Tips to Keep Your Cool All Summer Long

??????????????????????????????????Ah summertime, when the livin’ is easy. It seems like nothing can get you down except for maybe one thing – spiked electric bills. This summer, let’s beat the heat. See how you can help your family maximize fun without stressing your wallet.

Smart investments can help manage expenses in the summer, and for seasons to come. Achieve summer solace with an integrated solar roofing system. It’s an innovative, energy-efficient choice, and can generate most or all of the electricity a home uses during the day. In newer systems, unused power is transferred back to the power grid, which can reduce electric bills even further, and won’t compromise curb appeal.

My favorite features of summer are the long days and natural light. I love being greeted by sunlight in the morning so much, that I often find additional lighting unnecessary. I have discovered that switching out my incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs decreases unwanted heat in the home and will save you money at the same time.

Whenever possible, get outdoors! Another great way to prevent rising temperatures in the home is to avoid using electrical appliances such as ovens. Instead grill outside; it’ll help reduce energy use.

Sometimes you need to cool off, and that’s when air conditioners can come in handy. When possible, use the AC sparingly, and never cool a vacant or unused room. I am a huge supporter of fans – ceiling or portable. Both create a healthy breeze and consume far less energy.

If you find fans can’t seem to keep your family comfortable, there may be a larger opportunity to find a sustainable solution. It might be time to add insulation to your attic or walls. Adequate insulation not only keeps your house warm, it can keep it cool, too. Insulated siding and housewrap can have the same effect. Combined, these products can help reduce energy bills and improve energy efficiency – making summer even sweeter.

Free Webinar Tackles Optimum Energy Efficiency Performance for Low-Slope Roofing Systems

FlintBoard-Polyisocyanurate-Roof-Insulation-CertainTeed-Roofing--Low-Slope-L-Sweets-514613The right insulation product and application method is fundamental to a well-designed low-slope roof system. Thermal needs of a building, energy codes, cost savings and insurance criteria must also be considered. For these reasons polyisocyanurate, also referred to as PIR, polyiso, or ISO, is the most prevalent form of low slope roofing insulation, specified primarily for use in offices, health facilities, warehouses, retail and industrial manufacturing facilities and educational institutions.

Learn more by joining me for a free, hour-long lunchtime webinar, Low Slope Roofing Featuring Polyisocyanurate, on Wednesday, May 27 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. ET.

During this AIA accredited, Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW) course, I’ll cover the background and current best practices of insulation in low-slope roofing applications with specific focus on this closed-cell, rigid foam board insulation.

I’ll also go over the terminology and application basics of how and when it is used, including how to:

  • Define R-value in technical terms
  • Describe the two types of insulation based on R-value
  • Describe some of the features of polyisocyanurate as an insulating material
  • Explain what the industry is doing about ozone depleting substances
  • Describe some of the uses of polyiso insulation
  • Describe some of the physical properties of polyiso insulation
  • Describe tapered insulation and explain its function

CertainTeed’s Building Knowledge Academy of Continuing Education is the industry’s most extensive and engaging collection of CEU course content. Our courses provide AIA credits and help architects specify smarter. Register today.

Spring is a time of renewal, remodeling

Spring is most certainly in the air. Temperatures are warming, color is popping and the sense of renewal abounds. Those neighbors you haven’t seen since last October are out in their yards again. People are walking, kids are playing, and the sound of hammering fills the air as many folks renew via remodeling. It’s just that time of year.

RestorationSmooth_Landmark

It’s the remodeling part that gets me most excited, Based on a recent study conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by CertainTeed, when asked which one factor is most important to homeowners when completing an exterior home improvement project, 39 percent cited curb appeal, 26 percent cited return on investment, and 21 percent noted impact on outdoor living and lifestyle considerations.

The survey also supports what we at CertainTeed have known for some time, that color is every bit as exciting as it is confusing. In fact, 40 percent of U.S. homeowners admit they are not quite sure which colors would work best on the exterior of their homes. 11 percent admit to being color “clueless” and don’t know where to begin when selecting colors for their home. Having spent a lot of time and energy on color science, this is something we get. We’ve actually built an interactive design center so that homeowners can explore, get inspired and gain confidence in their color selection. The online tool allows users to play around with different design and color combinations of siding, roofing, trim and more. It’s a fun tool to check out even if you’re not in the market for remodeling.

Beyond exterior home improvement projects, however, the Harris Poll survey reveals some telling facts about those out-of-sight, out-of-mind renovations that tend to get brushed over. One in five U.S. house owners (19 percent) give little to no consideration to insulation when planning a kitchen remodel or home addition. Even more – one in four – say the same about drywall. This is interesting because, According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we Americans spend 90 percent of our time indoors where thermal comfort and air quality matter quite a bit. The good news is by choosing high-performance insulation and formaldehyde-absorbing drywall, homeowners have more control over energy savings and indoor pollutants like mold and VOCs than they may think. It’s always advisable to work with qualified contractors who can speak to these issues and who stock quality brands and products.

While I’m on the topic of home remodeling, video entries are now being accepted for CertainTeed’s annual Living Spaces Home Makeover Contest.  It may just help you or someone you know undertake that remodeling project that is so desperately needed. The winner gets a $100,000 grand prize, which includes $75,000 worth of building products, including professional installation and $25,000 to help cover taxes. So get the family together, shoot a fun video and enter to win by May 31. For more information and complete contest details, visit www.CertainTeed.com/DesignCenter.

Happy springtime remodeling!

Tax Day Preparedness: Investing in Smart Home Renovations

BathMI_D9_BnB_flatThere’s no doubt that filing taxes can be a daunting challenge, but a refund check from the IRS comes with a lot of exciting possibilities. Pursuing home improvement projects this spring will be a great way to revamp your home after enduring a long, dreary winter. Plus, there are tax credits available that offer financial incentives to make your house energy efficient – giving you even more reason to invest in your home this Tax Day.

According to the ENERGY STAR® program, renovations such as installing quality insulation or adding a solar reflective roof can help save money on utility bills. Pursuing these updates increase the beauty and curb appeal of your home and also enhance its value.

If a reroof is in your future, make sure to choose products that are designed for optimum performance that can withstand the elements. There are various roofing designs, styles and texture options that allow you to create a unique look.

Did you know the material surrounding the exterior and interior of your home can contribute to its efficiency and strength? Insulated vinyl siding provides thermal performance and protection against noise infiltration, and new insulation batt technology can help to manage the moisture found within a home. If that’s not enough, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association says spending $1 on insulation will save $12 in energy costs.

Renovations don’t have to stop at the walls of a residence. In fact, there are many opportunities to develop your home’s outdoor living spaces. New curved railing and gate options offer a decorative design that will accentuate the beauty of a homeowner’s yard while providing complete privacy. By investing in vinyl decking or fence, you can enjoy the warm weather or entertain guests, without having to worry about the hassle of continuous repair.

Last minute filers should keep available tax credits in mind. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 allows homeowners who upgraded their insulation last year to take a federal tax credit on their 2015 returns. The credit is up to 10 percent of the cost of the insulation with a maximum lifetime credit of $500. For information on other tax credits offered by the IRS, visit www.irs.gov.

 

What Ferrari Knows Can Help With Insulating Homes to Reduce Utility Bills

ferrari_192319It makes sense to “lightweight” automobiles, even though it costs more to use premium materials such as aluminum or magnesium than to use steel. The general rule of thumb in the auto industry is that you save about seven percent fuel economy for every 10 percent vehicle weight that you reduce. Reducing vehicle weight impacts almost every other attribute in a positive manner:

  • it burns less fuel,
  • lowers emissions into the atmosphere,
  • accelerates and brakes better,
  • provides less “wear and tear” on load bearing parts in the suspension and brake systems and,
  • is more nimble in handling.

 The aluminum alloys in the automobile industry perform equal or better to steel in dent resistance. Finally, pound for pound, aluminum absorbs twice the crash energy as steel, helping the all-aluminum Audi A8 achieve 5-star crash performance levels.

 Despite this, mainstream automakers continue to address fuel economy issues by improving powertrains, shrinking vehicle size, or a host of other band-aid fixes. A lighter weight vehicle is more efficient (efficiency improvement per unit cost) than most of these other approaches and it improves the performance of these other approaches in the process!

 Traditionally, it was high price tag vehicles (Audi, Ferrari, etc.) that were made from lightweight materials. Later this year, the 2015 Ford F-150 will launch with an all-aluminum body structure. The F-150 is one of the highest production volume vehicles in the world, so this is a game changer not just for Ford, but for the global auto industry. For the above-cited performance reasons, Ford wants you to equate an aluminum F-150 with other aluminum vehicles like the Space Shuttle or the battle-tested Army Humvee, not a soda can.

 So what does this have to do with insulation? We often hear homeowners being urged to switch to more efficient light bulbs, windows, doors, appliances, etc. to address utility bills. Yet millions of homes are under insulated.

 Like vehicle weight, insulation in a house is not very visible or exciting – at least not in the same way that a new stainless steel Energy Star refrigerator might be. Yet, like vehicle weight, improving insulation in a house is one of the smartest things you can do to lower your operating costs. Adding insulation helps improve the performance of things like high-efficiency HVAC equipment/systems, new appliances, or windows that are touted for their energy saving potential.

 We should all learn a lesson from the auto industry: it may not be as cool as an 8 speed transmission (new windows), but reducing vehicle weight (adding home insulation) is the smart move to make before you invest in other energy savers.

 

Green Leasing: A Collaborative Approach to Energy Efficiency

Brandywine Realty property outside Philadelphia

Brandywine Realty property outside Philadelphia

You’ve probably seen this stat before —buildings account for 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in the U.S.  We all know that reducing energy consumption is imperative for the future sustainability of our country, but when it comes to putting words into actions, we sometimes get stuck.

 Case in point: the potential for gridlock in traditional lease agreements— where the benefits of reduced energy usage or building upgrades do not “flow” to the person who pays for the transaction. For example, if a tenant is not responsible for monthly utility bills, then there is no financial incentive to reduce energy use.

 The good news? Companies such as Brandywine Realty Trust are bringing a fresh perspective to energy efficiency through green leases, which help align the financial and energy incentives of building owners and tenants.

 Specifically, property owners can charge tenants for measures that result in operational savings, such as energy-efficient lighting or chiller retrofits, as long as the savings are greater than the cost of the measure. The tenant benefits from reduced monthly utility costs and the building owner is able to increase the value of the building. Most importantly, the lease agreement instills a spirit of collaboration and mutually beneficial financial incentives to reduce energy consumption.

 Best of all, green releases are generating formidable results. Brandywine Realty Trust and its tenants have reduced energy costs by roughly 46 percent in a 93,000 square foot, 1980s era, building in suburban Philadelphia. And, the building’s energy cost per square footage is approximately 38 percent lower than the area average. With such a great return on investment, it truly begs the question — why aren’t more real estate companies getting on board with green leases?

Energy Deregulation is a Positive for Consumers, but Do Your Homework

 Danny Small is Manager, Building Science Development for CertainTeed Corporation

Danny Small

Danny Small

 If your utility called you up and offered you a significant discount on your electric or natural gas rate, would you take it? 

Usually I’m speaking to builders, architects and homeowners about reducing energy costs by using less energy.  Now, in many parts of the country, you can also reduce your energy costs by simply paying less for the energy you use.

With the recent deregulation of the energy industry, individuals as well as businesses in certain areas of the U.S. now actually have a choice of utility suppliers.  What that means is that you can now lower the rate you pay for your energy by taking advantage of a seamless and easy process.  Electricity choice is well under way, and natural gas is right behind it.  If your state does not yet offer energy choice, it’s coming, and it can offer a significant savings for residences, small businesses and large commercial and industrial entities.

Here’s how it works:  Your utility bill consists of three components:  generation, transmission and distribution.  The utility remains responsible for distribution:  Getting the energy to your house, maintaining the lines and poles and taking care of the billing, collections and customer service. The generation and transmission however, is now open to competition and can be “shopped around,” resulting in potentially large savings for the customer.

You may be wondering how the utility feels about this whole thing.  In one of my previous positions, I helped manage energy efficiency incentive programs in several eastern states, working closely with utility companies as deregulation started to roll out.  The utilities actually actively encouraged their customers to shop their rates.  Since the utility does not make its money on generation or transmission, they are not looking to provide the lowest rate; they just pass the cost on to the customers.  You can view a news interview with a representative from a Pennsylvania utility, explaining how the process works.  

Switching is easy.  It costs nothing, takes only a few minutes online or over the phone, and in many cases there is no long-term commitment.  Everything stays exactly the same from the customer’s perspective:  Same bill, same payment process, same service, same electricity.  Just a lower rate! You really have nothing to lose in making the switch.

Among energy suppliers, both rates and terms can vary widely.  Go to www.ShopForEnergy.com to see the options available in your area.  Besides a competitive rate, look for a plan with no termination fee.  In addition, some suppliers offer 100% renewable energy options (recommended) and other benefits to win your business.  For example, one major eastern supplier, North American Power, offers all of the above and also contributes $1 per month from its own profits on behalf of each of its customers to a charity of the customer’s choice.

So far, my experience “privatizing” my energy has been extremely positive, and I highly recommend it if the option is available to you.

When it Comes to Air Tightness in Buildings – Don’t Forget the Garage

 
 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Many of our houses have attached garages which are, for the most part, unconditioned space within our habitat.  It is the interface of these two spaces which so often fails in our attempts to conserve energy and have superior indoor air quality. 

For starters, you have to make sure that the garage is air sealed from the rest of the structure because of what you store in that space. You store things in your garage because you want them out of the weather but you don’t want them “indoors.” Very often negative pressure is generated in the home by exhaust fans and dryers. In your home’s attempt to reach a neutral pressure with the exterior, it will often pull air from the garage into the home.  Now all of the gaseous and particulate contamination which is associated with what you are storing and doing in your garage is coming into your home. Think about what is on the other side of these “interior” walls – typically they are the rooms where we spend the most of our waking hours; kitchen and family room. If the separation plane between these spaces is not made air-tight we might as well move into the garage.

One small detail which is best addressed during the time of construction is breaking the continuity of framing chases between the garage and the house typically found in the garage ceiling. As the second floor framing runs continuously across one of the garage interior walls, air-tight blocking needs to be installed between floor framing to close this avenue of air migration. This is obviously easier to achieve with dimensional floor framing or “TJI” (Trus Joist I) than it is with modern trusses. Also ensure that any doors leading from the garage to the living space are properly sealed and air tight. Get a new door sweep if the old one is worn out. One great indicator of an air leaky passage door is a dirt “shadow” in the carpet just inside the sweep. Carpet fibers make excellent air filters and atypical soiling patterns are great indicators of air flows.

Once you’ve decreased uncontrolled air flow between the home and the garage is there added value by adding an insulated exterior garage door?  Absolutely! Any way that you can tighten or insulate the envelop will improve the efficiency. When you are making any changes with regard to air tightness in the home don’t forget to include the garage in your decisions.

The Philadelphia Eagles Really Know How to Go Green

I attended a Green Drinks event recently in the Philadelphia area sponsored by Sustainable Solutions Corporation, a company that provides comprehensive sustainable development and green building services for corporations, municipalities, developers and homeowners. Lucas Hamilton wrote about these events in his “Starbucks” of Sustainability Blog.

The guest speaker was Leonard Bonacci, director of event operations for the Philadelphia Eagles.

I’m a football fan and religiously watch the Eagles play every game, but I was not aware of the incredible commitment the Eagles organization and Lincoln Financial Field were making in their efforts to “Go Green.” Theirs is a top-down commitment, starting with the Eagles owners Jeffrey and Christina Lurie. Christina leads this charge, which started when the team moved into their new home, Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles are considered to be one of the most environmentally conscious Teams in the NFL. That is due to the enormous attention paid to reducing their carbon footprint, including:

  • Employing wind technology to power the lights.
  • Using napkins with recycled content and cups that are corn-based rather than petroleum based, and are totally biodegradable.
  • All of the grease from food cooked at the stadium is taken to a refinery to be combined with biodiesel fuel.
  • Composting of trash instead of sending to the landfill.
  • Requiring vendors to support their green initiatives by greening their operations, recycling and using energy-conscious products.
  • Recycling by staff and tailgaters, including easy-to-identify blue bags, dumpsters and trashing carts to collect recyclables.

The ultimate goal is for the entire enterprise is to be carbon neutral, which is no small task when talking about a stadium that hosts 70,000 people per game.

Their newest endeavor is a partnership with a company called Solar Blue which will help convert Lincoln Financial Field to function with self-generated renewable energy. This will be accomplished with wind, solar power and dual-fuel generated electricity.

My personal favorite conservation effort by the Eagles organization is Eagles Forest, a 6.5 acre site located in Neshaminy State Park, Bensalem, PA. The organization has planted 1,500 trees and shrubs, including 150 trees purchased by Eagles fans. Part of this program is dedicated to offsetting the team’s carbon emissions from away-game travel.

For me Go Eagles now has added value! What do you think of Go Green? Are teams in your area making similar commitments?

Reshaping the Built Environment Passively

Stan Gatland

The Passive House concept gained a great deal of traction over the past year and the 2010 Passive House Conference, which was held in Portland, Oregon in November, was proof of the growth and interest.  The attendance grew from 250 last year to 350 this year.

It is clear from the growth of the conference that building professionals in the U.S. and Canada are beginning to gravitate to the Passive House Standard. The primary goal of Passive House technology is to reduce your heating and cooling load so that very little energy is needed to maintain comfort.

The people who came by the CertainTeed booth were much more knowledgeable about passive house technologies and had practical experience with regard to designing and constructing passive homes in all parts of the U.S.  That was a significant change from previous years.

CertainTeed remains the only large building materials manufacturer sponsoring the Passive House Conference. The Passive House Institute has created a Passive House Alliance which will work closely with the Institute to promote Passive House building energy efficiency standards and construction in the U.S.  A grassroots effort like this could have significant impact on adopting standards that truly support energy efficient building.

Attendees were very interested in Saint-Gobain’s Isover Multi-Comfort House strategy. This passive house concept has been very successful in Europe. There were several colleges and universities at the conference and we took this opportunity to talk with them about the Multi Comfort House Student Competition which invites teams of architecture and engineering students from around the world to compete in a passive design competition.  Philadelphia University has participated in the past and the hope is that  other U.S. colleges and universities will consider participating in the 2011 competition.  

It was good to talk with designers who are using CertainTeed Optima® insulation with our Membrain™  smart vapor retarder in very deep cavities using TJI joists to achieve the insulation levels needed to meet Passive House standards. We have conducted hygrothermal analysis to assist designers who are using this system.

One of the notable speakers this year was Dr. Robert Hastings, architect and energy consultant from Austria who gave his perspective on this trend.  Dr. Hastings has been involved internationally in sustainable building and solar energy since the 1970’s when the first wave of concern regarding energy consumption hit the mainstream. Unfortunately, the progress that was made in the 70’s was quickly abandoned once oil became readily available again. 

Let’s hope that this groundswell will not be abandoned as in the past. As a nation, we need to continue to move toward energy independence.

Stan Gatland is Manager, Building Science Technology for CertainTeed Corporation