Renewable Energy Plan for New York

Let’s convert New York State’s energy infrastructure into something more sustainable. It’s a simple concept, with a multitude of benefits.  Converting to renewable energy will stabilize costs of energy and  produce jobs while reducing health and climate damage and overall improving the quality of life.

A recent study by Mark Z. Jacobson et al. finds that it is technically and economically feasible to convert the fossil fuel energy infrastructure in New York State to one that is supplied entirely by wind, water, and solar power. The use of natural gas is argued against due to the dangerous hydraulic fracturing process and the air pollution produced.  The proposed plan provides the largest possible reductions in air and water pollution, and global warming impacts.

Jacobson and scientists from Cornell University and the University of California-Davis have proposed the first fully developed plan to fulfill all sectors (transportation, electric power, industry, and district heating and cooling) of New York State’s energy demands with renewable energy. Additionally, they calculated the number of new jobs created, amount of land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for an infrastructure change of this magnitude. It also provides calculations of air pollution mortality and morbidity impacts and costs based on multiple years of air quality data.

While a wind, water, and solar conversion will result in high initial capital costs, they will be made up over time due to the elimination of fuel costs. Overall, New York State’s end-use power demand will decrease by roughly 37% and create 58,000 permanent jobs with job exchange predicted. It is estimated that 4.5 million temporary jobs would be created during construction phase.

The researchers propose that New York’s 2030 power demand for all sectors could be met by:

4,020 onshore 5-megawatt wind turbines

12,770 offshore 5-megawatt wind turbines

387 100-megawatt concentrated solar plants

828 50-megawatt photovoltaic power plants

5 million 5-kilowatt residential rooftop photovoltaic systems

500,000 100-kilowatt commercial/government rooftop photovoltaic systems

36 100-megawatt geothermal plants

1,910 0.75-megawatt wave devices

2,600 1-megawatt tidal turbines

7 1,300-megawatt hydroelectric power plants, of which most exist

To ensure grid reliability, the plan outlines several methods to match renewable energy supply with demand and to smooth out the variability of WWS resources. These include a grid management system to shift times of demand to better match with timing of power supply, and “over-sizing” peak generation capacity to minimize times when available power is less than demand. The plan also includes a solution to the current protocol of shutting down facilities during times of overproduction that includes the sale of surplus.

Currently, almost all of New York’s energy comes from imported oil, coal, and gas. This new plan looks to supply 40 percent of NY’s energy from wind power, 38 percent from solar, and 22 percent from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, and tidal and wave energy. All of these sources will be located in, or offshore of, New York State.

All vehicles will be replaced with battery-electric vehicles (BEV), hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCV) and BEV-HFCV hybrids. Electricity-powered air- and ground-source heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps, heat exchangers and backup electric resistance heaters would replace natural gas and oil for home heating and air-conditioning. Air- and ground-source heat pump water heaters powered by electricity and solar hot water preheaters would provide hot water for homes. High temperatures for industrial processes would be obtained with electricity and hydrogen combustion.

Jacobsen et al. have provided a comprehensive and all inclusive energy alternative for New York State that boasts a sustainable, inexpensive and reliable energy supply that will creates local jobs and save the state billions of dollars in pollution-related costs.

As a small ny green contractor most of these projects are currently too large for us to handle. But the large projects are not the only place to make an impact. Our focus on energy efficient building reduces the need for energy in the first place. Also, micro sustainable energy production such as a photovoltaic installation on a warehouse or home is certainly something we could do. Such decentralized energy sources reduce the load on the grid and in turn create back up options should the central grid go down.

 

DIY Rocket Mass Heater

The recent polar vortex has hit us all with some really harsh conditions and as a green contractor based in New York it has made work on our ecological construction sites difficult. Spending cold, winter days inside of an upcycled shipping container can leave you freezing for hours. Space heaters require electricity that you may not have access to.

We’ve figured out a way to heat our workspaces in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way that uses zero electricity and burns zero fossil fuels.  A rocket mass heater is an efficient wood burning stove and space-heating system. Two key things differentiate them as ecologically sound space heaters.

The first is that the design involved creates a small, efficient, high temperature combustion chamber capable of burning significantly more carbon than simply burning wood in a metal can or bonfire. Due to the high carbon-burning capabilities less ash is created and the smoke emitted is much cleaner.

The second is that the cob or clay acts as a thermal mass that physically stores the heat created during combustion for hours and releases it into the space through convection thereby decreasing the amount of electrical energy or fossil fuels used.

A traditional rocket mass heater involves a 55 Gallon drum built into a clay wall and extending into a room so as to transfer the most heat possible. This form is too large and too permanent for use on multiple construction sites.  The technical design of a larger scale heater is more complex, but we needed a relatively small heater that can be transported between sites.

The method of building a rocket mass heater outlined below enables environmentally conscious contractors and individuals to use materials that are more readily available or perhaps lying around the house or job site.

Here we’ve provided the simple DIY steps to creating a rocket stove or rocket mass heater:

Materials:

5-gallon plastic bucket

2 2-liter plastic soda bottles

Dirt, grass (or hay), and water

Marker

Duct tape

Utility knife

A piece of metal lath or mesh

 

Step 1: Use the marker to trace a circle 3-4 inches from the bottom of the 5-gallon bucket and cut out the circle with your knife.

Step 2: Use the duct tape to tape the ends of the soda bottles together in an L shape. The soda bottles should be filled with liquid or remain unopened.

Step 3: Use the dirt, grass (or hay), and water to make the cob in a different bucket.

Step 4: Put some of the cob in the bottom of the bucket to the height of the bottom of the hole you’ve cut. Place the bottles you’ve taped together inside the bucket with the end of one bottle sticking out of the hole that you’ve previously cut.

Step 5: Continue to fill the bucket with the cob mixture and be sure to smooth all edges. The clay will need a few days to dry out.

Step 6: When the cob feels dry pour the liquid out of the soda bottles and cut off the tops of the bottles. Remove the bottles and tape by reaching into the bottles and pulling them out.

Step 7: If your cob mixture is not fully dry let it set for a few more days. Then place paper and small twigs inside and light a small fire to dry the cob entirely.

Step 8: Place the piece of metal lath or mesh, small enough to fit inside of the hole, in the side of the bucket. This will hold the fuel being used to heat your space. It should be long enough that it sticks out of the bucket to hold longer sticks/kindling.

Step 9: Add your fuel (paper, sticks, any natural carbon-based material will do) and ignite!

This rocket mass heater is safe, environmentally friendly, and portable. For use indoors this structure would need to be ducted to allow exhaust or fumes to be safely expelled outside. Additionally, use of this type of heater in a home remodel is not recommended however for work on an industrial space it is a perfect fit.

Click HERE for a link to a smaller, even more portable version.  We don’t recommend this exact method due to the high levels of BPA inside of soup cans so we suggest purchasing heater duct pipe (un-galvanized) to use instead.

 

Click HERE to see different designs for large scale and conventional rocket mass heater. These designs are meant to heat a home and emit smoke  and any potentially dangerous fumes outdoors through a duct system.

 

 

Das Haus: First NYC Passive House in BK

For those of us who live in historic homes we know that our period dwellings bring us both joy and frustration. The frustration is largely attributed to the endless repairs that classic Brooklyn Brownstones require and their not so efficient envelope.

Eco Brooklyn has renovated many brownstones and knows first hand how challenging it can be to air seal and insulate an building while still keeping it’s traditional character.

With the advent of new energy efficient building techniques Eco Brooklyn is part of a new trend in Brownstone renovation: instead of following traditional guidelines to fixing up a house, some Brooklyn homeowners are transforming their townhouse into a Passive House – a German technique that can reduce a homes energy consumption up to 90%.

This past week, the Eco Brooklyn interns took the metro North train up to White Plains for the Das Haus Symposium. There were a number of speakers, some coming all the way from Germany to talk about projects, ideas and products that have either already migrated to the US or are on their way. The Passive House concept was a topic of interest.

The Passive House standard focuses on 5 main strategies:

  1. Insulate strategically
  2. Stop Thermal Bridging
  3. Achieve air tightness
  4. Install high-performing windows for thermal comfort
  5. Reduce mechanical systems with heat recovery ventilation

Jordan Goldman, the engineering principal at Zero Energy Design was a speaker at last week’s symposium. He is a Passive house consultant who recently finished a passive house restoration at 23 Park Place in Park Slope. The completion of this project marked the first certified Passive House in New York City!

The original structure at 23 Park Place was built in 1899 and had been owned by a few artists until it was abandoned a few years ago. After the new owners purchased the dilapidated property they decided to do a Passive House retrofit on the existing structure. Julie Torres Moskovitz from Fabrica718 was the lead architect on the project. She enlisted Jordan Goldman as the engineering consultant on the design.

Since this property was not land marked the retrofit became a complete makeover for the structure. For instance, all the fireplaces and chimneys were replaced to increase the overall air tightness of the space.

As noted before, air tightness and a system of interior and exterior air exchange are the key stone elements to creating  a cohesive thermal envelope ensuring maximum energy reduction.

23 Park Place met the air tightness requirements of a passive house, and far surpassed the requirements of NYC. 23 Park Place is not only 15 times tighter than a current building norm is achieved the highest air tightness level in all of New York City-  .38!

In addition to the insulation, comprised on 23 inch thick walls and three pane windows

Passive House calls for all the joists and meeting points to be sealed to create a continuous thermal envelope.

Although after so much emphasis on the insulation, you must be wondering how could anyone possible endure such stuffy conditions. The answer to this seemingly uncomfortable air is the energy recovery ventilator or E.R.V.

Essentially, the inside air is pulled through the ventilator, the heat is then transferred to a membrane, the air is cooled and then exits as exhaust. The fresh air outside is simultaneously being pulled in and warmed by the membrane. This system, which is referred to as “counterflow” maintains a constant temperate within the thermal envelop.

The Passive House energy use standards are far more stringent then those used by the US Green Building council, which issue certifications for LEED and the Energy Star program. It is considered excellent if a LEED certified structure can reduce energy consumption by 30% and Energy Star homes typically save about 15 to 20%.  With a Passive House there can be up to a 90% reduction in heating and cooling.

Now that’s a paradigm!

Fortunately there are a number of Passive House projects underway in New York City, many of which are located right in Brooklyn. As a New York Passive House builder we hope to see an increase in the demand for Passive House design in the upcoming years. It costs within the range of normal construction yet greatly decreases a building’s impact on the environment.

Fun Built with Salvaged Material

The growth in sustainable and green living has given rise to a movement of eco-tourism in a variety of forms across the country.  Specifically the use of salvaged materials is making a breakthrough in the realm of practical and/ or novel green construction.

Across the country salvaged building trends and communities are blossoming and their projects range from the awe-inspiring to the comical.  I recently came across this link to a list of 8 “roadside” attractions made primarily or entirely of salvaged materials:

 

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/eco-tourism/photos/8-roadside-attractions-made-from-salvaged-materials/must-see-places

 

There’s a beer can house, a quilted-oil-protesting-gas station, and the largest tree house ever built (complete with sanctuary and basketball court).  Besides roadside attractions I’ve come to find through friends and my own travels a number of interesting things made by hand with salvaged materials.

Made from recycled material

The Recycled Roadrunner.

Once a year in Glover, Vermont there is a gathering of people, “The Human Powered Carnival”, that is the only (to my knowledge) 100% handmade and human powered carnival in existence.

 

Internationally there is a movement of “freeganism”, a life style based around obtaining all necessary materials to live well without using money, this means dumpster diving for food, squatting (sometimes clandestinely), bartering services, and general scavenging.  There is enough usable waste produced by most large companies and institutions to feed, clothe and shelter everyone who needs it.  This movement is intrinsically related to the Human Powered Carnival, there is no advertisement besides word of mouth and there is an air of communal co-operation in all aspects of the event, from cooking to cleaning and operating the rides.

One of Cyclecides attractions

In a similar spirit, in California, there is “cyclecide”.  Cyclecide is an organization based on finding expressive, interactive and alternate uses for bicycles and bike parts.  This idea sprang in 1996 and is rooted in a “freegan” ideology, their first pieces came from dumpstered bikes and some still do.  Their main event is a touring “bike rodeo” featuring varied attractions, from art installations to interactive bike or “pedal” powered rides, and valuable information.  This rodeo is not for the faint of heart, group events and contests such as tall bike jousting, while extremely fun and entertaining do pose some real danger, perhaps that’s what makes it so fun?

This is an excerpt from their website that clearly describes the group’s core beliefs;

“We remain passionately devoted to the idea of the bicycle as a piece of interactive kinetic sculpture that can make music, breathe fire, even save the world!”

 

Cyclecide

Cyclecide

What I find most exciting about this small grassroots movement is its power to subtly invoke great change in a person’s cognition, with the near comic novelty of some of these art pieces and attractions people will let their mental guards down and approach this concept with a more open and relaxed mind, which is sure to get the wheels turning in ones head (whether pedal powered or not).

The Living Building Challenge- Winner of the 2012 Buckminster-Fuller Challenge

Green building and eco-sensitive design is currently at the forefront of our modern ethos.   What this means for the green builders, contractors and architects of NY, and the world, is a period of dramatic change and challenge is ahead if not already begun. A change in the way we think about new buildings and construction, in how we consider “used” materials and how we use and interact with space.

As Scholar David Orr stated-

“We are coming to an era the likes of which we’ve never seen before, we’re in the white waters of human history. We don’t know what lies ahead. Bucky Fuller’s ideas on design are at the core of any set of solutions that will take us to calmer waters.”

 

One of the most prominent voices in sustainability and responsible design since the 1960’s is R. Buckminster Fuller.  Fuller pioneered in fields from architecture, and mathematics, to engineering and automobile design and only patented 12 designs allowing the vast majority of his work to be open-sourced and free to the public.

His life’s mission and philosophy was simple, “to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of anyone.”

Even today, years after Fuller’s death his name is still the vanguard of the sustainable design community. The largest testament to his legacy is the R. Buckminster Fuller Institute and their annual international competition the Buckminster Fuller Design Challenge.

According to the institution’s website $100,000 is given “…to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. Named “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award” by Metropolis Magazine, it attracts bold, visionary, tangible initiatives focused on a well-defined need of critical importance. Winning solutions are regionally specific yet globally applicable and present a truly comprehensive, anticipatory, integrated approach to solving the world’s complex problems.”

In 2012 at an awards ceremony held here in NYC at Cooper Union The International Living Future Institute was awarded first prize for their “Living Building Challenge” initiative.  According to the institute’s website the Living building Challenge is:

-a PHILOSOPHY, ADVOCACY PLATFORM AND CERTIFICATION PROGRAM. Because it defines priorities on both a technical level and as a set of core values, it is engaging the broader building industry in the deep conversations required to truly understand how to solve problems rather than shift them.

-an EVOCATIVE GUIDE. By identifying an ideal and positioning that ideal as the indicator of success, the Challenge inspires project teams to reach decisions based on restorative principles instead of searching for ‘least common denominator’ solutions. This approach brings project teams closer to the objectives we are collectively working to achieve.

-a BEACON. With a goal to increase awareness, it is tackling critical environmental, social and economic problems, such as: the rise of persistent toxic chemicals; climate change; habitat loss; the collapse of domestic manufacturing; global trade imbalances; urban sprawl; and the lack of community distinctiveness.

-a ‘UNIFIED TOOL’. Addressing development at all scales, it can be equally applied to landscape and infrastructure projects; partial renovations and complete building renewals; new building construction; and neighborhood, campus and community design.

-a PERFORMANCE-BASED STANDARD. Decidedly not a checklist of best practices, the Challenge leads teams to embrace regional solutions and respond to a number of variables, including climate factors and cultural characteristics.

-a VISIONARY PATH TO A RESTORATIVE FUTURE

The challenge seeks to encourage designers to bridge the gap between the built environment and the surrounding ecosystems thus reinventing the typical developers’ business model and transforming the role of the building occupant from passive to more of an involved partnership with the earth and her resources.

For all manner of development the Living Building Principles are applicable, whether, “… a single building, a park, a college campus or even a complete neighborhood community, Living Building Challenge provides a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment.”

You can download a complete document that outlines the specific requirements and benchmarks that must be met to receive certification HERE.

With its radical and rigorous requirements, this is more than “green washing”.  This is an excerpt from a statement released by The Fuller Institute after the award ceremony;

“The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is setting the standard for how to build in the 21st century by establishing the highest bar yet for environmental performance and ecological responsibility within the built environment … by “building a new model” and establishing new benchmarks for non-­‐toxic, net-­‐zero structures… The Living Building Challenge goes far beyond current best practices, reframing the relationship between the built and natural environments. LBC seeks to lead the charge toward a holistic standard that could yield an entirely new level of integration between building systems, transportation, technology, natural resources, and community. If widely adopted, this approach would significantly enhance the level of broad-­‐based social collaboration throughout the design and building process and beyond, dramatically reducing the destructiveness of current construction, boost the livability, health, and resilience of communities … the International Future Living Institute is charting a new and critically needed course in an industry that arguably remains one of the most consumptive … The LBC’s model of regenerative design in the built environment could provide a critical leverage point in the roadmap to a sustainable future and is an exemplary trim tab in its potential to catalyze innovation in such a high impact, high consumption industry…”

This is a valuable new asset and tool for the green building and green contracting community in NYC nd abroad in the fight for a greener and livable tomorrow.

 

https://ilbi.org/lbc  -living building challenge website

http://challenge.bfi.org/Winners/Challenge_Winners

http://bfi.org/  -Buckminster-fuller institute website

Building For the Climate Apocalypse

First 2000, and now 2012: Years in which people think the world might possibly end.

The world probably won’t end with a bang, but might just crumble beneath the accumulated consequences of our actions.

Meanwhile, American politicians’ opinions of science, especially climate science, are at an alarming low.  Sometimes TV makes me wonder if there are people who think a 2012 apocalypse is more plausible than global warming.

Watching GOP candidates in debate is a bittersweet experience.  On one hand, the stupid things they occasionally blurt out invariably wind up on YouTube for my amusement.

You-becky-becky becky-becky-stan-stan, anyone?

On the other hand, these guys have a fair shot at becoming arguably the most powerful person in the world.   That’s where the bitter comes in.  They speak in a  sober, defiantly ignorant voice, with the seeming expectation that what they don’t know doesn’t matter.

Sometimes it does matter (a combination of egregious dumbness and sexual sketchiness shamed Cain off the stage) but what scares me is when it doesn’t.

Take Rick Santorum, for example.  Here’s a short excerpt and transcript from a Q&A session he did in New Hampshire last week.

Someone asked how he integrated recent findings of climate change into his policies.  He waved away the whole issue by using scientists, icebergs, and tail-wagging dogs in a meandering metaphor to demonstrate why climate science is not worth considering.

And when he was done talking, people clapped!  Kind of half-heartedly, but still! That stopped The only thing more frightening than ignorance is ignorance with power.

Basically, he argued that there are so many factors so we can’t know for sure what’s causing any changes.  Nevermind that just about anybody with a lick of sense agrees that we’re making a lot of CO2, which gets stuck in the atmosphere.

Nevermind that nobody knows the perfect method for, oh, say, oil mining, but they rough through it anyway because the result is valuable.  Not knowing something doesn’t mean that we should give up; it means we should devote more resources toward finding the answer.  Santorum using ambiguity as a reason to disregard the question only draws attention to how his party has utterly failed at giving climate science the support it needs.

Around Christmas, a short piece showed up in the New York Times about how climate science is stagnating, despite 2011 being one of the most extreme weather years on record.

In May of 2011, 100% of Texas was abnormally dry.  48% was officially in exceptional drought conditions–that’s even more extreme than “extreme drought.”

At the other extreme, New Jersey had an extreme winter: 50.7 inches (more than four feet) fell in my hometown of New Brunswick.  I’ve lived there for 15 years but can count the white Christmases we’ve had on one hand.

These are quick and dirty examples of extreme weather conditions with immediate effects at home.  Objective truths about global warming will emerge as trends in data analysis performed by climate scientists, and I’d like these truths to emerge before they show up as three feet of snow on my car every other week.

It’s true that there are hundreds of factors that contribute to climate change, but it’s stubbornly naive to claim as Santorum does that CO2, as a byproduct of industrial processes, is not the primary actor.  It’s true that climate science and efforts to change energy use in major industries can incur significant costs, but so can bad weather.  The final cost of this year’s weather extremes is still being tallied, but will likely surpass $50 million.  That’s in comparison to a typical year that costs the U.S. $3 or $4 billion.

Making sense of these changing weather patterns will require scientists to analyze large amounts of data, integrating trends over years and millions of square miles.  They need personnel, and concerted support from the Federal government, not half-assed pooh-poohing from a man who could well become President.

The GOP in general sets a bad example by blocking efforts to organize and increase funding for climate research initiatives.  Republicans overwhelmingly deny the general consensus on global warming,  disparaging it instead as a “propaganda attempt” by the Obama administration.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy still finance climate research, but many scientists find that there’s not enough to go around.

This research also has valuable practical applications.  Our company, for example, depends on climate data to calculate things like insulation thickness, heating and cooling loads, and gutter sizes.  We’re a green contractor, so energy efficiency is more crucial to our calculations, but every building depends on this information being accurate.  The more efficient our homes, the more money clients save.

Global change affects everyone, not just Americans, so hopefully other governments will have more sense than Congress and fund this crucial research.   Passive houses, for example, have greater momentum in Europe than in the U.S., so more resources are available to passive builders and passive houses are cheaper to build.

And what does all this have to do with Eco Brooklyn, beyond normal climate calculations?  As green contractors, we obviously take the local environment of each home into consideration when designing a plan for energy efficiency.  Compare that with, say, a large non-green building company like Toll Brothers, who may build the same exact house in Texas as in Nebraska.

Now that the environment is hitting higher record temperatures and precipitation levels than ever, Eco Brooklyn is venturing into what we call “Survival Building.”

We’ve started taking examples from extreme climates and integrating them into New York’s brownstones, in order to prepare them against heat waves, snap freezes, and flash floods.  We take inspiration from the “Earthship” and “Passive House” movements, which focus on installing tight insulation and maximizing solar gain to reduce heating and cooling needs.  These homes remain naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  We put up a blog post recently that explains these concepts in detail.

Our our buildings consider rainwater runoff seriously.  We build green roofs, dry wells, rain gardens, and other water harvesting systems to reduce flooding.

We use clay walls in our houses that work like adobe walls in Pueblo architecture.  If they can endure the New Mexico heat, they can handle New York heat waves, with the benefit of retaining heat in winter.  Our passive houses are sealed tight against energy loss, but the envelope also protects against extreme wind or rain.

Eco Brooklyn’s brownstones are green fortresses.

So even if we see the beginnings of a climate apocalypse in 2012, we’ll be ready, and if Santorum gets elected, at least we’ll be insulated against his hot air.

Occupy Wall Street

On 10/11/11 Eco Brooklyn, a green builder and supporter of a better America and world, went down to the Financial district to check out Occupy Wall Street. Nearly 30 days ago, a diverse group of citizens took to the street in NYC, and marched down to Zuccotti Park, formerly “Liberty Plaza Park”, placed in between Wall Street, the financial center of the U.S., and Ground Zero.

            Although formal demands will not be made, the message brought by Occupy Wall Street is clear.  They call for an end to corruption and greed, to bring about a better, cleaner, fairer world.  Cleaner, fairer, and better are all words that definitely relate to the idea of sustainability, which seems to be a theme for the protesters at OWS.  They hope to create a sustainable system of economics and government that’s not only sustainable for the people in charge and involved now, but also for the people of the future.  Similarly to OWS, Eco Brooklyn sees the need for an immediate change in the building and construction industry. For too long, a system has been used that leads to crumbling infrastructure and high energy costs, and now it’s time for an immediate change to use recycled and salvaged material to make zero energy homes.  This is a practical goal, that’s sustainable not only for the people living in the new homes, but also for the generations to come.

OWS also has areas for making and displaying art, garbage collection and recycling, a food buffet, a drum circle/music group, a webcast, an info center for volunteers, as well spaces to access the internet and charge cell phones and battery powered devices.  With mattresses and sleeping bags spread throughout these areas, one had to be careful navigating between the people protesting and things and people on the ground, but despite the difference in peoples body language and stature, the feeling of unity was unmistakable- everyone united as one, fighting for a better, fairer, cleaner world.  For more check out Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.

New Green City: A key element to Green design and construction.

On a beautiful fall day in early October, Eco Brooklyn, a New York City green contractor, took to the South Plaza of Union Square in downtown Manhattan to check out New Green City, an event hosted by GrowNYC.  The event hosted many contributors, ranging from non-profits and schools to entrepreneurs, government agencies, and corporate sponsors.  All sharing programs, services, products, and insights as to how to make New York City, New Green City through solar, wind, and agricultural terms. The tents were wide spread over the south side of Union Square, with a large crowd through most of the afternoon. 

Two really great tents were Ethikus, a online community of ethical and sustainable shoppers, that also offers deals and discounts to these great local shops in downtown Manhattan, and The New School’s Eco-Lectures focusing on sustainable foods, Eco-Farms and solar energy, giving out great information these subjects. With a ton of other great tents thanks to GrowNYC,  everyone in New York should take advantage of these great green companies.

Aside from the goal of a New Green City, at Eco Brooklyn we believe that the ultimate goal should be a total green city, built from the ground up with recycled and reused materials, and making zero energy homes.  Although the companies at New Green City don’t specialize in building, they do make great strides in lowering energy use and continuing the discussion of green policy, which are things that can not wait but happen immediately. Not only did New Green City bring together lots of outsiders to the green movement, but also created the opportunity for great minds in the green industry to collaborate, furthering our knowledge and reach as a green community. Eco Brooklyn will definitely have a tent next time, or next year, but until then, these are great ideas and options for making NYC a greener place.

Building Integrated Prayer Wheels

You’ve got the efficiencies of building mounted wind turbines and then you’ve got the efficiencies of karma.

In response to a recent Environmental Building News feature story about the inefficiencies of building-integrated wind turbines comes this subtly hilarious examination of the efficiencies of building-integrated prayer wheels.

Now of course if you are a Tibetan Buddhist, and there are many, increasing the efficiency of good karma through making prayer wheels more effective is a very serious matter. I’m all for anything that makes more good vibes.

A building integrated wind turbine is mounted on the roof and turns with wind. A building integrated prayer wheel is mounted at street level and is turned by people’s hands. With each turn of either wind turbine or prayer wheel you generate energy. Whether it is electricity or good karma, its all just energy.

db_prayer-wheel-9f1

Cell Phone Control

Here is something from Bau-Biologie that is interesting:

Microwave Radiation – Cell phones, Wi-Fi
Are they safe?

As fast as possible, our society is becoming more and more technologically oriented. Homes, schools, offices, entire communities are making decisions to go wireless. Cell phones are proliferating at an alarming rate. These devices were never pre-market tested for your safety. There is an incorrect assumption that the government has “approved” these and that the research shows these are safe.

What are the hazardous levels of microwave radiation? It all depends on with whom you speak. From the perspective of Building Biology, it is when the cell structure or bio-communication of an organism starts to exhibit variations from a natural baseline. For example, if blood cells start to clump together at specific electromagnetic field strength, then this would be characterized as a variation of normal cellular activity, a deviation from the natural baseline, and therefore hazardous. Whether or not a person would exhibit a symptomatic response is NOT the determining factor, but that is the basis for most industrial standards – radiation is safe unless the skin actually burns.

Independent, medical science continues to provide mounting evidence that radiation from wireless communication devices, including cell phones, cordless, and the WiFi now deployed across schools, hospitals and offices, produces dangerous health effects. It is important for you to take protective steps as a consumer. We are concerned with eliminating as much as possible, the man-made artificial stimuli that can bring about this change. Thus, we hope to prevent the chronic low-level exposures that are very significant concerning health issues.

What can I do about it?

There are, however, some initial steps you can take today to protect you from EMR exposure.

1. Minimize all exposure and usage of wireless communication: cell phones, cordless phones, and WiFi devices.
2. Turn cell phone off when not in use and definitely when sleeping. Never keep it near your head or use it to play games, movies, etc.
3. Keep cell phone at least 6-7 inches away from your body and others while on, talking, texting and downloading.
4. Never keep cell phone in pocket or on hip all day. The hip produces 80% of the body’s red blood cells and is especially vulnerable to EMR damage. The close proximity may also affect fertility.
5. Do not talk on cell or cordless phone when pregnant, with a baby/small child in arms, under age 16, or while in a vehicle (car, train, plane, subway) – the radiation gets trapped and is higher in these closed metal zones!
6. Replace all cordless and WiFi items with wired, corded lines (phones, Internet, games, appliances, devices, etc.). The cordless phone base emits high levels of EMR – even when no one is making a call. (900MHz Analog cordless phones are okay)
7. Minimize/space out computer use, sit back from the screen; flat screens are preferable. Use wired Internet connections, not WiFi – especially for laptops. Keep laptops off of the body and preferably on wooden surfaces.
8. Keep a low-EMR sleep, home, and personal zone. Move alarm clock radio at least 3 feet from head or use battery power; 6 feet is the recommended distance from all electronic devices during sleep.
9. Avoid waterbeds, electric and metal frames. Futons/wood frames are better than metal-coiled mattresses and box-springs. Metals attract EMR: keep them away from and off of the body.
10. Ensure that there are no electrical appliances, power meters, or circuit panels on the exterior or interior wall of bedrooms.

Hot Water Home Run, Return and Mixing

Here is an image of the proposed plumbing setup for the green show house in Brooklyn. Chester Birchwood from New York Solar Systems is installing it.

It has three interesting components. These apply to hot water only since we are really managing the amount of energy we added to the hot water. The cold water doesn’t apply to the same needs as you may see below.

1. Hot water home runs.
This is when all hot water pipes in the house, usually 1/2″ thick, go directly from the boiler to the outlet with an individual line each. Or instead of each outlet you could do home runs to each floor in the house, where there is an individual line going from the boiler to each seperate floor. This is instead of the normal way of having a main hot water pipe, usually 3/4 inch, that is called a riser and has 1/2″ branches off of it going to each outlet.

The problem with the main riser option is that when you turn on the faucet it takes a long time for all the cold water in the larger 3/4″ inch pipe to flow down the drain until eventually the hot water arrives. The home run means there is a smaller 1/2″ pipe going directly to that one faucet. This means less water has to run down the drain until the hot water arrives. The difference between 3/4″ and 1/2″ is actually a lot of water so with the home run you wait less time for the hot and you also waste less water waiting.

2. Hot water return.
A hot water return setup is when there is a pipe that is connected to the hot water pipe near the outlet and it returns back to the boiler. In this configuration you have a pump on the line that is constantly circulating the hot water in a loop. This means there is instant hot water when you turn on the tap.

Normal builders use this set up for user convenience because it is luxurious to have instant hot water. But there is a green aspect since you aren’t wasting water down the drain waiting for the hot water to come. Green builders are using the hot water return to save water more than the convenience of having hot water 30 seconds sooner.

But there is energy wasted as the heat escapes out of the constantly hot pipe (even if it is insulated). The boiler has to keep reheating the water. And the pump also consumes electricity. Normal builders don’t care since this is normally done for high end buildings where money (or ecology) is not the main concern.

For green builders this wasted energy is an issue. It defeats the purpose of saving water. A few solutions are normally used to solve this. The first is to have a switch near the faucet that turns on the pump for 30 seconds. Instead of turning the faucet on and waiting 30 seconds you flick the switch, wait 30 second, THEN turn on the faucet for your “instant” hot water.

A variation on this is to have an automatic sensor near the faucet (usually motion sensor) that turns the pump on when you move in front of it. Thus you avoid having to remember to flick the switch. This later option is not great since studies have shown there are too many false alarms, i.e. somebody simply walking by the sensor.

Another option is to avoid the sensor or switch and put the pump on a timer, for example so that it turns on every morning for an hour and then again in the evening for an hour. This means during peak usage there will be hot water on demand (and thus no wasted water waiting for it). And when people rarely use the hot water (middle of the night for example) the pump is also sleeping and no energy is wasted.

A variation on that, and some say a better one, is to put a temperature sensor on the pump and use a variable speed pump. This means it will pump water until a certain temperature is reached and then it will slow down the water pumping to a slow trickle. One plumber who does this says that the electricity used to power the pump at that speed is almost nothing. “So little electricity you could put your tongue on it”, he says. And if the pipes are insulated you don’t need to worry too much about heat loss there. Perhaps, but I do.

This brings me to the system we are devising in our show house. We will have a combination of two methods: we will have a timer that turns the pump on only at peak periods. AND we will have a variable speed pump that slows to a trickle when the water reaches a certain temperature. And of course the pipes will be fanatically insulated.

3. Hot and cold water mixing
This one I don’t fully understand and thus am not fully sold on it yet. But Chester claims it is a good idea and he has done a good share of boiler installations. The set up is where the hot water return is mixed with the cold water from the mains right before entering the boiler. The idea is that the water entering the boiler is warmer than normal and thus the boiler uses less energy to heat it up. My confusion here is that I don’t see why you would want to cool the water that is circulating in the pipes of the hot water return. I still have to get my head around this one.

External Transparent Heat Transfer Wall


I’m experimenting with a transparent heat transfer wall.
It would be a transparent wall attached to the outer south wall, leaving about one inch between them. The out wall would be painted a dark color. Ideally it would be black but that would be too much of an eye sore. So dark brown would be fine. This way it would attract maximum heat from the sun.

The sun would pass through the transparent outer wall and hit the dark inner wall and get hot. The air trapped within the two walls would heat up and rise, pulling more air from below that would in turn heat up.

During the winter we could have an air passage from that area into the house where the hot air could pass. Because of the pressure of rising hot air it would naturally get pushed into the house. This technology works since I’ve seen similar set ups.

I have thought of another use for the same system but have yet to run it by engineers to see if my physics is right. In the summer the passage to the house would be closed and another one going outside would be opened. This means, if my theory is correct, that the hot air would pass up and back out into the outside, thus pulling heat from the house into the atmosphere.

This seems to be a good natural heating and cooling system using the thermodynamics of simple rising hot air and the sun. The wall could easilly be made out of glass or Plexiglas.

Adding Solar gain and recyclables to Facade


Above: Facade with planter and recycled joists.

Originally the top facade of the building had a lot of rotted wood. And there was a great view. So in the heat of the summer I tore down the wall and planned on adding a wall of glass. It would have been magnificent.

But then as the cooler weather came I came to my senses and realized the large window was on the north side. To have it would be a huge heat drain on the house. I basically made a colossal mistake. This is green building 101.

So I took the windows I had already bought for the space and put them on the south side of the house. This creates a very powerful passive heating element as the sun pours into the house and heats it. Solar gain to the max.

Then I was faced with doing something with the gaping hole on the north side. Some of the old slate had been broken when we took down the wall so we had a problem. We didn’t have enough slate to built it back nor could we buy similar stuff. Do we take down the rest of the remaining slate and replace it or what? Taking it down is so not green.

So I decided to get a little artsy and use the slate we have for the lower part of the facade. For the upper part we are going to create siding out of salvaged wood joists. We are going to shape it in a “V” shape and at the base of the V we will put a large planter that will collect the water from the siding above it.

The planter will be made of two triangular sides attached to the facade to create a harmony of triangular shapes with the larger triangle formed by the siding.

Even though the planter box will be very well insulated and one of its three sides will be against a heated house we will use plants that don’t need sun or warmth since the cold winds can be harsh up there. Water probably won’t be an issue since we’ll use water retaining materials in the earth.

The planter will help insulate the north wall, provide greenery, allow us to recycle old joists and keep the existing slate. This is a great example of green building.

Pre Construction:
The truly green thing would have been to repair the damaged wood and leave the windows as they are in this picture. But in the heat of renovation we got these grand ideas to make a wall of glass. Being in an environment you love is green to but not at the expense of wasted energy when you can have just as nice windows but on the south side….

And so we tore the facade off:

But then we realized our mistake and tore the south wall down to put the already ordered windows there. The sun shines in wonderfully making a fantastic space and heating us up. In the summer this heat can be a problem so we plan on having good passive ventilation, blinds, and solar panels above the windows that will also act as awnings when the sun’s angle is high in the sky during the summer months. During the winter months the sun’s angle will be low enough to pass under the panels.
The south opening:

Zero Energy Houses

One technology I have my eyes on is developed by Isomax.

They build homes that require basically no heating or cooling at all, regardless of where the house it. How do they do it?

They use a series of air and water tubes and ducts to pass heat and cold around. They have tubes in the roof and walls that pass either into the earth outside the house or into the earth beneath the house. The area outside the house cools the tubes and the area beneath the house heats the house. The same happens with the air ducts.

The area beneath the house becomes a heat storage area as hot water from the roof and walls during the summer passes under the house and leaves the heat. Then during the winter that very same heat is still there but only now it is taken out of the earth and put back into the house.

The house takes two or three years to really get going because you need one or two summers to get the ground under the house warmed up but after that you can expect a house that stays the same constant temperature throughout the whole year.

It is a very interesting technology.

Passiv Haus (Passive House)

A “new” construction style coming out of Germany creates houses that barely need energy to run. They don’t even have heating systems. In the dead of winter they might need a little space heater but that is is. What is the secret?

Insane amounts of insulation, triple pane windows, fanatic air sealing, smart solar design, good air circulation and efficient appliances.

Here is a list from their site:

Compact form and good insulation:
All components of the exterior shell of the house are insulated to achieve a U-factor that does not exceed 0.15 W/(m²K) (0.026 Btu/h/ft²/°F).

Southern orientation and shade considerations:
Passive use of solar energy is a significant factor in passive house design.

Energy-efficient window glazing and frames:
Windows (glazing and frames, combined) should have U-factors not exceeding 0.80 W/(m²K) (0.14 Btu/h/ft²/°F), with solar heat-gain coefficients around 50%.

Building envelope air-tightness:
Air leakage through unsealed joints must be less than 0.6 times the house volume per hour.

Passive preheating of fresh air:
Fresh air may be brought into the house through underground ducts that exchange heat with the soil. This preheats fresh air to a temperature above 5°C (41°F), even on cold winter days.

Highly efficient heat recovery from exhaust air using an air-to-air heat exchanger:
Most of the perceptible heat in the exhaust air is transferred to the incoming fresh air (heat recovery rate over 80%).

Hot water supply using regenerative energy sources:
Solar collectors or heat pumps provide energy for hot water.

Energy-saving household appliances:
Low energy refrigerators, stoves, freezers, lamps, washers, dryers, etc. are indispensable in a passive house.

Fanatic Insulation

I have a moto that I live by when building: Fanatic Insulation. I’m not sure if I coined the phrase but I think I did :). We use weather barrier, caulk, insulation, foam, flashing etc like there we’re building an antarctic deep sea submarine.

Considering some European standards, notably in Germany, our insulation style actually isn’t that fanatic. Just recently I was reading about homes in Germany that are so well insulated that in the dead of winter all they need is a little portable heater to heat the entire home. Or one small fireplace. Now that is energy smart!

A house needs to seen as a living entity and a renovation is an operation. When you sew them back up again it needs to be done with thoroughness and accuracy. You wouldn’t leave a patient with a gaping hole in them and the same applies to a house. It needs to be sealed correctly with the correct materials.

Otherwise “infection” will occur. In the form of wood rot from water, wasted energy from air, etc.

Now of course the houses in Germany aren’t just warm because of insulation. They are “passive houses” and of course passive heat from the sun helps.

And if a house is fanatically insulated then you have to give it “artificial lungs” since it is no longer breathing through the cracks in the walls. Fans, windows, air circulators and vents need to be added intelligently so that the house can breathe otherwise the very well insulated air stagnates in it’s own soup.

The key in this is to do it more effectively than the cracks in the wall that while letting the house breathe also let in the elements. A heat transfer plate is one cool tool where the heat going out the house heats the air coming into the house. Likewise you can have the same tool for the water; where the hot water going out of the house (shower, dishwasher etc) heats the water coming into the house through heat transfer coils.

Laying the foundation for the concrete slab

We have completely dug down the cellar by 3 and 1/2 feet. Then we put a vapour barrier and 3 inch insulation which we taped at the seams. Then we put down the salvaged fencing from the back yard to act as strengthener for the cement. On the fence we tied the pex tubing for the radiant head.

Meanwhile on the ceiling we are insulating the pipes. Fanatical insulation is the trick to green building.

The next step is to pour the cement.

Inserting the Insulation Into the Roof Ceiling

We are inserting the salvaged poly iso insulation board into the top floor ceiling of the house between the joists. All the joists have been sistered with “new” salvaged joists. You can see the bolts holding them together. We are packing four layers of poly iso board, making it an air tight R 36. The roof insulation is obviously the most important in terms of insulation so we are making it very well insulated.

Below the insulation will be a radiant barrier of aluminum foil that will reflect back the heat into the building. On top of the roof will be two inches of waterproof extruded polystyrene insulation board and then the earth for the green roof.

After all this, the roof will be very well insulated, probably close to R 50. Since the Poly ISO is salvaged from another job it is very cheap so we are using as much as we can possibly fit into the space. It is the same Poly ISO we are selling on the main page.

inserting polyiso insulation into the ceiling

Above: inserting polyiso insulation into the ceiling

Below: you can see the poly iso has all been inserted. You can also see the joists. On some we have added two more, making three sistered joists in some places. These joists are each 3x8 inches thick. We did this to make the roof as strong as possible to carry the green roof. It should last another 100 years.

About House Wrap and Tar Paper

Here is an interesting article. It describes all the kinds of house wraps and vapor barriers in detail. It also concludes that despite all the fancy new products the good old tar paper is still the preferred product for the author.

I like building that sticks to the basics and avoids as much as possible fancy high tech products. If it can be manufactured simply without lots of machinery then it is more ecological. Of course tar paper has tar, ie oil, but all the other wraps are also petro chemical based too….

So for our green project on 2nd street we are going with tar paper for the vapor barrier between the bricks and insulation. Then between the insulation and the inside sheet rock we will use a radiant barrier for more sealing and to radiate the heat back into the house.

The file is here.housewrap-tar-paper

Insulation Has Arrived!

Insulation from Eco Brooklyn Inc with Gennaro Brooks-Church

Insulation from Eco Brooklyn Inc with Gennaro Brooks-Church

Green Building is like life: it is all about energy. How you control it, who has it, where it is flowing, and where it isn’t flowing. You control the energy and you have a great house (possibly a great life too).

So obviously insulation plays a huge part ini green building. Green building typically insulates a lot more than normal building. We’d rather spend more up front and less later in utility bills. Utility bills are wasteful and in imperfection. Ideally we will get to the point that houses are built so well that you don’t have any utility bills.

In terms of insulation there are many choices. Of course fiberglass batts are out. They have a lot of embodied energy, most off gas formaldehyde and they don’t even insulate well.

Icenyne spray foam is touted as green and although it seals well it is so not green. That is the biggest scam in the green building industry. All spray foam is made from petro chemicals, even the so called soy based foam that has at most 30% soy and 70% petrolium. The main ingredient for all of them is isocyanate, which is only made by four multy billion dollar companies and it is basically oil.

The greenest insulation is cellulose. Recycled paper. Recycled is always the greenest way to go.

BUT all insulation, foam, fiberglass and cellulose only gets around an R4 per inch and in space starved Brooklyn I wanted more. I found a company that sells once used (READ RECYCLED) foam board called POLYISO. Read this to see how great it is. At only 1.5 inches thick it packs at least an R9 and is by far the best R value out there.

And because it is once used it has already off gassed any small amounts of VOC’s it might have had.

I need about 2000 square feet of it. I’m going to put 4 layers in the roof plus a radiant barrier to make a whopping R36 and this does not include the green roof on top. Insulating the roof is so important.

Then I’m going to put one layer in the external walls. With the one foot of brick that will be an R21.

I also have to put it around the border of the building on every floor between the joists to keep the radiant heat in my house.

I also need 1600 square feet of Extruded Polystyrine, which is waterproof, to put under the green roof and under the radiant heated concrete slab in the cellar.

So I need about 3600 square feet. I bought 12,500 square feet of insulation!!!! I couldn’t help it! I got a good deal and I really feel the greenest thing is for me to pay one big truck to bring the stuff to Brooklyn and redistribute it to others instead of everyone getting small trucks (which as it turns out isn’t cost effective anyway).

So bottom line: I have insulation for sale. Lots of it. CHEAP, at least half price. Be green and get some! Contact me for details.

unloading the insulation from the 53 foot 18 wheeler

unloading the insulation from the 53 foot 18 wheeler

making space

making space

starting to pack the insulation

starting to pack the insulation

getting full

getting full

taking over the yard

taking over the yard

Building Green Notes

I discovered a great web site today called Radiant Heat Institute.com
It is a godsend for a builder like me who likes to build cheap and green. He has loads of practical info. Very good site.

Here is from his site on how to build green:

1. Locate house with south orientation, +5 or – 5 degrees of due south is best. House to be elongated along the east-west axis for optimum exposure.

2. 8% to 12 % of floor area to be south facing glazing. South glazing must be vertical to prevent overheating in the summer. In general avoid the use of skylights but if used, they should be designed with much caution and thought as to thermal gain and loss.

3. Passive design houses can be direct gain, Trombe walls, mass walls, water walls or isolated gain (sunspaces or greenhouses). For the majority of designs, direct gain or isolated gain are used. Direct gain design relies on the interior mass of the house to store the solar heat.

4. Optimally insulating the house envelope is the most important issue – R20 (3.52 rsi) walls, R30 (5.29 rsi) roof, R10 (1.76 rsi) footer. Make the envelope like a thermos bottle. There is no compromise on this issue. Insulate on the exterior of mass walls. The mass walls will act as a thermal flywheel keeping the temperature of the space consistent through the day and night. Insulation must block any thermal path to the exterior. Keeping surface temperatures up (mean radiant temperature) and interior internal mass are the keys to a successful thermal environment and the proper placement of insulation is the tool for achieving this.

5. Use fixed or adjustable overhangs to block out sun completely from May 1 to July 30. Full sun should be allowed on Dec. 21. This rule will vary according to the local latitude and climate conditions.

6. Locate living areas and high activity areas on south side of house.

7. Locate closets, storage, garage and less active rooms on north side of house.

8. Locate baths, kitchen and laundry facilities near the water heater’s location to minimize pipe runs and energy loss.

9. Keep exterior entries away from wind. Air lock entries are always a good idea.

10. Keep infiltration to a minimum. Eliminate unwanted air entry. In very tight houses, an air to air heat exchange for ventilation is a good idea.

11. Free ventilation (operable windows) should be 6% to 7.5% of floor area. Half on the leeward side and half on the windward side.

12. It is best to use mass floors (stone, marble, tile) only where sun strikes floor. Floors in other areas should be of a light density, such as wood or carpet.

13. In less than favorable passive solar orientation or design, use hydronic radiant floors. If optimum passive design is utilized, there is no need for a radiant floor. If radiant floors are used, solar heating of the water is ideal because of the lower temperatures required for floor heating. Insulation under the radiant floor is required.

14. Double pain windows on south exposure, on other exposures use triple pane or low-E glass especially north glass which should be kept to a minimum.

15. Keep west facing glass to a minimum to reduce summer overheating. If required for a view, use high shading coefficient glass or low-E glass (or reflective blinds).

16. To optimize passive gain, use night window insulation such as shutters or insulative curtains.

17. South exposure sunspaces (greenhouses) are solar rooms attached to the south side of the house. In Italy south facing terraces would be ideal to close in with glazing that could be opened in summer. The terrace can be closed off from the main house and opened and closed as needed. South glazing should be a maximum of 6″ above the mass floor to allow optimum sun exposure to the mass floors. The floor perimeter or floor itself must be insulated as do all the columns and walls.

18. Use active solar panels for water heating. Insulate pipe and storage.

19. Without a doubt for maximum thermal comfort and cost effectiveness, the best use of the construction funds is to put it into the envelope rather than the heating system. If the envelope is designed with optimal passive solar features, the size and sophistication of the heating system can be designed to be much more economical plus the utility bills will be much less.

20. Use natural landscape to help both in controlling winds and shade for natural cooling

Energy Efficiency Seminar

Last week I attended an Energy Efficiency Seminar hosted by Landmark West!, The Community Preservation Corporation and Steven Winter Associates, Inc.

I covered the many ways to make a building more efficient. First we looked at where the energy goes, from heating, to hot water, to appliances, to holes in roof. We learned the percentages for each and got an in depth understanding of how to prioritize our energy improvement plan.

For example, if windows waste 10% of the energy and cost $10,000 to replace but a hole in the attic wastes 10% of the energy and costs $25 to fix then obviously go for the hole.

The basic message of the seminar was that you should go for the low hanging fruit. They will fix the vast majority of the energy issues and cost the least amount of money.

Basically, the low hanging fruit are the holes. Most energy is wasted via holes in the house envelope. And most of these issues can be fixed for almost no money.

The mantra is: “Find Hole, Fill Hole.”

Places to look the are most important are where the house pressure is highest: at the base of the house and at the top of the house.

The base of the house has a lot of inward pressure where cold air is being sucked into the house. The top of the house has a lot of outward pressure where valuable hot air is being pushed out of the house.

Find the holes any way you can. For the little killer holes a lighter or smoking candle can show you the draft. Fill with caulk, spray foam and putty.

If you do this it will amaze you how much energy will be saved. And money.

A house has to be really in terrible shape for you to need to put insulation in the walls, replace the appliances, and get new windows. These would be the next steps but the “Find Hole, Fill Hole,” is definitely the most important first step.

Three Types of Heat Transfer

When talking heat there are three ways heat or cold moves through space. Knowing these ways is important because it determines what kind of insulation you use or on the opposite end what kind of heating to use.

Convective heat transfer is what most of us are familiar with. This is how our forced air heating system or our baseboard system transfers energy (heat) to a space. Air moves over a heating element, becomes warmer and expands into the space. In a forced air environment, most of the hot air is at the ceiling, much the same way the hot air balloon rises, so will the warm air in a room heated with forced air. Convective heat transfer is the least efficient means to transfer energy.

In terms of insulation convection happens when thee is a crack in the window or a hole in the insulation. Hot and cold air passed through the space via convection. Stop convection by sealing all holes in the house, aka seal the envelope.

Conductive heat transfer refers to two surfaces touching each other. Imagine a metal pan on the stove. If your hand is positioned an inch above the hot handle, you really won’t feel much from the handle, and you can keep your hand there as long as you wish. But, when the handle is touched, your hand instantly begins to feel hot. This is conductive heat transfer. The pot is giving off the energy (heat) in the handle to your hand in a very fast, efficient manner.

Conduction is one of the more efficient modes of heat transfer. In home insulation you reduce it by putting bad conductors between good ones. Wood conducts heat well so you would put a material like foam that conducts poorly over the wood studs to reduce heat loss.

Radiant heat transfer is the best because it isn’t slowed down by air. Radiant energy is only felt when the energy wave strikes another surface. This means the surrounding surfaces all reach set temperature. By enclosing your body by warm surfaces, we can better control how our bodies lose heat. Radiant floor heat means better comfort with higher efficiency.

To reduce radiant heat loss the best materials are ones that literally reflect the heat. These are foil covered insulation and types of silica that also reflects heat.

Choosing Green Insulation – consider recycled foam board.

In the constant quest for a greener insulation I have considered many options.
– Cellulose is good but messy and dusty.
– Isonyne spray foam or Demilec spray foam is good but not that cheap and quite honestly not as green as they say. It takes huge amounts of energy and petroleum to create the main ingredient isocyanate.
– Formaldehyde free fiberglass is ok but still fiberglass (scratch, scratch).
– Solid foam is good and in my opinion under valued by the green community.

THEN you have RECYCLED SOLID FOAM, which I am starting to think is the way to go.
It comes out at the same price as normal fiberglass batts but is way better R value when you air seal the boards correctly. And it is RECYCLED.

In my opinion normal (non-green) recycled materials is better than new green material. Why make more when it has already been made.

ALSO, foam board does off gas a little BUT almost all of that happens in the first few months or year. And since it is recycled it has already off gassed! Now that is a fantastic side benefit of recycling!

Further info I found on the web

Whether it takes the form of batt, loose fill, sprayed-in foam, or rigid foam, insulation is an essential part of any housing. Insulation slows the transfer of heat (energy) from warmer areas to colder areas. It can also serve to reduce noise. Insulation effectiveness is typically measured in R-value. A higher R-value for insulation is better. A well-constructed insulation system will help reduce air infiltration and heat transfer and help control moisture. All of these factors need to come together to produce a comfortable and healthy living environment. The following analysis examines the relative economic, energy, and environmental impacts of the following insulation types: fiberglass batt, blown and loose fill cellulose, blown fiberglass, foamed-in-place polyisocyanurate or polyicynene, extruded polystyrene, expanded polystyrene, and rigid polyisocyanurate.

Recommendations
Loose fill, blown and batt insulation is more cost effective in walls and attics than rigid board insulation. Foamed-in-place insulation should be used when budget permits, its high R-value combined with excellent air sealing increase the overall performance of the assembly. Look for insulation materials that have stable R-values over time.
Extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation with CFC or HCFC’s as blowing agents should not be used. Rigid insulation alternatives include: wood fiberboard, (some made entirely from recycled cellulose), expanded polystyrene (EPS), fiberglass board, or cellular glass board.

Insulation Fact Sheet:

alternatives

cost/sq. ft./R (materials & labor)

energy (R- value per inch)

IAQ

expected product life (years)

life cycle thinking

practice

fiberglass batt

.03

3.2

typical

15

standard

standard

cellulose blown and loose fill

.02

3.7

good

15

good

standard

fiberglass blown

.04

2.2

good

15

standard

standard

foamed-in-place polyisocyanurate
or polyicynene

not available

3.6-5.0

better

15-30

better

requires trained installer

rigid perimeter: extruded

0.14

5.0

typical

10-15

standard

standard

rigid perimeter: expanded

0.13

3.85

typical

15

good

standard

rigid perimeter: polyisocyanurate

0.09

7.2

typical

15-30

better

standard

Criteria Summaries
Cost: Loose fill, blown and batt insulation materials have a low cost per R-value and rigid board materials. Higher first costs associated with increased insulation thickness of any type may be recouped over the life cycle of the building through reduced heating and cooling costs. Premium costs associated with insulation with higher R-values per inch not only reduce operating costs but also use less material.
Energy: Rigid insulations typically have a higher R-value per inch than batt or blown insulations.
IAQ: If left undisturbed in wall cavities and attic spaces insulation poses no threat to human health. Respiratory masks should be worn when handling fiberglass and mineral wool batts, since they may potentially release fibers into the air during handling.
Expected Product Life: The R-value of most insulation materials decreases with aging. Polyisocyanurate and polyicynene have the longest expected life with the greatest R-value stability. Loss of R-value can be attributed to several different factors. Batt insulation can slump in cavities, or become damaged by moisture. These effects can be limited by proper construction and detailing. Rigid insulation can shrink and or dry over time, while loose fill insulation can settle, decreasing its effectiveness.

Life Cycle Thinking:
• Energy consumption (non-renewable, fossil fuel energy): The manufacturing process for fiberglass and mineral wool batts is energy intensive although less than for rigid products. Where recycled content is higher, energy impacts related to manufacture are further reduced. Rigid insulations have high embodied energy from extraction through production, though they offer higher R-value per inch thickness, and require less material overall.
• Pollutants generated in production: Extruded polystyrenes still use HCFC’s, while expanded and some polyisocyanurates use alternative agents.
• Potential for off-gassing: Not an issue when insulation is not exposed to the interior.
• Durability of the product: Prolonged contact with moisture can cause the paper backing on batt insulation to deteriorate, and also mat down batt and blown insulation, reducing the effective R-value of the material.
• Potential for future recycling: Blown insulation suffers from settlement, but can be recovered easily for reuse. Certain expanded polystyrene rigid insulation products use recycled content in their products (or at least reused waste products).
Practice: With the exception of sprayed-in-place insulations, which require training and professional installers, all insulation types are considered common practice.

Environmental Context
Reducing the amount of fuel to heat and cool also reduces environmental damage and costs. Insulation effectiveness is usually measured in R-value (thermal resistance) – the higher the R-value, the better the insulation value. Other considerations include the amount of recycled content, the ability to reuse or recycle the insulation, the ability to meet code requirements (in Minnesota amendments to the Uniform Building Code and the residential building code), and off-gassing of the products in place. Batt and blown insulation materials will generally have lower embodied energy than rigid insulation materials.

Here is some more info on Rigid Foam Board Insulation from my research

Rigid foam board insulation is a popular mass insulation product used to insulate all parts of homes, metal buildings and commercial buildings against the movement of conductive and convective heat transfer. A high insulating value for relatively little thickness makes rigid foam ideal for insulating roofs and exterior walls. Rigid insulation also substitutes well for other forms of insulation like fiberglass blankets and loose-fill cellulose in attics and floors. The water resistant nature of foam makes it well suited for use under slabs and in the ground around foundation walls.

Types of Foam Board
Rigid insulation is made of air-entrained plastic that is either extruded or pressed into sheets. There are three types of rigid foam insulation: expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS) and polyisocyanurate (polyiso), each varying in cost and R-value. Boards are available with a reflective foil facing that reduces radiant heat flow when installed next to an air space for total insulation against the three types of heat transfer, conduction, convection and radiation. If properly sealed, foil faced boards can also be used to form a vapor barrier in areas where moisture and condensation are an issue. Alternately, rigid foam can be installed in combination with reflective insulation to add a radiant or vapor barrier.

R-Values
Insulation is rated by its ability to resist convective heat flow in units called R-value. R-value gives the insulation resistance per inch of material. Construction materials with higher R-value ratings are more effective insulators than materials with lower ratings for the same thickness. The R-value is a function of the material type, thickness and density. The R-value of an insulation system is calculated by adding the R-values of the individual components together to achieve the recommended insulation protection based on climate.

R-value is helpful in comparing different types of insulation as well as different brands of the same type of insulation. Rigid foam insulation has insulation values that are almost double the R-value per inch of fiberglass or cellulose insulation. R-values for rigid foam range from 3.6 – 8 per inch. Note that R-value is not used to rate a material`s ability to resist radiant heat.

Rigid Insulation Type R-value per inch
Expanded polystyrene board 3.6 to 4
Extruded polystyrene board 4.5 to 5
Polyisocyanurate board, unfaced 5.6 to 6.3
Polyisocyanurate board, foil-faced 7-8
(Source: US Department of Energy Insulation Fact Sheet)

State and federal agencies recommend insulation R-values for different areas inside of a building based on local climate conditions with the attic requiring the most insulation. Divide the recommended R-value by the R-value per inch of the type of insulation you want to use to determine the necessary insulation thickness. If you use reflective insulation in combination, you can add in up to an additional 14.5 R depending on whether the reflective insulation has foam, plastic bubbles or fiberglass for its central layer. Foam core reflective insulation (like foam board insulation) has the highest R-value. If you use foil faced rigid insulation facing an air space, you can add an additional R-value of 2.8 without increasing the insulation thickness.

Moisture Considerations
Preventing condensation in building cavities is a major consideration for an insulation system. Rigid foam board insulation resists absorption of moisture from the atmosphere in the form of humidity and also has a low water vapor transmission rate. However, rigid foam alone cannot be used as a vapor barrier. A vapor barrier should have a permeance rating of less than 1. The permeance of 1 inch of expanded polystyrene is 2 and the permeance of 1 inch of extruded polystyrene board is 1.2. In contrast, the permeance of aluminum foil is .001. Reflective insulation or foil facing is commonly used in combination with rigid insulation to create the vapor barrier necessary to keep moisture out of the walls and ceilings where it can cause rot, mold, mildew, odors, condensation and dripping. To create the vapor barrier, all seams are tightly sealed with aluminum tape.

Moisture also creates a heat transfer problem of decreasing efficiency when insulation gets wet as water is a good conductor of heat. Rigid foam board has been shown to retain its structural integrity through freeze-and-thaw cycles. It retains very little moisture in comparison with other types of insulation like fiberglass or cellulose. The Energy Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Service found that Expanded polystyrene used in exterior foundation insulation showed moisture levels of only 0.13% after 7 years of use. They concluded that the damp insulation board still maintained between 95 and 97 percent of its original thermal efficiency and compressive strength.

Benefits of using Rigid Foam Board Insulation

* Density – Density provides hi R-value with minimum thickness making rigid insulation more resistant to air and water vapor movement than fiberglass batts or cellulose.
* High compressive strength – rigid insulation provides a solid structure under the roof deck that can withstand the weight of both equipment and light foot traffic.
* Low weight makes rigid insulation boards easy to install and less expensive to ship.
* Resists outside air infiltration when joints are sealed with tape or caulk.
* New products are made without ozone depleting chemicals for virtually no global warming impact.
* Can be installed with full coverage over studs instead of just between them to eliminate the heat loss path through framing members.
* Non-hazardous to install – no fibers or fumes to inhale, non-irritating to skin.
* No deterioration of R-value over time – rigid insulation does not lose R-Value over its service life.
* Green – A manufacturing study showed that the energy required producing polystyrene foam insulation is 24 percent less than the energy required to make the equivalent R-value of fiberglass insulation.
* Rigid insulation “breathes” instead of trapping moisture like fiberglass or cellulose and therefore does not require the venting methods used for other insulation materials to prevent trapped moisture within walls, ceilings and roofs.
* Highly resistant to mold
* Not a food for insects
* Good acoustical insulation properties
* Can be used in structural insulated panels or for insulating concrete forms.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) or beadboard, has been used as common household insulation since the 1950s. EPS is environmentally friendly as it is not manufactured using CFCs or HCFCs- both ozone-depleting chemicals. In addition to insulation, EPS is commonly used to make coffee cups and packing peanuts for shipping.

EPS is closed-cell foam made from polystyrene (a type of plastic) beads mixed with pentane and steam, used as a blowing agent, to expand the beads under pressure into foam, which forms thousands of tiny air pockets in the finished board. As air is a poor conductor of heat, these tiny air pockets will block the transfer of heat through the foam and trap expanding warm air.

EPS is molded into large sheets with R-values ranging from 3.8 to 4.4 per inch, depending on the density of the material. However, air spaces in EPS can accumulate and retain water. Because water is a good conductor of heat, some form of moisture barrier may be required to prevent this problem in high humidity areas, especially when EPS is used around foundations. To make the insulation more waterproof, EPS boards are available with optional thin foil or plastic facings.

Extruded polystyrene (XPS) or blueboard, is also a closed-cell foam insulation made from polystyrene plastic beads mixed with chemicals to turn them into a liquid before using a blowing agent to turn it into foam. The foam is forced through a shaping die, cooled and cut into panels.

XPS is more consistent in density and has a higher compressive strength than EPS making it better suited for use in roof assemblies and structural insulation panels. Higher density makes it more resistant to moisture than EPS, and XPS has a slightly higher R-value of R-5 per inch. Because of its superior properties, XPS is more expensive than EPS.

Polyisocyanurate or Polyiso, has the highest R-value per inch of thickness of the different rigid foam insulation types with an average R-value between 5.6 and 8 depending on the facing material. Facings such as plastic or aluminum foil increase its resistance to both moisture and radiant heat transfer. Polyiso is commonly used in roofs and cavity walls because of its thinness.

Polyiso is touted for being an economical choice. Its higher R-values per inch allow for savings on other building materials like thinner walls and roofs and their associated shorter fasteners.

According to the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association, polyiso is a completely green building product as it no longer is made with either of the ozone depleting chemicals – CFC and HCFC. In addition, construction site waste can be recycled. Other beneficial characteristics of polyiso include its resistance to solvents in common construction adhesives and high fire test ratings.

Foil faced polyiso insulation has the highest R-value per inch of any type of mass insulation currently produced. When installed facing an air space of at least 1″, the R-value will increase by 2.89. ASHRAE assigns a 1″ air space R- 2.77. The Masonry Advisory Council adds an additional R-2.89 to polyiso insulation for a foil facing.

Rigid foam insulation boards used to insulate the interior of masonry walls do not require an additional vapor barrier. Wood strapping is attached to the wall and the insulation is installed over the strapping. If a foil-faced board or reflective insulation is used also, the foil side should face the room and an additional layer of wood strapping is needed under the drywall to create an air space. Fire safety codes require that at least ½-inch thick gypsum board (dry-wall) be placed over rigid foam insulation. The drywall is then attached to the wood strapping or underlying masonry with nails or screws. For insulating an unventilated crawlspace, rigid insulation boards can be glued directly to the wall.

Six Steps to a Greener Home

Here are six things anyone can do to their home to make it greener. A “green home” means a lot of things. But it always includes energy efficiency. These simple things increase the efficiency of the home by attacking the most dramatic energy loss aspects of a house.

They are relatively cheap and simple steps but their energy efficiency is actually very powerful. Doing these things can in most cases save you more money on utility bills than doing anything else.

1. Add a layer to your attic insulation,
especially if your home was built before 1980. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to cut heating and cooling costs, according to the Department of Energy. As a general rule, if you have less than 12 inches of insulation in your attic, you probably need more.

2. Seal all cracks and crevices, both inside and outside your home’s building envelope.
Pay particular attention to penetrations for cable wires, plumbing pipes and electrical boxes, as well as those spots around windows and doors where siding or bricks and wood trim meet. Use expandable foam-sealant products around doors and windows, then finish off with the best-quality caulking you can find. Make sure all products are low in volatile organic compound (VOC) content to ensure good indoor air quality.

3. Seal the ducts.
More than likely, thanks to leaky ductwork, you’re heating your attic and basement and wasting energy. That’s because small cracks or holes in the ducts leak warm, conditioned air into the unheated spaces through which the ducts travel. So check your ducts for leaks, and use duct mastic (preferable) or duct tape (acceptable) to seal the leaky spots. If you’re installing ductwork in an addition or new home, consider installing the ducts in conditioned spaces, or make sure the ducts are well-insulated.

4. Install a programmable thermostat.
By programming your thermostat to lower your home’s air temperature when no one is home this winter (say, from 72 degrees to 65 degrees during the day), you can save as much as 10 percent on your heating costs. Programmable thermostats are priced from about $30, which you should be able to recoup in the first year of use.

5. Check and, if necessary, replace furnace filters,
and clean air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed. By changing filters monthly, you can save as much as 10 percent on heating costs.

6. Insulate the water heater and pipes.

If you haven’t insulated your water heater, you may be losing heat into the surrounding area, which in turn will make the water heater work overtime to keep the water hot. Consult your water heater directions or a qualified water heater professional to determine whether your water heater is properly insulated. Also, insulate hot water pipes to keep the water in them warmer longer. Insulating materials for pipes and water heaters are available at hardware and home improvement stores.

Good News for Solar

We’re entering a new era of solar energy.

Congress just passed historic solar legislation that will increase the use of solar energy all across US, and the President signed it into law. HR1424 extends the 30% solar tax credit for eight years and removes the $2000 monetary cap for residential solar electric installations.

This is a tremendous accomplishment, and is the result of many months of grassroots advocacy by the solar community, including our colleagues at Solar Energy Industries Association.

“This bill is a major step in our long journey toward energy independence and ensures that solar energy will be a significant part of America’s energy future,” said SEIA president Rhone Resch. “This long-term extension of the solar tax credits will create a domestic solar industry with hundreds of thousands of jobs while providing clean, affordable, carbon-free energy to millions of American families, businesses, and communities.”

Not only will this help families combat skyrocketing energy costs and generate thousands of green-collar jobs — but it will help homeowners save thousands of dollars to make solar energy even more affordable.

The timing is good because the National Solar Tour kicks off this weekend, making now the perfect time to learn more about solar energy. Mark your calendar!

Living with radiation

Part of building a healthy environment is keeping track of the environmental stressors. A stressor is something that alters the body in some way. It could be heat, humidity, sound, or electromagnetic fields. Stressors are not necessarily bad. We need heat and a correct level of humidity for example.

Other stressors are a trade off. Most people want Wi-Fi in their home so they can surf on their laptop while lounging on the couch. And they are willing to forego any possible dangers that the Wi-Fi signals may cause. In fact most people don’t give it any thought.

But as a builder it does need to be considered (so home dwellers don’t need to worry about it).

The truth is that electromagnetic radiation is still up in the air as to how much damage it can cause. We are seeped in it, from electricity lines in the wall or next to the house, nearby cell phone towers, Wireless devices like our phones, laptops, and countless other appliances.

This field of energy existed before electronics. The earth creates its own electromagnetic field. That is how a compass works. But today that field is greatly amplified. If you could “hear” electromagnetic radiation it would be a deafening roar compared to what it sounded like a century ago.

This energy stimulates our body. Again, that might not be bad. But it might be…

One of the most cited study is the elevated rates of cancer among people who live near high voltage electric lines. From a common sense point of view this is no mystery. If you rattle the body with huge amounts of energy it might break down.

As a builder I prefer to be safe and seriously consider how electromagnetic energy is placed in the home.

The easiest way to do this is through the electric lines in the walls, which are needed for the many plugs and switches in a house. I pay close attention to how they are laid out. You want to make special care that there are no lines along certain key places.

The most important one is where people will sleep. You need to make sure no lines run near any place where a person might possibly place their bed. At the very least you need to avoid putting lines about two feet above the floor, which is about where their head would be when sleeping.

Another possible place is in an office, where somebody might be sitting in one place for long periods of time. This one is tricky because an office also needs a lot of electric supply.

The main consideration is where to run the main lines. These lines supply each floor with juice and tend to be bigger than say a line to a single switch. The best place is to run the main line along an area where people spend little time, like under the stairs or in a corner.

This consideration is what makes a normal house a great house. It is what gives a house that unmeasurable “feel good” quality. When your body is not bombarded by unwanted stressors it can relax and heal. This is when the home truly becomes your sanctuary.

Here is something from Bau-Biologie that is interesting:

Microwave Radiation – Cell phones, Wi-Fi
Are they safe?

As fast as possible, our society is becoming more and more technologically oriented. Homes, schools, offices, entire communities are making decisions to go wireless. Cell phones are proliferating at an alarming rate. These devices were never pre-market tested for your safety. There is an incorrect assumption that the government has “approved” these and that the research shows these are safe.

What are the hazardous levels of microwave radiation? It all depends on with whom you speak. From the perspective of Building Biology, it is when the cell structure or bio-communication of an organism starts to exhibit variations from a natural baseline. For example, if blood cells start to clump together at specific electromagnetic field strength, then this would be characterized as a variation of normal cellular activity, a deviation from the natural baseline, and therefore hazardous. Whether or not a person would exhibit a symptomatic response is NOT the determining factor, but that is the basis for most industrial standards – radiation is safe unless the skin actually burns.

Independent, medical science continues to provide mounting evidence that radiation from wireless communication devices, including cell phones, cordless, and the WiFi now deployed across schools, hospitals and offices, produces dangerous health effects. It is important for you to take protective steps as a consumer. We are concerned with eliminating as much as possible, the man-made artificial stimuli that can bring about this change. Thus, we hope to prevent the chronic low-level exposures that are very significant concerning health issues.

What can I do about it?

There are, however, some initial steps you can take today to protect you from EMR exposure.

1. Minimize all exposure and usage of wireless communication: cell phones, cordless phones, and WiFi devices.
2. Turn cell phone off when not in use and definitely when sleeping. Never keep it near your head or use it to play games, movies, etc.
3. Keep cell phone at least 6-7 inches away from your body and others while on, talking, texting and downloading.
4. Never keep cell phone in pocket or on hip all day. The hip produces 80% of the body’s red blood cells and is especially vulnerable to EMR damage. The close proximity may also affect fertility.
5. Do not talk on cell or cordless phone when pregnant, with a baby/small child in arms, under age 16, or while in a vehicle (car, train, plane, subway) – the radiation gets trapped and is higher in these closed metal zones!
6. Replace all cordless and WiFi items with wired, corded lines (phones, Internet, games, appliances, devices, etc.). The cordless phone base emits high levels of EMR – even when no one is making a call. (900MHz Analog cordless phones are okay)
7. Minimize/space out computer use, sit back from the screen; flat screens are preferable. Use wired Internet connections, not WiFi – especially for laptops. Keep laptops off of the body and preferably on wooden surfaces.
8. Keep a low-EMR sleep, home, and personal zone. Move alarm clock radio at least 3 feet from head or use battery power; 6 feet is the recommended distance from all electronic devices during sleep.
9. Avoid waterbeds, electric and metal frames. Futons/wood frames are better than metal-coiled mattresses and box-springs. Metals attract EMR: keep them away from and off of the body.
10. Ensure that there are no electrical appliances, power meters, or circuit panels on the exterior or interior wall of bedrooms.

Some cool links for Mortgages and other stuff

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Residential Energy Services Network’s (RESNET)
http://www.resnet.us/directory/raters.aspx
(For trained and certified home energy raters in your service are.)

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Mortgage Industry National Home Energy Rating System Accreditation Standard
http://www.natresnet.org/programs/providers/directory.htm
(For operating home energy rating systems, by state.)

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U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Energy-Efficient Mortgages Program
http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/eem/energy-r.cfm
http://www.hud.gov/ll/code/llplcrit.html
(For a searchable list of approved energy-efficient mortgage lenders.)

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Energy Star®
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=new_homes_partners.showHomesSearch

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Built Green®
http://www.builtgreen.org/homebuyers/directory.htm

Why should you use my real estate services?

Here is my answer to “Why should I use your real estate services?”

I am a real estate professional with additional EcoBroker training on the energy and environmental issues that affect real estate transactions. There are tremendous green resources available in the market and as part of my service commitment to my clients, I help you identify and make sense of these invaluable green opportunities. I am a great facilitator in this regard.

Education makes me uniquely qualified to present the eco features of the home and help attract qualified buyers. I’m not a specialist or an expert on energy and environmental issues, but I have additional training on these issues and I have a better handle on the basics and the available resources than your standard real estate licensee. I understand the relationship between Energy Star and quality, and I can help

I look forward to working with you. Please call me at ………347 244 3016. Gennaro Brooks-Church.

Solar Panel Considerations

Solar Panels for creating home electricity have come a long way. They are cheaper and last longer than before.

Photovoltaic systems now have expected lifetimes of 20 years and more, with manufacturers offering system and individual component warranties. Contractors are also offering warranties on installation and extended service agreements.

Even in the absence of additional financial incentives, photovoltaic systems are currently available in the market place for between $5,000 and $10,000 per kilowatt. For a 4 kW residential package system, it is not unusual to see bids in the range of between $28,000 and $40,000, completely installed and operational.

Available systems include photovoltaic roofing shingles and stand-alone modules in a wide variety of configurations.

Financial incentives such as low interest loans, federal and state tax credits, grants, special utility incentives, and technical assistance are available to help offset the cost of purchasing and installing photovoltaic systems.

These incentives vary from state to state and from region to region. The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy, available at http://www.dsireusa.org/, is an excellent resource for learning about incentives available in your area.

In NY the incentives are very good. NYCERTA governs those regulations.

It is becoming more and more attractive to install solar in NY homes.