Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Expert Interview Series: Gary Wollenhaupt of Proud Green Home

Green home

Gary Wollenhaupt is the editorial director of ProudGreenHome.com, a website devoted to inspiring and education home builders and owners on their own green home journey.

Here, shares ideas about the easiest ways homeowners can introduce green practices to their homes. Read on:

Tell us about ProudGreenHome.com. What is your mission?

We are an online resource for homeowners, builders and the residential construction industry to accelerate the adoption of high-performance strategies, systems and products for all types of single-family and multifamily, new and remodeled homes.

Why are you so passionate about green homes?

My passion comes from improving efficiency and eliminating waste – wasteful use of energy and water, waste in the production and transportation of goods for production and shipment of building products. The process to build a standard wood-frame home is mind boggling; it’s a wonder they get built at all, let alone built with any degree of quality. Of course, reducing energy use, being wiser in our use of natural resources and reducing pollution all add up to positives for the environment as well.

What are the most interesting trends or innovations you’re following in green homes today?

The growth of home certification programs such as Energy Star, LEED, National Green Building Standard, Passive House, and so on, finally give homeowners some measure of quality control in their homes. Previously, if a new home owner didn’t see a problem during the punch list walk through, it was really hard to get it fixed. Now third-party raters verify the performance of the home.

What are the benefits to homeowners of integrating green products or systems in their homes?

A high-performance home or green home can be more comfortable in terms of even heat and humidity levels, better air quality with less pollutants in the home, and lower cost to live in over the years.

In what areas of the home is it easiest for homeowners to introduce green products, technologies or practices?

Smart thermostats like the Nest are an easy place to start. HVAC systems are getting crazy efficient, like the mini split heat pump systems. Steps like additional insulation, better air sealing and new windows can also be done one at a time.

What green investments would you recommend all homeowners look into?

The biggest bang for the buck is air sealing and insulation. Depending on how your home is built, for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars you can seal up air loss and start saving money immediately, literally while the insulation is being added to the attic you can start telling a difference.

What green options should homeowners look into when they’re shopping for HVAC systems?

Smart and learning thermostats are proving to be effective in reducing costs, so that can be a good place to start. If you’re looking at a new HVAC system for a home, look at the efficiency ratings. There are mini split heat pump systems that have a SEER rating in the high 20s, compared to 14 SEER for a standard unitary furnace. Geothermal or ground source heat pumps are highly efficient as well.

What should home owners be looking for in HVAC systems if they want to be more green and energy efficient?

Do your homework and compare the numbers such as the SEER rating. Energy Star certified products are also a good place to start. There’s always a trade off in cost vs. performance, but spending a little more upfront can save money for years to come.

What green options are there in plumbing?

First, look for Water Sense certified fixtures, it’s similar to Energy Star but for water conservation. Manufacturers work hard to provide the right level of water flow for sinks, showers and toilets while using less water.

Also talk to your plumber about a water recirculation pump. When you’re waiting on hot water to reach the shower or the sink, that cold water goes down the drain and all the energy in it is wasted. A recirculation pump keeps hot water flowing through the plumbing system so it’s instantly available, you don’t have to wait for the water to get hot. The pump can be activated by a timer, a motion sensor or a wall switch. Homes save lots of money on water and energy.

Do you have any anecdotes or examples of homeowners who have gone above or beyond in introducing green practices/products/systems into their homes? What can we learn from them?

Maura and Kurt Jung built the first Passive House certified in Michigan, which is the top-of-the-line in green home, using 80 percent to 90 percent less energy than a typical home.

Their architect-designed home is a modern interpretation of a Michigan farm house. The Jungs settled on the Passive House path because it met their desire for environmental responsibility while allowing them to choose their favorite architectural style. A Passive House is like the Porsche of houses, well engineered and high performance, compared with a Ford Taurus standard home. You can have a vision and make it come true, the lesson is to find partners such as architects and builders that will listen to you and not steer you to what they know how to build.

Contact Rodenhiser about your HVAC new system install.

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How to Save Energy with Ceiling Fans

Save energyWhen utilities use spikes during weather extremes, ceiling fans help take the edge off. Right now, the heat of summer is bearing down across most of the nation. That means higher electricity consumption and some pretty scary bills. Although fans also use electricity, the combination of benefits that they bring to the table equals savings without losing comfort. Here’s how to get it.

Fans Use Electricity but Air Conditioning Uses More

The right combination in the summertime is a bit of air conditioning and a bit of ceiling fan use. It might seem like you’re trading dependency on one device for dependency on another, but fans use a lot less.

When you add a ceiling fan to your home’s cooling plan, you get immediate relief plus lower energy consumption for a result that’s sometimes even more comfortable than air conditioning alone. That’s because fans help the body’s natural cooling system work better. A breeze on the skin makes you feel better right away.

Fans won’t lower the indoor temperature in summer, they only make the people in it feel cooler. So you don’t need to run them when you’re not at home. But according to Brent Glasgow for HuffPo, they might help improve ventilation for a lower risk of mold. So it’s really your choice.

Save energy Cool sleep is more restful, which is why ceiling fans are perfect for bedrooms.

Rotation Direction is Important

Most ceiling fans rotate in either of two directions. One direction works best for warm weather, and the other works best when it’s cold. The concept is confusing for some people, but the principle is very simple.

In summer, you want to feel the breeze. In winter, you don’t. It’s really as simple as that. So this time of year, set your fan’s rotation to blow straight down. That will improve its cooling effect on your skin, which lets you raise the thermostat just a touch without feeling stuffy.

Here’s the part that causes some confusion. Once winter arrives, reverse the fan so that it blows up against the ceiling. Heated air rises, that’s true. But it’s also true that your fan will circulate the heat by bouncing it off the ceiling and sending it back down into the room. Bonus: you won’t get a chilly breeze.

Better Lights Ramp up Efficiency

Most ceiling fans have a rather ordinary light kit, but that’s another area where you can conserve energy. Instead of using fancy incandescents that are made mostly for looks, think about upgrading to a better fan, a new light kit or at least better bulbs, which the pros refer to as lamps.

Some fans are designed with a built-in fluorescent light ballast, which Home Energy magazine says is likely the most efficient choice. This style has fluorescent lamps that pop in instead of the screw-in style CFLs.

Another choice is a fluorescent replacement light kit. If upgraded fans and light kits are too pricey, consider using LED lamps in the standard ceiling fan fixture. They save more energy than the typical spiral-shaped CFLs and don’t contain any mercury. Earth Easy says they typically last 10 times longer than CFLs, too.

Ceiling fans make your air conditioning work better so you feel cooler. And with the right lighting, either LED or fluorescent, you won’t add more heat. But perhaps the best thing about fans is that they don’t need to be ultra-sophisticated to work wonders. If they circulate the air, they’ll help. So if your home needs a cooling boost without making your energy bills worse, they’re definitely worth considering.

Fans make summer heat more bearable, but sometimes a stuffy home means the AC is in trouble. Call Rodenhiser today, and we’ll evaluate your air conditioner, perform necessary maintenance and get you back on the road to a cool, comfortable home.

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5 Energy Saving Tips for May in Massachusetts

Energy saving tips
Keep those Benjamins and Grants in your wallet instead of handing them over to the utility company.

During the month of May, you probably experience more than a few temperature swings, which means your heating and even cooling appliances are on again and off again, sometimes in the same week. Just last year, Accuweather says that Massachusetts statewide average temperatures fluctuated as much as 30 degrees for the daytime highs in a 7-day period.

The average Massachusetts resident uses about 109 million BTUs of energy every year. That’s 22 percent higher than the average American home, so finding ways to conserve can also help save a considerable amount of money. Here are 5 tips to help meet that goal.

#1: Use a Programmable or Smart Thermostat

Programmable thermostats automatically adjust indoor temperatures based on settings that you choose. Many homeowners prefer a warmer home during the day and a cooler home at night, which the National Sleep Foundation says falls between 60 and 67 degrees.

Smart thermostats take the idea of climate control one step further. You designate temperature settings initially. But over time, the thermostat learns your family’s habits and programs itself to increase and decrease the temperature at different key times of day, such as when you’re at work or just waking up in the morning, for optimum savings.

#2: Get Leaky Faucets Repaired

Believe it or not, plumbers can help you save energy. Not only can a reputable plumber install a high-efficiency water heater that reduces your energy consumption for household hot water, he can help the heater perform better by repairing water supply leaks.

A leaky faucet at the kitchen sink or in the bathroom can draw hot water from the tank continually. That causes the heater to cycle on more than it should. Get drips and trickles repaired, and your hot water will stay in the tank until you need it instead of going down the drain.

Energy saving tips
Get the right insulation depth for your home and warm air will stay put.

#3: Inspect Your Insulation

Living in Massachusetts means that you likely have insulation in the attic and maybe the walls, too. But inadequate insulation lets heat escape your home, which puts a heavier load on your furnace or boiler. It can also make your floors bone-chilling cold.

Almost every home could benefit from additional insulation. Unless you recently had new material installed, it’s a safe bet that beefing it up would help reduce thermal transfer even more. And if your crawlspace or basement has no insulation, correcting that situation would give you warmer floors and fewer cold drafts wicking up indoors.

#4: Repair or Replace Windows and Doors

Old windows and doors don’t necessarily require replacement, especially in a very old or historic home. But because they can be major points of drafts, heat loss in cold weather and heat gain in summer, older windows and doors do need attention.

Caulk is an inexpensive and effective way to seal drafts, says the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Add insulating storm windows and doors, and you’ll have another measure of protection against the temperature fluctuations outside.

#5: Get a Home Energy Assessment

Perhaps the best way to help lower heating and cooling bills is to get a home energy assessment. Mass Save says that in about 2 hours, an energy specialist will evaluate your home for areas that make it less efficient. That information shows where you need to focus repair and improvement attention.

To make energy efficient improvements more affordable, the Commonwealth offers several rebates and incentives. Get up to $2,000 back on insulation, targets air sealing for free, heating, cooling and water heating appliance rebates, and there’s also a 0 percent financing program for some residents.

You don’t need set the thermostat too high or too low and compensate with clothing to save a little money. Work at improving your home’s heat loss and gain issues, and your heating and cooling equipment will work less to keep your home comfortable.

The professionals at Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating, A/C and Electric can work with you to improve energy efficiency. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to learn more.

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5 Energy Efficient Ways to Cool Your Holliston Home

You have a house that does not have air conditioning. Or you want to keep your summer cooling bills down. In either case, learning energy efficient ways to cool your Holliston home will help keep your energy bills down. You can do that without compromising your home’s comfort.

Energy Efficient Ways to Cool Your Holliston Home

light colored house
If you’re looking for an energy efficient way to cool your Holliston home, try painting the outside of your home a light color. Source: iStock.com/tab1962

Here are five ways to cool your home without running up your energy bills:

  1. Enhance outside shade. Direct sunlight can drive up temperatures inside your home. Add trees to the sunny side of your home. Consider installing awnings to block sunlight from entering your home. Window treatments, like insulated drapes, can keep the sun’s heat outside.
  2. Add reflective surfaces. UV rays are what convey heat inside your home. Dark roofs and dark exterior paint colors heat up when UV rays impact them. Install a white or reflective roofing material or paint the exterior wall a very light color. You can also add reflective film to windows to reflect the UV rays back out.
  3. Add insulation to your attic and walls. Most people think of insulation for keeping their homes warm in the winter. The fact is that it works to also keep the heat out during the summer. Enhance your current insulation levels to save money year round.
  4. Use ceiling fans in conjunction with your A/C. Fans do not bring the temperature down. However, it does make people inside feel cooler by blowing air across the skin. This makes it possible to turn the A/C temperature up a few degrees without compromising comfort.
  5. Install a whole house fan. The fan is installed in the ceiling at a central point of the house. It draws air in through open windows and expels it into the attic. The hot air goes out of the roof vents. It’s a cost-effective alternative to air conditioning.

These energy efficient ways to cool your home should keep you comfortable without driving your electric bills too high. If you want to learn more about efficiently cooling your home this summer, contact us here at Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning.

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Why Taking a Whole-House Systems Approach to Energy Efficiency Can Work in Your Home

whole-house energy efficiency/Your house is more than a home; it’s also an energy usage system. Individual components affect the functioning of the entire system. If attic insulation is insufficient or if doors, windows or ductwork isn’t thoroughly sealed, the system is compromised, and your family’s comfort is then less than it could be while your energy expense is more than it should be. Read More Why Taking a Whole-House Systems Approach to Energy Efficiency Can Work in Your Home >>

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