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Energy Efficiency by Remote Control

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Sep 15, 2014 11:46:35 AM

INSTALLING A REMOTELY controlled thermostat can help minimize energy costs in a vacant home. Google-owned Nest and Honeywell’s Lyric thermostats allow homeowners to remotely program and monitor the indoor temperature from mobile apps or on the web, offering vacation settings and energy consumption reports. Ecobee and Venstar also offer wireless thermostats.

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Heating/Cooling: A Home's Biggest Energy Users

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Sep 5, 2014 4:37:10 PM

Know the Lingo

  • Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE): The percentage of a fuel’s potential energy that a furnace or boiler converts to usable heat. Government standards that take effect in 2015 require AFUE levels of 82% for gas boilers, 83% for oil boilers, 80% for gas furnaces and 82% for oil furnaces.
  • Air Handler: In a forced-air heating or cooling system, the air handler unit moves heated or cooled air through the home’s ductwork.
  • British Thermal Unit (BTU): The unit of measurement for heat, whether it’s the heat given off by burning fuel or extracted from a home for cooling. Technically, one BTU is the energy required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.
  • Combustion Chamber: The part of a furnace or boiler where the fuel is burned.
  • Compressor: That part of the air conditioner or heat pump that compresses and pumps refrigerant.
  • Condenser Coil: The part of an air conditioner or heat pump that releases heat from the surrounding air in cooling mode and collects it in heating mode.
  • Distribution System: The network of air ducts or hot water pipes that delivers heat from a furnace, boiler or heat pump to the home’s rooms.
  • Evaporator Coil: The part of an air conditioner or heat pump that exchanges heat with the air in the home.
  • Heat Exchanger: Located in the furnace or boiler, it transfers heat from the combustion chamber to the air or water in the heat distribution system.
  • Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF): The heating efficiency of a heat pump. It’s a ratio of the heat it generates over the heating season, in BTUs, to the watt-hours of electricity it consumes. Heat pumps manufactured after 2006 have to have an HSPF of at least 7.7, but the best units have ratings as high as 10.
  • Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER): The cooling efficiency of an air conditioner or heat pump. It’s the ratio of cooling output to electricity used. The minimum SEER requirement for units manufactured beginning in 2006 is 13.
  • Zoning: A method of partitioning a home’s hydronic or forced-air distribution system into independently controlled comfort zones.


AT THE HEART OF MOST HOMES' HEATING SYSTEMS is a furnace, a boiler or a heat pump. A furnace burns fossil fuel to heat air that’s forced by a blower fan through a series of ducts to the living spaces; a boiler heats water that’s then pumped to a hydronic, or water-based, distribution system. Most heat pumps run on electricity. They don’t create heat, but rather extract it from the air or the ground. Heat pumps are available for use with forced-air and hydronic distribution systems. If you want to minimize your fuel bill, an Energy Star rating is a minimum standard for these appliances.

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Manage Air Flow to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Sep 4, 2014 3:43:53 PM

Fresh air, yes, but manage the flow.

ONE OF THE CONFUSING CHARACTERISTICS OF GREEN BUILDING certification programs is the way they lump together two different aspects of building science: saving energy and keeping indoor air quality high. Is a green home one that saves energy, or one that has healthier indoor air than a conventional home?

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What Makes Indoor Air Quality Green?

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Sep 4, 2014 3:10:00 PM

POOR INDOOR AIR QUALITY CAN CAUSE OR CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT of infections, lung cancer and chronic lung diseases such as asthma. In addition, it can cause headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue. People who already have lung disease are at greater risk. The American Lung Association recommends that the first line of defense against indoor air pollution is finding ways to keep the pollutants from being added to the air in the first place.

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A Pool Without Poisons

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Sep 4, 2014 7:41:00 AM

SWIMMING POOLS ARE A PROBLEMATIC REALITY of modern housing. In some regions, a house without a pool will be a tough sell. But conventional pools have many environmental down sides. They require chemicals such as chlorine, which are toxic in their production, and if they're not rainwater fed, huge amounts of treated water from the local utility. Heating and lighting them, of course, also add environmental costs, although there are ways to reduce outdoor lighting costs and use geothermal systems heat pool water.

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