5 Ways Hiring an HVAC Professional Can Save You Money

Have you wandered the aisles of your local home improvement store trying to determine what you need for your home’s air conditioning or furnace? If you are unsure about what is wrong with your equipment, get a professional’s opinion or you could be spending money unnecessarily.

What to Do with Sludge

Sewage and industrial sludge is being managed as a liability. Current outdated regulations and technologies focus on the least-expensive means of the sludge disposal. Sludge management needs to be redirected toward the recovery of energy and chemicals embedded in the sludge and guided by the principals based on the current scientific findings and technology. Environmental and demographic considerations need to play an important role in this new approach geared toward sustainable and energy-efficient waste management practices.

Light Straw-Clay Building Coming of Age in North America

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.

How Big Data is Becoming More Important to the Energy Industry

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.

New Device Could Make Solar Cheaper, More Efficient

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.

Watering: Not too Much, Not too Little

When and how to water a garden can be challenging especially for beginner gardeners. Read the tips that will make you feel like an expert on garden watering.

Fossil-Fuel-Free Cooking

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!

Choosing the Right-Sized Solar-Energy System for Your Home

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.

Water Strategies for the Homestead

This post covers the importance of having a comprehensive water plan for your property. Most homesteaders are simply dependent on their wells, which are predicated on cheap and reliable energy. Don’t misunderstand me: I love being able to flip a switch and get light and turn on a faucet and get water — it’s wonderful! However, we need to develop a resilient water plan that accounts for potential disruption in that system but also to develop other systems to increase the fertility of the land.

4 Ways to Remain Eco-Friendly During Winter

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.

5 Steps to Turn Your House into a Smart, Energy-Saving Home

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.

Why Home Insulation Is Important Year-Round

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.

7 Ways to Increase Your Patience and Attention this Holiday Season

If you fall asleep or can't think straight at holiday gatherings, don't blame it on the turkey (or your relatives)! Research indicates that carbon dioxide is not only a greenhouse gas, but elevated levels of it are detrimental to human health and cognition. Learn how improving your indoor air quality will increase your health and stamina during holidays.

The Top 5 Things You Can Do to Your Home to Save the Planet

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.

5 Tips for a Greener Christmas

Take notice of your environmental footprint over the festive period and follow our guide for a greener Christmas.

How and Why to Choose Energy-Efficient Windows

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.

Get Power from ‘Dead’ Batteries by Building a ‘Watt Wringer’

When your electronics say “low battery,” it means just that: The batteries are low but not dead. The energy that remains in seemingly dead batteries can be used in this simple night light project that you can build at home in about one hour. Your new night light will shine for months and is reusable for years, powered by “dead” batteries.

Cuba and Vermont Perspectives on Energy and Culture, Part 3

The third in a series of weekly 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.

The Top 3 Green Energy Trends for 2015

Learn about three consumer-driven green energy trends for 2015 that will have a direct impact on our pocketbooks in the coming year, including net-zero energy homes, electric vehicles, and green energy production.

Induction Cooking On the Cheap

Considering induction cooking as an eco-friendly alternative to cooking with electricity? Can’t begin to contemplate spending $3,000 on a stove? This article will run down how you can integrate the hottest new tech in cooking into your kitchen without winning the lottery.

Air Conditioning Check-Up

Spring is the perfect time to give your home cooling equipment a check-up before hot weather arrives.

Practical Passive Solar Examples

Some examples of passive solar design applied to homes in the southeast, where cooling, as well as heating, is a concern.

Induction Cooking

How does induction cooking work? What are the pros and cons? Efficient electric cooking or hidden health risk?

Air-Source Heat Pumps

High efficiency air source heat pumps are proving their worth for cold climate heating and cooling.

Modernizing Your Home

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.

Towards Perpetual Motion Machines-Part 3

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.

30 Steps to Energy Efficiency - Step 12: Check Your Windows for Drafts

Did you know that heat transfer through windows can account for up to 25 percent of your energy bill by allowing heat out during the winter, and makes your air conditioner work overtime to combat the sun’s warming? Drafts and leaks can be the biggest culprit of energy waste but can also be fixed with relatively little effort.

Towards Perpetual Motion Machines - Part 2 of 3

A three-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.

30 Steps to Energy Efficiency - Step 9: Wash In Cold Water

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.

30 Steps to Energy Efficiency - Step 4: Turn Down Your Thermostat

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.

30 Steps to Energy Efficiency - Step 3: Plug Your Electronics Into Power Strips

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.

30 Steps to Energy Efficiency - Step 2: Switch to CFL or LED Lighting

CFLs use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb. I know that when I purchased new lamps for my house, they had a whole shelf of incandescent bulbs right next to it, and I had to go search the store for CFLs, so I understand if you are currently using incandescent bulbs. But it’s worth the switch — not only are CFLs equal in light quality, they last way longer and will save you hundreds of dollars over their lifetime.

30 Steps to Energy Efficiency - Step 1: Call Your Utility Company

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.

Toward Perpetual Motion Machines

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.

Permaculture Chicken: Pasture Basics

Summing up pasture data where it relates to chickens and customizing land to better suit poultry and their behavior and stomachs. Measuring oil viscosity levels and rescuing a trailer with a portable winch were some of our favorite things.

6 Tech-Savvy Ways to Home Energy Efficiency

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.

Bank The Farm: Let it Snow!

How packing snow against your house can add R-value to your insulation - and subtract energy costs.

Solar Tour Sparks Nationwide Movement

The Solar Energy Tour is coming to communities all over the U.S. the first weekend of October — learn how to attend an event, or create one yourself.

MAX Update No. 96: Jevons' Paradox and Gore's Dilemma

Does 100 mpg fuel economy justify cross-country recreational travel? Maybe so and maybe not, but I need to be careful—increasing fuel efficiency can increase fuel consumption if you increase your driving, too.

Ways to Conserve Water in Your Home and Garden

More than 15 tips for saving water inside your home and outside in your yard and garden. Reducing your water use will not only lower your water bills and help prevent water shortages during drought periods in your area. It also...

Building My Net Zero Energy Home: Design Priorities

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.

Building My Net Zero Energy Home: Key Early Decisions

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.

Building My Net Zero Energy Home: The Back Story

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.

GREEN vs. SUSTAINABLE

Future factors set a high standard for sustainable products and activities

Insulation Upgrades: How to Handle the Walls

Upgrading wall insulation is tricky. You can't see the insulation that is (or isn't) in your walls, and it's not easy to install new insulation in a hidden wall cavity. One solution that shows promise is filling wall cavities with injections foam.

Let's Clear the Air About Home Energy Audits

Let's face it: Tax audits have given the word "audit" a bad name. But a home energy audit is a good thing, and every home can benefit from the information and recommendations a home energy audit provides.

Spring Energy Audit

An energy audit can help the homeowner determine the best strategies for improving the home's energy efficiency.

In Praise of Deep Energy Retrofits

The work invovlve in tranforming a house that wastes energy into a house that's 50%-95% more energy efficient is called a "deep energy retrofit." We need to find ways to do more of these to save energy, money and the environment.

Home Energy Performance: Acting for the Future

We know that heating, cooling and operating our buildings is responsible for 40 percent of total energy expenditures in this country. That’s a huge percentage. But we also know how to test, evaluate and improve buildings so that energy use can be cut dramatically.

Thermal Mass Anyone?

Any net zero-energy home needs two things. The first is the sun, providing passive solar energy. The second necessity is retaining maximum heat.  

Inspiration for Solar Projects

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.  

Rooting for Working Americans

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?

Low-Cost, High-Efficiency Home Improvements that Pay Off

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.

Why is There an Energy Crisis?

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.

Home Energy Audits: Have You Had One?

Have you had a home energy audit done before? A home energy audit can show you the best ways to make your home more energy efficient.

2010 Energy-Efficiency Scorecard Released

Every year, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) releases a report assessing each state’s programs and policies for energy-efficiency. See how your home state did in 2010!

Energy Hogs

I am especially concerned with the electricity hogs that keep us burning coal.

Drill baby, drill...for efficiency

Now's the time to redouble our efforts to tap into energy efficiency. The potential is huge and the benefits are even greater.

Train Now for Tomorrow's Jobs

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

Should You Wait for the Latest, Greatest PV Modules?

With new breakthroughs in solar electricity coming out every year, should you wait before investing in a solar electric system? Energy expert Dan Chiras discusses cost of PV modules in terms of cost per watt of installed capacity.

Emancipate Yourself from the Utility

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.

Improving Energy-efficiency at the Office

Profitability, efficiency and growth are eternal goals. As we improve, we set higher goals, always asking how to raise the bar so that we continue getting better and better.

Are We Putting the Renewable Energy Cart before the Horse?

Dan Chiras points out the efforts already being made to increase availability of renewable energy professionals and educators and talks about The Evergreen Institute's new goals to raise interest among potential students.

Do You Use CFLs at Home?

Tell us what you think! We'd like to know whether you're using compact-fluorescent light bulbs at home and why or why not. 

Renewable Energy on the Farm

There are many ways farmers can benefit from renewable energy, including wind energy, solar energy, energy efficiency and biofuels.

Follow the Money: Renewable Energy in the Stimulus Package

Want to know more about where that $787 billion dollars in the stimulus package is going? Here are links to a couple of timely articles with all the details about how the stimulus package will encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Candidates Discuss Energy Issues

Find out what John McCain and Barack Obama have to say about energy issues including the use of nuclear power, clean coal and support for renewable energy.

Great Info on Insulation

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.

Thermostat Negotiations

Here are a few talking points that can help peacefully resolve home heating arguments.

Reduce Computer Energy Use

Almost everyone uses a computer these days. But not everyone knows how much energy is consumed by that one device.Most appliances or electronics tell you the number of watts they use. An average CPU uses 120 watts, while the monitor uses 150 watts. That's 270 watts of power while in use, but there are several easy ways to reduce that amount.