Energy Saving Home Improvements

Energy Saving Home Improvements

Green efforts save you money, and they protect the planet for future generations. Energy Saving home improvements make your house a bit more green without requiring tearing it down and building a zero energy home. Instead, you can be green with just a few small changes.

Garden on the Roof

Get out your ladder and put your green thumb up high. A roof garden offers many environmental benefits, according to the Washington Post, and these include extra insulation for your home, storm water control, and pollution retention. Green roofs are more expensive than conventional roofs, but in some areas like Washington DC, you can offset that cost through programs that allow you to get credits on your water bill after installing a green roof.

Photo by kretyen via Flickr

Here Comes the Sun

When the sun’s harsh rays drive up the temperature in your house, you are forced to run the air conditioner at full whack to combat the heat. Give your AC unit and the planet a break by keeping out the sun with the best roller shades. Keep these down during the day to keep temps down naturally, and then roll them up and open the windows at night to enjoy the relatively cooler air. Improving the efficiency of your heating and cooling through smart technologies and insulation is one of the most major areas of energy saving home improvements you can take on.

Photo by tom.arthur via Flickr

Insulate the Attic

According to architect George Clarke in the Telegraph, insulating your attic can save the average homeowner $400 to $500 per year. Be sure to seal air leaks and ensure the roof is in good condition before getting started. Both loose-fill and batt insulation work for the job.

Photo by Song_sing via Flickr

How to Save on Electricity using a Radiant Barrier

If you live in a hot climate, Energy.gov recommends installing a radiant barrier rather than insulation in the attic. A radiant barrier reflects heat, preventing heat from the roof from reaching the rest of the attic. This reduces summer heat and thus cooling, costs.

Photoo by imn4t001 via Flickr

Recycled Furniture

Rather than taking a stroll through a cheap furniture store so that you can decorate your home with pieces that will quickly break and end up in the landfill, use recycled furniture. Recover sturdy old sofas to match your new sense of style, hit the thrift store, or get furniture from a shop like Loll Designs that exclusively offers furniture made out of recycled materials. 

Photo by Gutsbikes via Flickr

Oil and Water

When painting, you have a choice between oil-based or water-based paints. Water-based paints, also called latex paints, are more environmentally friendly than their oily counterparts, reports the Health Care Environmental Resource Center. Their volatile organic compound (VOC) is lower than oil-based paints, reducing their potential VOC emissions. This makes your home safer and your air greener.

Photo by Daniel Case via Wikimedia Commons

Control the Nest

With a programmable thermostat like the ones offered by Nest, you can keep the temperature of your nest under control, regardless of where you are. Use today’s best technology to create convenient energy saving home improvements. Set your heat to come on in the morning and go back off when you leave your home for the day. By not wasting heat on an empty home, you save money, and you conserve precious resources for the planet.

Photo by Amanitamano via Wikimedia Commons

If you link your thermostat to an app, you can even control the temp while you’re not home. If you’re coming home late, you can let the furnace know so that it doesn’t kick on until later. If you’re coming home early, have the heater prep the house for you, that way you won’t be tempted to run it on full blast to warm things up.

Free Green Energy Guides

Check out these wonderful free green energy guides and resources from our friends at Green Trust!

http://green-trust.org/freebooks/

There you can find resources on Wind, Solar, Methane and ethanol production, water purification, and more!

free green energy guides

Benefits of Concrete Floors

Benefits of Concrete Floors

Concrete’s versatility makes it a popular material for myriad construction projects. It is used for home foundations, streets, hospital floors and many other surfaces. In order for people to make better green choices and help save the environment they must understand the benefits on concrete floors.

Concrete

List of Benefits of Concrete Floors

  • The other alternative to concrete flooring is installing a wood floor. By using concrete there is no need to cut down any trees.
  • Installing a concrete floor helps to minimize the waste created by installing other type of floors.
  • The cost to install a concrete floor is higher than other types of floors but you will find that a concrete floor installed by reputable concrete contractors will not need to be replaced as often as other floor types.
  • From a medical stand point concrete floors offer a better and cleaner surface for medical practices. An article by The Center For Sustainable Development points out that concrete floors in hospitals can lead to a 78 percent reduction in parasitic infection in children, as well as many other health benefits.

Concrete Floors can Produce Better Homes.

Besides certain benefits that concrete floors can bring to people there are some other ways that the material can help produce better homes.

  • Concrete can be fashioned in may different ways. Color can be added for decoration and design can be added for personal taste.
  • Concrete materials do not emit harmful VOC’s into the air. Some materials that can put VOC’s in the air include carpet, finished wood floors and tiles.
  • Radiant heat can easily be installed before the concrete is poured.
  • A concrete floor also can be cleaned more easily that a floor made of wood and other material.
  • A concrete patio can help increase the value of a person’s home.

Concrete can be Recycled

Another way concrete can help save the environment is that it can be recycled.

  • Broken concrete can be used to build a walkway or a path. Depending on the type of path you are trying to build the concrete will need to be broken up into very small pieces.
  • Some gardeners have found that putting concrete under the soil makes for seeds that germinate better in the spring. It can also be used to build raised beds.
  • The broken material has also been used to limit erosion and to help build angled retaining walls.

Heating Benefits of Concrete Floors

Concrete floors can be efficiently heated with radiant floor heating system. These energy efficient devices heat a liquid solution which is pumped through the floor. This heats the entire slab of flooring and begins to radiate up, heating the air in the room and the house. It also keeps your feet warm which makes all the difference.

This radiating effect continues even hours after the unit has cycled off. All combined a radiant floor heating system is one of the most effective and energy efficient heaters possible for concrete and other stone flooring, new additions and basements, greenhouses, and more.

Creative Commons image by Josh and Melanie Rosenthal

Baltimore Food Hub’s Ambitious Green Growing Project

To add to the list of green projects and good news happening in Baltimore, a non profit group is now planning a one of a kind multi-faceted Green Campus in the east of Baltimore.

The plan includes converting barren land into a high yield food production and old buildings into new educational and economic engines for the community.

 

Baltimore Food Hub

 

“The Baltimore Food Hub is a planned campus of facilities, services, and programs focused on enhancing Baltimore’s local food economy.  Supported by a team of business partners, nonprofit organizations, state and local agencies, the vision is to build a vibrant local food system that creates employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.  

The Food Hub will be located at 1801 E. Oliver Street, a 3.5-acre campus containing the historic Eastern Pumping Station—glorious though sadly decayed 19th-century buildings that will be brought back to life.  The Food Hub will play a major role in revitalizing East Baltimore, creating jobs and opportunities for neighborhood, while serving as an asset that will benefit the city and region.”

Green Resource Center in Charm City

What is included is aimed to improve individuals, organizations, and young company’s access to fresh produce and new marketplaces, educational opportunities, and resources. The center wil include a:

  1. Food Business Incubator, which gives access to a commercial kitchen and for young producers of food items.
  2. Office Space for food based businesses and non profits.
  3. Job Training for sustainability and healthy food based opportunities.
  4. Urban Farming, grown by a non profit, sold at a farmers market there in town, bringing high quality local produce to a relative food desert.
  5. Teaching Garden, bringing public and charter school students from all populations to partake in “edible classroom” lessons.
  6. Production kitchen for innovative local food advocate, expert, and award winning chef, Spike Gjerde.
  7. Garden center and farm stand where people can find garden tools, starter plants, and fresh produce.

Check this out: http://www.baltimorefoodhub.com/

 

 

Top 5 Green Cars of Fall 2013

Top5GreenCarsFall2013

Alternatively fueled cars aren’t sexy simply for how they help the environment—they save you the money you normally would spend on gas, too. From hybrids to true electric, luxury to everyday driving, these five cars mark an exciting time in U.S. car culture. Plug in to these alt-fuel cars and enjoy the ride, as well as the savings in your pocket.

Cadillac ELR

The Cadillac ELR is what the Chevy Volt was intended to be, according to Car and Driver. It’s fuel-efficient, fun to drive and a feast for the eyes. The drive train is the same as the Volt, the engine is bigger and the exterior has the lines of the Converj concept car displayed at the 2009 auto show in Detroit. Planned for a late 2013 release, the price is rumored to be close to $60,000, which will keep curiosity seekers away but draw those with a green conscience and a taste for luxury.

A large console dominates the front interior, to cover the 288-cell battery that powers this machine. This is the same battery as in the Volt, with two drive motors and a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine to keep it charged. Per GM, the performance is expected to be in the range of zero-60 mph in eight seconds. One may expect 35 miles on a full battery charge.

BMW i3

Car Connection reports that the i3 is a new-from-the-ground-up design. It’s not an electric retrofit of another model.

The body is carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, making it lighter and stronger than other cars. The entire side of the car can be opened for access, because there is no need for a door pillar. This shell sits on an aluminum frame which holds the battery and drive train.

A two-cylinder gasoline engine is available as an option to generate enough electricity to keep the car moving between charges. This is a standard feature in the Chevy Volt, but is optional in the BMW.

BMW states the expected mileage on a charge is 80-100 miles. The estimated MSRP is $41,000. People who love their BMWs may watch how well this new design takes off. The initial buyers will likely already have a BMW in their garage.

Ford Focus Electric

Less about style and more about function, the electric Focus has an estimated mileage of 75 on a full charge. Otherwise, the performance should be similar to the gas version of the Focus. At an MSRP of $39,200, this Focus is packed with many standard features, such as HD radio, navigation and Ford’s MyTouch infotainment system.

This is still a Ford Focus with an electric engine. Those who prefer the subcompact world but want to step into the green, all-electric world, should look into this vehicle.

Chevy Volt

The Volt was a pioneer of electric cars, and it has set the tone for many designs after it. The $39,000 MSRP may scare off potential buyers, but by now, the Volt will be showing up in used car listings. The Kelley Blue Book has used cars and prices, so future Volt owners may find a good deal on a 1-year-old electric car.

The two electric motors and unique drive train are still innovative. The standard gas engine charges the battery and gives an average 35 mpg. For many, this is still the car to buy as an entry into all-electric driving.

Nissan Leaf

Available in late 2013 will be the second generation of the Leaf. There are a few changes, mainly to the electrical equipment. With the improvements comes a reduction in price. The MSRP will be $29,650.

An improved charging system, navigation, voice SMS read-out and backup camera system highlight the equipment changes. Mileage is expected to be almost 75 miles on a full charge.

The Leaf has had a year of production driving, so consumers will have real road statistics from which to buy into electric.

What green car are you most intrigued by?

Intel Rewards Science Fair Winners – Algae Biofuels Earns Top Prize

Algae Biofuel Science Fair

 

“Sara Volz, a 17-year-old high school student from Colorado, received top honors and a $100,000 check Tuesday at a science fair for pioneering a technique to dramatically boost oil yields from algae, a crucial step in the economically viable production of biofuel from the plants.

Her technique involves the use of a chemical to artificially select populations of algae cells with high oil content. She did all the work in a makeshift lab under her loft bed in Colorado Springs.”

To read the entire article see: http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/intel-picks-science-fair-winners-awards-630-000-genius-high-1C8835458

 

For more information on algae biofuels: http://organicmechanic.com/algae-biofuel/

Harvesting the Biosphere

“Harvesting the Biosphere is still the most fundamental economic activity of modern civilization. Crops for food, crops for animals, wood, raw materials, wool, cotton… without these things there is no civilization.”

How much life is there in the biosphere? By “biosphere,” he means everywhere on earth where there are living things: in the air, on the ground, and in the oceans. …Ultimately he concludes that the dry mass of all living things on Earth is about 1.6 trillion metric tons.

 

To read a book review written by Bill Gates and watch a little video from the author, visit: http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Books/Energy/Harvesting-The-Biosphere

The Zero Home

The Zero Home is the first single-family smart home to be certified as net-zero energy-efficient, meaning that all the energy the home consumes is produced on site via renewable resources. To dive into the systems and building practices that made this feat possible, read here: http://www.techhive.com/article/2045771/a-floor-to-ceiling-tour-of-americas-most-energy-efficient-home.html

“The 4300-square-foot Zero Home is the result of a partnership between Vivint (a fast-growing company best known for home-security and home-control systems) and Garbett Homes (a residential development company that builds between 400 and 600 homes per year). Both companies are based in Utah, and the Zero Home was built in the Salt Lake City suburb of Herriman.”

“The Zero Home defies the home-of-the-future stereotype of being too impractical for large-scale implementation: “This home is designed to be replicated on a mass basis,” said Garbett Homes marketing director Rene Oehlerking. “It costs about $150 per square foot to build a home like this—the same amount it costs our competitors to build conventional homes.”

Don’t Make Driving a Drag: Fuel Economy Tips

Fuel Economy Tips

If you were paying attention in your high school physics class, you know that engine size and acceleration are only partially responsible for how fast you go and how fast you burn through a gallon of gas. Fuel economy also depends on things like weight, wind resistance, friction and driving habits.

As part of President Obama’s plan to decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil and lessen the environmental impact of gas pollution, all new cars and light trucks will have to average 54.5 mpg by 2025. By improving one or more of the components that determine fuel efficiency, car manufacturers can achieve that goal. As a driver, you can also do your part when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle.

Fuel Economy Tips: How You Can Improve Your Gas Mileage

Aggressive driving can result in a five percent decrease in gas mileage in city driving and as much as a 33 percent decrease at highway speeds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Rapid acceleration, speeding and hard braking makes your engine work harder and need more fuel.

Carrying too much weight in your vehicle is also robbing you of better mileage. While you don’t want to throw Grandma out the back seat, avoid hauling all that junk in your trunk. While putting 500 pounds in the back of your Dodge Ram pickup truck won’t have much impact, if you put that same 500 pounds in a Honda Civic, it will.

Other things that you can do to gain better mileage are to make sure your tires are properly inflated, turn off your engine instead of letting it idle for 10 minutes and keep your car tuned-up.

Wind Drag and Aerodynamics

Auto manufacturers and engineers use wind tunnels to test the aerodynamics of a new or redesigned car. By shaping parts of the body of the car, changing the grill or making the car lower to the ground, they can reduce the drag on the vehicle. If you have ever stuck your arm out of the window of a car traveling at 70 mph, that powerful force that pushes against you, is the same force that your car must overcome. Turn your hand sideways and it becomes more aerodynamic, like an airplane wing, and you will need less strength and energy to keep your hand and arm in place.

When the 2009 Ford Flex hit the showroom floor, it had a coefficient of drag of just 0.355, significantly better than its Asian competitors. According to the Flex team, the wide, low stance of the vehicle reduced wind resistance by forcing more air over the vehicle and not under it, where it could create the most drag.

Driveline Friction

The vehicle’s driveline also contributes to its fuel efficiency, TireBuyer adds. That includes your drive shaft, transmission and axles, which receive the power to turn the wheels and propel your vehicle. Using lighter materials like aluminum instead of steel and manufacturing the driveline parts to precise specifications can reduce friction and add a few miles of travel distance to each tankful of gas. Unfortunately, to do this, you’d need to take your vehicle to a body shop, and changes to these areas could result in voiding warrantees.

No matter what model vehicle you own, if you understand some basic concepts of physics, you can make your car more efficient. Good habits like keeping enough air in your tires, accelerating slowly and not keeping your set of 50 pound dumbbells in your trunk will help give you better gas mileage. Friction, drag and inertia can all rob you of fuel efficiency. A car manufacturer can make a more aerodynamic vehicle, but can not control the way you drive it. Be smart about the way you drive and you will use less gas, save money and also do something good for the environment.

Tesla Electric Car Plans

Starting with the over $100,000 Roadster, Tesla Motors has steadily innovated and shrunk this with each model, and now has plans for a $35,000 all electric car.

Tesla electric car plans also include building solar powered charging stations across the United States, so that you can now drive from LA to NYC on clean energy from the sun!

Tesla Electric Car Plans

Follow their page to get regular updates! https://www.facebook.com/teslamotors

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