Sustainable building and eco-friendly initiatives have been in vogue for many years now. Many businesses now consider environmental buildings to be a key part of their social responsibility. With individuals and businesses not only looking to be carbon neutral, but carbon negative, what are some of the top examples of these sustainable structures from around the world?
The sun gives life to this planet and, if properly harnessed, it can provide plenty of energy and light. Unfortunately, using sunshine effectively is not as simple as just letting the sun shine. In the winter, we want more when there is less and in the summer we want less when there is more. It seems that these two goals are constantly reversed. Natural sunlight and solar heat gain used to be one of the most underused methods of heating a home, but that is changing.
Many people think the only way to boost wall insulation in an existing building is with an invasive procedure. It requires drilling holes between the wall studs and fire breaks and then filling the voids with insulation. These holes are patched and painted but often leaving traces of rework behind. Another approach is available from the vinyl siding industry that can work independently or in conjunction with upgraded wall insulation.
The U.S. Department of Energy claims that the energy we use in an average house is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as an average car. This is due to the fact that much of the energy we use in our buildings comes from fossil fuels. Therefore, any conservation action plan we implement should consider the building's cooling system as a major part of the efficiency solution. So how do we go about comparing these air conditioning units from an efficiency and cost-to-operate perspective?
Have you ever heard of a LEED certification? It is actually an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is an internationally recognized green building certification system. Green buildings refer to structures that have eco-friendly materials and designs. Old buildings, if not updated, consume huge amounts of energy and water resources. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reducing the rate of consumption of these buildings is vital for future sustainability.
The federal tax credit is in effect for furnaces purchased in 2009 and 2010. If the unit is installed in your principal residence between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, you can qualify for a tax credit of up to 30% of the cost (including installation/labor costs). Tax credit is available in 2010 with the maximum of $1,500 for both years combined (ONLY for existing homes, NOT new construction, which is your principal residence).
The energy performance of all ENERGY STAR qualified windows, doors and skylights must be independently tested and certified according to test procedures established by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC).
NFRC is a third-party non-profit organization that sponsors certified rating and labeling to help consumers compare the performance of windows, doors and skylights. NFRC does not distinguish between “good” and “bad” windows, set minimum performance standards, or mandate performance levels. This is where ENERGY STAR comes in. ENERGY STAR enables consumers to easily identify NFRC-certified products with superior energy performance.
Insulation is generally one of the easiest improvements to implement and in colder climates provides a real ROI within a short time. Typical bulk insulation products can qualify, such as batts, rolls, blow-in fibers, rigid boards, expanding spray and pour-in-place. Products that air seal (reduce air leaks) can also qualify, as long as they come with a Manufacturer's Certification Statement. These products include weather stripping, spray foam in a can, caulk and house wrap.
Professional energy auditors use blower door tests to help determine building performance and airtightness. There are a variety of reasons for establishing the proper building tightness. Reducing energy consumption due to air leakage is one of the primary considerations. If your parents were anything like mine, they wouldn't want you heating or cooling the neighborhood. That's exactly what you're doing with a leaky building. However, all structures should be allowed to breathe.
The tax credit for windows, doors and skylights is in effect for 2009 and 2010. The upgrade must be installed in your "principal residence" between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010. The credit will apply to 30% of the cost (not including installation/labor costs), up to $1,500. As always, consult with your CPA or accountant for specific details related to any tax program.
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