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The Ultimate Energy Efficient Home?

Uncategorized Jun 20, 2013 1 Comment

Picture a group of guys sitting around a table, smoking expensive cigars and drinking Heineken, and talking about what they would build in a new green, sustainable house if they had the opportunity…and money. There’s some humor here. These guys are smoking cigars and talking about building environmentally friendly houses. Lots of ideas were bantered-about, but one guy actually, the following week, produced his plans for building an incredible house for his ‘retirement’-a home that he says could be passed-down throughout generations. A home that is entirely sustainable, as ‘green’ as it gets, and would out-last conventional homes by decades, without the usual expense of reconditioning and remodeling. We didn’t believe him…at first.
Rammed-earth
At first I thought this was a joke, but it is real. This guy is going to build a ‘rammed-earth’ home. It’s going to be more expensive than the conventional home initially, but the savings will come later. He calls it his ‘forever generation of families home’ that will last well past his demise, and one that his family will never sell. Needless to say, he got our attention.
Rammed-earth homes-or buildings-aren’t new. They have been around for hundreds of years, having been used in Europe, south America, and in the arid areas of the U.S., including California, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. In essence, rammed-earth homes have 14-20 inch walls where earth is compacted between formwork to make a homogeneous mass wall. It’s been used for centuries and is catching-on as sustainable and beautiful building material. The concept is this: Buildings consume 45 percent of our energy use in Canada and the United States. With energy costs at an all time high and mass environmental awareness forcing change, buildings are the primary place we can impact global warming. In this age of peak oil and historic oil spills, we can transform the built environment now through proven ecological and sustainable alternatives. One of these alternatives is to use the very ground we live on to build the walls of our buildings. Check this out: Here are some of the statistics he provided our group about this unique process:
Energy Efficiency
The combination of heat retention from the mass of rammed earth and insulation makes rammed-earth homes suited for various climates. In fact, heating and cooling is efficient and there is little or no maintenance with rammed-earth homes. It insulates 13.5 times more than a concrete wall of the same thickness. Insulated rammed earth also has incredible thermal capacity, capturing and storing energy through passive solar design.

Sustainability
Most buildings have a life expectancy of less than 50 years. This cycle exhausts energy and resources and creates a toxic waste stream by constantly rebuilding. As well, there are no building codes or standards that require buildings be disaster resistant, healthy (containing no toxic materials) or meet other important benchmarks of a quality construction such as energy efficiency, environmental impact and durability.
Fire and Earthquake resistance
Rammed-earth’s green design is low to no impact, using sustainable, locally sourced and ecological building materials. Durable stabilized, insulated rammed earth walls are virtually fire, water and earthquake proof.
In Australia, rammed earth walls have a four-hour fire rating, the highest for Australian codes. Fire tests to AS 1530.4 – 1985 on a 300mm-thick rammed earth wall with 6 percent cement gave 240/240/240 for structural adequacy, integrity and insulative capacity. This means the wall is still standing strong after four hours in a fire!
Designed to withstand seismic events in Zone 5 (San Francisco and Los Angeles), the compressive strength of a rammed-earth building typically falls between 10–30 MPa (1,450––4,500 psi), making it highly seismically resistant. Many rammed-earth homes have achieved more than 6,000psi with only 10 percent cement and regularly exhibit the same strength as concrete with a fraction of the cement. Because the bending moment increases with the cube of the wall thickness, comparing a 24” rammed-earth wall and 8” concrete wall, the rammed-earth wall is 13.5 times as strong.
Environmentally conscious
Comparing resources required in building construction, a typical five-acre treed parcel supplies wood for 20 wood-framed houses, while a five-acre gravel pit has sufficient suitable earth to build rammed earth walls for more than 5,000 houses. Further, no precious topsoil is lost when building with rammed earth.
Improved Air quality
Many homes and buildings continue to be constructed with forced or recycled air, inadequate ventilation, temperature fluctuations, uncontrolled humidity, and poor sound quality. Rammed-earth buildings are excellent at controlling humidity through the humidity flywheel effect. Bringing more than double the mass to a building, which in turn doubles the thermal and humidity flywheel benefits, rammed-earth buildings result in better air quality and moisture control, maintaining an interior relative humidity in the low 50s, which is ideal for human comfort and an impossible humidity for mold to grow.
Healthier environment
We spend 90 percent of our time indoors and needlessly surround ourselves with carcinogens and other toxins. Lumber manufacturers douse most building wood with toxic fungicides to prevent mold growth. Often, the built environment is layered with chemicals and provides ideal habitat for mold, which contribute to asthma, multiple chemical sensitivities, immune system deficiencies and other health issues. Besides being bad for your health, such measures don’t always stop carpenter ants, termites and dry rot from slowly consuming wood houses.
Why does a typical wood wall contain elements like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates, fungicides and urea formaldehyde? Doesn’t the Building Code ensure that only healthy materials can be used? No, the Building Code is there to ensure the minimum level of safety in buildings and, at this point in time, toxic materials aren’t deemed to be a safety issue.
Unlike most building materials, rammed earth walls are non-toxic and maintenance-free, requiring no sealants or finishes, which preserves indoor air quality. Rammed-earth builders use an integral admixture that seals the wall all the way through, reducing the need for ongoing maintenance. In addition, rammed-earth buildings eliminate toxins from wall assemblies, creating interior spaces that are healthy to inhabit. This is true not only of the wall itself, but also through the exclusion of interior and exterior finishes that can contain many of the most toxic and environmentally destructive components found on a construction site. Amazing.
Rammed-earth homes incorporate traditional ceilings and roofs. Our guy says that he plans on topping-off his home with high performance reflective insulation, making it the most energy efficient and sustainable home that (he imagines) can be built. He plans on installing ecologically smart window film, and solar attic fans and electric systems.
When he finished his talk, the room was silent. Just a bunch of guys with cigars hanging out of their mouths…jealous and dreaming of our own rammed-earth homes in the future.

Going Green: Is Re-cycling all that important?

Uncategorized Jun 13, 2013 1 Comment

It was bound to happen. I was in a monthly networking meeting of business people and got into a conversation about energy conservation, ‘going green,’ and what individuals and families can do to help save this planet. He asked the dreaded question: Do you recycle? I had to admit that I only do it periodically, which is another way of saying, “no.” What I got was a master’s thesis on why it’s important and why I can’t truly be ‘green’ unless I recycle faithfully.
Recycling, as you know, is reusing materials in original or changed forms rather than discarding them as wastes. In reusing material-or changing material-into new materials rather than throwing it away, individuals benefit, as well as the environment, as I found out.
Why recycling is important
I guess I never really thought much about ‘why’ recycling is important, other than it ‘just is.’ But here are some tangible reasons why I am now a converted recycler. I have seen the light.

Recycling saves energy
It takes less energy to process recycled materials than it does to use virgin materials. For example, it takes less energy to recycle paper from waste material than it does to create paper from new woodland, because there is no longer a need to cut down a new tree, process the wood from the tree and make it into paper. Energy from non-renewable resources is protected and saved for future generations, money is saved when less energy is used, and often pollution and emissions are reduced when less energy is used. Another example: Production of recycled paper uses 80% less water and 65% less energy, and produces 95% less air pollution than virgin paper production. I stand corrected.
Recycling Saves money and land space
Recycling reduces trash in landfill sites, which cuts down on the cost of waste disposal and the clearing of more land for new landfills when the current ones become too full to store any more waste (never thought about that happening). Recycling is an easy and less expensive alternative to clearing more land. For example, recycling kitchen waste and yard waste into compost provides a means of free nutritious soil for gardening, because most kitchen waste is biodegradable. It stays in the landfills for years to come, just sitting there and piling up with the rest of the trash-wasted. So my wife was right.
Recycling reduces air and water pollution
Decomposing waste often releases noxious gases and chemicals as it decomposes at landfill sites. These gases and chemicals create air pollutants. When the chemicals leach into the groundwater, it creates more pollution, eventually contaminating our water. This isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound. Years ago, when I lived in Colorado, I lived in a house that was a mile south of what is called a ‘Superfund.’ This, as I found out, was a place for the most toxic of all waste, and I just got a house a mile away. Not only me, but an entire community of homes surrounding Denver’s newest golf course. Within one year we discovered that our worst nightmare was happening-that there was evidence that the groundwater was in fact being leached into by the site. Within 6 months, 75% of the future home developers dropped their plans to build and our property values plummeted. We got out.
Recycling creates jobs
Recycling in the U.S. is a $236 billion a year industry. More than 56,000 recycling and reuse enterprises employ 1.1 million workers nationwide. More recycling opportunities would create even more jobs, without the loss of any current workers, which is a huge deal nowadays.
Recycling can positively impact wildlife
It can preserve wildlife. When fewer trees are cut down to make virgin material or to make space for landfills, habitat for wildlife remains. More habitat-more animals and less potential for extinction.
As you can imagine, I felt put firmly in my place. Seriously. I was convicted for not taking the time or energy to do something that is so simple, yet has a much bigger impact than I would have ever imagined. So guess what?

I have learned how to separate plastic, paper, and glass from other stuff. It’s hard not to just ‘scrape’ everything into the trash can, but I think it’s worth it. I am also not throwing away the plastic bags that my groceries come in, either. I’m saving them and use them to help separate the stuff. I am now a bona-fide recycler, having learned yet another way to help save money and help the environment.

The Hidden Water we use: Surprising facts about how much water it takes for us to live-Part Two

Uncategorized Jun 06, 2013 No Comments

I love water. I’m a sea-kayaker and get out into it every chance I get. Candidly, when I’m out there I don’t think about water conservation. There just seems to be so much of it. An ocean of water, and it seems endless. But recently, because of a desire to be as ‘green’ and conservation-minded as possible these days, I have been thinking about another kind of water-fresh water. The kind that we drink and use in the course of our daily lives. So I’ve been doing some research into how much water we use and how much water is needed for us to enjoy the quality of life that we do here in America. The results are sobering.
Last week I wrote about how much fresh water we use (in our homes) just going through the motions of everyday life. The average family of four using 600 gallons of fresh water a week was a real surprise. There was some good news, however. We found that we could control a lot of our usage. Today’s blog is, sad to say, about much of what you and I cannot control. It’s about how much water is used in the production of the food we eat. I guess it’s more informative than anything, and is meant to be educational.
Let’s take an average meal at a restaurant as an illustration of just how much fresh water goes into putting that food on your plate. You go to your favorite restaurant and look over the menu. You decide to get a steak. It comes with a baked potato and corn-on-the-cob. With it you have a glass of wine, and finish-off with a cup of coffee. Pretty standard stuff. So, how much fresh water does it take to put that steak dinner on your plate? But before I tell you, I need to let you know that my intent isn’t to make you enjoy your meal any less, it’s to help you enjoy it more, to appreciate it more. We live in a country, despite all of the problems that are dished-up to us daily through the news, where we have the blessing of enjoying meals that take an enormous amount of water, just to get it to our plate. This will surprise you.
1. Your steak: In order to put-up one pound of beef, it requires 1,799 gallons (6,810 liters) of water! That’s 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms) of grain for feed, plus irrigation water; 36.2 pounds (16.4 kilograms) of roughage or grasses for feed, plus irrigation water; 18.6 gallons (70.5 liters) of additional water for drinking and processing. You read this right. That’s close to 1,800 gallons of water for every pound of beef we eat!
2. The baked potato: In order to get one pound of potatoes it takes 119 gallons (450 liters) of water. Think about this: Worldwide potato production soaks up about 0.2 trillion cubic feet (6.5 billion cubic meters) of water annually. Potato production accounts for 0.09 percent of global water use for the planet’s total agricultural crop production.
3. The Corn: One pound of corn (0.5 kilograms) requires 108 gallons (409 liters) of water. Worldwide corn production soaks up about 19.4 trillion cubic feet (550 billion cubic meters) of water annually. Corn production accounts for 8 percent of global water use for the planet’s total agricultural crop production. So much for corn-produced gasoline being inexpensive. Oil consumes only 1.01 gallons (1.06 cubic meters) of water per kilowatt hour to produce. Didn’t think about that, did we?
4. The Wine: Get this. For one gallon of wine (3.8 liters) it takes 1,008 gallons (3,816 liters) of water. That’s 63.4 gallons of water for one glass (1 cup)! Most of the water used for wine production is for growing the grapes. I happen to think it’s worth it.
5. The coffee: One gallon of coffee (3.8 liters) requires 880 gallons (3,331 liters) of water. That’s 37 gallons (140 liters) of water for just one cup. If everyone in the world drank a cup of coffee each morning, it would ‘cost’ about 32 trillion gallons (120 billion cubic meters) of water a year. If you’re like me, I consume 4 cups by noon. That’s 148 gallons of water just to wake me up.
O.K. So the steak is only 8 ounces, the potato is only 8 ounces, and the corn is only 4 ounces. So…by the time we have consumed that steak dinner, with the wine and coffee, it has required somewhere close to 1,200 gallons of water just to get it to our plate. Amazing.

Having done the research on this hasn’t caused me to feel bad. It’s actually caused me to be more appreciative of the fact that I live in a country that actually has the water resources that enables me to enjoy the quality of life that I do. Imagine living in a country where water isn’t available like it is here in America. In order to produce the food we eat, it takes lots and lots of water. We’re blessing to live in this country, regardless of the politics. There are some things that we just take for granted-like water. Kinda makes we want to invest in organizations that help third-world countries drill for water…

The Hidden Water we use: Surprising facts about how much water it takes for us to live-Part One

Uncategorized May 31, 2013 No Comments

In our attempt to reduce our hidden energy usage and be as ‘green’ as we can as a household, I did some checking into an energy resource that we have just taken for granted: Water. It’s just there. Every time we need it, we just turn on a faucet, and it comes out. If you’re like us, you really don’t know how much you’re using on a daily basis.
In a men’s group that I attend, the subject of energy conservation has been a topic of discussion for some months now, and we’re all trying to minimize our usage-and the money we spend on it. But no one, until last week, talked about water.

So I did some research into just how much an average family uses on a daily basis. I picked ten average water-usage activities for a family of four to present to our group and here’s what I found:

WATER-USE ACTIVITY                                                       AVERAGE AMOUNT OF WATER USED
1. One bath                                                                               50 gallons
2. One 10 minute shower                                                      2.5 gallons per minute =  25 gallons
3. One teeth brushing                                                             1 gallon X 4 = 4 gallons
4. One hand/face washing                                                     1 gallon X 4 = 4 gallons
5. One face/leg shaving                                                          1 gallon X 1 = 1 gallon
6. One dishwasher load                                                           20 gallons = 20 gallons
7. One dishwashing by hand                                                     5 gallons = 5 gallons
8. One clothes washing load                                                  10 gallons = 10 gallons
9. One toilet flush                                                                    3 gallons X 10 = 30 gallons
10. One 8oz glass of water                                                      8oz X 4 = ½ gallon

Now, taking into consideration that we wash clothes and (in our house) baths are taken periodically (we shower daily), that comes to an average daily water usage of 84.5 gallons! If someone had suggested to me that we use an average of 600 gallons of water a week I would have thought he was crazy! I realize that this is just an estimate, and I’m not taking into account everything we use water for, such as cooking and dog washing. And, water use for all activities vary by individual. I might use three gallons of water to wash dishes by hand, but my son might use five. You might leave the water running when you brush your teeth, but your wife might not. If you live in a newer house, your toilet probably uses less water per flush than the toilet in a very old house. Newer houses also have shower and faucet heads that use less water than before (look at the end piece on your sink faucet — it should have the number of gallons per minute that it will allow stamped in it).

The guys in my group were stunned. We all were. We were trying to guess how much water we all used in washing our trucks. We all took a minute to add up the houses on our street in order to figure-out how much water actually goes down the drain…You get the point. It’s scary.

It also started us thinking about how much water it took to put those cups of coffee and burgers in front of us, and the rest of the people in the restaurant. Being the researcher that I am, I offered to do some research on that as well, and share it with them over the next few weeks. I’ll put what I find into a blog, for those of you who are interested.

This is one of those deals where one feels like just one person can’t make much of an impact, but we figured that we were only responsible for ourselves, our families, and others that we might be able to impact. So here’s what we decided to do:
1. Each guy was going to share this information with his family and vow to cut-down on as much water usage as possible in his own home. We figured we could probably reduce it by 50% with some effort and controls. I’m still not sure about only flushing the toilet a couple of times a day.
2. Each of us were going to ‘walk our neighborhoods’ with a home-made flyer and see if he could get the neighbors to do the same.
3. All of us were businessmen, so we decided to take the message to our work-place as well.
4. We all frequent Starbucks, restaurants, etc. and decided that (for what it was worth), we’d give them the info as well. Who knows?
5. We all agreed to email the info to our relatives as well.
Is this going to make a difference? We’re not naïve. We know that some of our kids, relatives, and co-workers will just shrug their shoulders and not really give a rip. But some-maybe many-will, and make some changes in the way they take for granted one of our best natural resources. Who knows? It may just reduce their water bill at the same time.

Hidden Energy Guzzlers: Making sure your attic is well-ventilated

Uncategorized May 23, 2013 No Comments

When was the last time you stuck your head up in your attic to check the temperature? I posed that question to a group of men I meet with weekly, and the answer was, “Never.” If you’re like me, you don’t think about what’s going on in your attic as long as you think you’ve got enough insulation. Out of sight, out of mind. But what you don’t see can be hurting you.
Ventilation of the home attic is important for two reasons.
• During the summer, excess heat that builds up in the attic during the day results in high energy costs for cooling.
• Also, moisture produced within the home may move into the attic if ceiling vapor barriers are not used. If this moisture is not exhausted from the attic it can condense and cause insulation and construction materials to deteriorate. Thus, temperature and moisture control are the major reasons for providing attic ventilation.
Attics can reach temperatures of 150 to 160 degrees F during a summer day, although outside air temperatures are only 95 to 97 degrees F. The cooling load for a home air conditioner depends on the difference in temperature between the inside and outside air, and reduction of attic temperatures from 155 degrees to 105 degrees F will result in a significant reduction in cooling load. In a home with poor ceiling insulation, heat movement through ceilings may account for 30 percent or more of the total cooling cost. With a well-insulated ceiling, this source of heat may account for only 12 to 15 percent of the total cooling cost. Making sure we have the best insulation is one part of the solution, and making sure our attic is properly ventilated is the other part. So…how do we actually ventilate an attic?
Attic ventilation can be accomplished by gravity ventilators, wind assisted ventilators or through electric or solar powered ventilators. Regardless of the method used, the purpose is to provide uniform ventilation of the attic for proper temperature and moisture control. There needs to be air movement in the attic in both summer and winter months.
At first it may seem odd to add insulation for warmth and then purposely allow cold air to enter the attic through vents, but this combination is the key to a durable and energy-efficient home. Here’s why: in the winter, allowing a natural flow of outdoor air to ventilate the attic helps keep it cold, which reduces the potential for ice damming (snow that melts off a roof from an attic that is too warm and then re-freezes at the gutters, causing an ice dam that can damage the roof). Proper insulation and air sealing also keeps attics cold in winter by blocking the entry of heat and moist air from below. In the summer, natural air flow in a well-vented attic moves super-heated air out of the attic, protecting roof shingles and removing moisture. The insulation will resist heat transfer into the house.
Natural ventilation is the most common way that homes have of achieving attic temperature and moisture control. This method takes advantage of two principles:
• First, as air is heated it becomes less dense and rises.
• Second, wind movement over and around a home creates areas of high and low pressure, which tends to move air.
Ventilation caused by wind pressure differences requires less vent area to achieve the same ventilation rate as ventilation by gravity. One problem with wind ventilation is that the areas of high and low pressure change with wind direction, causing difficulty in locating inlets and outlets so that ventilation will take place regardless of wind direction.
Attic Fan Ventilation is intended to cool hot attics by drawing in cooler outside air from attic vents (soffit and gable) and pushing hot air to the outside. NOTE: If your attic has blocked soffit vents and is not well-sealed from the rest of the house, attic fans will suck cool conditioned air up out of the house and into the attic. This will use more energy and make your air conditioner work harder, which will increase your summer utility bill. You don’t want your unfinished attic cooled by your air conditioner.
So, which is better? Natural ventilation is the least efficient way to ventilate your attic because it depends upon air pressure changes heavily affected by wind direction. Attic fans keep a consistent movement of air going, regardless of wind direction. Don’t want to spend money on electricity to keep those fans running? No problem. Recent advances in technology have made it possible to install efficient attic fans that are solar powered. That means your fan will be running without using a single watt of electricity. Think about it. If your attic is 50 degrees cooler, your air conditioner will not work as hard and there may be many days when you won’t need it on at all.

Hidden Energy-Guzzlers #10: Where your money is really going

Uncategorized May 17, 2013 No Comments

If you have been following these blogs over that last ten weeks then you know that we have been on a hunt to reduce our monthly energy bill. Through the help of our local utility guy we have identified ten ‘Hidden Energy Guzzlers’ in our house, appliances that have been sucking-up more electricity than they really need to, adding to our growing electricity bill and reducing the bottom-line of what I bring home each month.
The final appliance that we needed to talk about is one that we use only in the summer months to help reduce our air conditioning cost. It’s our evaporative cooler. We try to use it during the hot months instead of our air conditioner and it works pretty well until the humidity gets up there, in which case it doesn’t work all that well, blowing hot, humid air into the house. What I found was though this cooler is a good substitute for air conditioning in the spring and fall months, it doesn’t work for us in July or August due to the high humidity. The cost of running this big unit isn’t too bad. During the months we use it, we figured it ran us around $25.00 a month, much less than our air conditioner. Interestingly enough, though California is a good state in which to have an evap cooler, costing about 25-30% of what it takes to run an air conditioner, I found that less than 5% of the homes or businesses have them.
Our utility guy asked a couple of questions regarding how and when we used the cooler, in an attempt to see how he could help us reduce our operating cost and improving the effectiveness of the cooler. The first thing was determining whether our cooler was the right size for the house. We were OK here. The next thing was determining whether we were getting the most from it. Normal air conditioning is a closed system, taking air from inside a house and recycling it. For air conditioning to function properly, doors and windows should be closed. Evaporative cooling, however, takes air from outside the house. For evaporative cooling to work properly, the cooled outside air must be allowed to escape. By choosing which doors or windows in your home you leave open, you can help direct the flow of cooled air to areas where it is needed.
This felt ‘counter-intuitive’ to us. For some reason we still felt like we needed to keep the hot air ‘outside.’ So we have a tendency to not open doors and windows when we turn on the evap cooler and, in effect, were working against ourselves. No wonder we just turned on the air conditioner. Another question, “When you decide to turn on the air conditioner, do you make sure the evaporative cooler is off?” Hmmm. Not sure. The reason he asked that was because if both are running we aren’t getting a ‘double’ benefit, but just the opposite. Because of the humidity that is being brought into the house by the evap cooler, the air conditioner has to work twice as hard to get rid of the humidity it is  producing. I made a note to check on that one. Another area we were told to check was the filters. We were told that we needed to clean or replace them annually, if we run it around six hours a day for 3-4 months. I hate heights, so I was sure mine hadn’t been replaced in a few years. Another note to self.
So here’s the bottom line to us: we can cut our cooling bill significantly during May-June and September-October by running the evaporative cooler rather than our air conditioner. That would save us around $50-60 a month to cool the house if we used the cooling unit effectively and didn’t forget to shut it off when we did decide that we needed the air conditioner on.
While we were on the subject, and being interested in being as ‘green’ as we can, I asked our utility guy about the feasibility of using solar energy with an evap cooler. He said that evaporative coolers are now on the market that use photovoltaic panels to create the electricity used to run the blower and the water pump. For hot, desert areas, the combination of evaporative cooling and solar power are a perfect match: the afternoon, when the most solar energy is available, is also the hottest part of the day, when cooling is most needed. And since evap coolers use a fraction of the energy of air conditioners, PV cells can provide enough electricity to run the system effectively. Interesting. He was quick to note that having one’s house insulated well was a good idea regardless of the way one chose to cool his house.
So that’s it for my hidden energy guzzlers. I think, with the insight I gained through this process, that I’ll be able to reduce my electrical usage considerably in the future. Who knew that things like flat-screen TVs and freezers in the garage could add so much to the bottom line?
Here’s our energy reduction plan for the future, in case you were wondering:
1. Refrigerator – keeping the seals tight and the filters clean
2. Flat Screen TVs- the games are hooked-up to the old CRT TVs and we don’t leave the big screen TV running unless someone is watching it.
3. Air conditioner- we will keep the drapes closed, won’t set the thermostat lower than 78, and put it on a timer to turn off when we leave for work.
4. Swimming Pool and Hot tub-run these for half the time they normally run.
5. Freezers-got rid of one and made sure the other is more than half full when running.
6. Dishwasher-turned-off the heated ‘dry’ cycle. Stove-We bought a Nu-Wave and are using it more and more.
7. Water heater-we’re turning this off each night at 11pm and back on again at 6am.
8. Clothes dryer-we’re only drying ‘heavy’ stuff and made a place in the basement to hang-dry lighter clothes.
9. Portable heaters-sold them.
10. Evaporative cooler-this we plan on using instead of our air conditioner for four months of the year, and keeping the doors and windows open and changing the filters.

Energy-saving tips: Creating a ‘whole-house’ energy efficiency plan

Energy Saving Tips, Newsletter May 16, 2013 No Comments

Energy-saving tips:

Creating a ‘whole-house’ energy efficiency plan

Did you know that the typical U.S. family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills? Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted. And each year, electricity generated by fossil fuels for a single home puts more carbon dioxide into the air than two average cars. And as for the road, transportation accounts for 67% of all U.S. oil consumption. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to save energy and money at home and in your car. To cut your energy use up to 25%, see the recommendations below.
Developing a ‘Systems’ mindset
The key to achieving these savings in your home is through a whole-house energy efficiency plan. To take a whole-house approach, view your home as an energy system with interdependent parts. For example, your heating system is not just a furnace—it’s a heat-delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat throughout your home using a network of ducts. Similarly, your air conditioner isn’t just an appliance. Like your furnace, it’s a delivery system that utilizes the same ductwork that your furnace uses. That ductwork is as important as the furnace or air conditioning unit when it comes to minimizing wasted energy.
Even a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient furnace will waste a lot of fuel if the ducts, walls, attic, windows, and doors are not properly sealed and insulated. Taking a whole-house approach to saving energy ensures that dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely.
Energy-efficient improvements not only make your home more comfortable, they can yield long-term financial rewards. Reduced utility bills more than make up for the higher price of energy-efficient appliances and improvements over their lifetimes. In addition, your home could bring in a higher price when you sell.

Determining where your energy is really going
The first step to taking a whole-house energy efficiency approach is to find out which parts of your house use the most energy. A home energy audit will pinpoint those areas and suggest the most effective measures for cutting your energy costs. Most home owners don’t have the equipment or expertise to do an effective energy audit themselves. For a comprehensive examination, contact Eagle Shield for a no-cost audit.

Formulating Your Plan
After a comprehensive energy audit has identified where your home is losing energy, assign priorities by asking yourself a few important questions:
• How much money do you spend on energy?
• Where are your greatest energy losses?
• How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy cost savings?
• Do the energy-saving measures provide additional benefits that are important to you (for example, increased comfort from installing double-paned, efficient windows)?
• How long do you plan to own your current home?
• What is your budget and how much time do you have to spend on maintenance and repair?
Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole house efficiency plan. Your plan will provide you with a strategy for making smart purchases and home improvements that maximize energy efficiency and save the most money.
Get the advice of a professional
Eagle Shield will analyze how well your home’s energy systems work together and compare the analysis to your utility bills. He or she will use a variety of equipment such as blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks in the building envelope, infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation and surface thermometers. After gathering information about your home, we will give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective energy improvements and enhanced comfort and safety.

Energy-saving tips: Creating a ‘whole-house’ energy efficiency plan

Energy Saving Tips, Newsletter May 12, 2013 No Comments

Did you know that the typical U.S. family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills? Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted. And each year, electricity generated by fossil fuels for a single home puts more carbon dioxide into the air than two average cars. And as for the road, transportation accounts for 67% of all U.S. oil consumption. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to save energy and money at home and in your car. To cut your energy use up to 25%, see the recommendations below.

Developing a ‘Systems’ mindset

The key to achieving these savings in your home is through a whole-house energy efficiency plan. To take a whole-house approach, view your home as an energy system with interdependent parts. For example, your heating system is not just a furnace—it’s a heat-delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat throughout your home using a network of ducts. Similarly, your air conditioner isn’t just an appliance. Like your furnace, it’s a delivery system that utilizes the same ductwork that your furnace uses. That ductwork is as important as the furnace or air conditioning unit when it comes to minimizing wasted energy.

Even a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient furnace will waste a lot of fuel if the ducts, walls, attic, windows, and doors are not properly sealed and insulated. Taking a whole-house approach to saving energy ensures that dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely.

Energy-efficient improvements not only make your home more comfortable, they can yield long-term financial rewards. Reduced utility bills more than make up for the higher price of energy-efficient appliances and improvements over their lifetimes. In addition, your home could bring in a higher price when you sell.

 

Determining where your energy is really going

The first step to taking a whole-house energy efficiency approach is to find out which parts of your house use the most energy. A home energy audit will pinpoint those areas and suggest the most effective measures for cutting your energy costs. Most home owners don’t have the equipment or expertise to do an effective energy audit themselves. For a comprehensive examination, contact Eagle Shield for a no-cost audit.

How Home energy is usedHow We Use Energy in Our Homes
Heating, air conditioning, and water heating generally comprise over 50% of a typical utility bill.

 

Formulating Your Plan

After a comprehensive energy audit has identified where your home is losing energy, assign priorities by asking yourself a few important questions:

  • How much money do you spend on energy?
  • Where are your greatest energy losses?
  • How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy cost savings?
  • Do the energy-saving measures provide additional benefits that are important to you (for example, increased comfort from installing double-paned, efficient windows)?
  • How long do you plan to own your current home?
  • What is your budget and how much time do you have to spend on maintenance and repair?

Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole house efficiency plan. Your plan will provide you with a strategy for making smart purchases and home improvements that maximize energy efficiency and save the most money.

Get the advice of a professional

Eagle Shield will analyze how well your home’s energy systems work together and compare the analysis to your utility bills. He or she will use a variety of equipment such as infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of energy leakage. After gathering information about your home, we will give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective energy improvements and enhanced comfort.

 

Investing in Our Community: Helping with energy conservation

Newsletter May 12, 2013 No Comments

Eagle Shield was there when Maria Loutzenhiser accepted the keys to her new Idyllwild home then hugged Julie Countryman who gave them to her. About 200 people attended the dedication ceremony of the four-bedroom, two-bath home that was built at no cost to the Loutzenhiser family.

Loutzenhiser is the widow of U.S. Forest Service Fire Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, who was killed in October of 2006 while fighting the Esperanza Fire. Most Habitat for Humanity homes are provided to low-income families at an affordable cost. This project was different. Maria Loutzenhiser had no house payments thanks to the generosity of the public.

Habitat For Humanity selected Eagle Shield to provide the insulation protection for the home.  Idyllwild sits at about 5300 feet in the Southern California mountains and experiences freezing lows in the winter and can reach triple digits highs in the summer.  Traditional insulations would not due.  Fire fighting professionals have been fans of the Eagle Shield technology found in its High Performance Reflective insulation, long before it became “popular” because of its tremendous resistance to heat and its ability to slow down a fire in a home.  Firefighters have used this technology for decades.  Eagle Shield’s High Performance insulation now protects this home’s roof, walls, and crawl space under the house.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat invites people of all backgrounds, races and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need. Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1 million people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter. HFHI was founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller along with his wife, Linda.

Technology Spotlight: Solar Energy-Still Our Best Energy Alternative

Newsletter, Solar May 12, 2013 No Comments

As many of you already know solar energy is a renewable energy source. Our sun is virtually an unlimited source of energy, and solar energy cannot be depleted unlike fossil fuels that will eventually become depleted. Once this happens world needs to have good alternatives, and solar energy definitely looks like one of the best possible alternatives. Here’s why:

  • Solar energy is an environmentally friendly energy source that doesn’t emit harmful carbon emissions that contribute to climate change like fossil fuels do. With every watt of energy generated from the Sun we need less fossil fuels, and with it we are actually reducing the impact of climate change. The latest studies have reported that an average home solar system is capable to eliminate 18 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the environment each year. Solar energy also doesn’t emit nitrogen oxide or sulphur dioxide meaning that it doesn’t contribute to smog or acid rain.
  • The Sun is a completely free energy source which can be used by each and every one of us. Nobody owns the Sun, so after you recover the initial investment, the remaining energy from the Sun is completely free.
  • The more solar energy we use the less we are dependent on fossil fuels. This is not only good from the environmental point of view but also improves our energy dependence and our energy security since there is a lesser need for foreign oil import.
  • On the long run solar energy saves us money. The initial costs are well worth it because you will have access to energy that is totally free, and if your home solar system produces more energy than you need, your utility company can buy it from you, meaning there’s a potential extra profit involved. Many countries also provide different tax benefits, and offer financial incentives for using solar energy.
  • Solar panels operate very silently (unlike huge wind turbines) so there is no noise pollution. Solar panels usually have a very respectable lifespan of at least 30 years, and maintenance costs connected with them are very low since they have no moving parts. It is also fairly easy to install solar panels.
  • Photovoltaic cells (often referred to as ‘solar cells’) are the most efficient technology to date. Photovoltaic cells are “devices that convert sunlight into electricity using the photoelectric effect”. Photovoltaic cells are made of semiconducting materials similar to those used in computer chips and use a lens to focus the sunlight onto the cells which contain collectors of the Sun’s heat.

As you can see, solar energy is one of the best energy options for individuals looking to reduce or eliminate their dependency upon fossil fuels. Eagle Shield utilizes the latest technology in photovoltaic cell systems Eagle Shield’s High Performance Solar Systems modules have received the California Energy Commission’s top performance ranking and ensure years of superior energy production. Our system is designed to make installation of modules quick, simple and secure. Fire-code friendly panels allow for easy, fast installation. To learn more, call us at 800-811-0466 for a free estimate. We’ll include an 18-point home energy audit to show you other ways you can increase your home comfort, save money on energy bills, and protect the environment.