Musings of an Energy Nerd

Deciphering the Tax Credits

Posted on October 30, 2009 by Martin Holladay

The energy-efficiency tax credits and renewable-energy tax credits are better than tax deductions. The allowable credits aren’t just deductible expenses; they represent dollars subtracted directly from your tax bill. While the tax credit program includes illogical rules, the available tax credits can be significant.

If you want to claim a tax credit on your 2009 income tax return for energy-efficiency improvements to your home, you should get the improvements installed before the end of the year. There’s really no need to rush, however, since the tax credits will remain available until the end of 2010 — or, in some cases, 2016.

Passivhaus Crosses the Atlantic

Posted on October 23, 2009 by Martin Holladay

Last weekend I attended the Fourth Annual North American Passive House Conference in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. The conference offered a great opportunity to learn more about the Passivhaus standard and to discuss low-energy buildings with an experienced group of architects, engineers, and builders.

Return-Air Problems

Posted on October 16, 2009 by Martin Holladay

In homes with a single central return-air grille, return air often struggles to find its way back to the furnace. The result: room-to-room pressure imbalances that lead to uneven room temperatures, comfort complaints, higher energy costs, and even moisture problems in walls and ceilings.

Hot-Climate Design

Posted on October 9, 2009 by Martin Holladay

People who live in Florida or Texas often accuse energy-efficiency experts of having a cold-climate bias. They’re right: most energy-saving tips are written with cold-climate buildings in mind — perhaps understandably, since Americans spend about twice as much for residential heating as they do for cooling.

Whatever the origins of this pervasive cold-climate bias, it’s time to rectify the situation with a few hot-climate design tips.

Passivhaus Windows

Posted on October 2, 2009 by Martin Holladay

UPDATED on June 11, 2013 with new information on European PassivhausA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates.-certified windows available in the U.S.

German windows, like German cars, have a very solid reputation for high performance and durability. U.S. interest in German windows has grown in recent years, especially among Passivhaus builders, leading several U.S. importers to conclude that the time is ripe to offer German windows to North American customers.

Martin’s Useless Products List

Posted on September 25, 2009 by Martin Holladay

Every day, marketers convince hundreds of people to spend money on useless “energy saving” gadgets. Since these marketers show no signs of going away, it’s time to highlight their products with a ten-worst list.

Pinpointing Leaks With a Fog Machine

Posted on September 18, 2009 by Martin Holladay

In the last few years, energy consultants have developed a quick and easy way to pinpoint air leaks in a building envelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials.. The technique uses a theatrical fogTo fog a room or building is to use a fog machine during a blower door test, revealing locations of air leaks where the fog escapes. The fogging material is usually a glycol-based solution, completely non-toxic. machine — a small, inexpensive device that creates smoke-like fog for dances, Halloween parties, or theatrical events. Fog machines have heating elements that vaporize “fog juice,” a solution of water and glycol or water and glycerin.

With the help of a blower door or a window fan, a fog machine can dramatically reveal holes in a building envelope.

‘Insulating’ Paint Merchants Dupe Gullible Homeowners

Posted on September 11, 2009 by Martin Holladay

Scammers have been selling “insulating” paint to gullible consumers for at least 27 years. Among the exaggerated claims made by distributors of these overpriced cans of paint is that the “low-e” coatings will “lower energy bills.” In addition to liquid paint, some fraudsters sell powders or paint additives, usually described as “miracle” products containing “micro-spheres” or “ceramic beads.”

The Jevons Paradox

Posted on September 4, 2009 by Martin Holladay

UPDATED with new photo on May 6, 2011

Let’s say you’ve sold your old, leaky house and moved into a new, well-insulated home with Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. appliances. With all of its efficiency improvements, your new home requires 30% less energy than your old home. That’s got to be good for the planet, right?

Well, maybe not — especially if you save so much on your energy bills that you decide to fly to Florida for your next vacation.

Solar Hot Water

Posted on August 28, 2009 by Martin Holladay

If you’re aiming to reduce your carbon footprintAmount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that a person, community, industry, or other entity contributes to the atmosphere through energy use, transportation, and other means. , you’ve probably thought about installing a solar hot water system. Here’s the good news: if you have an unshaded south-facing roof, you can install a solar hot water system that will meet about half your annual hot water needs.

The bad news: the typical solar hot water system costs between $6,000 and $10,000.

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