Technical

Exciting Building Products From Passive House Conference

In late September I gave a presentation at the 12th Annual North American Passive House Conference, organized by PHIUS, describing how heat pump water heaters can be used for combined space heating and water heating. When strolling the vendors' floor between presentations, I was pleasantly surprised to see an increase in the quality of Passive building products.

Musings on the Solar Eclipse, One Month Later

I was lucky to be in Jackson Hole, Wyoming—virtually smack-dab on the "blue line" in the narrow path of totality—for the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 99 years on August 21. There was so much hype leading up to this event, and it was completely justified! For an unforgettable moment in the midst of our vast universe, in a special spot dynamically shifting east along with the movement of our planetary objects, our sun and moon literally aligned and our little spot of Earth was transformed: the sky darkened, the horizon turned orange, stars appeared, and the air felt freezing.

Pumping up your savings while reducing impact

Thanks to a recent presentation by Pierre Delforge from the Natural Resources Defense Council (select sides below), the case for deploying heat pump water heaters to replace both electric and natural gas models is becoming more clear for many.

Pierre began by showing that as our electricity gets cleaner, the natural gas we burn is making up a larger portion of greenhouse gas emissions. Two thirds of Bay area household CO2 emissions now come from burning natural gas.

What's the Dirtiest Time of Day to Use Electricity?

Are there "dirty" hours when the California electric grid is producing a lot of CO2 per kWh, and "clean" hours with low CO2 output? It seems that midday should have lower CO2/kWh compared to other hours, if a large fraction of power across the state is generated by solar photovoltaics (PV) during these hours. Looking at data, Beyond Efficiency did in fact find a midday reduction in CO2 emissions per kWh generated for 2014 onward.

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Gardens Dig Greywater

With record setting rain and snow fall the past 5 months, 75% of California is out of the drought. Still it will take years to fully recover and recharge the groundwater deficit. As Jeremy Miller outlines in the New Yorker “California’s drought may be over, but its water troubles aren’t.” Now is not the time to go back to the old ways.

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Consultant to Consultant: Six Essential Lessons from the Trenches

Beyond Efficiency will be presenting at two upcoming Passive House conferences and we hope to see you in California, Maine, or both:

9th Annual North American Passive House Conference

September 11-14, 2014
San Francisco Bay Area, California
Presenter: Katy Hollbacher, P.E.

Controls, Co-gen and Cooling: Retrocommissioning at UC Santa Cruz

As part of the year-long PG&E Retrocommissioning class, the 20 or so participants and three teachers took a two-day field trip down to UC Santa Cruz. There are three aspects that make UC Santa Cruz a retrocommissioning dream location: a) the very invested and progressive facilities staff, b) the wide variety of complex systems on-site, and c) the campus-wide system interactions. As a bonus, UC Santa Cruz also has a gorgeous campus—small clusters of buildings hidden amongst soaring redwoods and cool, misty air.

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Retrocommissioning: The Class

For the past four months, I've spent a day a month at the Pacific Energy Center in an intensive retrocommissioning class. For those not familiar with retrocommissioning, it's essentially a treasure hunt for poorly performing systems in existing buildings. Identifying and fixing these "poor performers" can save energy, water and resources, as well as improve comfort. And the savings can be significant- typically between 5 and 20% of operating costs depending on the facility.

A “Top Five Wish List” for every building project

What if every project we worked on committed to five things? "

This is the question I asked Katy while BARTing back from a meeting recently. The discussion that ensued was very nerdy and distracted us to the point where we ended on the wrong line. But this is what we decided on:

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Yes, YOU can build efficiently with wood!

Advanced framing (Optimal Value Engineering) is a collection of design and building methods that reduces lumber use, minimizes wood waste, and maximizes a structure’s energy efficiency. For every piece of unneeded lumber eliminated, a builder saves four times: once by not purchasing, once by not moving around, once by not installing, and once by not paying for waste cuts to be hauled away. And eliminating unnecessary wood allows more space for insulation—making buildings more energy efficient and saving money in the long run.

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