective thermal mass to store free solar heat in the day time for nighttime use. The above diagram is a graphic from the book where he notes ‘achieve thermal balance by sizing the storage capacity of the thermal mass to provide the heating needs of the building through the night.

4″ slab over 12″ CMU is approximately 10″ of solid concrete.

10″ x by the building x and y dimensions = the ____ cubic feet of volume.

Ways of keeping the heat in include thermo-shutters, as described in the image below. However, you want to make sure that your building envelope is a closed cell construction to protect the R values you’ve invested in it as well as to prevent insect damage. The envelope is something that you may ‘Dress as you please.’

This is a graphic for a wall section, envelope, that you would find in the north-eastern United States. For example, the vapor barrier is always to be on the warm side, and in this area the warm side is the heated side of the home, on the interior because we heat in the winter. This leads us to Rule #4:  Insulate thoroughly and use well-sealed vapor barriers.

While constructing a home for my family I studied Advanced Framing, also termed Value Engineering. This means building with typical construction methods, but arranging the building components  in a smarter way. The simple spacing of 2×6’s at 2′ on center versus 16″ or the ways in which to construct a corner and header of a window frame are two examples in which less wood can be used to build a solid home.  Look at these sites listed:  Building Science Consulting and The Energy and Environmental Building Alliance

Getting back to the book, the author makes it a point to differentiate between house wraps and vapor barriers. House wraps are designed to stop wind, not moisture, and a vapor barrier is an extremely important part of the building envelope sandwich.

Tightly sealed buildings should exhaust and vent to the outside through controlled or deliberate openings. For example, areas that have excessive moisture such as the bathroom, kitchen and laundry rooms. So, what are deliberate and controlled openings about?

I sought out the information on the internet and found Scandinavian Homes; Passive houses who described a Ventilation heat-recovery system by Temovex. These systems control the air-exchanges in a home, and in the winter months when we don’t want to pump out our expensive heated air with necessary ventilation, they have a way of recovering the heat without compromising our inside air quality.  Click here to see how the Temovex works in expanded terms.

With a balanced mechanical system, you control the amount of ventilation in the house. Not too much on windy and cold days and enough on humid and mild days…A whole house ventilation system helps to provide consistent temperatures though-out the house or apartment. The house or apartment must be reasonably well insulated and draft-proofed for the system to work to its highest potential…Temovex units make your home into a thermos! You retain the heat in the building without the need for unnecessary new thermal energy…

In chapter five the book begins to describe floor plans and layouts in the same way it invites you to learn your site. ‘We should layout the home’s rooms in relation to the patterns of the sun; that is, morning areas and activities should be planned for the east side of the home, and evening activities generally on the west side.’ The sun and normal living habits migrate from the east to the west. For example the living room should be well warmed by mid day, but the breakfast area should be warming first. I found these images on this site.

This plan uses space efficiently and uses the space below the stairs for storage of the water tank and air circulation equipment.

This leads us to two important and key rules to this entire passive strategy.

Rule #5: Utilize windows as solar collectors and cooling devices.

Rule #6: Do not over-glaze.

What the book provides here is an in-depth lesson on how to calculate exactly what your home needs to maintain a comfortable living environment. I suggest you find the book to learn about this exactly. You can find the book at Amazon by clicking the picture below.

The author tells us that ‘There are not cookbook recipes for solar design.’  A summary of the design procedure is provided by Google Books, and is represented below.

Rule #7: Consider the contribution of solar energy (indicated by insolation values for your region) and natural processes (including breezes and shade) to the heating and cooling of the home, in order to avoid over sizing a backup heating system or air conditioner. A home that is oriented to true south, is tightly constructed and well insulated, and has operable windows for air circulation should not require large fossil-fuel burning equipment to maintain thermal comfort.  Size the conventional backup systems to suit the small, day-to-day heating and cooling needs of the home.

Rule #8: Provide fresh air to the home without compromising thermal integrity.

Rule #9: Use the materials you would use for a conventional home, but in ways that maximize energy efficiency and solar gain.

Rule #10: Remember that the principles of solar design are compatible with diverse styles of architecture and building techniques.

Other ideas to come… what about Malcolm Wells Earth Sheltered Homes or those by Jacques Couelle?

Categories
Architecture Building Sustainably Environmental

All about the WC

I have recently completed a lot of research related to bathrooms and thought these tips of finding a toilet could be helpful to others in need of a good WC. The important decision makers for me are water savings and a good flush.

Toilet Performance Data on Low Flow fixtures by California Urban Water Conservation Council rate nearly 1,800 toilet models and the information is here for us to look at!

Other articles of interest are  5 Tips for Choosing a low flow toilet by William Maas and this article titled Sustainable Restroom Tips.

American Standard also offers this nice selection process for those choosing their product. American Standard Help me choose option for Toilets


Categories
Architecture Book Review Building Sustainably Environmental

The Interior – Making $ense

The Interiors

Because I am always in search of great and healthy ways of Interior Designing I was glad to come across a few products I hadn’t researched yet. I have a full list on my blog in the tab ‘Sustainable Interiors.’ This is the last post of the Book Review  I did of Eric Corey Freed and Kevin Daum’s book

Green $ense for the Home

The counter top chart was extensive and fantastic!

Healthy Wall Coverings:

Mioculture wallpaper of 100% recycled paper. This company created by two Columbian boys has a neat sit full of lighting furniture and accessories.

Home $ense gives a Homemade Wallpaper Paste Recipe too! There are lots on the Internet, like this one from Tree Hugger.

There are companies such as Design Tex and Len-Tex who have achieved Cradle to Cradle certification, and others such as:        Maharam       MDC Wall coverings       Milliken      Mod Green Pod    Pallas Dialtones (made of discarded Japanese telephone books)         Sinan Natural Wallpaper Adhesive

Below those wall coverings can be fully recycled content drywall too. Gypsum is a coal combustion byproduct. I looked that up and found useful in formation through the University of Kentucky. Resources for Recycled DryWall include  : EcoRock from Serious Materials   Synthetic GYP from CertainTeed or G-P Gypsum or the recycled content from CleanBoard   National Gypsum Company   Temple-Inland Forest products or USG Corporation

Other interior products highlighted in the book are ~

Cork and Bamboo: Expanko     Habitus   Nova Distinctive Floors   US Floors     Teragren    Eco Timber     Cali Bamboo      Smith & Fong

To protect our Indoor Air Quality  Formaldehyde-free fiberboard: Columbia Forest Products    Flakeboard   Kirei   SierraPine

Cabinets built out of formaldehyde free wood: Breathe Easy Cabinetry    Neff Kitchens    Neil Kelly Cabinets     Custom Cabinets from  Greenline  &  Humabuilt

For Carpet, look at Sheeps wool carpet.

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Tomorrow I will share how all this knowledge actually applies to a project, when I showcase

7 Sustainable Choices

I made when designing the interior of a recent doctor’s office.

Categories
Book Review Building Sustainably Environmental

The Building Envelope

House Warming in the Winter:

I would love to be able to keep my $15 gas bills year round, but in a 1930’s house with an antiquated furnace what are my options? My monthly bill from November – April on average, raises $100.

I can make sure that the air I am heating in my furnace is being delivered to my rooms the best it can by checking all of my ducts to see if there are any leaks. Duct Sealing with ‘Duct Mastic’ can be applied with a brush or caulk gun. Find one that is a water based formula like Uni-Mastic 181 Duct Sealer, that is safe for you and your indoor air. Use mesh tape if the gaps are larger than 1/4″

EHow tells you step by step what to look for in leaks and what to use. Green Sense adopted an image from the Department of Energy and offered six places where leaks are most likely to occur: Duct Connections, return leaks, furnace and filter slot leaks; ineffective duct tape seal, fallen duct insulation, supply leaks, or restricted airflow because of duct work kinks.

Speaking of leaky ducts.. how about leaky houses?

Making sure you have a good building envelope is the first step. The easiest way to keep the conditioned air in your home is by caulking and weather-stripping. Check any place where two different materials are next to one another, for example, wood door to metal threshold or aluminum window to wooden frame.

You can get an energy audit, hire a contractor or perform the maintenance yourself.

In Ohio, AEP offers In-Home Energy programs for Energy Efficiency. Columbia Gas in Ohio offers Home Performance Solutions, and a link to a cute adobe flash presentation on home performance solutions. Ohio even offers a Home Weatherization Assistance Programs. Wonderful!

Replacing old windows? – Think about replacing the sashes. Great Efficient Windows Collaborative here!

We need more insulation over here! I’ve done a lot of research on insulation and I show what I’ve found to be good here, at my Green Building Supply Matrix. But, through this book I found a little more. Here in Ohio we are in zone 5, almost 6. If you go looking on the DOE website they have a nice insulation calculator. The book directs me to peek into my walls through my outlet boxes to see if my walls have insulation. They probably don’t, so I’ve been looking into a few types of blow in insulation that can be for homes built before modern construction methods.  Recycled newspaper is used in cellulose blow-in applications such as NuWool, but I still want to make sure that these materials aren’t compromising my indoor air quality. At the Pittsburgh Home Show I came across USA Premium Insulation, so I am currently comparing these products for my own home.

If I were building new I’d look into Green Polyiso from Atlas Roofing. This building product provides an R value of 7 per inch! And, I’d consider making my roof as light as possible. Light in color, that is.  A roof coating can be applied to make an existing roof lighter or reflective. An SRI of 29 or higher is good and what that means in the roof’s Solar Reflectivity Index number, being higher is more reflective, and less hot… and that’s good summer news.

~The Building Envelope and the Things we Build With~

Now, let’s talk about the things we build with.  It is important to me to choose local materials that contain no toxic chemicals. In some cases I may even find repurposed materials that would do the job! Look for buildings coming down (so sad!) in your area and create discussion for disassembling versus demolishing them. Then, use the materials in a new way. Habitat for Humanity has ReStores across the country. Check out Habitat for Humanity or the Re Use People. Other places to find reclaimed materials are: Building Materials Reuse Association Salvage Web

If you are considering using concrete in construction look into companies that use fly ask cement from Coal plants. This is the left over soot that can go into the concrete mix and replace portland cement. This gives concrete a smoother and stronger finish and by using the by-product, we turn waste into something useful!

These are just a few notions the book led me too… research in this area of the things we build with is ongoing. It consumes my thoughts and research daily and I really enjoy learning about how to be more energy-efficient so that I can share my knowledge with clients and the general public… and hold intelligent conversations with people who have been practicing a light lifestyle a lot longer than me.

Categories
Book Review Building Sustainably Environmental

Utilities Use – Water

What about Water?

Using less water means that first we need to identify where we use the most.  In the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room we can reduce the amount of water we use without compromising anything else. We can look at the toilet, the shower, sinks and the washing machine as large water users. The steps below can reduce the water your toilet uses by 25% and what water pumps through your shower head by a 30% reduction. (see book for full disclosure of % calculations) A little knowledge and investment in conservation methods saves more money in the long run that it costs to replace parts in the beginning.

To use less water in the toilet, all you need is a soda bottle and pebbles. See this Wiki Step by Step for how to use less water when you flush if you have an older non efficient toilet. One step up, for about $50, is to install dual flush converter.

The book offered a dual flush converter by Brondell. The image below shows how this works.

Next, I learned about the new wave in water conservation from Water Saver Technologies. Their AQUS, a grey water system, recycles water used from the sink and pipes it to your toilet.

Oh, and get this, some states will actually give you money if you replace your existing toilet. Check out Toilet Rebates in your state here.

If you want to consider a Whole House Gray Water System, look at case studies on homes and commercial spaces that have integrated this type of plumbing.

Shower Water Savers:  Evolve Showerheads Oxygenics AquaHelix Or, start a ripple with the Ripple Shower Timer From Ripple.

Not that I am a big proponent in consumption, but if there are ways I can acknowledge what I am using to use less, then I may weigh the purchase against that.

How about Electricity to Heat Water?

If you are building new and want to recover water to use again, or the heat in that waste water, here are a few resources the book offered:  Clivus Multrum   ReWater Systems    EcoInnovation Technologies   RenewABILiTY Energy Inc   ReTherm Energy Systems   WaterFilm Energy

A simple solution to keeping water hotter after it leaves your water tank is to insulate the hot water pipes or the tank itself! Or, have you ever thought about only heating water when you need it. If you work away from home all day, or sleep a normal nights rest, do you really need hot water at 3am or at 1 in the afternoon during the week? There is a green solution for this! A programmable thermostat. I found one at Cardellos, a local Wheeling WV store for $60. You may also want to check the temperature. 123 degrees is ideal and for every 10 degree reduction you can save  3-5% in the energy that it takes to heat that unused hot water.Wrapping your hot water tank in a blanket of insulation allows you to turn the tank down 2-4 degrees… which means that you can do a math problem with your electricity bill to figure out the rate of return in the savings it allows you once the 3-5% energy cost reduction equals the cost of the insulation blanket. Warm up with this idea from recycled cotton to hot water tank blanket from Bonded Logic.

Call your local utilities to find out about rebates on your conservation efforts and check out DSIRE for state incentives, or call your local architect! 🙂

Solar Hot Water Heaters:    EnerWorks Inc. Heliodyne, Inc. North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners Solar Energy, Inc Taylor Munro Energy Systems Inc.

Hot Water Heaters:

The Gas Tankless saves more!  It is more difficult to install though because running a larger gas line is probably necessary.  And, if you plan to have a radiant heating system underfoot you needs a conventional tank, or use a conventional tank to be a fire burner.  Some rebates and tax credits are available.  Eternal Water Heater – These tankless models by lasts twice as long, at 20 years!

Solar Hot Water Heater- you’ll need 10sf of roof space per person in the house. There are three types of collectors and they are the batch, flat plate and the evacuated tube collector. The most efficient being the evacuated tube collectors. The simplest is a passive system, where no pumps are needed. Use pylene glycol as solution in cold weather climate as a closed loop system. This method of water heating will run 3,600 – 9,000 big ones.

What’s this about?  NABCEP.org

Water Bottle fact: It takes 2-3x the water to make a plastic bottle compared to what the little plastic guy holds. Invest in a filter. I researched a few different kinds and came to an easy solution with PUR’s Mineral Clear faucet attachment.

What about water conservation in the yard? The book discussed drip irrigation and using native plants in your yard instead of tending to a lawn.

In drip irrigation, water is run through pipes (with holes in them) either buried or lying slightly above the ground next to the crops. Water slowly drips onto the crop roots and stems. Unlike spray irrigation, very little is lost to evaporation and the water can be directed only to the plants that need it, cutting back on water waste. –USGS’s Water Science for Schools

Our Ohio offers some advice for getting your lawn off of grass, and gives advice on planting native plants. Or, we could all be a bit more like Damali Ayo and plant your entire yard as your edible garden! You’ll have something to do with all of that compost if your community ever initiates a Pay-As-You-Throw program.

Think about rain water harvesting for showers, laundry, and  plants. You could consider investing in a rain barrel to water your yard or garden. Make sure that your roof is made of non toxic asphalt tile, metal or plastic.

Hope you are enjoying all of these Green tips from Green $ense!

Categories
Architecture Book Review Building Sustainably Environmental

Utilities Use – Electricity

How to help the fact that we need light!? Solution: arrange what functions you do in houses and buildings to take advantage of natural light. A window facing south will give you light 2.5 (x) the height of the window  into the length into the room. Clerestory windows are best at the ceiling height because they bounce the light right off of your ceiling, illuminating your room. Or, install a solatube, which can tunnel light to where you need it if the only thing between you and the sun is your roof.

and at night…

Plug load of light bulbs reduce by 75% when switching to LED and CFL bulbs. CFL rebates are available as are recovery centers for all bulbs.

Installing occupancy light sensors may be the best option in commercial settings, when no one person in in charge of turning off, say, the conference room lights when not in use. Wattstopper has a power strip that senses people and turns plugs on just like light sensors do. See the strip here and others from Smart Home USA. Light Occupancy Sensor Resources are listed in the book: Evecto GreenGate Levitron Lutron Sensor Switch , or take a look at WattStopper’s Energy Saving Calculator.

Sometimes the easiest way to understanding consumption of energy is to determine what you use. Like eating less when you count calories, a Kill a Watt may be plugged in an outlet like a power strip, and will display the power usage that anything you plug into it may be pulling.

“You can calculate your electrical expenses by the day, week, month, even an entire year. Also check the quality of your power by monitoring Voltage, Line Frequency, and Power Factor. Now you´ll know if it is time for a new refrigerator or if that old air conditioner is still saving you money.” From P3 International.

Begin by analyzing your home room by room. Look at your dryer and think of how often you use it. Most of us spend 10% of our energy bills on the dryer. It could be a good time to visit the Urban Clothesline site.

Look at the setting in your refrigerator, or just keep all of your cold items in a tupperware bin outside through the winter. (I’ve really wanted to do this!) You should set your temperature between 35-38 degrees, and keep the freezer at 0. Green $ense referred to: Absocold   ConServ Equator MicroFridge    Summit Compact Refrgerators, Sun Frost as models to reference.

Dishwashers:  Ariston   Asko   Bosch   Danby   Miele

Oh, and lets not forget hot to get rid of old appliances… Energy Star Refrigerator Recycling program Recycle.. it’s the perfect ending.

I’ve recently gotten cash for my electronics through BoneYard.

Do you know that in Rhode Island several communities have adopted a Pay-As-You-Throw program to manage the excessive waste of trash? You have to pay for the bright orange trash bags for trash disposal. The program aims to reduce waste and increase recycling. It allows residents to gauge what comes in because of the price attached to what goes out.

Energy consumption in heating and cooling the places where we live and work is astronomical! Later, when a good building envelope is discussed, we can learn how to keep our inside air in places where it should be. But, as far as how to make a comfortable environment in the first place is another story.

During the summer, when most places are hot, our home attics are extremely warm.  If your house isn’t a passive house which would direct that hot air through natural ventilation, you may consider a few natural ways to let the hot air out by letting it rise. The book discusses solar powered attic fans by Sunrise Solar and I’ve seen them by SolaStar as well. A whole house fan is another option, and Green $ense offered one by Jet Fan USA.

A programmable thermostat is a great idea to consider. In Ohio right now Columbia gas is offering in home Audits for $50. With that a programmable thermostat is offered in the package. This allows you to have heat when you need it most. Not when you aren’t at home, and not when you are under the covers. If you are thinking about building a new home, imagine your house broken into temperature zones. Places where you have a lot of southern light will be warmer, and tend to need different air conditions than do the shady Northern facing rooms. A good architect 😉 can make sure your temperature zones are ducted to properly. See more at the future House Warming post.

The book discussed a fireplace heat exchanger upgrade or and EPA certified insert which I looked up on E How to try to understand a bit better. The idea is that you can insert a new energy-efficient unit into your existing hearth and allow the heat generated by the fire to help generate heat into your home through a blower door.

Inserts for wood-burning fireplaces improve the safety and efficiency of the unit. An insert is a metal firebox, often with a glass door for visible flames, which fits within the fireplace opening, allowing the smoke to be vented through the existing fireplace chimney.-E How

The next idea after lowering consumption is to consider creating your own power using the sun, a local stream, or passing wind.

The hubbub about Solar Panels: Think of them as an appliance you can move with you. the DSIRE is a great website source that offers the most up to date incentives for renewable energies.

Micro-hydropower uses a water to be a generator of energy.

Micro-hydro power systems use an intake box to divert water from the stream and prevent debris from flowing into the system. The water moves through a pipe that is connected to a turbine. The pressure of the water rushing through the turbine causes it to move, which generates electricity. Excess energy is then stored in batteries or diverted to a dump load. –Acreage Anywhere

You must contact several authorities before doing this, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (here), the Army Corps of Engineers, the local county engineers office,   and the system may cost between $5,000-20,000. But, before dismissing this all together, think about cost holistically. The cost of what you are paying your electric or gas company, the cost of what they are possibly doing to the air where they make your power, what is lost in translation, etc. Gauging all factors makes things a different story.

I’ve recently been introduced to the Fujitsu Mini-Split heat pump by a friend who uses the system to create a warm room in his super-insulated home. It is a ductless system that runs coils through your walls to a wall or ceiling mounted unit that heats or cools your air for comfort.

How cool! or… warm?!

Come back Monday for the next series post!