A friend of mine participated in the Second-Annual State of the Electric Utility survey. He also shared with me the results of the 2014 survey, which tabulates the opinions of more than 500 electric-utility professionals on the subjects of demand growth, distributed generation, power supply, regulatory models, and a number of other electricity-generation, transmission, and distribution-related issues.
We all know that renewable energy is an important part of a greener, more sustainable future, but are there health risks associated with home-scale photovoltaic installations? The jury is still out in the world of industry-sponsored and independent research, but there is a fast-growing segment of the population who feels ill from our ever-increasing use of electricity and wireless frequencies.
Learn more on how to get the most from your solar panels and maximize your energy generated.
Installing solar panels for your home is becoming more and more affordable. In addition to the generous federal investment tax credit of 30%, there are over 900 financial and regulatory incentive programs across the United States. Combined with falling solar costs and rising electricity prices, these programs are helping to make solar panels an investment that can save you money in the long run.
When homeowners think of installing a solar energy system on their home, rooftop solar is probably the first thing to come to mind. What many homeowners don’t realize is that installing ground-mounted solar panels is both easy and cost-effective.
This past year has been a hallmark year for the advancement of Light Straw-Clay building. The publication of our new book The EcoNest Home and the latest edition of Franz Volhard’s book Light Earth Building translated into English, and the inclusion of Light Straw-Clay Building in the International Residential Code has made this beautiful form of construction accessible to more people than ever before in modern times.
As the energy industry evolves, so does big data. Big data is probably best known for tracking people’s behaviors, purchases and viewpoints, but it can have many other applications. Now the energy sector is tapping into the resources big data has to offer. From renewable energy to oil, gas and coal, this data science can help many companies maximize profits, reduce costs and even lower risk.
Installing a Lock Top Chimney Damper is a common project among do-it-yourself homeowners. Many times the fireplace throat damper rusts apart and is non-functional, allowing heat and air from your home to escape through the chimney and vice versa. In today's chimney industry, we have top-locking chimney dampers that are easy to install, made of stainless steel, and completely seal a chimney flue when not in use.
A seemingly simple, light-trapping prism could revolutionize the future of solar power. The glass prism, which maximizes the amount of energy it can derive from sunlight, contains a 28-square centimeter, four-junction miniature module that works by utilizing a hybrid receiver designed to convert electricity from each sunbeam more than other devices.
Gas range or induction cooking? The speed and efficiency revealed. Because I’m off-grid, induction will be my go-to cooking method when sunshine is ample, offering an option for fossil-free cooking!
Every solar company has a variation of the same sales pitch, but whether solar is a smart long-term investment for you depends on a few major factors. Before you buy into the hype, use this simple guide to cut through the sales jargon.
Making the switch to solar energy for your home is a big decision. It pays to spend a little time and effort researching your solar options, whether it be how to finance your system, deciding which installer to hire or which size system to install. Avoiding the most common mistakes will help you through the process so that you can make the most of your investment.
An automatic gate opener is a great example of how simple and convenient it can be to use solar panels to power all of its tools and equipment. You can also get a 30% federal residential tax credit toward the cost of a new solar powered gate opener, accessories and installation, as long as you do it before December of this year.
If you’re looking for an investment that will help to save you money as well as conserve fossil fuels, solar power is great option for many homeowners and businesses. With the continual drop in equipment prices, the advantages of solar energy just keep growing. Before undertaking such a project, you may be wondering how much can solar panels save exactly? Here are the basics.
If you’re a homeowner weighing your renewable energy options, you already know that thorough research is the best way to find the right system for your home. Here’s everything you need to know about the benefits of residential wind vs. solar power so that you can make your decision with confidence.
There quite a few home improvement projects to help increase your energy efficiency including updating your home's floors, bathroom, as well as your water system.
If you’re starting to think about going solar, knowing that your home and solar are a good match makes the shopping process even easier. Here are the top five questions and answers that will help you determine whether solar is right for your home (they might surprise you).
If you were to rank sustainable homes primarily based on their energy efficiency, Zero Net Energy homes would rank extremely high. They’re pretty cool — and complicated. Top U.S. home builder PulteGroup moves into the eco-friendly homes market by providing Zero Net Energy homes to the masses.
Choosing the right size solar photovoltaic system for your home depends on where you live, how much electricity you use, the specifications of your roof, as well as the policies in place at the state, municipal and utility level. By optimizing your system, you can make the most of your solar investment.
You may have heard that installing a solar energy system on your roof can increase the value of your home – but by how much? Get past the sales pitch and understand exactly what solar companies mean when they say that your home value increases when you install solar.
According to the Department of Energy, many Americans are leaching up to 30% of their heated or cooled air through leaks, cracks or poor insulation. While you can hire a professional to perform a complete home energy audit, homeowners can conquer this important task themselves by following some simple guidelines, especially when it comes to checking and/or adding additional attic insulation if necessary.
Solar energy is growing in popularity! But installing rooftop panels is a big investment, so homeowners naturally have a number of questions. By answering some of the most common questions, I hope to set your mind at ease and help you discover the many benefits of solar energy. Before long, you could be producing your own clean, green electricity.
The conventional wisdom from HGTV and home improvement magazines is that updating your kitchen, renovating your bathroom, and building an addition are among the smartest ways to increase the resale value of your home. But there’s another home improvement that you may not realize can add serious value to your property: installing a solar energy system.
ne of the principles of Permaculture is “Stacking Functions” or making every structure/addition to your plan serve at least two, if not more, functions in the landscape. When we added solar panels to the homestead, we wanted to honor this principle—and constructing a small greenhouse allowed us to install the panels, as the light was not great on the roof of the house. The number of functions we have stacked on this small structure became very clear to me as I prepared for an upcoming solar homes tour.
The first year fair in Belton, Texas was a huge event and by all accounts, a success. I was super busy at the DIY Showcase the entire fair and had over 300 people attend my presentation on the GRIT Stage.
Many homeowners don’t realize that energy efficiency measures and solar panels are each effective ways to save on electricity costs, and when you combine them, they can save you even more.
With favorable legislation in the form of a generous tax credit, along with low interest rates and stabilizing costs, switching to solar energy has never made more sense for homeowners frustrated by rising electricity rates and/or wanting to help the environment.
Learn to choose the right-sized wood stove, manage your firewood and light, and maintain quality fires to heat your home with wood.
Solar panels and electric cars are a match made in heaven – when you install a solar energy system on your home, you can use it to both power your home and charge your electric car for emissions-free transportation.
Winters can be brutal, especially on our homes when it comes to our energy costs. Winter tends to drive up energy costs but there is a way to prevent that from happening this winter including eliminating drafts, smart thermostats, and more.
There are many ways to save energy in the home and one of the most efficient is the right use of home automation. Here are the top five ways you can use home automation to turn your house into a smart, energy-saving abode.
To save money, it’s no surprise that many homeowners are considering DIY solar panel kits when they decide to go solar. Here are the top things you need to know about DIY solar before making a decision.
Determining the best places to go solar is not just about finding the sunniest places, but also about the economics of going solar. That means taking a look at electricity prices and available financial incentives as well.
Congressional extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC) will make residential renewable energy more affordable in the coming decade.
Energy conversion efficiencies have been stuck in the 19th century. As a result the enormous drain on natural resources has polluted the entire planet and threatens to cause a return to a preindustrial lifestyle. An Energy breakthrough is needed. A breakthrough has occurred as prophesied by Nikola Tesla.
Establishing a secure financial future for your retirement requires that you explore a variety of options, but most homeowners don’t realize that installing a solar panel system can be one of the smartest retirement investment options available.
Plenty of homeowners have both solar panels and snow, and some of the most popular regions in the U.S. for solar have snowy winters. Don’t let winter weather discourage you from going solar!
"Solar Empowerment" is a key component behind an educational development model that does more than trade third-world problems for first-world problems. The Integral Heart Foundation combines education for the poor with environmentalism in a way that bypasses the problems facing our developed world.
Home insulation can no longer be regarded as something homeowners simply put off as a vague way to be environmentally conscious. Insulating one’s home properly is the best way to cut down on those surging energy costs plaguing every homeowner.
Losing power is a reality that homesteaders must prepare for. It is not a matter of if, but when, and for how long. As a homesteader/farmsteader we have a responsibility to keep the home running regardless of “power.” This series of blog posts discusses homestead preparedness for power outages, part 2 covers generator usage, communications, water strategies and dry-composting toilets.
With rising utility rates, more and more homeowners are considering solar energy for their home. In a number of states, the cost of electricity from rooftop solar panels is the same or cheaper than electricity from the utility. A brief look at historical trends in utility rates across the U.S., is followed by an explanation of the available solar options.
In addition to solar's financial benefits, going solar is also great for the environment. When your solar panels generate electricity, they produce zero emissions.
This is the final article in a series on how I made the transition to off grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable techniques practiced for thousands of years of human history. Currently I’m entering the first winter of full-time off grid living at my mountain homestead after completing the construction of my small house.
Losing power is a reality that homesteaders must prepare for. It is not a matter of if, but when, and for how long. As a homesteader/farmsteader we have a responsibility to keep the home running regardless of “power.” This series of blog posts discusses homestead preparedness for power outages, beginning with fuel storage, gas cooking and wood heat.
So you finally took the leap and installed a home wind turbine. Congratulations! You’ve just taken a big step to make your home energy generation more sustainable and secure, but what comes next? Wind turbines require maintenance and this post will outline some wind turbine maintenance essentials to consider.
This is part three in a series of articles on how I made the transition to off grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable techniques practiced for thousands of years. Currently I’m entering the first winter of full-time off grid living at my mountain homestead after completing the construction of my small house.
Discussions about solar value are often limited to avoiding electricity costs, and oftentimes neglect the additional market value that these “mini power plants” can add to your home. EnergySage and Sandia National Laboratories conducted an analysis to estimate solar market values in 15 cities across the United States.
Don't fall into the "greenwashing" trap when buying a new home. Gain tips on how to avoid it and insight into how one website is trying to safeguard against the real estate practice.
There are five main areas of the home responsible for wasting the most energy. At the top of that list is windows, and one of the most effective ways to decrease your home’s carbon footprint is by replacing old, drafty windows with new, air-tight Energy Star-qualified windows.
This is Part 2 in a series of articles on how I made the transition to off-grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable techniques practiced for thousands of years of human history. The author is currently entering the first winter of full-time off-grid living at his mountain homestead after completing the construction of a small house.
This green homes blog post describes energy-efficient, fiberglass windows and the impact they have on energy costs in your home.
Does solar energy make financial sense for you? Have a look at these considerations before deciding.
This is the first of a series of articles on how I made the transition to off-grid homestead living by combining appropriate modern technology and reliable old-school techniques practiced for thousands of years of human history. Currently I’m entering the first winter of full-time off-grid living at my mountain homestead after completing the construction of my small home.
Take notice of your environmental footprint over the festive period and follow our guide for a greener Christmas.
If you’re reviewing multiple quotes for solar power, there are plenty of metrics that can help you make a decision about which solar option is best for you, but studies show most solar shoppers rely on one metric in particular: the solar panel payback period.
Net-zero homes are very popular. What are they and how do you get one? Here are some tips.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the amount of energy lost annually through windows costs consumers $35 billion. Heat loss and heat gain through and around windows accounts for between 10 and 25 percent of our heating and air conditioning usage, the largest consumer of energy in a modern home. Here are some ways to make sure your windows are as energy-efficient as possible.
Building a new home with energy-efficient appliances and water-conserving features is now pretty easy. One home-building couple relates how simple these options were to find, thanks to the EPA’s appliance and plumbing labels.
Installation timing, system sizing, and federal and state energy policies are all important components for financing renewable energy as part of a home construction project. One couple shares their experience with trying to put all the pieces in order.
Ever thought about designing and building your own space? Darles Eaton will walk you through thoughful design, best materials and lessons learned.
The previous entry provided a run-through of the basic wind turbine terms. Here, we’ll cover the tower, the unsung hero of small wind turbine energy production.
What it's really like to buy, sell and market a green home.
The fourth in a series of postings about my visit to Cuba with a delegation of energy industry professionals, and a Cuban colleague’s visit to Vermont where I developed a similar tour. Along the way we learned about efficiency and renewables, and some striking contrasts between ourselves and our countries were revealed.
Before beginning construction on their new home, one couple assesses which renewable energy sources make sense for their location and situation.
Cam Mather tries out a battery-powered chainsaw at his off-grid homestead in Ontario.
There are multiple philosophies that describe what characterizes a green home, but all have low energy loads in common.
From choosing affordable floods for the bedroom remodel to switching out the oven-hood incandescent, Jennifer details how much it cost to light her house sustainably, as well as forecast her long term savings.
Build your own wind generator for use with 12-Volt systems. Charge up batteries for lighting, fans, tools and more.
Spring is the perfect time to give your home cooling equipment a check-up before hot weather arrives.
Going solar at home will save you both money and energy. See why it's the future for renewable energy in residential areas.
A new building insulation guide is available from NAIMA Canada to assist homeowners in choosing the right insulation for new building and DIY home renovation projects.
High efficiency air source heat pumps are proving their worth for cold climate heating and cooling.
Energy Star for Homes is a worthwhile green building certification with demonstrated market value.
Old homes are often thought of as second-hand or sub-par quality. There are a lot of things you can do to modernize your home, and even make it more energy efficient that many new homes.
Learn how to evaluate your own home for solar potential with four easy steps!
Our efforts to improve energy efficiency in the United States might be faltering.
There are many ways we can conserve energy, and be more eco-friendly, especially with the advancements that technology is making every day.
New standards for Energy Star refrigerators and freezers will reduce energy consumption and include “connected” features.
Save money and energy at home by choosing energy-efficient products whenever you purchase home appliances or computers and other electronics.
A home’s air-tightness is just as important as how much R-value it has.
Passive solar design comes to Navajo families, as architecture students build homes on Utah reservations.
Save money and energy by going green and being smart about your home utilities.
A look at the advantages and disadvantages of “off-grid” and "grid-tied” solar electric systems.
Everything you need to know about avoiding problems when you build or remodel your own house. Learn from the mistakes of others and make fewer of your own.
More than the electricity needed to run these machines, the “rinse hold” hot water setting that many households use is the biggest energy drain associated with dishwashers – as much as 80 percent of the energy your dishwasher uses goes to heat water.
I decided to build double 2-by-4 walls to achieve 14-inch thick super-insulated walls. This is just one way of achieving the high R-values for net zero energy homes.
When you get home, go to your hot water heater, remove the cover and turn it down to 120 degrees (sometimes labeled “hot” as opposed to “very hot”).
Replacing a task that uses electricity with one that does not is a no-brainer when trying to save on your energy bill — and air drying is one of the easiest ways to go.
To me, the most important features of a sustainable building are not its technological wonders but its simple design features: common-sense strategies that should be incorporated whether the building becomes LEED certified, Energy Star certified, or is just trying to be environmentally friendly.
Heating water is the highest drain that laundry machines and dishwashers have on your bill. Onaverage, water heating accounts for 18 percent of your energy bill.
Many people don’t know that most HVAC systems don’t produce more or less heating or cooling based on the room temperature – they simply blow air for longer.
There are two situations which do not require you to be heating your home: when it is warm and when you are not at home. Since it is still a bit chilly outside, you may want to consider setting up a routine of turning down the set temperature on your thermostat when you head out in the morning and when you go to bed.
Some large electronics can use as much energy as a light bulb while in "stanby" mode, meaning you should unplug them when you leave the house or know you won’t use them for awhile. Having a large electronic setup plugged into a power strip makes it much easier to completely power it down, especially if it has a lot of plugs like a home theater system or computer.
Tonight when you get home from work or school, call your utility company and ask what incentives they have for you to get an energy audit for your home. Many utilities have been offering free energy audits for years, but very few people have actually taken advantage.
Dan Chiras’ superefficient net zero energy home, floor joists, efficient floor design, band beam and rim joist
A 3-part series on sustainable comfort systems for heating and cooling homes using passive solar design, solar electric power, system controllers and newly popular heat pump technology.
The basement of Dan Chiras' net zero energy home is outfitted with PVC pipes, insulation and concrete.
If someone told you that you were losing money just by sitting in your home, you would probably want to do whatever you could to change that. Well the reality is that your home is using up energy regularly, and there is a huge chunk of that energy that you do not even need. Luckily, we live in a time when technology is constantly coming up with ways to fix problems such as these. Here are some of the ways that technology can help to save the environment, as well as your wallet.
How packing snow against your house can add R-value to your insulation - and subtract energy costs.
The devil is in the details in a net zero energy home. Every single step in the design and construction of a home requires efforts to ensure airtightness. The top of the foundation is one detail that deserves special attention.
To ensure an airtight design, be sure to level and finish the top of the concrete wall and use sill seal below your bottom plates.
Once the ICFs are in place and the walls are very well reinforced, it is time to pour concrete. This blog illustrates the process in words and photos.
This blog describes some of the details involved in building with insulating concrete forms, notably window and door buck details that you need to take into account
Additional reinforcement is required around the garage door opening.
Scaffolding is required to access the walls to pour the concrete. Scaffolding also helps support the walls.
ICF walls must be carefully braced to prevent blowout.
ICFs are not the most environmentally friendly green building product, but result in super energy efficient home, and offer many other benefits, that offset their origin from petrochemicals.
Insulating concrete forms are an excellent choice for foundations for passive solar, net zero energy homes. They create a highly insulated, air-tight foundation, so essential for extremely high energy performance.
Don't forget to budget in the cost of deeper excavation and add $1000 to $2000 as a budget contingecy in case you run into bedrock.
Be sure to install under-the-footing conduit to run electrical and water pipes, including sewer. I like to run pipes and wire under the foot to prevent penetrating the band joist or the foundation to create a more airtight, water tight home.
Insulation under the slab -- and lots of it -- is vital for the performance of a net zero energy home. So is the footprint. You can make the most of passive solar by creating a longer, narrower house in which each room is heated by the sun.
Creating a net zero energy home requires that we eliminate all thermal bridging loss -- heat movement into and out of a building. All this starts in the basement.
To build a net zero energy home, you'll need to design for passive gain. That requires a shallower footprint to ensure that the low-angled winter sun can enter and heat each room.
Solar expert Joe Utasi hopes to have his home solar panel installation complete and running, and will have lots of pictures to show and discuss by the time the Seven Springs Fair arrives.
In this blog, I describe two of the first and most important design considerations -- the length and depth of the home and the layout of rooms for optimum passive solar gain.
This blog contains a detailed list of most of my initial design priorities for my net zero energy home so others may benefit from my thinking and experience on creating a passive solar, net zero energy, green home.
In this blog, I highlight the earliest decisions I had to make to create a net zero energy home: how I was going to build the foundation and walls. Thermal bridging, air tightness, insulation, cost, and greeness are all key deciders.
Our humble abode begins to take shape.
In this blog, my architect James Plagmann and I begin to tell the story of the construction of Dan's new net zero energy homes. Dan begins by laying the ground, defining a few terms and describing his experience in this field.
Finally, we start to take shape.
Companies launch demonstration site to illustrate the consumer and utility benefits of a BMW electric vehicle in a Smart Energy Home powered by Tendril Connect(TM) cloud platform.
Has the "magic" energy solution been discovered?
We finally build somthing!
GO Home, built by architecture and construction firm G•O Logic LLC, received the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) 2011 LEED for Homes Project of the Year Award.
Before winter's chill starts to compromise comfort and elevate home energy bills, there are 5 energy-saving upgrades you can complete.
Check out this magical photograph of an energy-efficient dome home and the surprise above.
Custom Curve is the first glass window system with a structurally engineered framework that follows the curved wall of the yurt.
Alisa Shorey will present a workshop on beekeeping and Jack McCornack will present a workshop on 100-mpg cars at the Mother Earth News Fair, an annual sustainability festival, June 4-5, 2011 in Puyallup, Wash.
Live in a dome home in this week’s Photo of the Week. Remember to submit your own pictures, and you could be the next Photo of the Week!
An energy audit can help the homeowner determine the best strategies for improving the home's energy efficiency.
Explore how you can make your own home grown organic fuel to power your own transportation or electricity.
Getting solar panels in Seattle is becoming more affordable with state incentives and net metering but still doesn't quite compare to other states.
Any net zero-energy home needs two things. The first is the sun, providing passive solar energy. The second necessity is retaining maximum heat.
There are many ways that each of us can lessen our unhealthy dependence on filthy fuels. You can do so in every area of your life, from choices you make regarding your house and home improvements, to food, transportation, and other consumer choices.
Cam readily admits to being obsessed about his use of energy.
Scott Davis’ “Solar Projects, Big and Small” video offers inspiration for both solar energy enthusiasts and folks who are just curious. Tips and advice pertaining to solar energy can be found at the Yahoo! group Simply Solar, and you can make your dream project a reality with Gary Reysa’s instructions.
Most of us would love to live in energy-efficient homes that are good for the environment and have low, low energy bills. But what are the best real options available? How do you create an extremely energy-efficient home that’s still affordable for most people?
Green home improvement and retrofit projects that only require a minimal investment and that have a sure (and often speedy) payback. These relatively low-cost improvements can reap real savings. Plus, a link to info on tax credits and rebates.
New approach to renewable home energy – heating with pelletized fuel in free-standing pellet stoves and fireplace inserts. Generally made from recycled wood byproducts, pellets are low carbon fuel that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A BIG issue in everyone’s lives today is increasing fuel costs. The seriousness and scope of our energy problems calls for an all-out effort for sustainable solutions, starting as soon as possible.
Information about energy-efficient washing machines and cellular window shades. These energy-efficient appliances and window shades will please environmentally conscious consumers.
A look at the completed project and some of the features.
Ceiling fans help cool people naturally, and use a lot less energy than air conditioners. Use them to save on energy.
Check out these high-quality workshops on solar electricity, home energy efficiency, and small wind energy systems. Geared to homeowners, aspiring professionals, students and teachers - anyone wishing to learn more about renewable energy systems
From switching out light bulbs to bundling up your water heater, environmental journalist, Simran Sethi, shares some simple and stress-free tips on how to save energy in your home.
On the brink of settling into her new home, environmental journalist Simran Sethi shares some tidbits of eco-information, such as how to box and save for the move, and how a few simple changes can make your home cozier and more energy-efficient.
Three-day workshop announcement on net zero energy homes by leading authority on energy efficiency and renewable energy, Dan Chiras. Learn how to reduce your utility bill through conservation, effriciency, & clean, affordable, renewable energy.
We'd like to hear about projects you have planned that will help you save energy, save water or otherwise make your home greener.
This two-day, alternative building workshop featuring energy expert Dan Chiras will be held March 13-14, 2010 in St. Louis.
Enacting a law requiring builders to orient new homes toward the sun would drastically reduce home energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
Dan Chiras of The Evergreen Institute invites readers to attend a one-day conference on the future of building in Wichita, Kansas.
Renewable energy expert Dan Chiras shares tips for saving on energy costs by sealing leaks in your home.
The Solar Decathletes begin assembly on the National Mall at midnight, Oct. 1. But just getting the houses into D.C. is no simple task.
Let's dream a little dream of green home improvement, without worries about funding.
Having a “green home” means lots of different things. What does it mean to you?
Have you found helpful ways to cut your energy use at home? Whether it's turning down the thermostat or installing new light bulbs, tell us what you've done to conserve energy and how well it's worked.
Have you thought about adding more insulation to your home to reduce your energy bills? Here are some good places to go for more information.