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Home/Business Efficiencies


Free Online Home Energy Audit Calculators Helping Do-It-Yourselfers Reduce Utilities

Image courtesy of Missouri Gas Energy.

With the tight economy over the last few years, there has been a growing trend toward do-it-yourself home energy audits, with the help of online calculator websites that are often free to use.

The great thing about the do-it yourself approach is that besides the fact that it’s often completely free, it gives you a lot of cost-saving information.

Home energy calculators range from the very complicated, where you feel like you need to be a professional to understand them, to the very user-friendly with large print, simple language, and lots of drop down menus.

These calculator websites  also often contain a lot of free articles and blog posts that are very useful. Two of the best and most user-friendly are the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver calculator and Microsoft’s Hohm calculator.

The Home Energy Saver calculator has a lot of drop down menus and after completing the survey, recommends energy saving strategies and upgrades that are appropriate for a home, depending on its structure, the local climate, and local energy prices.

The Home Energy Saver calculator starts off by asking the user to enter their zip code to receive instant energy cost estimates for both typical and efficient homes in the area.

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Windows Refurbishing Marks New Milestone in Empire State Building Energy Efficiency Retrofit

The Empire State Building has been an iconic symbol of New York City since it went up almost a century ago, with its 80th anniversary coming up next year.

Empire State Building Construction. Photo from oldcitypics.com.

The Empire State Building, the tallest building in the world until 1974, also has the notable distinction of allowing visitors from its observation deck to see across to five states on a clear day – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Over the last few years, the Empire State Building has also become well known for its environmentally friendly energy efficient upgrades that began in 2009.

In its latest upgrade, the building has just refurbished all of its approximately 6,500 thermopane (doubled-pane) windows, using existing glass and sashes to create triple-glazed insulated panels to improve building insulation. This will improve internal temperature control, keeping heat in during the winter and out in the summer.

The new windows are “four times more thermally efficient compared to the older dual pane windows and are expected to reduce solar heat gain by more than 50 percent. The cost to refurbish each window is estimated at $700 compared to approximately $2,500 to replace them with new comparable windows,” according to the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.

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New Lighting Technologies Reduce Building Operating Costs by Nearly Half, Says Study

It’s common knowledge that in today’s world, the easiest way to reduce costs in any environment is by switching to more energy efficient lighting. While this is true, the process for selecting the most energy efficient lighting choices and control technologies depends largely on type of environment they will be illuminating.

Energy efficient residential lighting. Photo courtesy of techhomeelectric.com.

Factors that need to be taken onto consideration include whether the environment is indoors or outdoors; residential or commercial; the property size; and the amount of available natural light when deciding on the needs of an area.

To find out how much energy a commercial building could save by changing both its bulbs and control technologies, researchers from the National Research Council of Canada conducted a field study to determine what strategies would provide the best saving in an office building setting.

The yearlong study was conducted from the eighth to eleventh floor of a 12-story rectangular, curtain-walled building in Burnaby, British Columbia. The interior space was set up in a way that’s familiar to most office workers.

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Changing Black Roof to White or Green Creates Natural Building Cool Down Effect, Says Study

Intensive green roof system at Chicago City Hall. Photo courtesy of Elements Roofing, LLC.

It’s common sense to most of us that if we wear lighter colored breathable clothes, we’ll feel cooler when we’re outside in the summer heat. Well as it turns out, the same principle also applies to the buildings that we live and work in.

Testing this idea on its own properties, the energy company Con Edison in its effort to create both more energy efficiency within its own corporate structure and combat global warming, commissioned a study by Columbia University to measure temperature differences and other data from the three roof types.

The three different roof types were monitored and tested (and are continuing to be tested) as part of a long term study of there effectiveness. The white roofs were installed at the company’s headquarters in Manhattan and its Learning Center in Long Island City, N.Y., where the green roof was also installed.

Photo by the www.infrastructurist.com.

The black and white roofs are made of the same material, ethylene-propylene-diene-monomer, with color being the only difference. The green roof consists of 21,000 plants in four-inch deep modular sedum systems.

The sedum is a large plant group containing around 400 species found throughout the northern hemisphere, varying from creeping herbs to shrubs. The plants have water-storing leaves.

The Columbia study found that, “The white membrane temperature peaks are on average 30 °F (17 °C) cooler than black in summer. [The] green roof membrane temperature peaks are on average 60 °F (33 °C) cooler than black in summer.”

Researchers in the study said, “We estimate that the 10,764 sq. ft green roof on the Con Ed building is saving roughly $400/yr in heating costs and $250/yr in cooling costs. If this area had been a white roof instead, we estimate that cooling savings would have been $200/yr.”

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IRS Making Tax Credits Available for Home Efficiency Renovations Made in 2009

Stock photo.

Here’s some great bonus news for anyone who made home efficiency renovations to their primary residence last year to save on energy costs. On the federal and state level, homeowners will be allowed to claim tax credits for home improvements to areas such as their windows, insulation, heating and cooling equipment, boilers, water heaters, appliances, and on-site renewable energy equipment.

The resource information for this post comes from the Tax Incentive Assistance Project, which is sponsored by a coalition of public interest nonprofit groups, government agencies, and other organizations in the energy efficiency field.

The project has a free website designed to give consumers and businesses detailed information - with lots of resource links - to access state and federal income tax incentives for energy efficient products and technologies.

The TIAP reviewed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009, and looked at several provisions modifying and expanding existing renewable energy and efficiency incentives.

Among the expansions, it found that larger financial caps - covering home envelope improvements, as well as heating, cooling, and water heating equipment - had increased to $1,500 (from $500). The caps can apply to a combined tax credit for 2009 and 2010.

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