Category Archives: Energy Conservation

Bright Outlook for Texas Solar

Experts are anticipating that the solar energy market in the state of Texas to achieve significant growth over the next several years.  According to to the Solar Energy Industry Association:

  • Texas ranks 13th in the country in installed solar capacity, with enough solar energy installations to power 12,300 homes.
  • Residential and commercial photovoltaic systems prices fell by 22 percent over the last year.
  • More than 280 solar companies are actively working in the state of Texas, employing more than 3,000 Texans.

 

 

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Energy Efficient Roofing

Hot roofs absorb heat, causing air conditioner systems to work harder to cool during the warmer months of the year.

A cool roof uses material that is designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof. Cool roofs can be made of a highly reflective type of paint, a sheet covering, or highly reflective tiles or shingles. Cool Roofs can lower the temperature of your roof by up to 50 degrees, which will reduce cooling costs.

 

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Efficient Windows Can Save Energy = Money

In most structures, windows account for 10 to 25 percent of the total heating bill by allowing hot or cold are to enter. During the summer months, HVAC systems work harder to cool hot air from sun exposed windows. Best to replace inefficient windows with double-pane or low-emissivity coated models, which can reduce energy loss by anywhere from 30 to 50 percent.

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Filed under Energy Conservation, Home Winterization

Spring Clean to Promote Energy Efficiency

  • Clean Refrigerator Coils – Coils can collect dust, making them less efficient for cooling. refrigerator-coilsBe sure to clean coils two times per year to eliminate buildup and reduce energy use by up to 6%.

 

 

 

  • Clean Ventilation - Air conditioning vents and dirty air filters should be cleaned and/or ac ventsreplaced regularly.  Changing filters can reduce HVAC energy use and electricity costs from 5 to 15%.

 

 

 

  • Inspect Vent Hoods – Check vent hoods for need of cleaning or filter replacements. 
    Energy Star certified ventilation fans can use 60% less energy than standard models.

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Water Saving Tips

 

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Fix leaks.  The most common fixture that leaks is the toilet flapper.  Checking for leaks should be part of your overall maintenance plan and should be done on a regular basis. Perform a water audit. Take a look at your water meter when no one is likely to be using water.  If the meter is moving, you have a leak.

Install water-saving devices. Can you transform your single flush toilets to dual flush with a kit?  How about installing a Smart Faucet in every bathroom?  The EPA has rolled a complete line of water saving fixtures under its WaterSense label, however, but these are merely minimums.  Individuals should go beyond the minimum by installing 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) shower heads when the WaterSense minimum allows shower heads with flow rates of 2.5gpm.  Rebates may also be available from your local utility to promote the installation of new high efficiency toilets that utilize 1.28 gallons per flush or better.

Upgrade to water saving appliances. Old dishwashers and top-loading washing machines are incredible inefficient, utilizing as much as 25 gallons per load of dishes and 35 gallons of water per load of laundry.  New high-efficiency models utilize a fraction of the water. Dishwashers in the two gallon range are very effective and front-loading washing machines use about a third of the water of what top-loaders use and rebates may be available.  The less water an appliance uses, the less electricity and natural gas that will be needed to heat that water.

Rethink landscaping. Plant what’s appropriate for your region and you will reduce water consumption, increase habitat for native species and raise the value of your property.  Re-landscaping is a big expense, but you are paying to water and maintain plants every year, year and year out, when you could be pocketing the money you currently budget for water.

 

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Remember Earth Hour March 29th, 2014

On 8:30pm, Saturday 29th March, the WWF are encouraging everyone to switch their lights off for 1 hour to help recognize the increasing problem of climate change.  It is widely accepted that climate change is causing the ice caps to melt and seas to warm, threatening ecosystems and coastal areas around the world. This is also causing related effects in other places as rising temperatures are causing increased droughts , threatening the most vulnerable animals and people worldwide.For just 1 hour, 8:30pm, Saturday, March 29th, many landmarks and cities throughout the world are showing their support for Earth Hour and recognizing the danger of climate change by switching the lights off during this time. To find out how you can participate, go to http://www.earthhour.org/TakeAction.aspx.

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Which Caulk Works Best?

The prep for caulking and sealing small repairs like windows and doors is usually pretty minimal. The surface needs to be clean and dry and it is best if the temperature is at least 55.  Rain should not be in the immediate forecast as the caulk needs to cure properly.  Using the right material for Window-Caulkingthe job, however, is critical. Price is not really an issue, as most of the caulking materials are inexpensive, but there are some ease-of-use issues. The water-based spray foam is probably the easiest for a novice to use around windows and doors and the clean up is pretty easy.  Look for low or no-VOC products that carry the Greenguard label to maintain good indoor air quality.

Here is a chart from Consumers Reports that outlines several products and their best uses:

Type of Caulk Best Use(s) Pros Cons Price
Acrylic tub and tile To seal kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Flexible; mildew resistant; cleans up with water. Not paintable; not as durable as 100% silicone. $4 and up per tube
Butyl rubber To seal and fill around windows and skylights and around flashings and in gutters to seal dissimilar materials (glass, metal, plastic, wood, and concrete). More flexible (can stretch in multiple directions) than silicone. Good in areas that experience high temperature variations. Formulations with with asphalt are best for roofing repairs. More flexible (can stretch in multiple directions) than silicone; can be painted after curing one week. Good in areas that experience high temperature variations. Formulations with asphalt are best for roofing repairs. Does not adhere well to painted surfaces; shrinkage varies; might require two applications. Can be toxic; precautions must be taken and requires solvent cleanup. $3.50 and up per tube
Concrete and mortar repair To repair cracks in concrete and damaged masonry and mortar. Can be shaped to fit before drying; remains flexible, cleans up with water, dries to color of concrete mortar or can be painted. Not recommended for horizontal surfaces where water could accumulate. $4.50 and up per tube
Latex To seal gaps in exterior walls and plug holes and fill gaps in interior walls and woodwork before painting. Inexpensive; takes paint well;, can be sanded; easy to work with; cleans up with water. Will crack eventually where temperatures vary greatly (acrylic latex formulations are more durable); needs to be painted when used outdoors; won’t adhere to metal. $1.50 and up per tube
Oil or resin-based To seal gaps in exterior walls. Inexpensive; will bond to most surfaces. Cracks after a few years; much less durable than elastomeric (silicone, latex, or acrylic) caulks. $1 and up per tube
100% silicone To fill around pipes and vents and building structures made of nonporous materials and plumbing fixtures. Not as effective on wood or masonry. Very durable and flexible; doesn’t crack. Expensive; limited colors; can’t be painted or sanded, gives off strong odor when curing; solvent required for cleanup. $4.50 and up per tube
Siliconized latex Same uses as 100% silicone, except not on plumbing fixtures. Very durable and flexible; rarely cracks, many colors available; cleans up with water; less expensive than 100% silicone. Can’t be sanded. $3.50 and up per tube
Spray foam (polyurethane-based) To seal around window and door frames or to fill cracks and holes. Expands more than latex and fills a greater area than caulking alone. Expands after application, so it can warp door and window frames; can’t resist UV light; must be painted for exterior use; very difficult to clean up after use. $5.40 and up per can (but one can fills as much space as many tubes of caulking)
Spray foam (water-based) Around window and door frames or to fill cracks and holes. Does not expand as much as polyurethane foam; can be shaped while wet; easy cleanup with water; will not cause windows or doors to bind. Does not adhere as tightly to materials as urethane; takes longer to cure (up to 24 hours). $5 and up per can (but one can can fill as much space as many tubes of caulking)

Chart Courtesy of Consumer Reports.

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Caulking Tips

Caulking seems like a relatively easy thing to do, and in most cases it is. There are simple tips and tricks that can make a big difference between a easy, seamless, hassle-free caulking job and one that’s messy and full of frustration. Before you start your next caulking job, here are a few things to keep in mind.

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  • Purchase a good-quality pro-style caulking gun ($10). Skip the cheap low-end guns that utilize a ratcheting plunger. Ratcheting guns don’t operate smoothly, making it hard to apply a clean, uniform bead.
  • Use blue painter’s tape to protect your windows and the other side of the joint you are trying to fill. Leave a gap between the tape about 3/8ths of an inch wide.
  • Find a utility knife as when you cut off the top of the caulk tube, you do not want an uneven or straight cut. Make the cut at a 45 degree angle.
  • When you apply the caulk you will hold the caulk gun at approximately 45 degree angle.
  • Bend a piece of cardboard and practice on the seam before you attack your first seam. You could start in a less visible area where any mistakes will be less noticeable.
  • After you apply the caulk, use a plastic spoon to smooth the seam so that it is more or less flush.
  • Keep the tip of your caulking tube clean and free of dried caulk.
  • Make sure you pull the tape off before the caulk dries to leave clean seam.

Proper caulking and sealing will lead to an increase in energy efficiency of a home’s heating and cooling systems. Caulking can also substantially extend the life of windows and doors.

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Test For Air Leaks and Drafts to Reduce Energy Loss

Properly sealing cracks and openings in you home can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs throughout the year. You may already know where some air leakage occurs in your home, such as an under-the-door draft, but you’ll need to find the less obvious gaps to properly seal your home. 

Here are several tests that can be used to check for air leaks:

  1. Window Seal Check – Shut the window on a piece of paper. If paper can be pulled without tearing paper, than window should be resealed.
  2. Visual Gap Check – After daylight hours, shine a light through closed window and door seam and have a partner confirm if light is visible on other side.
  3. Hot/Cold Air Check – Use your hands to feel around door and window seal checking for cold or hot air coming in through a leak.

Common areas to check for leaks are between brick and wood siding, between foundation and walls, and between the chimney and siding. In addition, you should inspect around these areas for leaks and drafts:

  • Door and window frames
  • Mail chutes
  • Electrical and gas service entrances
  • Cable TV and phone lines
  • Outdoor water faucets
  • Where dryer vents pass through walls
  • Bricks, siding, stucco, and foundation
  • Air conditioners
  • Vents and fans

 Home Pressurization Test

If you are having difficulty locating leaks and drafts, you may want to conduct a basic building pressurization test:

  1. First, close all exterior doors, windows and fireplace flues.
  2. Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters.
  3. Then turn on all exhaust fans (generally located in the kitchen and bathrooms) or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms.

This test increases infiltration through cracks and leaks, making them easier to detect. You can use incense sticks or your damp hand to locate these leaks. If you use incense sticks, moving air will cause the smoke to drift, and if you use your damp hand, any drafts will feel cool to your hand.

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Green Tip: Green Wedding Ideas

Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life, but your special day can also result in harm to the environment. It has been calculated that the average wedding can result in up to over 15 tons of CO2 that it also causes substantial environmental damage.

Luckily, if you do not have the time or know how, there are many wedding planners that specialize in eco-friendly weddings. However, there are many easy steps that the do-it-yourselfer can do to minimize waste on their special day.InvitationsOne way to cut down on paper usage, you can send e-cards or emails instead of sending out card invite. This would allow you to limit paper invites to those without computer access. For those paper invites, be sure to use recycled paper.

Flowers

The flower arrangements can be one of the most expensive and wasteful portions of the wedding. Try to get double use of the flowers by arranging to use the same flowers for the wedding and reception. The flowers could have a second life by drying and pressing the flower petals for use as handmade thank-you notes or for placement in your wedding memory book or photo albums.

After the wedding, you could dry and press the flower petals and use them to make handmade thank you cards for your guests and/or incorporate the petals into your wedding scrapbook or photo album. Also plan to have the leftover flowers sent to a hospital or a nursing home. .

Food

There are nearly always leftover food items at weddings. In the first place it’s a good idea to order the food with restraint, as people never eat everything there. If you do have leftovers, choose a venue that supports the environment and has a waste composting capabilities.

If composting is not an option, encourage guests to take home the remaining food or donate the food to a local charity.

Wedding Favors and Decorations

If you opt for favors, avoid disposable itmes that are not recyclable such as disposable cameras.  Use leftover decorations, and napkins either reusable or recyclable Go for favors which are not personalized with your names, so that they can be reused for future use.

Catering Service

This may be one of the most visible ways to make your wedding green-everyone talks about the food at a wedding. Making simple choices like using biodegradable utensils and plates that can be composted. Also choose organic and local food for the cuisine.

Honeymoons

Following the wedding, it’s time for the honeymoon. There are global opportunities for eco-tourism options that get get you fare of the beaten path. There are many companies that specialize in outdoor adventure activity and environmental advocacy. These companies promote sustainable tourism which safely connects people with the world’s greatest places and adventures. By combining the economic power of sustainable tourism with the ingenuity of those connected with nature and aware of its peril.

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