Category Archives: green

Global warming and house design

In upcoming years you will be hearing more and more about how climate change and global weirding changes what kind of houses we build. Issues that come to mind based on my own experience living in houses in New England for a few years now:

1. downpours — more and more we get rain in extreme events. No rain for a long time, the a downpour where it rains 2 inches per hour. Implications include inadequate gutters, more people wanting to store roof runoff for lawns/gardens.

“The Northeast has experienced a greater recent increase in extreme precipitation than any other region in the U.S.; between 1958 and 2010, the Northeast saw more than a 70% increase in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (defined as the heaviest 1% of all daily events).”

–the regional Northeast report from the National Climate Asssessment in 2014

http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights/regions/northeast

2. tornados — it is becoming a common occurrence that we get storms with tornados. I am not sure what that means for home design, but probably something. hurricanes too will probably be more likely, which combined with general sea level rising means it’s getting a little crazy to live on the coast.

3. snowstorms — I believe I’ve read that over the next few decades that precip (including snow) will be above average. Combined with events like the “polar vortex” events that are also happening more (due to shifts in the artic) then this means that we will likely have more and more periods with deep snowpack — weeks where it snows, stays cold, snows again, stays cold, etc. So the amount of snow on roofs will pile up and we’ll have to deal more and more with roofs collapsing and ice dams.

4. heat — more and more we get very hot weather and it doesn’t cool off at night, which means for miserable sleeping if you don’t have AC and/or ventilation in each room. All sleeping rooms (especially) need ventilation air directly in the room. Otherwise (in my direct experience) what happens is the house thermostat might be set at 77 or 78 (typically comfortable in summer clothing) but the bedrooms will get warm when the doors are closed and there are bodies giving off heat, making the room warmer.

We have experienced this both in our traditionally insulated home and our superinsulated home in spring and summer.

What am I forgetting?

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Filed under erik-green, future, green

“All of America’s well-publicized problems, including obesity, depression, pollution, and corruption are what it costs to create and sustain a trillion-dollar economy. For the economy to be “healthy,” America has to remain unhealthy.”
The Real Reason For The 40-Hour Workweek

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-real-reason-for-the-40-hour-workweek-2014-6

“Do not drop out. Instead, try to stop yourself from committing suicide until you can find a job that is so non-hellish that it does not make you suicidal, and then stay at that job, or an even better one if you can find it, for several decades. Grab what fun you can on the weekends, save up money, enjoy your retirement, and you will have lived a pretty good life.”
Rain Prieur

http://ranprieur.com/essays/dropout.html

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Filed under contrarian, erik-green

we must also embrace clean coal

“…coal produces more than 40 percent of the world’s electricity, a foundation of modern life. And that percentage is going up.”

http://www.wired.com/2014/03/clean-coal

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Filed under energy, energy-efficiency, erik-green, future, green

My 2 cents on mini-split Air Source Heat Pumps

My 2 cents on mini-split Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) for heating is:

1) if you calculate the source energy usage, it’s pretty much equiv to using nat gas directly because of the efficiency of power plants being ~33%. So 33% * whatever COP you get from thre ASHP (let’s say 3 as a seasonal winter avg) then you are back to ~1.00. Same as using a 95% efficient gas furnance or boiler in terms of primary energy/source energy.

2) Money wise, you’d also have to do the math with electricity vs gas prices. Because even if the energy use is equivalent, perhaps the price of electricity vs gas/oil is mismatched.

3) And of course, if you source the electricity for the ASHP from wind/etc then that’s better too.

4) But one could also skip the ASHP and just buy New England Wind Fund credits to offset heating energy too.

5) Comfort wise: it’s point-source heat, so if your house doesn’t already have heating zones, then putting one where you spend a lot of time would allow you to drop the temp in the rest of the house.

6) But they are slow to heat up a space, so you can’t really use set-backs you can like with furnaces/boilers that blast! Maybe they wouldn’t work that great for point source heat since it’s not like a hot woodstove.

7) The compressor makes noise outside and you need somewhere to put the thing and shovel snow away from it occasionally

8) Another thing to break

9) Holistically: In addition to Wind Fund offsets, one could also insulate the house more, eat less meat, drive a prius or more efficient car, or move closer to work so you can walk, bike, or drive less. Or fly less.

10) ASHP will also give you AC. So that might be nice.

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Filed under erik-green, green

our normal house vs our passive house

We built an “almost passive house” a few years back, lived in it for 3 years, but then decided to move. Here are some observations after living in our current “normal 1958 house” for a year.

our almost passive house
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+ even temps. all year round. in every room.
+ cheap to run — pretty much zero maintenance, utility bills after solar panel offset were $400 and more like $-1100 after Solar SRECs (versus if you add up our January bills… gas+electric+water+sewer+ice dams it is well over $400 for ONE MONTH!)
+ not even close to an ice-dam (steep roof, smallish overhangs, and very insulated and tight)
+ large dedicated kids room (but since in the attic, our young kids didn’t want to be up there on their own much yet)
+ no need for humidifier in winter or dehumidifier in summer. Always pretty much perfect
+ 105 gallon hot water tank meant less likely to run out of hot water with baths and dishwashing and laundry

our normal 1958 house
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+ insanely close to the boys school and friends (so huge savings in time and money/CO2 in driving)
+ closer to grocery shopping
+ closer to Boston
+ just generally closer to lots of things
+ the town we are in has much less sandy soil so easier for gardening
+ if one does feel cold (or hot), the traditional gas-fired furnace is obviously much faster to respond and increase the house temp by a degree or two than the mini-splits in the passive-house. But this only probably happened like once.
+ since we are in a more densely populated place, the house has town water, nat. gas, and sewer. Meaning we could probably actually cook, use water, and have hot water in a power outage.

It I were to do it all again?
=============================
Not sure. Maybe by a really inexpensive fixer-upper split level ranch really close to the kid’s school and do a deep-energy retrofit? The problem is: it’s impossible to find such a thing normally. So I dunno. No regrets!

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The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys)
(On voluntourism. From a founder of a summer camp in Dominican Republicfor HIV+ children.)

http://pippabiddle.com/2014/02/18/the-problem-with-little-white-girls-and-boys/

ME: I am similarly useless. Not to mention the expensive airline tickets (and associated CO2) and (for employed people) the opportunity cost of not doing the work one normally does — the income one could instead donate.

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Filed under contrarian, erik-green, globalization, green

This test shows the cold reduces an EV’s range by more than 50 percent.

http://www.plugincars.com/reduced-ranges-electric-cars-cold-129205.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PluginCars+%28PluginCars.com+RSS+Feed%29

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Filed under car, erik-green, green