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.
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.
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.
- Clean Refrigerator Coils – Coils can collect dust, making them less efficient for cooling. Be 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 replaced 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.
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.
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.
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 the 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
|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
||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
||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
||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
||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.