Energy Efficient Homes

Buying and Selling an Energy Efficient Home

Appraising and buying existing energy-efficient homes Looking for a conventional home to transform into an efficient home Selling your energy-efficient home for the most profit 7 he bulk of this book is dedicated to defining energy-efficiency projects you can do in or around your home. But perhaps you're interested in moving into an existing efficient home where everything has already been done for you. Or perhaps you want to move into a conventional home suitable for energy-efficiency updates...

Measuring the energyefficiency potential of a lot

A key characteristic of energy-efficient homes is that they use solar power (which also encompasses water power, wind power, breezes, landscaping, thermal mass, and so on) as much as possible, particularly the passive components like lighting and ventilation. You have to be a lot fussier about your lot when you build a solar home, not only because you may use domestic hot water supplements (refer to Chapter 16), but also because the solar philosophy relies heavily on natural lighting and...

Savings in Showers and Baths

When you're thinking about water consumption, you need to factor in two things heat and water. Heating water accounts for around 20 percent of the power bill in a home, and showers and baths use 37 percent of that. That means that around 6 percent of your power bill is dedicated to heating water for your shower and baths. You can save in both areas. I Forget baths. They'll become a thing of the past when energy rates get high enough. You simply can't take an economical bath. I Double up. Put...

Recognizing raw energy costs

Taking a look at the relative costs of different types of raw energy is illuminating. (By raw, I mean the cost at delivery to your home this doesn't take into account how you may actually use the energy within your home, or how much the equipment costs to convert the raw energy into usable form). Relatively speaking, electricity is the most costly, nuclear energy is the cheapest, and a bunch of other types of energy fall somewhere in between (see Table 2-1). Btu stands for British thermal unit,...

Considering a solar or tankless water heater

Most North Americans (almost 55 percent) heat their water with natural gas. About 38 percent heat water with electricity. (The few others heat with oil and liquid petro gas.) However, two types of water heaters are increasingly being used for their energy efficiency solar and tankless water heaters. I Solar water heaters are the best from an energy-efficiency standpoint, but the economics vary greatly from region to region and depend on your power rates and rate structure. From a pollution...

Altering your cooking techniques

You don't have to use a conventional oven to cook a hot meal. Sometimes the following appliances can do the job more efficiently I Toaster ovens Use a toaster oven for small jobs. Small toaster ovens (the kind that sit on your countertop) take much less energy than big conventional ovens. And if you know how to use them properly, you can get great browning effects. They don't cost much, but you're better off getting a good one with an automatic timer and temperature controls. i Barbeque grills...

Looking at Bills resource costs

Bill lists his resource costs as follows i Bill called PG amp E and got four years' worth of history, broken down by month. Figure 3-1 shows one of Bill's typical electric utility bills. The bill is for the period from 1 12 2007 to 2 12 2007. The total for the bill is 403.30. i Because they have a well, Bill doesn't have a water bill, but the cost of his water supply shows up on his electric bill because the well is powered by an electric pump. i The household fills a 64-gallon trash container...

Keeping Water Heaters in Check

The water heater accounts for about 20 percent of the typical home's power budget. Dishwashers and washing machines use up to 80 percent of their energy on heating water, and only 20 percent running the mechanical equipment. The cost of taking showers and baths is almost entirely in the cost of heating water. Unfortunately, the typical domestic water heater is wasteful. It holds a considerable amount of hot water, and when it's not being used, heat seeps out of the tank, which is sheer...

Looking at heat pumps

At the heart of geothermal processes are heat pumps, which basically move heat from one location to another. When you use a heat pump to generate heat, you move heat into the region where you want it (namely your home). When you use a heat pump to cool your home, you're basically just moving the heat out of your home, into the great outdoors. Moving heat out is the same as cooling. There are two distinct types of heat pumps air-source and ground-source. They use the same basic equipment, but...

Building an Energy Efficient Home from the Ground Up

Finding the right lot for your energy-efficient home Drumming up your new home's design Getting into the specifics of materials Biting the bullet and getting started m f you can do it, starting from scratch is the best possible way to go with an energy-efficient home. You have the world at your fingertips, and you can design your new home to your heart's content. You can buy energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures, and you can install an energy-efficient HVAC system, including...

Buying an Existing Home to Upgrade

There are good reasons for buying an existing conventional home and installing energy-efficiency equipment yourself, as opposed to buying a completed efficient home i You have a lot more options. In some areas, efficient homes are a real rarity and you may not even be able to find one that's for sale. i Your equipment will be brand new with a full warranty. Because homeowners rarely install expensive equipment right before they sell, the equipment on existing efficient homes is usually older,...

Energy Efficient Mortgages EEMs

There are two types of Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs) one for existing homes and another for new ones. Here's a quick breakdown of who's providing what, but keep in mind that we're talking about the government here, so terms and programs are subject to change at the whim of a congressperson from the boondocks i Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association, encourages lenders to provide EEMs by establishing guidelines and certain types of incentives. Check out what's available at...

Installing masonry heaters

The biggest issue with masonry heater installation is the weight. These heaters are too heavy for a single person to move into place. In fact, the larger units may take a forklift, which is why they should be installed while the home is being built. Some units come disassembled, which makes installation much easier (if you know how to assemble things, that is). In general, installing masonry heaters is similar to installing a heavy wood stove. Refer to Chapter 15 for more details on installing...

Plotting the details month by month

Ultimately, you need to do some month-by-month estimations. The power company bill is the easiest, along with water and trash. Here are some rules for allocating other resource costs by month I If you have a propane tank that's filled periodically by the propane company, you'll have a tough time figuring out the monthly usage. Just get the yearly total and divide that up on a monthly basis. If you only use the propane for heat, allocate the cost to those months when you use heat. If you use...

Looking at Energy Costs Raw and Otherwise

Some types of energy are more expensive than others. How costly an energy source is depends on what it takes to deliver the energy to your home (raw energy costs) and what it takes to convert the raw energy into fuel you can use (conversion costs). By understanding where a particular energy source falls on the cheap-to-dear scale in both of these areas, you can gain a better understanding of how you can plan and control your energy usage to attain better...

Energy use in a typical North American home

Looking at nationwide statistics gives you a baseline to which you can compare your energy usage. Does your own usage make sense, or can you make easy changes Do you need to simply change your habits, or are you going to have to invest time and money in equipment improvements Table 3-1 shows how a typical North American home uses energy (averaged over the course of a year). For the purposes of this data, a typical home has 1,600 square feet, two baths, three bedrooms, and 2.3 occupants in a...

Goal To increase your homes value

Suppose you're planning to sell your house five years down the road. If you put in a solar water heating system, at that point in time the savings from the new system will be 48 per month, or 600 per year. A home buyer will pay more for the home when you sell it because of this built-in cost reduction. How much more The following factors come into play i A lot of work is involved in installing a new system, and most buyers don't want to do it themselves. i Most home buyers take out a mortgage,...

Selling Your Efficient Home for Big Bucks

You want the most you can get for your efficient home, of course. To get top dollar, you need to know what buyers look for when they're in the market for an existing energy-efficient home. The first section in this chapter, Buying an Existing Efficient Home, goes into detail on what buyers should look for. As a seller, here's what you need to know I Keep good records of everything. If you can't validate your energy-efficiency claims, your systems may be worthless. Or even more detrimental to...

Use Warm or Cold Water instead of

By simply using warm or cold water instead of hot, you can increase your energy efficiency and save money I Wash clothes in cold water. Using warm or cold water in your washing machine can save quite a bit of energy. About 75 percent of the time you don't need hot water. Although this may not work for the dirtiest loads, it works just fine for most. Detergents especially made for cold-water washing help, too. So give it a try, and see what comes of it. The worst that can happen is you have to...

Operating in secret Biological agents

Natural microscopic organisms include bacteria, viruses, fungi, molds, mildews, and mites. Pollen is a collector of spores from seed-bearing plants. All these can be either tracked in on shoes and clothing from the outdoors, or simply fly in on the wings of chance. And all multiply indoors and can cause irritations and illnesses. The greatest source of nutrition for indoor microbes is the three or four grams of skin that flake off of the average human body once every day. (Did you know that...

Figuring out a floor plan

The floor plan of a home can impact its energy-efficiency capabilities. Whether you build a large or a small house, a few general design principles apply I Go with a central design. Central designs, in which the home is oriented around a central nucleus, work much better than houses with wings, which are difficult to heat and cool and require more maintenance. i Design your house with heat movement in mind. Open airways, for example, make a house seem more spacious, as well as ensuring natural...

Deciding Whether an Air Source Heat Pump Is Right for

Air-source heat pumps are widely used in mild climates where the units don't have to work inordinately hard. In very cold climates, you probably want a combustion heater that can crank out hordes of Btu in a short time. But if you're in a mild climate, an air-source heat pump is probably one of your best choices. They connect to the existing ductwork, like any other heater or air-conditioner, and they accomplish both heating and cooling in the same package (refer to the earlier section The...

Protecting yourself against future rate increases

All investments require you to predict the future. If you think energy costs are going to rise quite a bit, solar energy is a very wise option. Your power bills won't increase no matter how much energy costs rise. This is a very powerful form of portfolio management called hedging, where you not only get a good return on your investment but also ensure that regardless of what happens in the future, your investment will still pay off. In fact, the more energy costs rise, the better your original...

Understanding the basic parts of every solar PV system

An intertie solar PV system, shown in Figure 16-4, is actually very simple, despite its high cost. The collectors collect sunlight and convert it into a raw electrical signal. Wires transmit this signal down to the inverter, which converts (why it isn't called a converter is beyond me) the power to 110VAC that is useable in your home. The meter is used so the power company can ding you, of course. And switches are there for safety purposes. The following sections explain the important parts of...

Solar PV Systems King of the Energy Efficiency Hill

In one fell swoop you can completely offset your electric utility bill and generate zero pollution. Millions of photovoltaic (PV) systems are being installed all over the world, and the costs are decreasing due to economies of scale. But PV systems are not for everybody because they require a considerable upfront investment. There are two basic types of systems intertie, which work in conjunction with the utility grid, and stand-alone, which require batteries and other special support hardware....

Investing in a fullscale solar PV system

Say you live in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house with good roof exposure for solar equipment. Your home is all electric and your average monthly electric bill is 260. Energy consumption is 1,600 kWh per month. You had your home audited and, through making smaller changes, you decreased the bill 15 percent to 1,360 kWh per month, or 221. Now you decide to completely eliminate your electric utility bill and, in the process, reduce your home's carbon footprint to nearly zero. You find a 5kW system that...

Purifying your drinking water

So you've decided to improve your drinking water. Two types of home-based equipment are widely available I Distilleries Distilled water is boiled, and, in the process, the water separates from the impurities. This type of purification is expensive and energy-intensive, but it's very thorough. I Filtration systems Filtering involves forcing the water through some kind of porous device that removes the impurities. Aerator filters that attach to faucets are the simplest type of filter. As you...

Water supply

A city's water supply is critically important for a number of reasons. First, it must be pristine and clean. Otherwise, you'll have to buy drinking water or a filter system. Some cities have grungy-tasting water, and even though it may not be harmful to your health, it still makes you feel grungy. Second, some cities simply don't have enough water. You can conserve, but if too many hands are reaching into the pie, costs are likely to rise, as is the amount of pressure to reduce usage even more....

Available sizes and cost

The smallest turbines (6' rotors) sell for around 1,000, not including installation (tower building and raising, wiring, and so on). They output 400 watts of power at 28 mph (this is a pretty good wind) and can withstand winds up to 110 mph. You can use these numbers to get an idea of how many kWh per day you can expect, on average then you can devise a battery bank accordingly. A turbine with a 15' rotor produces 3.2 kW at 28 mph for around 8,000, including installation. Tower costs vary...

The pros and cons of wind power

Sistema Vacio

It can be generated anytime, day or night. Wind is available almost everywhere, in all climates. In many of the worst climates, it's very powerful. In some locations, wind is virtually a constant (magnitudes may vary, but output is always available). Because wind speeds vary over terrain, you can find locations on your property that provide maximum potential. Ridge lines, coastlines, and the tops of barren hills are the best candidates. Wind power has its...

Energy Sources and Sinks

Understanding where energy comes from Looking into where energy goes in a typical household Sustaining the environment through wise choices ichard Feynman, one of the most famous physics lecturers of all time, began his courses on energy by stating that nobody really understands what energy is. That being said, we all have an intuitive idea of what energy does, namely perform work. It takes energy to make something happen. This book is interested in making do with less energy consumption. If...

Buying an Existing Efficient Home

If you want an energy-efficient home, you can build your own (Chapter 21 explains how), but that's a long, arduous task. An easier and generally less time-consuming solution is to buy an existing efficient home. Unfortunately, not a lot of energy-efficient homes are out there at least not today. This situation will change quite a bit in the coming years, but for now, if you want an efficient home, you're going to have to look hard for one, and you may be disappointed with what you find....

Final Decluttering Tips

In an efficient home, there's a place for everything, and everything is in its place. Keeping a home neat and trim is not too different from keeping your body neat and trim. The best results come from cutting down on excess consumption. Here are sundry tips to get you going in the right direction I Use the sun to clean and sanitize. Put cushions, sheets, rugs, clothes, and so forth out into the hot sun. To find out just how well this works, try putting a sweaty shirt in direct sunlight for a...

Analyzing efficiencies

When analyzing efficiencies, be sure to consider the life expectancy of a particular investment. Answer these questions for every option you're considering i How does the pollution output vary over time i Will the energy efficiency decrease over time (the answer is almost always yes because parts wear out, friction increases, and so on) and if so how by how much i How much maintenance will be required over time, and will you be able to do the labor and maintenance, in years hence I How long is...

Shining a Light on Solar Power for Your Home

Om a pollution standpoint, solar power is the most energy-efficient invest-ent you can make, hands down. Sunshine will always be free. Solar power equipment, however, can be expensive and isn't suitable for climates that don't get enough sunshine. Government subsidies play a big role in solar power, but they vary with the political winds. The most definitive factor in determining the viability of solar power is local utility rates if yours are high, solar energy may be just what you're looking...

Looking at Community Solutions to Energy Efficiency

Seeing what constitutes a green community Gauging the advantages of energy-efficient communities Taking a back-to-nature approach ifferent types of communities have different attributes that can make becoming energy efficient more or less accessible. With the interest in green living on the upsurge, many cities and states have taken steps to make themselves havens for environmentally conscious citizens. But maybe you don't want to live in a community at all. Perhaps you want to join a commune...

Setting a baseline for comparison Bank accounts and stock market yields

You can always put your hard-earned cash into a bank account and draw simple interest. It's the safest bet, one the Federal Government guarantees. Whenever you consider an investment, the proper starting point is always to consider how it compares to a bank account, so this is where I begin. Strictly speaking, when doing payback calculations, changes in the value of money over time must be taken into account, which basically means that you should discount the value today of a dollar you expect...

Watering Your Landscaping

Most people have some form of landscaping, and many people have extensive landscaping, including a lawn, which is the most water- and energy-intense form of landscaping you can imagine. In a yard, you can conserve water through your landscaping choices and through your choice of sprinkler. The following sections tell you how to use less water and energy in your yard. For green landscaping supplies, check out the following sources I Composters.com (www.composters.com) I...

Making use of old stuff

Who says something has to be new to be good or useful A lot of items can be reused, either for the same purpose for which they were originally intended or a slightly (or drastically) different purpose. Here are some examples I Glass jars The glass jars you get food in can be reused to store other foods in place of plastic containers. You don't throw the jars away, and you don't have to buy containers at all it's a twofer deal. Make sure to save the lids. I Packing pellets You know those really...

Using Biomass for Fuel

In a nutshell, biomass is organic material (plants and animal waste) used for fuel. Examples of commonly used biomass fuels are corn, wood pellets, straw, certain types of grasses, and autumn leaves. And, not to put too fine a point on it, poop is biomass, too. Strictly speaking, wood is biomass. But in this book, I separate wood from other biomass products because most other sources treat wood and biomass as distinct entities, even though they aren't. To help you avoid any confusion, I'm going...

Using less hot water

New dishwashers heat their own water, which is far more efficient than drawing hot water from the water heater the way older models do. Keep this feature in mind if you're in the market for a new dishwasher. Believe it or not, a detailed scientific study was performed to determine whether hand washing or machine washing dishes is more efficient. Hand washing a complete 12-piece setting of dishes in a sink used around 30 gallons of water and 2.5 kWh of electricity for water heating. An automatic...

Recycling the Right Way Saves Everybody Energy

In 2005, over 80 million tons of paper were recycled, but that's only a small fraction of all the paper that gets used. Americans also go through 4 million single-use plastic bottles every hour, yet only one in four gets recycled. So what stops folks from recycling Mainly inconvenience. Thus, the best way to make recycling a reality is to set up a system that's convenient and easy to use. For everyday recyclables (paper, plastics, glass, and so on), put bins in the kitchen, if you can. You're...

Getting the LoWdoWn on Biomass Stoves

Biomass stoves and furnaces are designed to burn biomass fuels. In appearance, biomass stoves are similar to wood stoves, and they transfer heat the same way. But biomass stoves are set up to burn at different temperatures and may require more or less oxygen in order to gain the highest efficiencies. Biomass stoves also come with hoppers that feed the raw materials into the fire you can't simply stack a pile of wood pellets and burn it the way you'd stack wood in a wood stove. Biomass stoves...

Pellets are renewable and produce the lowest emissions of any solid

Wood pellets, like wood (see Chapter 15), are neutral in terms of their effect on global warming because wood left to rot on the forest floor creates as much carbon dioxide as wood burned in a stove. And pellet combustion in a biomass stove is controlled much more accurately than wood combustion in a wood stove, so the combustion is more thorough and the efficiencies are much better. In addition, most of the industrial companies that manufacture pellets replenish the trees they cut down...

Seeing how geothermal energy Works

Here's how a geothermal system works The temperatures three to four feet below ground stay pretty much the same all year long, unlike outdoor air temperatures, which can fluctuate a great deal. The temperature remains stable at this depth for a couple of reasons First, the earth absorbs nearly half of all the heat energy that hits it from the sun. Second, heat from the earth's core works its way toward the surface. The good news for you is that you can take advantage of this phenomenon with a...

Disadvantages of heat pumps

On the downside, the following cons apply to heat pumps 1 They require more maintenance than some other options. Systems require a number of parts, and heat pumps are more complex that combustion systems. If you look inside an air-source heat pump, you'll see what looks like the space shuttle. 1 They require electricity sometimes a lot. This not only affects energy efficiency, depending on how you're getting your electricity (nuclear source, combustion source, and so on) but it also means that...

Choosing a design

The design and installation of the ground-source heat pump are very important. The ground has to be suitable and the system itself has to conform to the availability of heat you may need a much bigger system if your ground is not at the optimum temperature. Your main criterion for selecting a manufacturer and specific type of system should be performance. Look for the Energy Star seal, in particular. Also look for the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) seal of approval. Shy away...

Hiring a qualified installer

Not very many contractors are capable of installing these systems. So when it comes to hiring a contractor, make sure your contractor knows exactly what he or she is doing. If you can, use a contractor certified by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA www.igshpa.okstate. edu). And get references. Let me state this in stronger terms If you have a problem with an air-source heat pump, it's right there where you can get to it to work on it can be worked on or even...

Getting a rundown of pros and cons

While ground-source heat pumps offer some advantages, there are also quite a few disadvantages. Keep both in mind as you decide whether investing in one is right for you 1 The ground is always available as a heat source. It's even more consistent than air. But and this is a biggie ground-source heat pumps require specific ground characteristics, including water content, mineral content, iron content, and so on. A neighbor may have a ground-source heat pump in operation, but that doesn't...