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October 27th, 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. 

Choosing an energy-efficient upgrade to your home includes decisions of conscience and return on investment. This handy graphic illustrates some optional upgrades, the cost of installation and potential energy savings.

(Click on graphic to enlarge)

Home Solar Power Discounts – One Block Off the Grid

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 theDrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.


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.
September 29th, 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.
 

Lake Washington Residence contemporary patio

In modern and contemporary architecture it’s clear that glass is key. Full-height glazing, ribbon windows, tall windows, just about anything outside of traditional punched openings is the norm. But with larger expanses of glass it is often necessary — depending on window placement and orientation, among other things — to provide some sort of sunshade to cut down on solar heat gain in the warm months, while allowing light back in during fall and winter.

Nature provides the best sunshade: deciduous trees filter sunlight in the summer, but when their leaves fall of toward the winter, that valuable sunlight and heat is reintroduced into the house. But trees take time to grow, and sometimes it’s not possible to plant a tree in the place it’s needed for this type of shading. Enter louvered sunshades. These cantilevered assemblies filter the high summer sun, but their placement at the top of windows lets the low winter sun enter below them. Below is a sampling of some houses incorporating sunshades in various applications.

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.

September 8th, 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.

As you are looking to build a new home, you may wish to consider implementing photovoltaic (PV) collection. Once considered to be an eccentric addition to a home, solar collection is becoming more commonplace and technologies and products are more readily available.

The CMHC produces a series of informational materials which provide valuable and impartial information. A 12-page guide to Photovoltaic (PV) systems is an excellent primer.

EQuilibriumTM demonstration home in Red Deer, Alberta uses PV tiles

Photovoltaic (PV) systems are used to convert sunlight into electricity. They are a safe, reliable,low-maintenance source of solar electricity that produces no on-site pollution or emissions. PV systems incur few operating costs and are easy to install on most Canadian homes. PV systems fall into two main categories—off-grid and grid-connected. The “grid” refers to the local electric utility’s infrastructure that supplies electricity to homes and businesses. Off-grid systems are installed in remote locations where there is no utility grid available. 

PV systems have been used effectively in Canada to provide power in remote locations for transport route signalling, navigational aids, remote homes, telecommunication, and remote sensing and monitoring. Internationally, utility grid-connected PV systems represent the majority of installations, growing at a rate of over 30% annually. In Canada, as of 2009, 90% of the capacity is in off-grid applications; however, the number of grid-connected systems continues to grow because many of the barriers to interconnection have been addressed through the adoption of harmonized standards and codes. In addition, provincial policies supporting grid interconnection of PV power have encouraged a number of building integrated PV applications throughout Canada. 

With rising electricity costs,concerns with respect to the reliabilityof continuous service delivery and increased environmental awareness of homeowners, the demand for residential PV systems is increasing. This About Your House aims to inform homeowners of what they need to consider before purchasing a system. The information presented will focus on grid-connected PV systems. To learn more about off-grid applications, consult CMHC’s Research Highlight fact sheet Energy Use Patterns in Off-Grid Houses.

Read the CMHC full photovoltaic systems highlight sheet 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.

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.

October 17th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

As the U.S. housing market continues to stall, homeowners looking to sell their homes need to identify the best steps they can take to make their property stand out.  The right home improvement projects can increase property value and help homes sell faster, but the impact of home improvements on property value varies widely. This is no time to throw away money on something that won’t help close the deal. 

For example, while kitchen remodeling usually delivers a good return on investment, the impact of adding a swimming pool can be hard to predict because of the additional expense pool maintenance adds to the existing cost of homeownership.  Several sustainability measures that developers and real-estate agents can recommend are energy-efficiency improvements, such as weatherizing homes, replacing outdated appliances with energy-efficient models, and installing renewable energy devices, such as solar panels, solar powered water heaters, or geothermal heat pumps.  

Studies are starting to show that solar panels help homes sell.  According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, energy-saving improvements “attract attention in a competitive market.” In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy states that a solar home will sell twice as quickly as a home without solar panels.  And this makes sense; a home with solar power lowers monthly electric bills because it requires less traditional electricity from the utility.  Homebuyers now realize that solar delivers monthly cost savings while helping the environment, so homes with this built-in cost-saving mechanism will stand out in a tough market. 

Further, lower electric bills can positively impact property values.  A widely-referenced study by ICF Consulting concluded that reducing electric bills by $1 a year can add $20 to a home’s value.  This means that cutting yearly electric costs by $1,000, could increase home value by $20,000. 

Read entire Sustainable Industries Magazine article by Lynn Jurich here…

Thanks for visiting the DrummondHousePlans blog!

September 26th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Winners from the first-ever Built Green BC Awards were announced last weekend and among them was a home from Tofino.

The Eco Rain Forest Retreat, which is also the first Timberframe to get a LEED platinum certificate in Canada, won the “Highest Rated Built Green BC” award. Seven awards were presented to the companies who demonstrated leadership in building environmentally sustainable homes, and John Yap, minister of state for climate change, provided the gala’s welcoming address.

The Tofino home was built by Alpine Timberframe & Design, which is based out of Brackendale, B.C. (between Vancouver and Whistler). The house is about three kilometres from Tofino, near Chesterman Beach. It features low-e argon windows, high efficiency lighting features, an air-tight building envelope and a highly insulated roof system.

Other features include geothermal heating, programmable thermostats, a heat recovery ventilator and the roof harvests 75 per cent of the rainwater and stores up to 1,600 gallons for toilet, laundry, outdoor shower and irrigation use.

The roof also has a conduit and wiring for solar panels and has low volatile organic compounds paint for its solid surface flooring. With all of the sustainable upgrades to the home, it has achieved an 86 Energuide energy rating system score.

Built Green is a voluntary program within the industry promoting environmental and sustainable initiatives. There are 300 registered Built Green BC builders in the province with 1,200 within the program.

Since Built Green has been around, about 3,000 homes have been enrolled with a combined reduction in 7,400 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, or an equivalent of taking 2,200 cars off the road.

For more information about Built Green visit www.builtgreencanada.ca.

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Looking for more information on green technologies? Look through some of our other blog categories or even ask for information on specific topics. We would be happy to blog on your preferred topic!

August 22nd, 2010
By Vivian Martin

At DrummondHousePlans, we strive to educate ourselves and share information regarding building trends and technology advancements. We encountered this article in Ideal Living Magazine and thought it would be of benefit to our readers…

Energy… that magical thing that illuminates our world. Few of us actually consider what it takes to generate the power to turn on our lights, run our computers and televisions, or cook our food. The daily “news” today touts “clean energy.” An international summit of 192 countries in Copenhagen met in December 2009 to discuss climate change and clean energy alternatives. It all seems a little abstract, and you might wonder how you as an individual can help the global climate and create clean, renewable energy.

Fortunately, some innovative developers and builders are implementing solutions to incorporate into your home. If you haven’t heard of “net-zero” and “zero-energy” homes in your location, you will in the near future. In Aiken, SC, and in Boulder, CO, a developer and architect are proving that you can create affordable, energy-efficient homes. Ron Monahan, developer of The Ridge at Chukker Creek in Aiken and Silver Leaf in Boulder, teamed with renowned Colorado architect George Watt to build net-zero or near-net-zero homes that achieve a 70% to 100% reduction in energy bills. These homes have exceeded the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design developed by the US Green Building Council) Platinum certifications for green building.

One Developer’s Dream
Monahan’s ideas and personal energy are infectious. He believes in creating affordable homes that generate their own power for everyday people. Monahan has been encouraged by the homebuyer’s response to his net-zero approach, with increasing sales at The Ridge during the economic decline.

Watt and Monahan recently partnered with the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken to create a hydrogen-powered home to be completed in 2010. The home will have photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, which will in part power the house and in part pass energy through an electrolyzer that separates hydrogen from water. The hydrogen will be stored in a fuel cell and the by-product is oxygen.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to apply breakthrough technology to residential homebuilding. It would be hard to bring together this caliber of partnership were it not for the pioneering programs that are taking place in Aiken and in South Carolina,” said Monahan.

It wasn’t hard to convince architect Watt to be involved in designing net-zero homes. Watt said, “Ron and I talked for about two minutes about creating a net-zero project in Aiken. Ron said ‘we need to do this in Aiken.’ I said, ‘yeah, we do.’” And the rest is history. Watt, a carpenter before an architect, built his first solar home in the 1980s and realized then that energy efficiency should be implemented into home design; he’s implemented renewable energy systems ever since.

According to Watt, “Energy efficiency should be seamlessly integrated into the design of a building. It shouldn’t be flashy; it should just fade into the background. A home is a home and should feel comfortable and inviting.” Watt’s goal is to incorporate solar or other renewable sources without being an eyesore.

What’s the difference between net-zero and zero-energy homes?
Two types of energy-efficient homes are emerging—net-zero and zero-energy. While both types of homes are extremely efficient, there is a slight difference. Zero-energy homes run off the grid. The homes generate enough energy on their own to power all of the homeowner’s needs through photovoltaic, geothermal and soon even hydrogen power. Net-zero homes still operate on the energy grid, but generate enough energy to offset any annual usage through the same renewable energy means. When you own a net-zero home, you purchase energy from your electric company, but then sell back the energy that your home generates over the year.

“Green” Houses vs. Energy Efficiency
It seems that every successful product available today is marketed as “green.” Houses are no different. Often, the price tag on “green” materials is higher because of this marketing. However, it is possible to have an energy-efficient home that is affordable. Research into energy-efficient construction proves beneficial in creating the most efficient homes for the least amount of money.

It’s important to note the differences between “green-washing” and energy efficiency. You don’t have to have a “green” home to be energy-efficient and help reduce your carbon footprint and energy needs. Zero-energy homes may not be considered green in all areas but tend to have a much lower ecological impact in the long run than a “green” building that requires imported energy and/or fossil fuels.

Building a Net-Zero Home
Energy efficiency starts at the base level in home construction, including site plan, passive solar energy, insulation and energy-efficient appliances. According to Watt, “The key is to create a well-insulated building envelope so your energy needs are as low as possible. After you have saved energy everywhere you can in the house and determined what your energy needs will be, then it’s time to incorporate your renewable energy source.”

Site Plan
It wasn’t that long ago (prior to central heating and air) that homes were designed to capitalize on sunlight for passive heating and large porches to capture breezes to cool the home. This same technology still exists today and is the first step in creating an energy-efficient home. Orient the house with its long axis running east/west and utilize daylight to provide natural lighting.

Windows and Porches
Size south-facing overhangs to shade windows in the summer and allow solar gain in the winter. Utilize large porches to create shade for natural ventilation and reduce the need for mechanical cooling. Consider window-glazing techniques for different sides of the house. Use low U-value/low-E in all climates and low solar heat gain (low SHGC) windows in cooling climates.

Insulation
Increase foundation, wall and ceiling insulation. A well-insulated home drastically reduces the needs for heating and cooling. Seal all holes and cracks in walls, floor and ceilings to unconditioned spaces.

Appliances & Lighting
Look for EnergyStar® ratings when specifying and purchasing appliances. Consider tankless water heaters, as they are one of the largest electricity consumers in the home. Front-loading washing machines save energy and water consumption. When choosing lighting options, opt for LEDs and florescent fixtures.

Heating and Air
As stated above, use a passive solar energy. You may also want to consider using a geothermal system, which uses ground-source energy to heat and cool your home. The ground temperature around your house is fairly consistent year-round—approx 50°F in the north and warmer in the southern United States.

Add a Renewable Energy Source
Solar energy or photovoltaic energy captures solar energy and stores it in a battery or sends the energy back to the grid. Most people still think of solar as those unsightly large panels raised on the roof of a home. However, that’s not the case anymore. Major innovation has resulted in lighter, more durable panels as thin as 1/8”. Photovoltaic laminates can adhere directly onto roofing materials without damaging the roof. They even come in solar shingles these days.

George Watt designed a solar system to fit seamlessly into the roof in Boulder, CO, so you cannot tell the solar panels from the roof itself. Many states are even offering tax incentives and rebates to those implementing renewable energy sources into their homes.

If it’s not in your budget initially, you can always have it in your long-term plan and implement a renewable source at a later date.

When Will Net-Zero Reach Mainstream Building?
Smaller builders and developers are currently pushing the envelope to create the most innovative energy-efficient designs available. They are smaller and able to take more risks. Watt believes that as soon as the major builders develop these technologies, it will be available in the general market. The sooner the homebuyer demands this level of efficiency, you’ll see it in your area.

Visit Ideal Living Magazine for the complete article as well as related topics…

We are happy to say that we have a great assortment of homes and vacation properties with charming porches and covered decks that work well in the zero energy and net zero goals. We are also happy to work with you and your builder to modify any of our designs to achieve your energy efficiency goals.

August 19th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Dwell Product article:

The Brooklyn–based start-up SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology) was formed in 2005 by the brother and sister team of Samuel and Teresita Cochran. Their goal: to invent a hybrid new approach to solar and wind power. Their Solar Ivy—flexible photovoltaic ‘leaves’ made of sheets of recyclable polyethylene—is a modular, ivy-like system that can be used on the sides of buildings, to capture the sunlight much like plants do. As the ‘ivy’ flutters and shifts in the wind, it converts solar energy into electricity.

What inspired solar ivy, originally?

I grew up in St. Louis with a window that looked out over a wall of ivy. It found its way there because it could get a good footing on the old brick buildings, and it received direct sun. The ivy would move slightly, like prairie grass, showing waves of wind moving across a building. This vision from childhood stayed with me till I was trained as an Industrial Designer at Pratt Institute; then I was able to see the connections and opportunities between that vision of a plant and how we apply photovoltaic panels to our homes. From this, Solar Ivy and GROW products were born.

Read more:

Dwell Product Spotlight by Jaime Gross published on August 18, 2010

 



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