Historic Homes: Balancing Energy Efficiency and Historic Values

Posted February 15th, 2012

Historic and Conservation Districts work to preserve the rich historic character of Norther Virginia’s Cities and Counties. One of the greatest difficulties for homeowners restoring historic buildings is creating a modern, livable space without sacrificing the building’s original character and design. Although it may seem like historic construction conflicts with today’s trends in energy efficiency, historic homes can achieve tighter building envelopes and generate on-site renewable energy while still maintaining their historic look and feel. Read more »

On-Site Renewable Energy Technologies

Posted February 10th, 2012

Renewable energy systems help reduce the overall demand on fossil fuels and provide long-term cost savings.  Renewable energy can be produced off-site on a large scale (like hydropower dams and wind farms) and delivered through the electric grid, or it can be produced directly on-site at a particular home or location.  An outline of on-site technology options, which ranges from passive design concepts to advanced technology, is provided below. Homeowners should note that cost and system options are extremely variable and should be researched thoroughly and assisted by a professional.

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Energy-Saving Strategies for Renters

Posted January 18th, 2012

With much of the buzz about “greening your home” focusing on large-scale projects like solar panels, green roofs, and LEED certification, it may appear that you can only achieve a green home if you are a homeowner. If you rent a home or apartment, energy efficiency projects with long payback periods may not make sense for you. As a renter you probably also experience the “split incentives” dilemma, where the landlord has little financial incentive to invest in making the building more energy efficient because the tenant is responsible for paying the utility bills.

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Purchasing Green Power From Your Electric Utility

Posted January 18th, 2012

Purchasing green power, or electricity produced from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and biogas, is an excellent way to support the renewable energy industry without making any physical changes to your home. If your household supports renewable energy but doesn’t have the means or infrastructure for on-site solar panels or wind turbines, green power offers an easy alternative to coal-powered energy. For the cost of about a few cups of coffee a month, you can help preserve the environment while strengthening the renewable energy economy, reducing carbon emissions, and encouraging independence from fossil fuels. Read more »

Programmable Thermostat: Set It & Forget It

Posted January 18th, 2012

You know that turning the thermostat up or down, depending on the season, can reduce energy costs. The problem is remembering to do it! There’s no reason to heat or cool your home when you are asleep or away. Yet turning down a traditional thermostat at night means cold floors in the morning – making your warm bed even more appealing!

What if the thermostat remembered for you and pre-heated (or pre-cooled) the house before you woke up or got home from work – saving energy and money without sacrificing thermal comfort (after all, isn’t that why heating and cooling were invented)? Read more »

Ground-Source Heating and Cooling

Posted January 11th, 2012

What is a ground source (geothermal) heat pump and how are they eco-friendly?

Ground-source heat pumps use the earth’s relatively constant temperature of 50 – 60°F to heat and cool buildings.  Unlike other heating systems, ground-source heat pumps do not convert heat from an energy source but simply move the earth’s natural heat to and from a building.  As a result, geothermal systems are 50-70% more efficient than other heating systems and 20-40% more efficient than most air conditioners.  Geothermal heat pumps even achieve greater efficiency than traditional air-to-air heat pumps which rely on extremely variable outdoor air temperatures. Read more »

Solar Power Options for Your Home

Posted January 11th, 2012

With the rising cost of fuel and dwindling natural resources, more and more people are turning to solar power, providing their homes and businesses with clean, renewable energy. Solar power generates zero carbon dioxide emissions while reducing the U.S. demand for foreign oil. Moreover, the cost of these systems is dropping as technology develops. The government has become increasingly proactive about the development of solar technology as well as providing incentives to homeowners who use solar energy. Several Virginia counties allow tax exemptions for installing solar power. A list of solar installers in Virginia can be found here. These companies will be able to tell if solar power is right for your home. Read more »

The New Stimulus: Energy Efficiency Saves Money and Creates Jobs

Posted January 11th, 2012

As the old saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned. The same goes for the earth’s resources, except that saving resources might earn us some new jobs as well. According to EnergySavvy, “For half the cost of replacing one nuclear power plant, we can retrofit 1,600,000 homes for energy efficiency and create 220,000 new jobs—that’s 90 times more jobs than you’d get from a power plant replacement.”

Installing retrofits requires local labor and existing structures, not machinery and new construction, meaning that energy retrofits provide a broad range of jobs while stimulating the economy of your community. Since retrofits decrease the amount of energy you need to purchase, you’ll see continuous savings for years to come.

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