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Why your high efficiency systems aren’t working

Here’s one I hear ALL the time: “I just installed a new high efficiency (air conditioner, furnace, windows, etc.), but my energy bills are still high and we’re still having comfort issues. What’s going on?”

First, we can’t say enough good things about the Energy Star program and what a great job it’s done of educating consumers about the value of high efficiency systems and appliances. That’s been a huge step in the right direction.

BUT, the missing piece is, your systems don’t interact independently – from each other, or from the shell of the home itself. You almost need to picture your home as a living, breathing thing. It needs to take air in, and it needs to exchange air out; that air needs to circulate; and any deficiencies in one system or area will impact the whole thing.

The number one reason high efficiency heating and air conditioning systems don’t perform well is that there are typically leaks somewhere in the home. THE AVERAGE HOME HAS THE EQUIVALENT OF A BASKETBALL SIZED HOLE IN IT, when you add up all the typical air leaks. So, if we’re talking about a furnace or boiler, all that nice toasty air it worked to produce is escaping – which means you’re still chilly. And, the furnace is working longer and harder than it should – which means your bills are still high.

High efficiency systems are fantastic, but before you make the investment, you gotta find and seal those air leaks!

Categories: Uncategorized

Does Energy Efficiency Drive Home Builders out of Business?

A couple of months ago, I was reading a discussion in one of the many LinkedIn groups that I belong to and came across a comment arguing that energy efficiency requirements drive builders out of business. Here’s part of what this fellow wrote:

“No one is against saving water or being more energy efficient, in fact if you can build a better mouse trap then the competition you will win over the customer. The point that I have been making is that the goverment is mandating things that most consumers can’t afford to pay for which puts builders out of business. The more builders that go out of business the higher prices will go for the consumers.

“Most builders who adopt a green agenda are very sincere in their ambitions but soon find out that customers love what they are doing, but they can’t or are unwilling to pay for it. In many markets today you can’t make it work because of appraisals. Also, understand if you come up with ideas that produce a better mouse trap and you can sell it, I will be the first to stand up and cheer you on. I am just stating what I have seen from my 25 years in the business.”

This argument is gaining traction among some home builders because energy codes have stiffened their requirements. For example, in Georgia, the state passed a new energy code that (mostly) went into effect on 1 January of this year. Among the new requirements:

Infiltration test required on all new homes, which must be 7 ACH50 or less
Duct leakage test required on all new homes, with 8 cfm25 per 100 square feet of conditioned floor area served by the system
No power attic ventilators, unless they’re solar
No electric resistance heat used as primary heat source
At least 50% of the lighting must be ‘high-efficacy’ or have sensors or automation to shut it off when not in use

Will these new requirements cost builders extra? Mostly, yes. If they’ve been installing power attic ventilators, though, they’ll now save a little bit by not putting them in.

Sealing up the house and the ducts to limit the amount of leakage shouldn’t cost extra because they should be doing this already. Plus, the thresholds for passing are pretty easy to attain. Once builders and their trade contractors learn the details, it’ll be easy to do and add little to no cost.

Yes, there’ll be a cost to have their work tested, and I think when Mike Barcik surveyed HERS raters around the state last year, he found the average cost of a test would be around $75. Also, the new energy code doesn’t even require third party testing. Builders and HVAC contractors can get trained as Duct and Envelope Tightness (DET) Verifiers and test their own work.

Getting back to the main question, will the extra burden and cost of meeting the new requirements drive home builders out of business? Hmmmm.

Have disposal requirements put tire manufacturers out of business?
Did the new security procedures instituted after 9/11 bankrupt airlines?
Does a former drill sergeant make a terrible therapist? (Oh, wait, that’s a Geico commercial. Sorry.)

My answer is an emphatic No. Yes, builders have gone out of business and will continue to fold. The main factor in the past few years, though, is the economic downturn, not new energy efficiency requirements. Correlation does not imply causality. Just because home energy efficiency requirements have increased and builders have gone under doesn’t mean one caused the other.

Also, if we’re talking government mandates, as the commenter above referenced, then we have a level playing field. All builders have to do it, so home buyers don’t have the option of going to one who’s not incurring the extra cost to meet the requirements.

In my opinion, new requirements for home energy efficiency are essential. Building science has come a long way in the past few decades, and we know that conventional home-building methods lead to a host of problems – and that they’re easily remedied. We’re also grappling with serious energy security issues, and every little bit helps.

The argument that efficiency drives builders out of business is similar to the claim that requiring greater energy efficiency takes away our freedom. Basically, I think, it comes down to people in the construction industry being resistant to change. They want to do things they way they’ve always done them, but that’s a guaranteed path to going out of business.

What do you think? Does energy efficiency drive home builders out of business?

Categories: Uncategorized

Myth: Closing Vents Saves Energy

Thanks to Mark Cannella, Founder of ProEnergy Consultants for the following artice:

I’ve personally performed thousands of energy audits during my time, so I’ve seen some pretty interesting things people do in their well meaning attempts to save energy. Let me just say that duct tape is not a suitable material for any energy-related home improvement!

A very common activity that seems to make sense on the surface is closing the vents in low-use areas or rooms of the home. People think, ”this will prevent wasted money on heating/cooling this space.’ But this logic is wrong, and can wind up costing you.

First, when you close a vent, the air that was directed to it gets stuck. With nowhere to go, it applies backpressure on the unit’s fan, causing it to work harder (burn more energy) to do its job. Overtime, this will also cause the fan to wear out quicker.

Second, your HVAC unit will produce the same amount of conditioned air, regardless of how many vents are open/closed (so you are not reducing energy consumption). When you close a vent, you are simply sending more conditioned air into spaces that don’t need it – often times, this can even make other rooms UNcomfortable.

Lastly, restricting the flow of conditioned air increases the probability that it will be pushed out through the leaks in your duct work, decreasing your energy efficiency. (Now if you’ve followed our duct sealing project video on YouTube, this should be less of a concern for you!)

Bottom line, closing your vents can do way more harm than good.

Categories: Uncategorized

Schedule your home energy audit NOW. Avoid the CRUNCH…

At the risk of raining on anyone’s parade, it’s the cold hard truth of the world that, #1 – the Dallas Cowboys are at home, WATCHING the NFL postseason, and #2 – despite the Canadian-like winter we’ve been experiencing in North Texas, summer heat is right around the corner.

The time is fast approaching when the kids will be out of school, the leaves will be turning green, and the summer heat will once again begin to permeate our homes’ imperfect thermal boundaries. With that in mind, we thought it would be an appropriate time to remind our loyal readers that a home energy audit by Pro Energy Consultants of Texas can pinpoint the deficiencies in your home, so you can start working toward more perfect thermal barriers and air barriers with low-cost, high-impact upgrades like air sealing and improved insulation. Last year Energy Circle’s CTO, Tom Harrison, saved $1,000 on his home’s heating bills by making these simple upgrades, starting with a home energy audit to pinpoint what needed work, and costing, in total, a meager $1,175. Repeat: he invested $1,175 once, saved $1,000 in the first year alone, and will continue to save $1,000 each year (barring a hiccup in energy prices, in which case he’ll save more), forever. (We don’t promise this for everyone, but Tom’s home run isn’t that anomalous.) Now, it might still seem early to start thinking about ways to reduce your cooling costs, and that’s fine, but we’d recommend, if you think you might be interested in an energy audit later this year, at least contacting us for a free phone consult, and maybe setting aside a date some time in the near future for us to come in and assess the performance of your home.

A few reasons why:

1) You might be able to score a deal by scheduling your audit ahead of time.
2) April marks the start of the peak season for energy auditors and contractors. We know some whose dance cards are full already.
3) Getting your audit done sooner rather than later will allow you plenty of time to make the upgrades necessary to reduce your cooling costs this summer and heating costs next winter.
4) You know you’re gonna be busy this fall. Admit it. If you’re unsure where to start, take a look at our website: www.proenergyconsultants.com

On a final note, I do apologize for the home assessment talk during the NFL postseason. Blame it on the Dallas Cowboys.

Categories: Uncategorized

5 things to know about energy rebates…

1. Federal appliance rebates are going fast …

The government’s Cash for Appliances program, which lets you score rebates for about $50 to $500 swapping energy guzzling appliances for more efficient models, has gotten lots of attention.//

But don’t count your greenbacks just yet. The incentives, which are administered through the states, are typically doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, and in many locales the money is already gone. Florida’s program, for example, closed just 36 hours after it opened. But some states, such as Michigan, still had plenty of cash in their coffers at the end of May, and other initiatives didn’t launch until June. To check the status of the program in your state, go to energysavers.gov/financial.

2. … But most states offer their own programs too

Even if you can no longer qualify for a Cash for Appliances rebate, you may still be able to get cash back from the more than 600 programs run by utilities and over 100 state programs that offer incentives for boosting your home’s energy efficiency, says Justin Barnes, policy analyst with the North Carolina Solar Center. In Oregon, for example, you can get a $75 rebate on an Energy Star washer, and $30 for recycling an old fridge. See dsireusa.org for info on your area.

3. And you may have two more chances to get federal funds

Through the end of 2010, you can claim a $1,500 federal tax credit for up to 30% of the cost of many energy-related improvements.

There’s also the so-called Cash for Caulkers bill, which was passed by the House in May and could soon become law. It would give homeowners hefty rebates on a variety of energy saving projects.

Even if you take the tax credit this year, you may still qualify for a Cash for Caulkers rebate, says Ronnie Kweller, a spokesperson for the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit group.

4. Before you grab a rebate, do the math

Getting cash back might help you justify the purchase of, say, that snazzy new stainless-steel fridge you’ve been eyeing. But other projects may give you greater savings. “If your home has bad insulation, a super efficient heating system won’t do much,” says Timothy Hamm , partner with Go Green Home Efficiency, a home efficiency consulting firm.

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Not sure where your money is best spent? A comprehensive home energy audit, which will pinpoint your leaks, runs about $400. But some states or utilities conduct basic audits for free or will reimburse some of that cost, although utility company audits are NOT as comprehensive as a 3rd party energy auditing company.

5. Don’t forget that small projects can still pay big

There are plenty of ways to save energy without spending a lot. Every degree you go up or down on your thermostat will knock 2% off your annual heating and cooling costs; replacing your five most frequently used bulbs with compact fluorescents can lop $70 a year off your energy bill, says Elizabeth Hernandez, a senior project manager with Denton Municipal Utilities.

Finally, ditching that old fridge you’ve relegated to the garage for storing extra drinks will save about $200 or more a year. You may find you can justify an appliance upgrade after all — rebate or not.

Reprinted with permission from the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Home Energy Audit: Who Needs One?

Almost all homes could be more energy efficient and, as a general rule, the older the home, the less efficient it is. So, who will benefit the most from a residential energy audit?

  • Homeowners with homes 10 years old or older.
  • Homeowners who have higher utility bills than their neighbors.
  • Homeowners who experience uneven heating and cooling (temperatures from room to room vary noticeably)
  • Homeowners who know their homes are losing air (and energy) but can’t definitively identify where or how.

Homeowners aren’t the only ones who will benefit from a residential energy audit. Homebuyers can find energy audits highly valuable for a number of reasons.

  • Traditional home inspections do not include inspections of how efficiently the home uses energy.
  • Because of seasonal variances, home buyers who request recent utility bills often don’t see the total picture.
  • Energy Audit reports can be used in negotiations.
  • Some mortgage lenders reward homes that have had energy audits.

Ultimately, any homeowner who is feeling the sting of rising utility bills should consider an energy audit.

Call Go Green today or log on at http://www.TheAtticDoctors.com

877-372-1199

Categories: Uncategorized

What Should I Look for in a Window Cleaning Service? (via Fish Window Cleaning Denton)

Since many of our solar screen customers regret NOT having their windows cleaned BEFORE we install our screens, I thought I’d reblog this post from our friends at Fish Window Cleaning in Denton. They offer discounts for customers of Go Green who purchase solar screens, and we even coordinate your cleaning with them so your windows sparkle like never before just before our install. If you live in the Denton, Tx area, give Eric and the guys a call.

What Should I Look for in a Window Cleaning Service? If you are attempting to find a window cleaning service there are several things you should look for: 1. Does the company appear professional? If the company or representative appears to be less than professional more than likely this is an accurate reflection on the company and the way they do business. Do they have a professional web site? Professional business cards? A brochure? A professional-looking estimate? We have been around for over 30 … Read More

via Fish Window Cleaning Denton

Categories: Uncategorized