Monday, July 06, 2009

Green Roofing...What?

As we are building more urban areas, we are also losing green space. A great way to revitalize the urban landscape is to invest in green roofing. Green roofing involves high quality water proofing and root repellant systems, as well as a drainage system, a filter cloth, and a lightweight growing medium along with plants. Some of you may be wondering, “Why a green roof? What can it do for me?”

Green roofs will typically last twice as long as conventional roofs because all the sun damage that reaches bare floors will be used to grow plants. There is a lot of energy saving potential as well, depending on the size of the building, climate, and type of green roof. In Ottawa, Canada, Karen Liu found that 6” of green roof reduced heat gains by 95% and heat losses by 26%. Green roofs also absorb sound pollution from airplanes and traffic.

Green roofs also provide a space of serenity and aesthetic beauty. It can be a place for day care, meetings, and recreation. Instead of taking a break in a dull and enclosed room indoors, employees can take breaks taking a scenic stroll on the roof. For the Fairmount Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, the kitchen saved up to $30,000 annually by growing it’s own greenery,

Although green roofs are still immature in North America, it is an investment worth looking into for your business. Give your employees a place to look forward to while they are at work!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Transportation

As the weather begins to heat up, so does the prices on gasoline and transportation. Families are going on road trips and everyone is booking a vacation of some kind. Teenagers are frequenting the malls at a much higher rate than while in school season. So what are some ideas on how to offset the high energy costs?

Simply put: use your feet. Remember those days in summer where you'd walk or bike to your neighbor's house? Or make it a day trip up to the park? As a kid growing up without an older brother or friend to drive me around, I was left with few options and biked everywhere. My grandmother, who came from a foreign country and was scared stiff at the idea of operating her own vehicle, had spent over 40 years in America without a car. As she was my caretaker most of my childhood, I realized the importance and thriftiness of using public transportation and walking.

I took that mentality through high school, through college, and so forth. I had a car for a brief time while 60 miles away from home, in college, but I soon stopped using it and took the bus. It was not only because my car was not in its best shape, but it was cheaper, too (especially in the summers, talk about a $2 ride versus the gas I burn). What's even better is that these alternative modes of transportation has always been tried and true. Walking and biking are forms of some exercise, so I am still as healthy as I was in my youth. I can still run up a flight of stairs like a 5 year-old without losing my breath, and happily stroll for hours on end.

It is true that where I live (southern California), public transportation isn't exactly the best thing around. Some people may moan and grope about walking on a hot summer's day but my grandma used to simply take out her black umbrella and shield me from the sweltering glare. I was really embarrassed about it at first but after seeing 5 sweaty, miserable kids walk past me I realized how dry, cool, and comfortable I was. Not to mention that my grandmother came from a hot country, so I should trust her practices.

I remember taking the train up to LA and passing by hundreds of cars from the 5, even if we were only going 50 miles per hour. Although taking the train or bus requires some planning, that's exactly the point of saving yourself a few bus and the headaches of traffic. Let's start walking!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Energy Hogs, Go!

I wanted to investigate energy programs geared towards children. I have two younger siblings that are in grade school and have several habits that cause my parents more headaches than they need. My young sister tends to leave the TV on even while she is outside playing with her friends while my little brother has an obsession with running water. My mother had voiced her concerns about these habits with me, so I decided to try to educate them.

As a child I remember my teacher giving me blue pamphlets with cartoons of some water drop mascot. She gave us maybe an hour's worth of "energy conservation tips" such as watering our lawns at night and to brush my teeth without keeping the faucet on. Looking at my siblings now, I know that teaching styles have changed drastically with the availability of the internet. Instead of comic strips and cheesy cartoons, my siblings are brought up in a world of interactive media.

Energy Hog's homepage is directed to two audiences; adults, and children. "NO ADULTS ALLOWED" is written on the children's link, but of course...I click on it.

I'm welcomed by a diverse pair of scientists for my "HogBuster" training. I create an ID badge using my little sister's name and a cat's face for my profile picture. I read through the script and undergo a series of interactive games while "searching for the energy hogs" like matching refrigerators and whacking a digital hog instead of a mole. Unfortunately the shower hog looks like some hideous aunt in a shower cap, but I'm sure other children won't see the resemblance.

Overall I passed my HogBuster training and I had fun while doing it. I don't get the sense that it is corny or cute, but rather very informative. I had more fun playing the games rather than understanding its context, but perhaps that's the best route for young children with short attention spans.


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Times are a Changing: Time to Update Your Air Conditioner

Big changes are coming to the world of air conditioning on Jan. 1, 2010. In an effort to comply with an international green treaty and slow down ozone deterioration, air conditioners across the country will be forced to comply with a new level of standards. Here are some key facts to help you stay ahead of the curve and save yourself from the heat, especially during crunch time.

These new standards in air conditioning can be attributed to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to help curb damage to the Ozone layer. It is designed to lead to some actual recovery of the Ozone layer by 2050. Initially established in 1987, it has since been amended seven times and is continually looking to eliminate substances that have defiantly been established as reasons for ozone depletion. Chlorine is one of those substances that has been clearly identified as doing significant damage and has been used since the 1970’s as a coolant in nearly all air conditioning units. This chemical is called R-22 and as of Jan. 1st 2010 will be eliminated.

R-22 will be replaced with a chlorine free coolant called R-410A that has zero ozone depletion. Begin thinking about switching your AC now as R-22 units will no longer be manufactured and that means parts and supplies will make repairs harder and more expensive. In fact, chances are the EPA will make it illegal to sell any R-22 units by the end of 2009.

Don’t be discouraged though. Energy costs have increased 50 percent in the last five years and with the economic climate the way it is, this is a great chance to save money on proper energy efficient air conditioning units. Updating your air conditioner with the proper requirements can save you up to 45 percent. Look at the SEER rating, (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating when purchasing a new unit. A general rule of thumb is that the higher the SEER rating the better the efficiency. Of course, this is entirely depending on your geographic location and many can make do with a low SEER rating where air conditioning is not as drastically needed.

Also be sure to look at rebates and tax incentives while replacing your air conditioning units. Chances are you can get a great deal and save money with a correct purchase. The recent stimulus bill has set aside money for actions like this so search the web or look at your local states Database of State and Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency for proper deals.

The last step to get the most out of your air conditioner is to make sure you obtain proper installation. A key part of upgrading your unit is to get the most out of it and improper and shoddy installation can quickly defeat this purpose. Keep it well maintained as well and you will see a significant reduction in your energy bills. Don’t wait until its 2010, start looking for new and more energy efficient cooling solutions today.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Tips For Saving Money on your Heating and Cooling Bills

During these times with extreme weather, there is a good chance that you are heavily relying on heaters and air conditioners to optimize your house temperatures. Here are some helpful tips to keep your energy bill low when using heating or cooling appliances.

Keep baseboard heaters, radiators and warm-air registers as clean as possible. Make sure they have open circulation and are not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes. Constantly replace your filters for heaters and air conditioners as needed.

Use fans during the summer, in combination with your air conditioners to create a wind-chill effect. Also, try reversing the fans motor during the winter to help drive warm air back down towards the floor for improved circulation.

Install a programmable thermostat that can adjust the temperature according to your schedule, especially when you are away from the house. Set the temperature as low as comfortable during the winter for a lower heating bill.

When using heaters, remember to keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day and closed at night to let the sunshine. For air conditioners, try placing them in a north-facing or shaded when as direct sunlight reduces efficiency.

Be sure to weatherize your home-caulk and weather strip any doors and windows that could be looking warm or cold air. Try placing heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators. Remember to turn off exhaust fans as needed. Seal any holes with caulk or spray foam where TV/cable wires, pipes and vents open your door.

Keep your system up to date, and add a supplementary source or replace your existing heater or cooling. Look for Energy Star products as they have been certified to reach the highest levels of energy efficiency. Replace your air conditioner if it is more the 10 years old as they are probably much less energy efficient then others.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Green Myths

Going green is a huge global topic. But what is real and what is false? Here are some common misconceptions that you might fight surprising.

Planting trees does not stop global warming

Forests have three effects on our climate. They cool the air through evaportranspiration; they reduce air pollutants like CO2 and their dense leaves help warm the planet. Although all of these are beneficial, recent studies have shown that to maximize these effects, it is merely dependant on where the trees exist. Planting trees in forests around the equator helps the planet much more then planting trees in other places because they absorb more CO2 there. The father away trees are from the equator, the less heat is trapped thereby causing higher temperatures. So if you are going to support a tree growing charity or organization grow make sure you pick one that plants in the right location

Hybrid Vehicles are Better then Non-Hybrid

Although hybrids do save you money on gas they do have their own costs. For instance, the amount of energy it takes to make a new hybrid is well over 1000 gallons of gas. Also some cars actually get better gas consumption then some hybrids out there today. If you really want to save money try riding a bike

Always Buy Organic

Buying organic food is a big craze these days. People swear they can taste the difference in quality but consider some of these things first before buying organic. The benefits of organic food are only good when not trucked shipped or flown. The greater the distance, the more energy is used and the more pollution is produced. This offsets much for the initial point. If you really want to go green, go to farmers markets or community supported agriculture to get your produce rather then the supermarket.

Energy conversation and energy efficient are the same.

They are not. Energy conservation is any activity that uses less energy like turning out the lights when you leave a room. Energy efficient is technology that lets you do the same thing but use less energy. Try purchasing energy star products or other items look for energy efficient light bulbs to really make a difference.

When appliances are off they don’t use power.

This is false. There is a phenomenon called vampire power that causes power to fluctuate even when it is no in use. Televisions, air conditioners and cell phone chargers still suck power even when off. This is because many electronics often use an internal clock. Try unplugging them after use to really see a change in your electric bill

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