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March 19th, 2012
By Vivian Martin

There is a good chance that you still have a few 60 watt incandescent light bulbs in your home. Even in the flurry to replace bulbs with CFL’s, they are most likely lurking in your table and floor lamps – the last bastion of familiar comfort lighting. The good news is that there are light bulb options that last longer, consume less energy, and provide up to 95% of the light output.

With the plans to phase out 60 watt incandescent light bulbs in the near future, it is a good idea to know what your alternatives are, not just for your lamps but for all of your household lighting needs…

Replacing That 60-Watt Light Bulb: A Cheat Sheet created by Pegasus Lighting.

When you’re considering cost, take into account the expected lifetime! Paying $25.70 every 23 years for one LED A19 is less expensive than paying $3.25 each year for a Halogen A19. The total for that Halogen A19 light bulb (and all its replacements) adds up to roughly $74.75 over 23 years.

October 25th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

There seems to be no shortage of gadgets coming to market that make our lives simpler, more comfortable, etc. A new thermostat coming to market will help to save money, too!

The average home spends more than $2,200 per year on energy bills and roughly half of this amount goes towards heating and cooling, according to the Department of Energy.  When a programmable thermostat is set and used properly, a homeowner can save about $180 annually.  But the problem is, virtually everyone with a programmable thermostat doesn’t set or use it properly.  Nest Labs, a Palo Alto-based start-up, aims to solve this problem with a new thermostat that’s simple, sleek, intuitive, and smart.

Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive and founder of Nest Labs, said, “We’ve built the world’s first learning thermostat — a thermostat for the iPhone generation,” according to the New York Times.  It’s called Nest, and it’s going to be sold for $250.

Learn more about the Nest thermostat by reading the full article…

October 6th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable. 

Hot water demands the second largest amount of energy in our homes, after space heating, and it represents about 30 per cent of total energy use in our homes.

Solar hot water is smart and cost effective technology that can supplement up to 60 per cent of the water heating energy needs for a typical family of four. This comes from the fact that in Canada there is enough solar energy to generate an average of 2500 kWh of energy per year!

Domestic solar hot water systems are designed to last 20 to 40 years, minimize environmental impacts, and promote community economic development through the building of a sustainable industry economy. So you’ll be contributing to a healthier environment, and making a difference!

ecoENERGY retrofit program

On July 12, 2011 the federal government announced the return of the ecoENERGY Retrofit for Homes Program. The program provides homeowners with grants of up to $5,000 for making their homes more energy efficient. Included in the list of grants is $1,250 for installing a year-round solar hot water system. (Residents may also be eligible for regional grants. BC residents also apply for the $500 grant for solar hot water installations available from LiveSmart BC, they can save $1,750 in total.)

Both the ecoENERGY program and the LiveSmart BC program require the homeowner to have a pre- and post-retrofit energy evaluation. To qualify for ecoENERGY funding, purchases of energy saving equipment must be made after June 6, 2011, and retrofits and the post-retrofit evaluations must be completed by March 31, 2012. For LiveSmart BC funding, retrofits must be completed within 18 months of the pre-retrofit evaluation or before March 31, 2013, whichever comes first. LiveSmart BC funding is provided on a first come, first served basis.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for BC residents to install solar hot water systems, save on their energy bills, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”, says SolarBC Manager, Julia Roberts. “I recommend that residents act on this opportunity quickly as the timelines are tight and we saw LiveSmart BC grants snapped up last year”.

Read more about the ecoENERGY Retrofit for Homes Program

The complete list of available ecoEnergy grants can be found here

You can review details of the LiveSmart BC program here.

(Information above courtesy of SolarBC)

For more information on being Solar Ready, we are providing some links which you may find helpful:

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics frombuilding innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to theDrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.
August 26th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable.

Nearly all of our electricity generation options involve converting mechanical energy into electrical energy—usually using a dynamo or turbine. The significant exception is photovoltaics, in which sunlight is converted directly into electricity—with no moving parts.  

Photovoltaic (PV) cells use a phenomenon called the photovoltaic effect to generate electricity. A cell is made of a semiconductor material—a material that conducts electricity but whose electrical conductivity can be altered by adding small quantities of other elements (a process referred to as doping). Crystalline silicon is the most common semiconductor used, though other materials are being used as well, including amorphous silicon, cadmium-telluride (CdTe), gallium arsenide (GaAs), and copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS). Most of these alternatives are being tried in an effort to reduce costs. 

In manufacturing PV cells, thin wafers or strips of the semiconductor material are created, but these cells have two different layers. The top side is doped with an element that has an extra electron, usually phosphorous, to give it a negative charge (N type), while the back side is doped with a different element, usually boron, that is shy an electron, giving it a positive charge (P type). The cell junction separates these two layers.

When photons of sunlight strike the PV cell, electrons in the N layer are excited and jump across the P-N cell junction. This creates a charge imbalance, with electrons wanting to return to the N layer of the cell. By connecting the two sides of the cell with a wire, electrons are able to return to the N layer—and that electron flow is the electric current that we are able to make use of. While electrons move around in this process, there are no “moving parts” to wear out—as there are in nearly all other electrical generation systems.

Numerous individual PV cells are wired together in series to create a PV module, which increases the current flow, and then multiple modules can be combined to create a PV array. A PV system includes an array as well as various balance of system components, including charge controller, inverter (if direct current is to be converted into alternating current), and—depending on the application—batteries for storing the solar-generated electricity. 

Refinement of the photovoltaic process and improvements in PV efficiency are the focus of a tremendous amount of research going on worldwide today. While the efficiency of the best crystalline silicon PV modules is now above 20%, much of the leading research is focused on lower-cost, thin-film technologies that have lower efficiencies, but that offer the promise of significantly lower-cost PV power.

Article source: BuildingGreen.com “Environmental Building News

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

August 4th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable.

How much do our buildings really contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? The answers may be surprising.

Over 50% of all GHGs in the U.S. come from our homes and businesses, and over 40% of the country’s energy consumption goes toward powering those structures. Contrast that with the 28% of energy consumption for cars and other transportation, and it’s clear that our homes are expending energy resources at an unacceptable rate.

So what’s greener? Building a new house or renovating an old one? Both are worthy endeavors, but with many existing homes using twice as much energy as they should, home improvement edges out new construction.

However, that’s not the only reason it’s greener to upgrade your existing home. New homes need new infrastructure, including roads, sewage lines, electrical lines and street lighting – all entailing more expenditures of energy. In addition, new homes require the production of new materials, while materials from existing homes are generally recyclable.

What’s greener for your pocketbook? The answer may be both. Homes with a significant number of green features can sell for up to 30% more than traditional homes – either for new or existing homes. In today’s down-turned housing market, green technology gives you a substantial advantage.

For homeowners planning to stay in their homes, the return on investment period is getting shorter, with many recouping costs in as little as three years. In their book, Green$ense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects, architect Eric Freed and Kevin Daum found that 45 out of the 50 retrofitting projects that they examined saved money in energy costs.

To discover which renovations bring the most savings, read the entire article from Calfinder…

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

July 21st, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable.

A Passivhaus (or Passive House) takes into account the free heat gained from the sun and “internal heat gains” from people and appliances. It is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load. A Passive House is a comprehensive system. Working with natural resources, free solar energy is captured and applied efficiently, instead of relying predominantly on ‘active’ systems to bring a building to ‘zero’ energy. High performance triple-glazed windows, super-insulation, an airtight building envelope, limitation of thermal bridging and balanced energy recovery ventilation make possible extraordinary reductions in energy use and carbon emission.

The Passive House System was developed in Germany, where it is called “Passivhaus”, in 1996 by physicist Wolfgang Feist. Feist was influenced by the groundbreaking, superinsulated houses that were built in the US and Canada in the 1970′s. His cause was championed by German born Katrin Klingenberg, who founded PHIUS – Passive House Institute United States.

(excerpt from Build Direct – Green Blog…) 

 

Benefits of passivhaus building

Improved indoor air quality

Increased physical comfort

90% energy reduction

Minimal conventional heating system

Suitable for retrofits

Affordable

The point of passivhaus construction is to minimize energy loss by restricting airflow into and out of the building. The building stays warm in winter and cool in summer. Style does not matter, as long as the efficiency and air circulation goals are achieved.

The envelope is super-insulated, up to 16″ beneath the slab and in exterior walls (R 60-70). Strawbale, SIPs and ICFs (insulated concrete forms) or Rastra are suitable. Ceiling insulation of dense-pack fiberglass, cellulose or spray foam has an R-value anywhere between R 60-100.
The triple-glazed windows have a very low U-factor of 0.14. Some in Germany are as low as 0.17. The U-factor rating of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC): the lower the number, the more efficient the window, based on the glass, frame and spacer material.
Thermal bridging is essentially eliminated. A blower door test is run several times during construction to test for air leakage before the building is completely closed up and finished.
A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) keeps indoor air fresh, exchanging indoor air with outdoor air with minimal heat loss.

For the full BuildDirect Green Blog article and additional links, click here…

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

July 18th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

The trend toward green living has finally caught the attention of the banking industry. Banks have watched as consumers have made greener choices in everything from washing detergent and light bulbs to high-efficiency furnaces and solar energy panels.

With consumers interested in greening their lives, most of Canada’s major banks have seen the opportunity to offer “green mortgages,” which offer homebuyers a discounted interest rate and other incentives to buy environmentally sensitive houses or perform upgrades aimed at lowering their environmental footprint.

“We made the decision [to offer green mortgages] to respond to that market,” says Katie Archdekin, head of mortgage products for BMO. “We wanted to encourage customers to make positive change and positive choices for the environment. We’ve had great response.” Consumers, especially first-time buyers, are increasingly looking to green home upgrades to help the environment and lower the carrying costs of owning a new home.

According to surveys conducted by Leger Marketing, while Canadians are interested in lessening their impact on the environment, the decision to buy a “green home” is really being driven by saving cash. More than 59% of respondents cite financial savings as the main reason for making eco-friendly upgrades and purchases.

The results are not surprising, considering more than 51% of survey respondents say utility costs are the biggest surprise financially when it comes to owning a home.

Having new windows, doors and a high-efficiency furnace can go a long way to help make those carrying costs more palatable, according to Leger, which found 92% of Canadian respondents recognize the cost advantages of energy-efficient home upgrades.

It also found nearly half of all home buyers plan to make investments in energy-efficient upgrades in the next year, especially with the anticipated extension of the federal government’s ecoENERGY Retrofit program. The program allows Canadians to write off a portion of their green home renovations on their taxes.

The green trend isn’t just affecting resale homebuyers. According to an EnerQuality Green Building survey released in November 2009, more than 40% of Ontario homebuyers are willing to pay up to $10,000 more for a new green home, or a home that is Energy Star certified. That number is almost double the 22% of homebuyers who were willing to spend that amount of money in 2008.

Farhaneh Haque, regional manager of Mobile Mortgage Specialists at TD Canada Trust, says that with the additional money, buyers are willing to spend on green homes and upgrades, many have been inquiring about discounts and incentives from the banks to help them. “Environment has become increasingly popular.

“A lot of politicians are talking about it, the general public is talking about it, there are a lot of home renovation projects that you see around or on TV that are talking about it, major suppliers of home appliances are talking about it. It’s become very evident in the market,” Ms. Haque says.

“It just made a lot of sense to have a product that supports our clients’ motivations. It encourages clients to seek out home renovations and take part, or participate, in environmental initiatives. It encourages green behaviour.”

While almost all of Canada’s big banks are offering green mortgages, the loans aren’t open to just anyone. Buyers must qualify for the green loan by proving the house they are buying meets certain green energy standards, or that they will be completing certain green upgrades to the home shortly after moving in.

Incentives offered by the banks vary. Some will provide rebates equal to the cost of a home energy audit, which is around $300, and then a cashback incentive that can be used for green upgrades. Others offer discounts to posted mortgage rates.

Eco mortgages

With so many different “green” mortgage offerings out there, wading through them can be a daunting task. Below is a list of a few of the more popular options:

• RBC Energy Saver Mortgage: Receive a $300 rebate on a home energy audit. Get a five-year, fixed mortgage with an annual interest rate of 4.34%, more than 1% lower than the regular posted five-year rate.

• TD Canada Trust Green Mortgage: Offers customers 1% off the posted interest rate on a five-year, fixed-rate mortgage. Customers also receive a cash rebate of up to 1% of the amount of the mortgage when home buyers make Energy Star-qualified appliance purchases and home upgrades or purchase CSA-approved solar panels. TD will also donate $100 to the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation charity for each Green Mortgage opened.

• BMO Eco Smart Mortgage: Offers buyers of green properties a 3.89% annual interest rate on their mortgage. In order to qualify for the BMO Eco Smart Mortgage, the home must meet certain requirements as confirmed by a third-party appraiser (or energy auditor) arranged by BMO.

• Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) incentive: If a person uses CMHC insured financing to buy an energy-efficient home or purchases a house and makes energy-saving renovations to make it more energy efficient, a 10% refund on the mortgage loan insurance premium may be available.

Article Source: National Post – July 15, 2011

June 6th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

As industries shift to accommodate a new market for eco-friendly products, your choices as a consumer are becoming more and more important to the task of creating a greener world. This permeates your schedule day-to-day, including the part where you have to do your laundry.

******

The laundry room has a lot of potential when it comes to green living.  It can be a challenge to find ways to live a green lifestyle, especially if you are on a budget and don’t have the money to lay out for extensive home upgrades. The laundry room is a great place to start thinking green, however, and the tips that follow will help you to make more eco-friendly choices when it comes to doing laundry.

Choose Energy Star Laundry Appliances

While it doesn’t make a lot of sense for you to run out and replace your old energy-sucking washer and dryer pair with a sleek, energy-saving duo, it is a smart move when the time comes.  When replacing laundry appliances, look for those that have the Energy Star logo when you’re buying new ones.  Energy Star washing machines consume only about 25 gallons of water per load, as compared with an average of 40 gallons for standard top-loading machines.  Energy Star dryers also take much less energy than their non-energy saving counterparts.

Choose a Front-Loading Washer

Go even greener by choosing a front-loading washing machine.  The front-loading washer operates on a horizontal axis, and this can save both energy and water.  The front-loader needs less water to do the same job as a top-loader because the tub rotates, tumbling the clothing inside into the water, as opposed to top-loading machines that must be filled in order to do their job.  And the top-loading machine also reduces the amount of energy that is required to dry your clothing, as they spin at a faster rate, which means that the clothes have less water in them when they are finished in the wash.

A front-loading washing machine uses about a third less water and half the energy of a traditional top-loading washing machine. This savings can easily allow the washer to pay for itself within five-six years of purchase, although most top-loaders have a life expectancy of ten years or longer with proper maintenance.

Quick tips for laundry day

As mentioned above, it isn’t a green move to replace an appliance that is still in working order. Why?  Because the old appliance has to end up somewhere – and that eventual home is typically an already overburdened landfill.  Thus, keeping your appliance for as long as possible is a more earth-friendly option.  But you can still follow the tips below to get the most out of your older laundry appliances:

  • Wash in cold water.  Cold water can be gentler on your clothing, and it can also save up to ninety percent of the cost of doing laundry from an energy perspective.
  • Designate a particular day of the week as “laundry day” and do subsequent loads in order to maximize the built-up heat in the dryer.
  • Always make sure that you wash full loads.  You will be using almost the same energy for a “small” load as for a “large” load.
  • Consider line drying clothing when possible. This will not only save energy but is also gentler on most fabrics.
  • Keep the lint trap of your dryer cleaned out after each load.  This allows for heat to circulate properly within the dryer, and thus improves the dryer’s performance.

Original article: Build Direct Green Blog

FAQ’s about cold water washing from BC Hydro

ENERGY STAR appliances usually cost more than others. Would I save money if I don’t buy an ENERGY STAR washing machine but I keep it well maintained?
No. It is always a good idea to keep any appliance well maintained for optimum performance, but even so, ENERGY STAR-rated washing machines are so much more efficient than other models – 36% more efficient than government standards – that they generally pay for themselves in just a few years. Think of an appliance as having two prices: the cost to buy it and the cost to run it. The higher cost of running less energy-efficient appliances quickly cancels out the lower purchase price.

If I only wash in cold water, will my clothes still get as clean?
Yes. Clothes can come out just as clean in cold water, even whites. If you have hard water, try adding some borax to your laundry to brighten whites and colours. You can also add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the rinse cycle for fresh bright laundry, or use natural biodegradable, non-chlorinated bleach on your whites if you find they’re not bright enough. Hanging your laundry in the sun to dry it will also act as a brightener. Sunlight is a natural bleaching agent.

What about hard-to-remove stains?
Spot clean stains with a natural spot remover before you launder them. The stains will likely come out readily in cold water and you’ll use less energy. For really tough dirty or oily stains, use the “warm” water setting instead of “hot.” You are still cutting your energy savings in half. Also, use a natural stain remover prior to washing or presoak clothes to help loosen the dirt or oil from the stain.

June 2nd, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable.

Heat recovery ventilation systems allow R-2000 homes to maintain high indoor air quality without excessive additional energy costs.

As shown in the diagram below, a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) consists of two separate air-handling systems – one collects and exhausts stale indoor air; the other draws in outdoor air and distributes it throughout the home.

Components of a Heat Recovery Ventilator

Heat Recovery

At the core of an HRV is the heat transfer module. Both the exhaust and outdoor air streams pass through the module, and the heat from the exhaust air is used to pre-heat the outdoor air stream. Only the heat is transferred; the two air streams remain physically separate. Typically, an HRV is able to recover 70 to 80 percent of the heat from the exhaust air and transfer it to the incoming air. This dramatically reduces the energy needed to heat outdoor air to a comfortable temperature.

Air Exchange

The HRV system installed in an R-2000 home can change all the air in the house over a three-hour period. Most HRVs are also equipped with automatic humidity sensors that increase the ventilation rate when needed – for instance, when you use the shower. Exhaust air is normally collected from the kitchen and bathroom areas, where most moisture and odours are created.

System Connection

To ensure that outdoor air is supplied to all living areas in an R-2000 home:

  • For homes that have forced-air heating – the HRV is usually connected to the heating system ductwork. This requires running the furnace fan continuously to distribute outdoor air throughout the house, increasing operating costs. However, the improvement in air quality is significant.
  • For homes that don’t have forced-air heating – the HRV is connected to a specially installed network of small-diameter outdoor air ducts.

Read original article at the Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE)

Looking for more information on energy efficiency technologies?

Try the Office of Energy Efficiency of Natural Resources Canada or read other Drummond posts in the energy efficiency series.

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

May 9th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

While green homes often sport all manner of technical solutions to keep them optimized and efficient, the landscaping can have a significant effect on the building and its energy use. Site orientation and landscape can also be powerful tools to control the energy needs of a building. While it’s not practical to reorient most homes, in many cases you can still make improvements by planting trees.

Trees offer numerous benefits beyond their contribution to cooling. If the warming weather has you thinking about landscaping, give some consideration to using trees to boost your home’s comfort through the summer. Spring is prime tree planting season, particularly for more northern latitudes, so now is a good time to consider putting in a new tree or two.

Even with an air conditioned house, it makes sense to plant shade trees in order to reduce the solar gain on the house. Windows, in particular, will benefit greatly from being shaded. But keeping the siding material in shade means less thermal gain to the wall, and that also translates into less demand for cooling and lower energy bills. Shading can also mean that natural cooling with passive ventilation instead of mechanical conditioning can be used more often, which also helps lower energy demand.

Screening and shading a building, particularly its windows, can significantly benefit a home. A single large tree can provide as much as a 9% reduction in cooling demand, according to one study.

Individual results will vary with many factors, but generally speaking, the southwest is the most important orientation to provide shade cover for, since it is afternoon peaks that are typically the hottest part of the day.

There are lots of mechanical systems that can be added to a house to keep it comfortable, and we love seeing new and useful technologies for green buildings. But sometimes it is not the technical solution but just the simple measures that make the most sense. And trees offer another benefit. Unlike many other building improvements that slowly degrade over time, the benefit from a tree will increase over time as the tree matures and increases the good that it does for the house that it shades.

In addition to cooling, trees (particularly evergreens) can also serve as windbreaks to shelter homes in the winter time. But, whether for summer shading or to serve as a windbreak, now is a good time to plant that tree.

Read original article with additional pictures at Jetson Green.

 



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