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Carbon Reduction Checklist

Carbon Reduction Checklist

Appliances

  •        Buy energy star appliances.
  •        Use a solar dryer (clothesline.)
  •        Know what you want and where it is before you open the refrigerator.
  •        Use a carafe coffee system rather a burner system (better coffee and less energy.)
  •        Better yet make your own cold brew coffee.

Electronics

Lighting

  •        Use daylighting as much as possible.
  •        Use LEDs – use about 75% less energy than incandescent and last about 25 time longer.
  •        Consider installing solar power (it may not be a good idea.)
  •        Buy Energy Star lighting.

Heating

  •        Live layered.
  •        Reduce your winter temperature by 1 degree a month until you are at 68 degrees.
  •        Open and close windows to take advantage of daytime heating.
  •        Have your system serviced in October.
  •        Change your air filter a few times during the heating season.

AC

  •        Live naked, it improves the efficacy of ceiling fans.
  •        Use ceiling fans but only when you are in the room.
  •        Set your thermostat at 78 or 80 (you will acclimate.)
  •        If you can, avoid being in cold buildings during the work day.
  •        Change your air filters with every month’s worth of use (not necessarily every month.)
  •        Have your system serviced in the spring before cooling season starts.
  •        Check your ducts for leakage and fix them.
  •        Seal air leaks in your house.
  •        Make sure you have more low vents than high venting your attic.
  •        Consider going to an unvented attic
  •        If you cannot add insulation in your attic being careful not to block soffit vents.

Water heating

  •        Turn the temp on your water heater down.
  •        Wash clothes, when possible, in cold water
  •     Turn your water heater to “vacation” or “pilot” when you are away. You are not going to remember to do this unless you have a “leaving checklist” of all the things you need to do when you are going to be away for a few days or more.
  •        Insulate your hot water tank.

Water

  •        Reduce turf in your yard.
  •        Irrigate wisely.
  •        Only when necessary
  •        Use a moisture sensor to avoid watering when it is not necessary.
  •        Water deeply and infrequently
  •        Consider rainwater collection.
  •        Use low flow fixtures
  •        Turn water off while brushing teeth, washing hands and even when lathering up in the shower.

Energy Audit

  •        Reducing air leaks without an energy audit
  •        Foam electrical and plumbing penetrations into the attic
  •        Keep winter cover on spigots all year
  •        Caulk windows
  •        Caulk baseboards
  •        Seal and insulate attic accesses that are in conditioned space
  •        Use a chimney balloon
  •        Visually inspect your insulation
  •        Run the fan on your CA system and feel for leak in your ducts.
  •        Get an energy audit.

Transportation

  •        Don’t travel and if you do commit to carbon offsets
  •        Walk or ride a bike where possible.
  •        Combine trips
  •        Plan errands for once a week
  •        Procrastinate – put all errands off until this day or at least as late as possible.
  •        Drive a fuel-efficient car
  •        Learn to drive for fuel efficiency

Consumerism

  • Reduce the inflow of stuff
  •        Don’t expose yourself to commercial advertising it drives consumerism in EVERYONE.
  •        Encourage friends and family to relax the gift giving obligation, with non-stuff rituals.
  •        Create algorithms that help make buying decisions,
  •        Create a wardrobe list by category and how many is reasonable to keep in each category.
  •        Define the amount of space your wardrobe should take up and stick to it.
  •        Decide how often you must use something to make it worth keeping.
  •        If you get something new that is larger than a match box, commit to getting rid of at least        twice its volume.
  •        Get rid of the excess that you have
  •        Start with the junk drawer.
  •        Do you use it more than four times a year?
  •        Is there something else that could do the job almost as well?
  •        I will get rid of ___ things each month.
  •        Maintain a box for things of sentimental value and do not let them overflow the box.
  •        Digitize

Waste

  •        Don’t buy over packaged items
  •        Use fabric grocery bags.
  •        Avoid over packaged food.
  •        Reuse where possible.
  •        Recycles where you cannot reuse.
  •        Compost
  •        Recycle
  •        Glass
  •        Cans
  •        Newspaper (better to read online)
  •        Magazines
  •        Cardboard
  •        Batteries
  •        Stop Junk mail

The Table

  •        Shipping
  •        Grow your own.
  •        Support local farmers through CSAs and Framers markets.
  •        Buy seasonal foods.
  •        Opt for California wine.
  •        Buy western hemisphere coffee.
  •        Reduce chemicals
  •        Buy organic or near organic and drug free.
  •        Become a vegetarian or at least more vegetarious.
  •        Limit or eliminate lamb and beef.
  •        Eat only grass fed and finished beef and lamb.
  •        Buy wild fish.

EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator (under estimates by a good deal)

Nature Conservancy Carbon Offsets

Free Energy Assessment

We now provide an energy assessment with every Remodel project we do that is over $10,000.  Doing this is such a no-brainer that we are making it an automatic part of our process.

With relatively little effort, we can provide information on how to cost effectively reduce utility bills. Reducing monthly utility bills can be a great investment.  In most homes, especially those more than ten years old, a good deal of savings can be achieved with a relatively small investment.  And, if the assessment is coming to you with no added cost, it really makes sense.

To do this assessment we use a specialized piece of equipment called a blower door to depressurize your house and locate air leaks in the home.  This is the low hanging fruit of energy retrofitting. Most air leaks are easy to identify and inexpensive to fix.  We also do a visual inspection of insulation and air ducts.  For a slightly larger investment a full-scale energy audit can be done. However, with this free assessment we can identify and prescribed retrofits that will provide a smart return on investment.  We can do this work for you, or, if you wish, much of it can be done by a handy do-it-yourselfer.

Depending on the nature of the remodeling to be done, we can usually improve the energy efficiency of a home within the course of the remodel.  Some of the more common ways that we are able to do this include:

·         Use of LED lighting

·         Sealing air leaks

·         Improving insulation

·         Use of day-lighting

·         Low flow plumbing fixtures

·         Using high efficiency windows

·         Adding high efficiency AC equipment and appliances.

For those interested in deeper energy reductions, we recommend a full-blown energy audit that yields more information.  Here is some possible consideration for deeper energy cuts:

·         Converting to a non-vented attic

·         Adding or replacing insulation

·         Replacement of all windows

·         Replacing siding and insulation

·         Solar hot water

·         Solar power

Price is always a consideration when looking at a remodeling project. By reducing monthly energy bills, we can help make your remodeling venture provide a return on investment every month.

Bringing Thermal Mass Inside

In a previous post we spoke about the importance of using thermal mass on the inside of a home in a hot humid climate like that in Bryan and College Station.  This time we will talk about home design ideas that will help achieve this.

The Foundation

Most homes in the Brazos valley are built on monolithic slab foundations.  Not only is this probably the largest structure in your home, it is also tied to the earth; which actually provides geothermal heating and cooling.  Though a floor may be cool to bare feet in the winter, most of the time it is much warmer than the outside temperature.  Most builders use a great deal of carpet as a means  of keeping the cost per square foot low.  Although this is an effective way to reduce the upfront cost of a home, it covers and minimizes a large and expensive asset.

Maintaining the thermal mass of the foundation is a great way to reduce energy costs.  This can be accomplished by staining the concrete or, more commonly, by using a stone or tile on the floor.  For those cold winter feet, use area rugs in high traffic areas.  This allows enough exposure of large areas of thermal mass to be of benefit.

Fireplaces

While most fireplaces are a large source of energy loss, using rock or brick around them can add beauty and thermal mass.  In your home design, consider extending this outcrop of hard surface.  However, be mindful of the connection of this thermal mass to the outside where it will conduct outside temperatures into the house.

Rock walls

In our custom designed homes, we usually incorporate rock or brick walls where possible.  This is especially effective at entryways where a visual connection to the outside material can help create continuity.  Thermal mass walls can add contrast and texture to tall walls.  An especially beautiful wall can be created with a process called rammed earth; which is exactly what it sounds like.  A precise combination of sand and clay is used to create a manufactured sandstone using pressure to form the structure.

These are not features commonly found in tract homes as they add to the cost per square foot but they add beauty, grandeur, elegance and energy efficiency which makes them a great consideration for custom homes.  These can be considered practices for green homes but they are smart and beautiful practices for any home.

Best Energy Retrofit

Best Energy Retrofit

green building

green building

Which is the least expensive energy retrofit? A.  Installing solar panels B.  Replacing existing windows with high efficiency windows C.  Installing energy star appliances D.  Sealing air leaks

Which has the highest ROI? A.  Installing solar panels B.  Replacing existing windows with high efficiency windows C.  Installing energy star appliances D. Sealing air leaks

You might enjoys this article for more information.

Are your ceiling fans causing you to waste energy?

The intention of using ceiling fans is to conserve energy. But there are three ways that ceiling fans frequently cause people to waste energy and money. The most common wasteful infraction is leaving the ceiling fan on when no one is in the room. Ceiling fans cool by moving air across the skin. If there is no skin in the room it cannot work. And, in fact, the fan motor is adding heat to a room. In a recent article on Greenbuildingadvisor.com Carl Seville indicated that fan motors can exceed 100 degrees when running. But a quality Energy Star fan will run much cooler. We recommend using Energy star fixtures and appliances whenever possible.

The second way that a fan can cause energy waste is if the thermostat is not adjusted up. Ceiling fans should allow you to adjust your temperature up by about two degrees, which will reduce cooling costs in College station and Bryan by about 14%. If you do not do that, you are just increasing your energy bill by using the fans. If the temperature is set for people in the kitchen where there is no ceiling fan, then you should not run the fans in the other rooms. This becomes a design strategy that involves the zoning of the AC system and the placement of fans. For many families the optimal plan is to put fans in the bedrooms and only run them at night when people are sleeping. The thermostat should be programmed to raise the temperature at that time. Whether you are remodeling or building a custom home or just doing repairs, it is wise to design for energy savings.

The third way that people waste energy with their ceiling fans is by not having them set in the right direction. They should blow down in summer and up in the winter. While this will not completely negate the impact of the fan it will greatly diminish its benefit.