Monthly Archives: September 2012

Net-Zero: The Next Fontier

You’ve made the decision to build an energy efficient home, why not take it to the next level and build a Net-Zero Energy home?

This is our “Energy Sipper” home. We achieved Passive House air-tightness standard. This home achieved a HERS score of 37 and is the perfect candidate to go Net-Zero.

A net- zero energy home produces as much renewable energy as it uses annually.  This will help you achieve a net- zero energy cost.  This happens when the utility company is paying the  home owner for the renewable energy the home exports to the grid. A net zero energy home is actually producing just as much energy as it consumes. Another benefit of having a net-zero energy home is having net-zero Energy Emissions.  The home produces enough emissions-free renewable energy to offset emissions from all energy used in the home annually.

Net-Zero energy consumption is typically done through the use of solar panels. Solar panels will allow you to take and store energy from the sun. For example; during the summer months when the sun rays are the strongest, your solar panels will be gathering and producing energy. Through out this process, you are feeding the energy you produce and don’t use back to the grid.  Which means you are essentially building a credit with the power company. Then when you do need to use more energy, like in the winter months, you won’t pay anything since you already have that credit built up.

The US Department of Energy hopes to have a national standard of net-zero building by 2030.  That will put the U.S far behind countries such as Canada which have started implementing energy efficiency standards for home builders two years ago. Canada’s “Path to Net Zero” project outlines how they want to achieve an energy efficiency standard in every house hold.

That is not to say the U.S has made no progress. . However, in order to make a significant difference we need to start implementing these building practices now in order to help preserve our environment and resources. Here are some links to home owners and businesses that are turning to net-zero energy

Fort Collins, Colorado on Track to Net Zero

A 20 Year Old Energy Efficient House Goes to Net Zero In Florida

Largest American Net Zero Energy Campus Community Embraces Clean Energy

Net Zero Energy Energy Home in Rural Tennessee

Like Great Lakes Carpentry on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter (4greenbuilding).

The National Green Building Standard

Great Lakes Carpentry believes that we are stewards of the earth and its our responsibility to do the right thing. Building green homes is the right thing to do, which is why we felt it was necessary to be a Certified Green Building Professional.  The key concepts of this certification are understanding and implementing building science principles. The National Association of Home Builders recognized that building greener homes is important for people and the environment.  Through this realization, the National Green Building Standard was created.

The National Green Building Standard (NGBS) is the first and only residential green building rating system to undergo the full consensus process and receive approval from the American National Standards Institute.  It defines green building for single and multifamily homes, residential remodeling projects, and site development projects while still allowing for the flexibility for regionally appropriate best green building practices.

The Whole House Approach: The whole house approach means every system must be considered in relation to every other system in a house to build an efficient, comfortable, safe, and more sustainable home. The NGBS uses this approach when building homes.

Under the NGBS, builders understand and apply principles of:

  • Heat Transfer
  • Moisture movement
  • Airflow
  • Pressure increases

Applying these principles will ensure your home works together as one system.

Not only are we conscious about your home efficiency, we also take into consideration resource efficiency.  In other words, we ask, where are the materials for your home coming from?  Are we using recycled materials? Can we buy the materials local or do we have to get them elsewhere? These questions are important when considering the cost of your home.

To learn more about the National Green Building Standard click HERE.

If you are a builder and want to become a certified green building professional click HERE.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @4greenbuilding to get all of our green building updates!

Home Performance Testing

It is hard to tell what is wrong with a home or how much energy its using just by looking at it.  The only way to tell how energy-efficient a home is, is by running numerous tests using various diagnostic tools.   This is where we put science to work to tell us exactly what is going on in your home.  Whether you are building a new home or are remodeling, we recommend bringing in a third-party to test the home.  If you are building a new home, this ensures your home is built right from the start; or if you are remodeling, will tell you where your money is literally slipping through the cracks

Diagnostic Tools
To learn more about these tools click HERE.

Blower Door:A blower door is the tool used to specify how air tight the house is.

This is a picture of the blower door ready for use.

A blower door is a variable speed fan that pressurizes and depressurizes the house to measure air leakage. The blower door is placed in the front door of the home and will simulate a 20 mile per hour wind that is coming at the house from all directions. It will suck all the air out of the home and tell you exactly where air is leaking and will tell you how air tight the home is.  It takes about 15 minutes to set up a blower door and test a new home. Testing an existing home could take 30 minutes to an hour, because there would be more leaks to identify.  If you would like to watch a video about the blower door process click HERE.

Infrared Camera: An infrared camera is a thermal imaging tool that makes an

Rich Urban of E3 Home Performance scanning the home for air leaks.

image that shows surface heat variations that can be used to help detect heat losses and air leakage in buildings. It will show exactly where air is coming in and out of your home.  This is important in the building process so these holes can be properly sealed to prevent air leakage.  On an existing home, it will pin-point holes that need to be properly filled.

Manometer: This instrument measures the pressure differences between two locations. If you have an air tight home, this tool is very useful because it’s used to test combustion appliances such as a water heater.  We want to make sure these appliances draft properly to ensure harmful chemicals won’t leak into your home.

Duct Blaster: This is another variable speed fan that evaluates the leakiness of the duct system. This tool is used more in warmer geographic regions because those homes will use cooling systems more.

Flow Hood (balomeater):  This device tells us the amount of air flowing through a register. Tell you how much air is moving through, exhaust fans that would be located in your home. Ventilation is very important when building or maintaining an air tight home, because it will prevent mold from going in places you don’t want mold to be.

Why This Test is Important

1. It will ensure that you are building your home right the first time.  For an existing home, it will tell you exactly what you need to do to fix the problems.

2. It is proof that your home is energy-efficient and up to the highest building standards. This will make your home more valuable if you do decide to sell it.

3. After all is said and done, you will save money on your heating and cooling costs.

E3 Home Performance

Rich Urban is the president of E3 Home Performance.  He works with Great Lakes Carpentry along with 6 to 7 other contractors in the Northern Wisconsin area as a third party consultant to perform an “energy audit.”  He works with your contractor to help find and fix defects in your home.

If you would like more information about what he does or have any questions about the process you can contact him directly via email or telephone.
Phone: 715-369-7390

Focus on Energy: New Homes Program

Last week we did a brief over view of Focus on Energy. (If you didn’t get a chance to see it, click HERE.) This week we are going to explain a little more in depth,  how to get your new home up to  Focus on Energy energy efficiency standards and why this is important through the program.

There is a 5 step process to get your home running efficiently through the New Homes Program. View PDF.

Step 1: Consultant Accreditation.
Program consultants must be Residential Energy Services Network certified.  Ask your contractor to help you find someone who has this certification.

Step 2: Partnering with a Builder.
Consultants must establish a partnership with a builder by signing a Program Ally Application completed by the partner builder.  Great Lakes Carpentry is an ally and member of the Focus on Energy New Homes Program and is ready to help you plan your next energy-efficient home.

Step 3: Computer Modeling.
Consultants must use REM/Rate® software to calculate the homes estimated energy efficiency.  This software is used to calculate air tightness and can be used for energy modeling.

Step 4: Site Visit Protocol.
This is where a third party consultant comes and tests the home for energy efficiency. A minimum of two site visits are required for all certified homes.

– The first visit will review the insulation installation per Program requirements and review the framing for potential air bypasses.

– The second visit is done after the home is built and will test the air tightness of the home, ventilation capacity, and verify program standards.

Step 5: Program Standards.
There are 14 program requirements that are required for certification. To view them click HERE.

Why this is important for you and your home:

1. The average Wis. household spends approximately $1,400 each year on utility bills.  A Focus New Home is at least 10 percent more efficient than homes merely built to code.

2. When building a new home, you want to do it right the first time. By enrolling the home in the Focus on Energy New Homes Program your insured that it’s done right due to the fact that its been inspected and tested upon completion.

3. Program requirements help to ensure your home is safe and protected from carbon monoxide, the likelihood of mold, window condensation and peeling paint.

4. You will have peace of mind at every stage to ensure your dream home is a sound investment.

5. A Focus New Home provides indisputable proof that your home meets strict standards for energy efficiency, air tightness, insulation, ventilation, and safety.

6. Focus New Home owners who sold their homes reported that prospective buyers had energy-efficiency on their wish lists.

Next week we will break down the equipment used in order to test your home for energy efficiency.