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A Year Ago on Zero Resource – October 2010

Home Energy Improvements

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Thermal Imaging of a House in Cambodia (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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Grist recently ran a piece on lessons learned by by shadowing a home energy inspector. The author highlighted a number major lessons, including:

  • It’s a social job.
  • Comfort matters more than pocketbook savings – for some homeowners.
  • It helps to see it and learn firsthand (especially for the blower-door test).
  • Thermal imaging cameras are nifty.
  • Attics should get insulation first, then walls and basements.
  • Most progress depends on the homeowner.
  • Utilities are driving the retrofit industry right now.
  • Renters have split incentives.

You can read the entire article, including the explanations of the lessons learned, on the Grist website here.

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has a fairly new website called Driving Demand for Home Energy Improvements.

The website lists a number of reports and case studies about how to improve demand for home energy improvements, and findings from utility and government retrofit programs.

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Upcoming Webinars

I just want to remind folks that we have launched a “Webinars” page to feature interesting online presentations. You can navigate to the Webinars page using links at the right side of the blog.

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November 10, 2010 (Wednesday)

Pacific Energy Center: “Chris Hammer – What’s Behavior Got To Do With Energy Efficiency?”

6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

We often look to technology to capture energy savings. What about the behavior of individuals in the home and workplace? Chris Hammer will describe occupant actions that save energy, discuss social science research on behavior and energy, and review case studies of organizations that implemented behavior change programs.

Free event. For more info and links to register here.

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November 18, 2010 (Thursday)

Build It Green: “Passive House – A Sustainable Building Revolution in California”

11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Expectations for building occupant comfort, health and efficiency are increasing simultaneously. The Passive House standard meets all of these requirements at once. By producing buildings with energy demands that can be met at a renewable scale of production, Passive House can future-proof our communities and put California on track to meet our greeenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The future of building is here!An in-depth look at the Passive House standard by the leading local experts in the field, this webinar will:

  • Detail current retrofit and new construction Passive House projects and approaches in the Bay Area
  • Retrofit lessons learned and phased approaches
  • Illustrate how Passive House meets or exceeds the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, and makes net-zero and energy-positive buildings feasible TODAY in the most cost-effective way possible
  • Explore how the Passive House standard can integrate with and enhance GPR and other green building rating systems.

Free for Build It Green members, $10 for non-members – more info and links to register here.

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Don’t Call It A Retrofit… Or An Audit

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A Lawrence Berkeley National Lab report examined case studies of retrofit projects across the United States as examples of local approaches that saved considerable energy. A recent article in Greentech Media highlights some of the results:

“The bottom line is that providing information and financing isn’t sufficient,” [Merrian] Fuller said during a DOE Technical Assistance Program webinar. For starters, put the message in terms people know and understand. Sell something people actually want. “Often people already assume they’re doing everything they can, so figure out what messages get beyond that,” said Fuller. LBNL found that comfort, health reasons (such as reducing allergens or mold), appealing to people’s social norms or even becoming a self-reliant American were all preferable to just talking about energy savings, or even bill savings. “Don’t assume saving 20 percent on your energy bill will motivate people,” she warned.

She went on to note that communications styles matter. People need hard examples. Instead of telling people their house is leaking energy, instead they need to hear that their hard-earned money is literally flying up the chimney, or that their house is the equivalent of a car getting only 15 miles per gallon. Carl Nelson, the Program and Policy Manager at Center for Energy and Environment in Minnesota, said his group leaders go through training with an improv comedian to more effectively lead community information sessions. They also shy away from the word ‘audit,’ because after all, people rarely associate the word with anything positive. “We try not to make it boring,” said Nelson. “We set up the expectation that they’re going to have this home visit and commit to making a major investment in their home.”

You can read all of the case studies and the full report here.

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Cut Energy Use 50% in Commercial Buildings

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The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) just released two technical reports on how to achieve 50% energy savings in both new and existing large office buildings and large hospitals.

You can download the full report, “Technical Support Document: Strategies for 50% Energy Savings in Large Office Buildings,” as a pdf here.

You can download the other full report, “Large Hospital 50% Energy Savings: Technical Support Document,” as a pdf here.

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Hot Water, Lights, and Solar as a Service?

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A number of start-up companies are trying to formulate a business model that sells hot water, lights, air conditioning, and solar power as a service.

The rationale is that the folks occupying buildings don’t necessarily want to own the equipment that produces hot water, light, cool air, or solar power, but they do want the end result.

The current model is that the companies (such as Skyline Innovations and Metrus Energy) retrofit commercial and industrial buildings, retain ownership of the equipment, and then charge a fee for the energy avoided. Because the fee is almost always less than the cost of the energy avoided, and because the maintenance costs of the equipment are generally included in the fee, the building owner can see further savings.

You can read more about this at Greentech Media.

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