energy

Green Living: Five Ways to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly

We love collaborations! So when Susie Wilson of Happier Home reached out to us and wanted to share some tips and tricks for eco friendly living, we were happy to oblige! We hope you enjoy!Green Living: Five Ways to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly, By Susie WilsonA lot has changed in the way we perceive and treat our environment. More and more people are beginning to open their eyes to how much of an impact our daily lives can have on the sky, land and sea that we depend on. Today, we are taught how we each have our own ecological-footprint, and the best way to make a positive difference on the environment is by reducing our own footprint as much as possible.As homeowners, there are many ways we can reduce our ecological-footprint and help preserve our environment that we rely so heavily on. What a lot of homeowners are realizing is that even small changes can have a huge positive impact for our environment. Here are five ways you can make your home more eco-friendly.Make Your Home More Energy EfficientA huge part of being more environmentally conscious, is simply being more efficient in the ways we use energy at home. Most homes are connected to the electrical grid and have running water. The more energy and water we draw from the grid has a bigger impact on the environment, but also costs us more. This creates a direct correlation between saving the environment and saving money. By making sure our home is properly insulated and that our toilets and faucets aren’t leaking we can not only spare the environment, but also save some money on our utility bills.Switch to LED LightingIn recent years, many households have increased their efficiency simply by switching the bulbs in their lighting fixtures. Thanks to advancements in LED and CFL technology, we now have lights that are twice as bright, last twice as long, and draw about half the energy as traditional bulbs. This has drastically cut into the amount of energy a household draws from its local power plant, meaning a significantly less impact on the environment.Go PaperlessMost people understand that paper comes from trees, but trees also play a more pivotal role in our environment. Trees take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, which is integral not only for the air we breathe, but also ridding the atmosphere of chemicals that trap heat and contribute to global warming. A great way to save trees and reduce our ecological-footprint is by using less paper in our daily lives. We can do this by going paperless in our mail, as well as relying more on reusable writing surfaces such as chalk or whiteboards.Ditch Plastic BottlesEach year, billions of plastic bottles find their way in to landfills all across the world. It can take years for these bottles to decompose and what’s left is harmful trash that makes its way into our streams and oceans. The straightforward answer to this ecological conundrum is to ditch plastic bottles all together. Safe, reusable drinking containers can make a huge difference in your ecological footprint, and if you really want to take it to the next level, collect and store your own drinkable rainwater with a rain barrel.CompostWhenever we produce waste, our initial impulse is to get rid of it as soon as possible. To be more ecologically friendly, we need to start thinking of better ways we can use our waste. A solution that many eco-friendly homeowners use is composting. Compositing is when you take waste and other biological dead matter, and save it until it begins to decompose. After this process begins to take place, you can then repurpose your waste as organic material to use as soil for your plants and gardens.These are just a few ways that you can make a difference. As members of the planet Earth, it’s our moral duty to take care of the environment and make sure we use the Earth’s resources responsibly. Whenever looking into your current home, or even when looking into buying a new home, consider how you can make a decision that not only benefits you, but for the environment as well. 

Maine's New Codes

On Monday 4/23/18 Maine will have adopted a new building code, moving from 2009, which is nearly 10 years old, to 2015. It's not the newest code, but it's a step up. However, they have decided to keep the 2009 IECC (Energy Code) and I just don't understand it. In a part of the country that still uses fuel oil to heat their homes, why aren't we trying to improve the efficiency of our structures?I should say it doesn't really apply to us. We are trying to build zero energy ready homes, which leave the energy code far behind. Where code walls are R-21 ours are pushing R-40. Where code ceilings are R-49 we are asking for R-60 plus. But most importantly, we are aiming for between 1-2 air changes per house. In 2009 compliance is 7 air changes per hour. In 2012 it's 5 air changes per hour. In 2015 it's 3 air changes per hour. So not keeping up with the energy code is going to make it hard for builders to make the jump from 7 to 3 or below. Now mind you, not all builders. I'm working with several that aren't having any issues meeting 1-2 ACH and a few that are meeting passive house standards.  Reducing air infiltration is the simple most cost effective thing you can do in a new home, maybe aside from facing it the right direction which costs nothing!So why isn't everyone getting on board? Well, I don't say this lightly, it's because it's work. It takes time and attention to every single detail from the right tapes and sealants to the way your components go together. Your house is a system of directly and indirectly related parts. And it's labor intensive, time consuming, and really easy to screw up. I had an installer tell me a horror story about one area in a super tight house not being sealed, all the moisture migrated to this cold location, and it rained indoors. It's also possible to trap moisture in your wall system where you can't see it and you don't know that it's causing a problem. Does this mean that we shouldn't pursue tighter building? Should we just keep building the same drafty houses with fiberglass that we have always built because it's safe? No, definitely not!Building science is something that can be taught. It's something every builder should learn and keep up with. It's something every trade should understand. It's usually the things you can't see in your home that add the most value. I once met a woman who built a beautiful million dollar home that was so cold and drafty to live in that they sold it and started all over again with an energy efficient design. They were disgruntled by having spent so much to then have a home they felt they couldn't live in. I also did a home replacement project last year with a community action agency in Maine. The house was built by a contractor and a handful of high school students. This winter that couple moved from using many chords of wood to stay warm, to one heat pump mini split head. Even in the 20 below weather, the heat pump only went down once. They turned it off for 10 minutes, and never had another issue again.So no, we don't think we should keep building the same old way. And sure, architecture is a jigsaw puzzle and we don't always get it right. But we feel strongly that we are moving in the right direction. So if you have the opportunity to build a home, spend a little time doing some research first on what it will cost you to live in it, the technologies and resources that are available, and hire a professional to help you get the most for your money. Not just the money your spending now, but the money you'll spend over the next 30 years.

Popular Culture Connection: Energy Modeling

We use REMRate to do energy modeling on our non-passive house projects and in order to submit projects for HERS ratings and other certifications we are part of the Resnet community.  We love to hear about energy modeling in the news, so here are a few things:

  1. We would love to say congratulations to our friends over at Rochester Passive House for winning a very prestigious accomplishment. They won the 2017 RESNET Cross Border Challenge. They had the lowest HERS score without on site power generation anywhere in the US or Canada built in 2016. That includes over 200,000 homes that were rated through the HERS Program. Congratulations! If you're local to Rochester, they are having an open house on April 1st. Go check out the house, it's beautiful and impressive!
  2. We finally got our HERS Rating on the house in Cumberland! It's designed as a net-zero home, but it was built with 2 rows of solar panels for onsite power generation. It can accommodate 3 rows and would need a few more panels to be net-zero as built. So we rated it as built and it came in with a HERS score of 10! We've been monitoring the data for a year and we can confirm that it performs as the energy model says it will!
  3. We are thrilled to hear that there is legislation moving forward to help with Energy Efficient Mortgages.We are even very excited that Senator Susan Collins is an early supporter of the BiPartisan Energy Efficiency Legislation Introduced in the US Senate. Check out more on the RESNET Blog