Thursday, February 26, 2009
Energy management systems can put you back in the drivers seat and save you $$$
Check out: http://www.ecohomemagazine.com/home-technology/real-time-feedback.aspx
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Indoor Air Quality
People spend a large portion of their time inside homes and offices. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that most people spend 90 to 95 percent of their time indoors. This makes indoor air quality very important to health. Harmful gasses and particles can compromise indoor air quality. Ensuring that combustion sources and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment are working properly is a great place to start. Ensuring that new furnishings, carpets, and cabinetry contain safe, low-emitting materials helps protect the quality of air in homes and commercial buildings. Taking a careful look at cleaning and maintenance products also helps reduce the likelihood of unintentionally compromising indoor air quality.
Improving ventilation (increasing the amount of outdoor air coming in) can significantly reduce the concentration of indoor air pollutants. Air cleaners can remove particles from air, but may not be equipped to reduce the amount of gaseous pollutants in air. Another method for improving the quality of indoor air is source control, removing individual sources of pollutants. There are a variety of means to help improve indoor air quality.
Estimated Cost Savings & Benefits:
Typically the most cost-effective option for improving indoor air quality is source control. Any new combustion sources, materials, furnishings, or cleaning products in the home or in a building are potential sources of indoor air pollution. Careful analysis of products prior to purchase can help. The operating myth is that improving home and/or building ventilation systems can actually increase energy costs. Proper sizing and cleaning of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can actually save money on energy costs and improve indoor air quality. Even simple filter cleaning and/or replacement helps HVAC systems operate more efficiently and improves indoor air quality.
The benefits of protecting indoor air quality are significant. Improved indoor air quality can have positive effects on human health, productivity, and comfort. Canadian researchers have measured the relationships between employee productivity and indoor air quality and found that reduced indoor pollutant levels resulted in reductions in absenteeism.
Improving indoor air quality in an apartment building can be more challenging if the building owner or manager is the only person who can address sources of indoor air pollution. The first step is to alert management, in written form, of any potential issues with indoor air quality and encourage building management to follow EPA's IAQ Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM). It is sometimes possible to help building owners and their managers see the financial benefits of improving indoor air quality in the form of increased tenant retention and lease rates, reduced liabilities, and improved resale value.
As people spend a significant portion of their day in office buildings, IAQ is an issue in these environments as well. Office buildings can have significant air quality issues. If you or others in your office are experiencing problems with health and/or comfort and you suspect poor indoor air quality is the cause, EPA recommends that you talk to your supervisor, your personal physician, and/or the state or local health department.
The good news is that sometimes solving indoor air quality problems is possible and not always unreasonably expensive. With proper analysis of HVAC systems and other sources of indoor pollutants, building managers can sometimes turn "sick" buildings into relatively healthier environments.
In cooler climates, outdoor temperatures can make it more challenging to improve ventilation by simply opening a few windows in your home or in commercial buildings. Mechanical ventilation systems, proper cleaning, source control, and air cleaners may be good options.
In warmer, humid climates, high temperatures and humidity levels can increase the concentration of some pollutants. There are some additional climate-related challenges with respect to windows and mechanical systems.
Installation (Getting It Done):
A range of professionals address indoor air quality issues. Selected HVAC contractors are capable of helping homeowners and building owners make decisions that can result in improved indoor air quality. Selected interior designers are now more cognizant of the types of design decisions that contribute to indoor air pollution or to healthier homes and buildings. As with any design, construction, and/or maintenance decision, it is a good idea to get two or three bids from different contractors. Even though this may be a bit more time-consuming, the end result is usually a more cost-effective and informed decision. There are no guarantees with indoor air quality, but informed decision-making can result in substantial improvements to health and productivity.
More Information On This Topic:
U.S. Department of Energy's Building Technologies Program: Indoor Air Quality Research and Development
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Indoor Air Quality in Large Buildings
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Technology Snapshot & Benefits:
Significant economic savings can come from modern windows. Unless recently upgraded, your windows are likely a major source of heat loss. In cold climates, windows transfer heating energy out of the building through both conduction and radiation. Additionally, depending upon how weather-tight the frame and seals, windows may transfer energy by convection as well. This situation is reversed in hot climates, with windows allowing heat into a building and forcing expensive cooling systems to work overtime.
Typical walls in homes are insulated to a level of R-11 to R-19, yet a single pane of standard glass has an insulating value of about R-1. In other words, heat can leak out of, or into, a building about 11 to 19 times more easily through glass than through the wall. This is why your grandparents insisted on installing �storm� windows for the winter in northern climates � to boost window-insulating value to R-2, or perhaps R-2.5 with a good seal and tightly trapped air between the panes.
Modern windows using specially developed E-glass are much more effective at keeping heat and cold where you want them. Most progressive window manufacturers offer several lines of energy efficient glass with �R� values in excess of R-4. New designs still in laboratory development promise R-values of 10 or more.
Since glass is a fixed part of the building envelope, it performs 24 hours each and every day. With energy efficient glass, less fuel is required for a given level of comfort with corresponding cost savings and pollution savings.
Estimated Cost Savings:
Assuming the same or greater level of comfort that you are used to, you can save a lot of energy and money by eliminating heat loss or gain through windows. It is common in Northern climates to save 30-40% of annual heating costs with super-efficient windows. With a monthly heating bill of $200 dollars, this equates to an estimated savings of $60-80 per month. Some large homes cost as much as $600 per month to heat, and the savings for these homes could approach $240 per month.
The value of new windows depends upon how much glass area you have in your home and upon local climate. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) provides an historical record of departures of average daily temperatures from a reference temperature of 65 degrees F. This information is available as �Heating Degree-Days per Year� and provides a very useful estimate of how much energy can leak through windows.
For new homes, getting efficient glass is simply a matter of working with a builder or architect to specify performance glass. With older homes, the choice of retrofit is a little more problematic. It is unlikely that the glass in your house will suddenly �conk out� or reach the end of its useful life like a failed furnace or hot water heater. Therefore, you will be faced with the prospect of switching out older intact glass panels for newer glass panels. Nonetheless, this can improve comfort and lower operating expenses. Capital costs can be $5,000 to $10,000 or more, and still make sound economic sense when combined with a program of debt consolidation and/or refinancing.
Selection of glass may depend on local climates. Windows can be �tuned� by the manufacturer for southern or northern exposures and for different climates. Be sure that you get the right glass for you.
Installation (Getting It Done):
In addition to considering new windows throughout, also consider supplementary performance windows that can be treated as storm windows, in addition to your existing glass. Particularly if your house has period architecture, this option allows you to retain the original glazing and sash while enjoying economic savings and the enhanced comfort of performance windows. Be sure to get bids from two or three (or more) window manufacturers, installers and/or glazing contractors to gain immediate perspective on the true costs of windows and installation in your area.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Technology Snapshot & Benefits:
Both immediate and indirect economic savings can come from energy-efficient appliances such as refrigerators, horizontal-axis washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, etc. Immediate and continuing savings accrue from lower utility bills for electricity and/or water. The performance levels of these appliances meet, and generally exceed, those of industry �standard� models. As a case in point, consider household refrigeration. By the late 1970s, refrigerators reached their most inefficient performance by requiring about 1750 kiloWatt-hours per year to operate. Modern energy-efficient refrigerators provide the same or better service at 450-550 kiloWatt-hours per year, and they are much quieter in operation.
Estimated Cost Savings:
The direct economic savings achieved by efficient appliances are a function of how much the appliance will be used, the performance level of the equipment being replaced, and local costs for utilities. When you replace older equipment, it is not uncommon for electricity consumption for that appliance to decrease by 50% or more. In general, if the appliance being replaced is more than 15 years old, and it is replaced with a state-of-the-art unit, you may expect utility savings of 20%-60% compared with the energy required by the previous appliance. Horizontal-axis washing machines typically save consumers 50% in both electric and water utilities. Additional savings come from reduced quantities of detergent.
Your monthly electrical bill is for all electricity used by all electrical loads in the building, so changing a single appliance will lower the bill, but in proportion to the amount of electricity formerly used by that appliance. If refrigeration represents 15-20% of your electric bill, a new refrigerator that is twice as efficient as the unit being replaced will lower your total bill by about 7-10%.
Any increase in initial cost is usually more than made up in monthly savings. See ACEEE Consumer Guide to Home Energy Saving for more detailed information on appliances and savings.
Availability of the most energy-efficient appliances may be an issue. Sometimes the best equipment is in demand, which can mean that discounts and sale prices are either unavailable or of lower value. Over time, as manufacturers and suppliers clear inventories of less efficient models by offering discounts, expect the price of efficient appliances to come down as well.
Primarily, regional issues involve supply, delivery, and installation.
Installation (Getting It Done):
Be sure to price shop and to get two or three (or more) prices. Inquire about installation and removal of your old unit. For any refrigeration unit, be sure that the refrigerant will be removed and recycled responsibly. Refrigerants are very potent greenhouse gases and must be captured and contained. Shopping for price and availability will give you perspective on the true costs of equipment and installation in your area.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This recording is from WGN’s “The Money Show” with host Bill Moller. Ron Goldstein, Rubloff, is a participant and gives his views on the current state of the real estate market. This show focuses on technology, identity theft, mortgage rates, and where to put your money.
Click here to listen. WGN The Money Show
Friday, February 6, 2009
The Isakson-Lieberman amendment would stimulate demand for housing by greatly enhancing the first-time home buyer tax credit. Specifically, the amendment would:
• Double the maximum amount of the credit from $7500 to $15,000.
• Extend the home buyer tax credit to all home buyers, not just first-time home buyers.
• Allow taxpayers to claim the credit on their 2008 income tax return, thus providing immediate tax relief and stimulus to the economy.
• Repeal the current law requirement that the credit be repaid over 15 years.
• Extend the credit for one full year from the date of enactment (the credit in the underlying bill does not apply to any home purchases made after August 31, 2009).
• Prevent abuse by: (1) only allowing the home buyer credit for purchases of a principle residence, not houses purchased by investors purely for speculative purposes, and (2) recapturing the credit if the home is sold within 2 years of purchase.