Monday, June 30, 2008
Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs
CFLs can be a huge energy saver and typically have a much longer life than other bulbs. Replace some (or all) of your incandescent bulbs with fluorescents and enjoy reductions in heat production, energy use and electric bills. Changing five of the most frequently used bulbs in your home can save you $100 per year on electric bills.
Program your thermostat
When you are at home, keep the thermostat at 78 F or higher in the summer and 62 F or lower in the winter. Programmable thermostats allow you to program the systems to reduce output when they are not needed, like when no one is home during the day or at night when everyone is sleeping.
Plug air leaks
This simple step can go a long way toward keeping your home at the temperature you desire, saving money on heating and air conditioning bills and more. Common leaks occur around windows, doors and other wall penetrations. Plugging those leaks with weather stripping and caulk can be a simple task for anyone.
Tune up your heating and cooling (HVAC) system
Have a checkup for your HVAC system every two years to make sure it is running efficiently. Be sure to clean the filter monthly during times of peak usage; a dirty filter can significantly reduce the system’s efficiency.
Choose ENERGY STAR® appliances
ENERGY STAR®-qualified products meet a high level of energy efficiency, which can translate into savings on electric bills. So when it’s time to replace that old refrigerator, microwave, clothes washer or other appliance, remember that even if an ENERGY STAR appliance costs more, you could reduce your energy bill by $50 yearly for each appliance. Also, check with your electric utility – some offer incentives for replacing old appliances with more efficient ones.
Reduce water use
Inside, install aerators – available for a few dollars at your local home supply store – to your sink faucets and change to low-flow showerheads. Outside, landscape with native plants and minimize high-maintenance landscaping such as turf grass.
Switch to green power
Green power is an optional utility service for customers who want to help expand the production and distribution of renewable energy technologies. With green power, you do not have to change your electricity provider. Instead, customers just choose to pay a premium on their electricity bills to cover the extra cost of purchasing clean, sustainable energy. The U.S. Energy Department has more information.
Photovoltaics – solar power technology that uses solar cells or solar photovoltaic arrays to convert light from the sun directly into electricity or heat – are increasingly available for residential use. Solar power can be harnessed to create electricity for your home, to heat water, and to improve indoor lighting. The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy can help you find the right solar solutions for you.
Use low-VOC products
Switch to products that don’t give off volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Low- or no-VOC products greatly improve your indoor air quality and protect your health. Look for low-VOC paints and cleaning products, or you can make your own cleaning products using simple household materials like baking soda, vinegar and borax.
Plant trees to provide shade and wind protection for your house
This simple step can help you save money on heating and air conditioning bills while providing beautiful views around your home.
Use native plantings
Native plants have been growing and evolving in your area for thousands of years and, as a result, have adapted to the local soils and climate. As a result they are more likely to thrive with minimal care, unlike exotic plants. That can mean less need for water, fertilizer and pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency has additional information on green landscaping techniques.
Copy gently borrowed from the US Green Building Council (gotta spread the Green gospel after all)!
Monday, June 23, 2008
The Home Energy Saver is designed to help consumers identify the best ways to save energy in their homes, and find the resources to make the savings happen. The Home Energy Saver was the first Internet-based tool for calculating energy use in residential buildings. The project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as part of the national ENERGY STAR Program for improving energy efficiency in homes, with previous support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's PATH program, and the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.
The Home Energy Saver quickly computes a home's energy use online based on methods developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Users can estimate how much energy and money can be saved and how much emissions can be reduced by implementing energy-efficiency improvements. All end uses (heating, cooling, major appliances, lighting, and miscellaneous uses) are included.
The Home Energy Saver's Energy Advisor calculates energy use and savings opportunities based on a detailed description of the home provided by the user. Users can begin the process by simply entering their zip code, and in turn receive instant initial estimates. By providing more information about the home, the user will receive increasingly customized results along with energy-saving upgrade recommendations.
The results pages provide a list of recommendations--ranked by payback time--tailored to the particular home being evaluated. The user can vary the energy efficiency assumptions in many cases, as well as the retrofit costs and then recalculate the table. The results can be viewed on line, and via a detailed printable report that includes retrofit description and other details as well as links to additional information.
To access the Home Energy Saver and perform your own FREE web based energy audit, go to http://hes.lbl.gov/hes/vh.shtml.
Monday, June 16, 2008
By now we are all aware that conventional plastics are wreaking havoc on the environment. At the same time life without plastics is somewhat unrealistic these days. By reducing your use of plastic, choosing plastic products carefully, and using them safely — you can reduce the risks that plastics pose to you, your family and the environment. Here now for you is the “Smart Plastics Guide”.
• When you do use plastic, it's best to choose those labeled #1, #2, #4, and #5 and avoid those labeled #3, #6, and #7. Remember, even if you're choosing the best plastics, there are still concerns about chemical leaching associated with long term storage or heat.
• Avoid using plastic containers in the microwave. Better to use glass or ceramic containers free of metallic paint.
• Beware of cling wraps, especially for microwave use.
• Avoid plastic bottled water whenever possible.
• If you do use plastic water bottles, take precautions. If you use a polycarbonate water bottle, reduce the possibility of leaching BPA by avoiding warm or hot liquids, and discard old or scratched bottles. Water bottles from #1 or #2 plastics are recommended for single use only. If you do reuse, for all types of plastic, reduce the possibility of bacterial contamination by thoroughly washing daily. However, avoid using harsh detergents that can break down the plastic and increase chemical leaching.
• Parents and pregnant women should be aware to use precautionary measures with plastics. Plastic baby bottles are of particular concern. The Children's Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC) advises avoiding polycarbonate bottles (#7) bottles and instead selecting those made of tempered glass or polyethylene and polypropylene (#1, #2, or #5).
• CHEC also recommends using bottle nipples made of clear silicone to lower the chances of bacteria forming and hiding on its surface. Silicone is also more heat resistant.
• For toys, CHEC recommends avoidance of plastic toys, which are often made of PVC and can leach harmful chemicals when chewed on. They recommend cloth and wooden toys or taking the time to research which toy manufacturers have eliminated PVC from their products.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:
• Reduce first: Avoid single-use items such as disposable bottles, plates, and cutlery. Prioritize PLA if you must use disposable. To cut down on the total amount of plastic used, prioritize packaged goods in the largest container available, rather than several smaller ones, (for example, a gallon container of water rather than sixteen 8 oz. bottles). Carry a refillable bottle or mug for beverages on the go, and bring reusable cloth bags to stores.
• Reuse: If you regularly buy products that are only available in plastic packaging, buy those you can reuse. You can use them for other purposes or refill them using the precautions already mentioned.
• Recycle: 75% of plastics end up in a landfill or are incinerated after a single use. Plastic recycling has lightened some of the “throw away” burden, but US plastic-bottle recycling rate is still just 25%. After Reduce and Reuse, Recycling is the next best thing. Even if we managed to raise the amount we do recycle, it isn't the ideal solution because it is recycled into lower-quality plastic with limited applications, such as plastic composite lumber, much of which currently ends its life only after its 2nd use. For recycling to work full cycle, purchase items made from or packaged in post-consumer content recycled plastic. If you have a curbside program that doesn't accept certain plastics, consult www.earth911.org to find an alternative drop-off site near you.
For a thorough and informative, if not a bit ominous, read on plastics check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic
Monday, June 9, 2008
In an effort to make green home design accessible to all, FreeGreen provides a selection of green home designs for free, with a range of styles from traditional to modern. While the basic designs are free, homeowners can take the process even further and customize their designs for an additional (and very reasonable) fee. The cost of the design process, and of the free home plans, is kept to a minimum through partnerships between FreeGreen and green building product manufacturers.
As homeowners consult with FreeGreen for customized designs, they are introduced to healthy, energy-saving, sustainable products that are sponsors of FreeGreen's eco-enterprise. It is a win-win-win collaboration that introduces people to green building principles and products and allows consumers on any budget to own a custom designed, green home.
Ultimately, FreeGreen is about providing people with the options and knowledge to make informed decisions. Green building products are widely available but sorting through the myriad choices, or even knowing where to look, is a daunting task for most new homeowners. Freegreen is solving this problem by offering excellent green building consult at little cost to the consumer. According to the founders, “The goal at FreeGreen is not to produce the greenest possible home but rather to provide a variety of different home plans that allow people to create homes that fit their lifestyles in a responsible and equitable manner.”
For more information and to see the FREE plans available, go to http://freegreen.com
Monday, June 2, 2008
What is deconstruction?
In the context of physical construction, deconstruction is the selective dismantlement of building components, specifically for re-use, recycling, and waste management. It differs from demolition where a site is cleared of its building by the most expedient means. Deconstruction has also been defined as “construction in reverse”. The process of dismantling structures is an ancient activity that has been revived by the growing field of sustainable, green building. Buildings, like everything, have a life-cycle. Deconstruction focuses on giving the materials within a building a new life once the building as a whole can no longer continue.
When buildings reach the end of their useful life, they are typically demolished and hauled to landfills. Implosions or ‘wrecking-ball’ style demolition is relatively inexpensive and offers a quick method of clearing sites for new structures. On the other hand, this method creates substantial amounts of waste. Components within old buildings may still be valuable, sometimes more valuable than at the time the building was constructed. Deconstruction is a method of harvesting what is commonly considered “waste” and reclaiming it into useful building material.
Contribution to sustainability
Deconstruction has strong ties to environmental sustainability. In addition to giving materials a new life cycle, deconstructing buildings helps to lower the need for virgin resources. This in turn leads to energy and emissions reductions from the refining and manufacture of new materials. As deconstruction is often done on a local level, many times on-site, energy and emissions are also saved during the transportation of materials. Deconstruction can potentially support communities by providing local jobs and renovated structures. Deconstruction employs 3-6 workers for every one employed in a comparable demolition job. In addition, solid waste from conventional demolition is diverted from landfills. This is a major benefit because construction and demolition (C&D) waste accounts for approximately 20% of the solid waste stream.
Deconstruction’s economic viability varies from project to project. The amount of time and cost of labor are the main drawbacks. Harvesting materials from a structure can take weeks, where as demolition may be completed in roughly a day. However, some of the costs, if not all, can be recovered. Reusing the materials in a new on-site structure, selling reclaimed materials, donating materials for income tax write-offs, and avoiding landfill “tipping fees” are all ways in which the cost of deconstruction can be made comparable to demolition.
Designing for deconstruction (DfD)
An upstream approach to deconstruction can be implemented into buildings during their design process. This is a current trend in sustainable architecture. Often, simple construction methods combined with high-grade, durable materials work best for DfD structures. Separating layers of a building’s infrastructure and making them visible can significantly simplify its deconstruction. Making components within systems separable also assists in being able to dismantle materials quickly and efficiently. This can be achieved by using mechanical fasteners such as bolts to connect parts. Allowing physical access to the fasteners is another needed aspect of this design. Also, it is important to use standardized materials and assemble them in a consistent manner throughout the project.
Some conventional construction methods and materials are difficult or impossible to deconstruct and should be avoided. The use of nails and adhesives significantly slow down the deconstruction process and have a tendency to ruin good materials. Avoid hazardous materials altogether as they detrimental to the natural environment and are non-reusable. Using mixed material grades make the process of identifying pieces for resale difficult. Try to use similar grade woods and metals and identical length members throughout the structure.
Deconstruction is important for more than just the end of a building’s life-cycle. Buildings that have been designed with deconstruction in mind are often easier to maintain and adapt to new uses. Saving the shell of a building or adapting the interior space to meet new needs is the ultimate choice in terms of environmental sustainability. Flattening a salvageable building and building a similar one in its place is generally inadvisable.
Courtesy of Wikipedia