Almost all houses have some type of water heating system in the US. Domestic hot water is used for various applications in a home such as washing, shower, cleaning etc.The main components of a water heater are; heat source, a heat exchanger, a piping system and flue vent (if gas, propane or oil) and plumbing fixtures like showers.
There are basically 3 types of heat sources for hot water heater: gas, electric and oil. Since they are a major part of your utility bills, it can consume 15% of electricity and 25% of natural gas in residential home.
There are several ways that energy is lost in a water heater and they are:
- Demand – the energy used to heat up the incoming cold water up to a temperature setpoint as hot water in the tank. It depends upon the efficiency, occupant behavior, consumption, fixtures, schedules etc.
- Standby – the heat loss through the storage tank walls mostly due to conduction
- Distribution – the heat lost through the pipe and fixtures
Most houses have storage capacities of 30-65 gallons per unit. The water heater efficiency is measured based on energy factor which basically goes from 0.5 -1, where 1 being 100% efficient. The calculation assumes that the average use is 64 gallons of water per day. It is basically the fraction of water heater energy input that actually remains in the water leaving storage tank. The energy factor is 0.9 for electric heaters and around 0.59 for gas and oil.
There are basically 2 types of water heaters:
- Direct Storage water heaters
- Indirect Storage water heaters
Direct storage water heaters
Most houses in the US, especially single family homes use this type of system. They are usually less efficient going upto 80% efficiency. It is a combination of a heat exchanger and a storage tank. It can basically hold upto 30-80 gallons of water. It is generally insulated upto R7-R25 with fiberglass insulation on the outside. The higher the insulation the better the energy savings. Generally the combustion air enters through the bottom, rises up the flue which is surrounded by water which absorbs the heat from the gas. Draft diverter is attached to allow dilution air to enter flue to relieve pressure that would otherwise pull directly on the burner causing burner flame out.
Electric storage gas heaters on the other hand donot have any flue pipes hence there are no losses through flue. It is low maintenance and easy to install but the cost of operation is 1.5 to 2 times more expensive than gas or oil heaters due to the pricing of electricity.
More efficient models which have induced draft mechanism have also been developed recently. It basically uses a fan to pull the combustion gases through the flue. It doesn’t have a draft diverter and hence uses less air indoor air for more reliable combustion. Another system which is also frequently seen are the sealed combustion water heaters. Here the combustion air is drawn from the outdoors and fed into the burner. It is mostly found in mobile homes.
Indirect Storage water heaters
These are most common and most efficient types of water heaters available in the market today. They are very common in multi family homes. It is used for dual purposes i.e space heating and water heating. Here the principle is to heat water as it flows through the heater. There are no storage tanks. It is generally more expensive than storage tanks. It has a modulating gas valve to control the gas input required to heat the water in demand.
There are mainly 2 types of indirect water heaters:
- Immersed coil – here the boiler or solar water is circulated in the tank heating domestic water in the tank
- Tankless coil – are heat exchangers installed within a larger boiler for heating domestic water
Besides these systems there are also solar water heaters which are mostly classified as active or passive depending upon pump use.
After choosing the heater you must also learn how to use it efficiently and maximize energy savings. Here are a couple of methods to reduce the use of hot water :
- fix leaks i.e if the tank leaks then it needs to be replaced
- use flow controls such as low flow shower heads
- insulate the tank to R-35 with fiberglass
- use heat traps, that stop convection of hot water into the hot and cold water pipe above the storage water heater or external storage tank by the use of floating ball valves or delicate check valves.
- insulate the pipes
- have automatic flow controls for gas and water supply i.e supply per required demand
- some maintenance techniques as well
- flushing of storage water heater using curved tip tube and ball valves to drain and remove sediments from the bottom of the tank
- prevent corrosion by installing a sacrificial anode that gives water something to corrode. It needs to be replaced every 2-3 yrs.
Hence I hope the brief description and solutions presented above gave you a glimpse of some water heater systems for the home and some basic maintenance and solutions that can be used to maximize savings. There are also various prescriptive rebates available from MassSave for high efficiency Water Heating systems. For more information you can also visit Masssave website. For more information on different types of heaters, also visit the DOE website.
April 12th, 2012
Alex Lee, Energy Engineer
I remember one day right after break time at a middle school band rehearsal, my band instructor returned with a garbage can, reached into it, and took out a full Coca-Cola soda can. He was furious that some people are wasteful, and why they would purchase soda if they wouldn’t drink it in the first place. He also reminded us that back in Day 1, he provided a separate container to throw out the remaining soda that we didn’t want, so that he can properly dispose it.
Also, my grandfather frequently mentioned how people in his generation strived to conserve resources as much as possible back when he was young, and how it is very sad to witness people today becoming very wasteful. He taught me about the value and appreciation for resources that are provided to us.
Despite the fact that my band instructor had given the same lecture many times and though our fellow millennials have had similar advice laser-ingrained in their minds from their grandparents, contrary to popular belief, our generation, unfortunately, is comparatively wasteful. We as a generation have consistently shown a lack of appreciation for resources and lack of concern for the environment. According to an academic study conducted by psychology professor Jean Twenge from San Diego State University, it analyzed surveys over a 40-year period and found that young men and women today are more wasteful and less concerned about the environment than the previous generations back when they were young. So what is really wrong with us as a generation? Why have we become more wasteful than our parents’ and grandparents’ generations?
To answer these questions, there are many factors that can potentially contribute to our “lazy” lifestyle. The US is unquestionably one of the most developed, economically stable nations in the world. Hence, food is abundant, and resources seem unlimited. We are fortunate enough to live comfortably compared to people in developing countries. This perception of unlimited resources can be one of the factors that can contribute to our wasteful lifestyle. Another factor can be our obsession to technology. With the market availability of computers, smartphones, and portable media players, we become distracted with these devices instead of going outside and appreciating the beauty of nature. In addition, the news media can potentially play a role as well. They negatively portray a group of environmentalists as people who wants to see the government burn to the ground or even as terrorists. With this negative perception, most young men and women do not want to brand themselves as such people.
On a positive note, we should view this problem as a challenge that we can overcome. With the recent economic downturn, we have witnessed skyrocketing gasoline prices. Also, with the relatively high unemployment rate, we understand what it is like to live in bad economy. As a result, we are starting to understand the value of limited resources that are given to us. It appears that the economic downturn can help us learn how to save in the long-term, despite the short-term negative effects. Perhaps this is an excellent opportunity for us teach the next generation about energy efficiency and conserving resources.
April 12th, 2012
Bhaskar Ale- MSME, E.I.T
Do you think your heating system might be coming to the end of its useful life. Are you worried about health and safety issues that come with an older heating system? Well it might be time to get it checked by an professional HVAC specialist or have a energy and safety audit for your heating system and other combustible appliances in your home.
Combustion heaters are among the most dangerous equipment in your home. Indoor air and fire hazards are the main concerns. They are especially more dangerous in single family homes where residents lives in close proximity to the combustion appliances. The use of oil heaters is uniquely challenging as they have more moving parts and subsequently more maintenance and safety issues.
Health and safety is an even greater concern than energy efficiency when it comes to heating systems. The main safety issue is the carbon monoxide content in the air. Carbon monoxide is the by product of incomplete combustion from fossil fuel and oxygen. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can sicken and if found in large quantities can actually kill a person. Hence, every house should have a CO monitor as a safety precaution. There are other by products as well which include harmful gases such as sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide.
Hence, even installing a CO monitor is not going to tell you that your furnace/boiler or water heater are upto the standards for safety.
To test for combustion safety, there are 3 test procedures followed according to BPI (Building Performance Institute):
- General Inspection
It basically consists of looking at the following
- equipment age
- flue inspections
- pipes insulation
- filter inspection
- sniff for gas leakage using leak detector
- Worst case depressurization testing (CAZ test)
This determines if the exhaust fans in the house can create enough competition for the air to backdraft the heater or hot water heater. If the appliance vents sufficiently in worst case scenarios, they should also vent under normal conditions. The limits in terms of pascals reading are compared with BPI Combustion Appliance Zone (CAZ) Depressurization Limits (Pa) for safe conditions.
- Draft, spillage, CO and efficiency of the combustion appliances.
All combustion equipment are tested for Draft, spillage, CO and efficiency. First spillage is tested, i.e the flue gases venting out, if it keeps pouring out for more than 60 seconds then the appliance fails. Then next the draft pressure is measured using a manometer and compares of ‘Minimum acceptable draft test readings table’. Then the CO level and combustion efficiency is measured.
The tools used or equipment required for the test are the following:
- Ambient CO monitor
- Combustion Analyzer
- Gas Leak Detector
- Smoke Pen
These tests will definately help keep your home safe from air pollutants and fire hazards. You might have to insulate your heater and pipes or seal up the duct vents or sometimes buy a new heater but with the available rebates and interest free loans (HEAT loan) availabele from Mass Save and other utilities in MA, it has become much more affordable. If you would like to find out more about combustion safety standards used for comparison then definately visit www.BPI.org for further information. If you would like more information on the rebates then visit my previous blog on Mass Save or visit www.masssave.com.
March 27th, 2012
Alex Lee, Energy Engineer
If you’ve attended a home and garden show, tech trade show, comic con, or anything in a similar vein, you know that the event can be interesting, exciting, and a bit overwhelming! The 2012 NESEA Building Energy exhibit was no exception. After I was admitted, I reviewed the exhibitor list and browsed a few aisles to see if anything stood out.
I was first drawn to the SeriousWindows booth. They had windows with a wide range of R-values and mentioned that they go beyond triple pane windows. I was pretty impressed! It was the first time I had seen quadruple and quintuple pane windows. I asked the manager if those extreme windows significantly help save more energy than the standard double or triple pane windows, but he said that it only made a minor difference. It’s just that some people are really serious about energy efficiency. The manager claimed that SeriousWindows conducts extensive, innovative research in finding ways to save as much energy as possible. I was also impressed by the iWindow product. By the way, this product is not made by Apple, but one might argue that it is shaped like an overgrown iPad. The iWindow is used only for commercial purposes, internally installed as an additional layer of window glass to a built-in window. Never seen that before, but I thought it was very interesting.
Next, I went by Marvin Doors and Windows. I noticed some interesting things. One was that it is a parent company and it also has a child company named Marvin Integrity. The parent company focused on customized versions of windows. They are either wood inside and aluminum outside or all wood. It noted just like other companies that wood is a much better quality and provides better insulation than vinyl. These windows are either double-paned or triple-paned. Meanwhile, the child company Marvin Integrity provides only standard, cheaper windows. They are made of wood interior and fiberglass outside. In terms of the number of glass panes, Marvin Integrity’s windows are only double-paned.
Then, I went to FLIR, which was very exciting to experience. I had the opportunity to directly use the E-60 IR camera. For those of you who are not involved in energy auditing, fire safety, or military surveillance, the name FLIR may mean little or nothing to you, but for me, this was by far the highlight of my trade show experience. I learned several of the E-60’s features that I had only read about before. The E-60 can save thermal and standard images, and in each saved thermal image, every pixel stores temperature data. Also, there is a main cursor that reads temperature in real-time at that area and a second cursor that automatically points out the highest or lowest temperature in your given area of the image. The IR camera can also automatically calculate the temperature difference between the two cursors. It can send images through Wi-Fi to a computer and smartphone. It has a laser pointer and flashlight to pinpoint areas of concern. Furthermore, a moisture meter and a wire clamp can send data to the camera via Bluetooth.
Overall, I learned a lot of interesting things at the trade show. You may initially think that you know a lot about one product through online search, but if you see it and play it around yourself, it feels different and you will learn several more features that you never knew. I also learned about the branding of companies such as parent companies and their subsidiaries. Sometimes, distributors team up with manufacturers to promote the manufacturers’ products. Hence, you should go to these trade shows too! You’ll learn a lot, and the money is worth it.
March 20th, 2012
Bhaskar Ale- MSME, E.I.T
Did your heating bills remain abnormally high despite the fact that you added R-19 batt insulation to your walls recently? Well, this could be due to a phenomenon called ‘Thermal Bridge’. Thermal Bridge occurs when materials with a high conductivity of heat (eg metal stud with metal frame) come in contact, increasing heat transfer and heat loss. It can significantly decrease interior surface temperature and increase heat loss to the outside for cold climate. This nullifies the purpose of the building envelope which is to keep the heat out during cooling season and to keep the heat in during heating season. We know that most buildings built these days have different types of metals: aluminum, steel and glasses in built structures.
What we should know is that all these materials have high conductivity. We expose too much, from concrete slabs edges to frames and fins which greatly increases heat transfer. A common example of it is seen with steel studs with metal frame. It is pointless to use cavity insulation here (even spray foam). Why you might say? Well, the heat inside or outside depending upon the studs and the weather conditions takes the easy rout of heat transfer i.e through the studs hence heat loss. Steel studs provide the maximum possible conductive heat transfer across the wall using minimum amount of material. Not only is thermal bridges common with studs, it can be found in many other areas as well such as junction of facings, floors cross walls, facings and roofs. So, what are some solutions? Here are a couple, Ive come across:
- insulate the steel studs from the outside with minimum contact to other highly conductive materials.
- Install insulation on the outside of the wall, not in the cavity ( if thermal bridge is present) so R value of wall is not greatly affected (see building science)
- wrapping a building envelope with exterior rigid insulation cuts off thermal bridging eg. rigid insulation as exterior sheathing is great idea for wood framed assembly.
- installing insulating spaces between the panels and insulation material to minimize or cut off heat transfer
- head towards passive house design with higher R value wall and roofs using less conductive materials and with less protrusions such a balconies. Basically gearing towards more of a tightly built whole house concept.
Understanding of the building envelope is critical when building new houses or even working on existing houses. Thermal bridge is one of the problems faced by newer designs. Even if the house is well insulated, if proper assessment has not been done, % of heat loss due to thermal bridge can actually be higher with well insulated wall or roof. With the push for increasing energy efficiency and going green designs, I believe builders are going to be more aware of thermal bridging and its consequences in the near future. If you are really interested in finding out more about where in your house, thermal bridges occur, you can always call a professional Home energy auditor who locate the heat loss spots using thermal imaging tools.
March 12th, 2012
Alex Lee, Energy Engineer
If you are like me, you wake up on Saturday mornings pretty hungry. Unlike Mondays through Fridays, you actually have time to do something about it. You go to the kitchen and preheat the cooking range. While you’re waiting for it to warm up, you start a pot of coffee and crack a few eggs for the cheese omelet you’ve been craving since Wednesday. You return to the cooking range to see it’s hot enough. You put your hand close to it, but you notice that it isn’t hot at all. You then check to see if you forgot to turn on the cooking range, but it seems that you did not. Is the cooking range broken? Will you be deprived of your cheese omelet yet another day? All of a sudden, you feel a chill in your spine; not of bewilderment, but instead one of stupidity. You then smack your face with your hand, realizing that your cooking range is not thermal, but instead a special one that cooks through inductance.
So how do induction cooktops work? The fundamental concept behind the science of induction cooktops is electromagnetism. If you take apart the induction cooktops, you will notice that there are copper wire coils inside. After you turn the power on, the alternating current flows through the coils and produce oscillating magnetic fields. Then, these magnetic fields induce their own electric currents called eddy currents inside the cooking pot that is placed on top of the induction cooktop. Note that these eddy currents also produce smaller magnetic fields. As a result, the molecules inside the cooking pot are constantly moving by the magnetic fields.
In order for induction cooktops to work properly, a very high frequency of the alternating current is required, but the alternating current alone is not enough to achieve this. To solve this issue, induction cooktops are equipped with transformers, rectifiers, and inverters to amplify the frequency and the current. In addition, the cooking pots must be resistant to electricity. When these eddy currents flow through the cooking pot that conducts poorly to electricity, most of the current is converted to heat. This accumulation of heat causes the cooking pots to become hot. Hence, the cooking pots must be ferromagnetic, which means they must contain iron.
Not only is the concept of how induction cooktops work is cool, but they also have several advantages over the conventional electric or gas cooking ranges. First, induction cooktops are safe to use. There is no open flame or heat coming out from the glass surface. Hence, worries over fire hazards and accidental burns are over thanks to the induction cooktops! The only source of heat is the cooking pot itself through electromagnetism. As a result, you can say that the cooking pot does the cooking itself. This advantage of direct cooking causes most of the food inside the cooking pot to be cooked evenly. Meanwhile, conventional cooking ranges rely on thermal conduction from the cooking ranges themselves to the cooking pot. Hence, through the indirect method of cooking (heat flow from cooking range to cooking pot and then from the cooking pot to food), some areas of the cooking pot may not be heated properly, causing food to be cooked unevenly. A few minutes after you are finished cooking with the induction cooktops, you can safely place your hand directly on the glass surface of the induction cooktops. In fact, you can place a piece of paper between the induction cooktop surface and the cooking pot while it is cooking, and the paper will not burn!
Another advantage is that induction cooktops help save cooking time. On average, they can cook 25%-50% quicker than conventional cooking ranges. In fact, induction cooktops can boil a quart of water within 2 minutes! Another surprising fact is that you can instantly change the cooking temperature of your food. Most of you may still use the conventional cooking range, and let us say that you are cooking your food at high setting. If you want to change the temperature and changed the setting to low, you have to wait for several minutes until the cooking pot is actually cooking at low heat. However, with induction cooktops, you can precisely change the temperature of the cooking pot almost instantaneously. In fact, you can change the setting from boiling to a gentle simmer within 3 seconds!
Most importantly, induction cooktops are very energy efficient. According to the Department of Energy, cooking through induction has the absolute efficiency of 84%, while cooking through smooth electric cooking range and electric coils have the absolute efficiencies of 74.2% and 73.7% respectively. Hence, conventional cooking ranges wastes about 12% more power into heat than induction cooktops. Another factor that makes induction cooktops even more efficient is that it can automatically detect the presence of cooking pots. As soon as you remove the cooking pots from the glass surface of the induction cooktops, they automatically shut off. Furthermore, it is much easier to clean induction cooktops than the conventional ones. Since heat doesn’t come out from induction cooktops, all you have to do is simply clean the glass surface to make it look brand new. No need for you to clean the messy electric coils with an oven cleaning solution.
On the other hand, induction cooktops have some drawbacks. Compared to the conventional cooking ranges, they are very expensive. Prices of induction cooktops range from $1,800 to $3,500, while prices of conventional ones range from $550 to $750. Due to the high initial costs, it may be unlikely that energy savings over time can make up for the initial cost. Thus, induction cooktops need to be even cheaper in order for their wide acceptance among the public to be possible. Also, only ferromagnetic pots made of iron and/or stainless steel can be used for cooking with induction cooktops. Pots made of glass, copper, or aluminum cannot be used, because a much higher frequency of electric currents is needed than the one that induction cooktops can provide. As a result, those pots are useless, and they need to be replaced with ferromagnetic ones. Since pots must be ferromagnetic, this limitation may not be suitable for people with pacemakers.
Despite these disadvantages, induction cooktops still will be a good investment in terms of energy efficiency, safety, and time. Using them will help put more power into good use (ie. cooking) instead of dissipated heat. With the advantages of speed and instantaneous cooking controls, you can dedicate the saved time over other important tasks. Also, you remember the word of wisdom: never negotiate with safety. Who knows? Sometime down the road, you’ll be grateful for the contributions induction cooktops will make for you and the environment.
March 6th, 2012
Bhaskar Ale- MSME, E.I.T
During the winter, do you occasionally feel a particularly brisk cold draft while you sleep at night? For residents living on or near Massachusetts’ shores the issues is even more substantial as relentless gusts of ocean wind pound their home all but neutralizing the heat produced by your furnace/boiler away sporadically throughout the night. Well the phenomenon is called ‘Wind washing’ and it is very prevalent in the Northeast.
It is driven by air movement across the thermal insulation due to wind pressure. It causes high heat loss as well as condensation problems. It typically occurs in the exposed surfaces of the roofs such as eaves where there are large pressure gradients. At the eaves, if there are no soffit vents then it can cause the attic insulation to blow away loose fill insulation or fiber glass causing cold corners to have condensation problems and mold growth. It also causes heat loss at the eaves causing the roof above to be prone to more heat loss and hence formation of ice dams in winter. Since it lowers the R value of the insulation, it takes more energy to heat up the home, thus causing your furnace/ boiler to work harder, increasing energy usage.
A solution to this problem is to call up an energy expert and have your house evaluated using a blower door test. The blower door test simulates a 20mph wind hitting all corners of your house. It allows the energy expert to detect and diagnose drafts quantitatively. Caulking wall penetrations (electrical buses, cable line, window frames etc ) for proper weatherization are common solutions.
Now, for the specific attic problem, you should use soffit vents and rigid foam insulation flush against the attic baffles. Seal it up with spray foam so that air can only go up the vent. Put fiberglass faced batt insulation on the knee wall with vapor barrier facing towards house for winter type climate for North East. Then add foam board to seal it up with spray foam around the edges. Now you can add the blown in insulation or fiberglass batts in the attic floor.
Wind washing can also cause problems in the walls.Buildings without a proper house wrap under siding, have problems with wind cutting right through insulation. This problem can be solved by air sealing and strategically insulating. One of the most common for solutions for walls is dense packed cellulose. It is done by removing the strip of siding, drilling holes between the stud cavities and filling the cavities with dense pack cellulose. When cellulose packs into the cavity, if fiberglass present inside it compresses and cellulose will be the primary insulation within the wall cavity. It also increase the R value of the wall since cellulose packs tighter than fiberglass due to smaller fiber size. But you have be careful as as you might add too much pressure against the wall and blow it out. Also you need to have proper vapor barrier such as 6 mil polyethylene plastic on the inside of the wall (for colder climate), so that the cellulose does not catch water from leaks and humidity.
Generally, wind washing‘s energy impact vary due to the following:
- size of the attic soffit vent
- strength of wind and extent of house exposure
- size of opening between the cavity and the adjacent attic
- temperature of the airflow within the floor cavity
- pathways of air flow eg. recessed cans, hollow chaseway etc.
Prices for resolving the issue vary depending upon the job size and the extent of air sealing and insulation. So make sure to have your house first properly assessed by an energy auditor and then upon their recommendation contact insulation and air sealing contractors to take care of the wind washing problem.
February 22nd, 2012
Alex Lee, Energy Engineer
There are several different kinds of siding options for homeowners to choose from. The most popular types are vinyl siding and fiber cement siding. Both are durable and do not rot over time. Also, the use of vinyl sidings or fiber cement sidings will not lead to any infestation-related issues. Most importantly, they can help retain heat inside your homes and thus help reduce your energy bills.
There are however significant differences between vinyl sidings and fiber cement sidings. Vinyl sidings are mostly made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a synthetic material that is essentially plastic. As a result, it is already colored, and homeowners or installers are not required to paint them. What a convenience! Since vinyl siding is basically made of plastic, it is affordable, recyclable, and impact resistant. Think about an empty plastic water bottle; it is cheap to produce, recyclable, and never breaks no matter how many times you drop it or throw it against a wall.
However, the properties of plastic lead to drawbacks for vinyl sidings. When vinyl sidings are exposed to fires, they can melt and release toxic fumes, which are environmentally hazardous and potentially fatal to homeowners. Also, in response to temperature, they contract and expand. As a result, this continuous bending can potentially cause vinyl sidings to crack. In addition, since they are already colored, which provides a convenience of not going through the painting hassle, this advantage can lead to a disadvantage. Over time, the color will wear off, and vinyl sidings cannot be repainted, since their contraction and expansion can cause paint to chip off. But a combined use of urethane and acrylic based paints has recently shown to solve this problem with their adhesive properties.
Meanwhile, fiber cement sidings are mostly composed of cement, sand, cellulose fibers such as the ones derived from wood, and ash. They have been used for over 100 years for home-building. This is a good indicator that homeowners have been satisfied with it, and there are several reasons why that is the case. Fiber cement siding is extremely durable, even during harsh weather conditions. It is also not affected by salt or UV rays. The properties of strength and durability are from the cellulose fibers that help prevent cracks from forming. Also, fiber cement sidings have a more natural look in terms of its wood texture as opposed to vinyl siding. They are required to be painted, but they provide the flexibility of choosing any color that you desire. The color from the paint in fiber cement sidings last 3-4 times more than the one in wood sidings; in fact, it can last for up to 25 years. In addition, fiber cement sidings are fire-resistant, and currently, they do not contain any materials that release toxic fumes. Hence, while they look like wood, at the same time, they act like bricks.
Despite their many advantages, fiber cement sidings have a major drawback of their high initial costs. During their production, they consume high amounts of energy, and they cost much more to produce than vinyl sidings. Also, it is more difficult for installers to install them. During their installation, fiber cement sidings release high amounts of dust, and safety precautions need to be taken to avoid dust inhalation. Hence, along with higher material costs, labor costs are also higher compared to vinyl sidings. Furthermore, fiber cement sidings can be brittle. Imagine that you throw a thin piece of concrete up in the air, and as soon as it hits the ground, you will likely witness many small pieces of concrete flying everywhere.
Thus, the ideal choice of home sidings depends on your preferences as vinyl sidings and fiber cement sidings have their own advantages and disadvantages in terms of energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, sustainability, and aesthetic appeal. If you have a low to medium budget and you want to avoid the hassle of painting, vinyl sidings may be a better choice. But if you have a medium to high budget, durability is paramount, and you prefer a more natural, wood-like texture, then go for the fiber cement siding. Also, another good word of advice: hire well-trained, professional installers to do the job for you, especially if you prefer fiber cement sidings. Needless to say, siding is one of the most important aspects of your home’s visual appeal and it is an essential part of optimizing your home’s performance, so you want to make sure you get it done the right way.
February 20th, 2012
Bhaskar Ale- MSME, E.I.T
Those of us with garages know, they are a pretty important part of our home. We use them to store anything and everything from cars to Christmas decorations. They become home work shops, unofficial man-caves, even band rehearsal space. When you are looking to replace the gateway to this multipurpose space, you garage door, there are two important aspects to consider: energy efficiency and safety.
Consider the following when looking for an energy efficient garage door:
- Automation is In-the latest in technology are garage doors which come with automatic control which lets you control from anywhere in the world as long as you have WIFI.
- R-value matters but look beyond-Newer garage doors have higher value insulation (up to R17 as claimed by some manufacturers) but there is no national standard for calculating R-value in garage doors. Most manufacturers give the R value based on the heat transfer from the middle of the door whereas the edges can have higher heat transfer due to air leakage.
- Limit heat loss- seal up the panel edges, the seams between panels, and the perimeter of the door
- Ventilate Right- proper ventilation of air inside is also important as too much air tightness can also cause CO problems from the fumes inside the garage from the auto exhaust. There needs to be a ventilation system inplace if the garage door is too tight
Safety is as important of an issue as the energy saving aspect. Recently, I came across a product Craftsman Assurelink Garage Door Openers. Now what is really innovative about this device is that not only it is a automatic controlled garage door opener but it can be controlled from anywhere in the world, as long as there is electricity and WIFI.
As per Craftsman website it has the following additional functionality besides the convenience, security and piece of mind:
- Backup DieHard battery, which can operate the garage door for up to 20 cycles even after the power goes out.
- Belt drive (steel reinforced), for the ultimate in quiet, durable operation
- LCD smart motion-detecting wall control with time, temp and GDO diagnostic functions, plus timer-to close feature
- Keyless Exterior Entry Pad
- (2) 3-function remote controls
- 200 Watts lighting
- Automatic sleep mode, which conserves energy while the door is not operating.
With these settings and the ability to control it via your smartphone using a specific application, this is the next step in safety and peace of mind. With the cost of only $296.99, it would be a wise investment for the security for your home.
Both the problems and solutions Ive addressed here for a single garage door can be applied to many appliances or devices in your home. For instance programmable thermostat control to define a temperature profile for your home. The newer ones in the market even add learning your habits, e.g NEST. We need to be aware that the core services such as insulation, remodeling are there and getting better day by day but proper analysis (heating and cooling load) is equally important to achieve the desired results, may it be home improvement, energy efficiency, safety etc. But all in all, it seems home automation systems are going to have all these functions and will be the next wave especially with remote control abilities that will play an important role in the Home Energy and Safety Industry in the coming years.
February 14th, 2012
Bhaskar Ale- MSME, E.I.T
Recently Massachusetts was designated the most energy efficient state in the US for the year 2011, topping California which held the position for the past 4 years. To reach such a milestone , there has been increased efforts from the federal, state and local bodies working together here in MA with utilities and municipalities to provide home owners and commercial/industrial building owners and managers with incentives for increasing their energy efficiency. One such program which greatly affected the homes or the residential side has been the MASS Save program.
Mass save basically comprises of Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities and energy efficiency service providers, including Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, The Berkshire Gas Company, Cape Light Compact, National Grid, New England Gas Company, NSTAR, Unitil, and Western Massachusetts Electric Company. They work hand in hand with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to provide a wide range of services, incentives, trainings, and information promoting energy efficiency that help residents and businesses manage energy use and related costs.
There have been numerous adverts in the media and increasing promotion of MassSave through the utilities, so you, homeowners know of and can reap the benefits of this incentive program. So what are the benefits,
Well as per Mass Save the major incentive that are offered are the following:
- 75% up to $2000 toward the installation of approved insulation improvements which includes improving your attic insulation, wall insulation, air sealing, spray foaming etc.
- No-cost targeted air sealing (weatherization, caulking), installation of instant saving measures such as energy efficient CFL bulbs, programmable thermostat change out, low flow aerators for faucets and low flow shower heads
- Rebates are also available on qualifying energy-efficient heating, hot water heating and Air conditioning equipments
- Here is a link to finding all the heat/cooling rebates
- The opportunity to apply for 0% financing for eligible measures through the HEAT loan program which consist of basically getting a loan from a bank (has to be an affiliate of Mass Save) for the replacement of your heating equipment changeout without any interest, so basically it means the utility pays your interest!
For more information you can also check out disireusa.org for a comprehensive list of all the utility rebates and incentive programs not only by the major utility companies in MA but also the local municipalities which also offer additional rebates regarding renewable technologies as well such as solar water heaters.