Posts Tagged ‘energy efficiency’

The clients desired a refreshed kitchen and another bathroom. They ended up updating much of the house including a new ducted mini split heating system, new patio and porch, insulation and air sealing throughout, interior and exterior paint, and a lot more storage.

I’ll first give you a few before shots of this little stucco house.

We were all pretty happy with the new layout.

Construction by McBride Construction, Landscape by Hornby Garden Design and Construction, Photos by Nancy Kalter Dills, Engineering by Verdant Structural Engineers

New back of house with covered porch and big windows from bedroom and kitchen
Looking towards back from door to dining room
Cooking Area
Cooking Area
Door to porch & Yard
Looking toward front
Master Closet
Extra Storage
Vanity (Needs some art)
Window Protection for eaveless house

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Rosenfeld Affect


Art Rosenfled

I was impressed by this little tidbit in a recent Title 24 Seminar I attended.  Sometimes the California energy codes seem behind the technology and sometimes overly technical and expensive, requiring expensive gadgets and fixtures, but look at the energy savings!!!

Here is the whole story from the California Energy Commission.



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thermal image of tight house

I stole this photo from the website of Fabrica718. It is an image taken with an infrared camera of a block of Brooklyn brownstones. The blue one is the one they remodelled….blue because its envelope is so well insulated that very little heat is escaping. Pretty cool. I’m not sure why most of the other houses have blue second and third story windows. I can’t imagine that the whole block has been upgraded to triple pane. Any ideas?

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compost heater

A simple diagram taken from this site….full of a lot of similar concepts for sustainable living.

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Yesterday I attended this lighting showcase at the Pacific Energy Center. Most of the lights on display were LED technology. Here are a few highlights:





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It is a good idea to put your bathroom fan on a timer so that you can set the fan to turn off in 1 minute or 30 minutes or anywhere in between. This way you get the damaging moisture out of the house without forgetting and leaving the fan on all day.

This is an elegant product from Lutron – clean looking with a sparkle of tiny lights….but it might be hard for farsighted people to read and it seems a bit complicated for what it does.

This one by Leviton has a simpler design and looks easier for clumsy fingers to operate.  I think it could lose the “min.” and just have the numbers, but perhaps then it would perplex first time users for a few seconds.

This old-fashioned spring-wound timer from Intermatic that probably makes a clicking sound as it winds down. …but its operation is very obvious.

I will report in after I test my choice, the Leviton.

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Passive house is a fairly new word.  This recent evolutionary step in building technology comes from Austria, but many of the concepts are ancient.   The basic idea is to insulate really well and eliminate random air leakage and thereby require way less heating energy. Ideally all the heat needed will be generated by occupants, their computers and light bulbs,  and the sun.

Pretty simple, right? The devil is in the details.  Real Passive Houses also must pass a performance test to prove they actually work.

Nabih Tahan was an innovator on the west coast. The New York Times published an article about Passive Houses a houses in 2008 that mentions his Berkeley California renovation project.

Unfortunately,  Nabih’s house failed the blower door test for leakiness, so doesn’t actually qualify as a passive house, but he has measured his energy use over the last two years and it performs extremely well. He had to install electric baseboard heaters to satisfy the building code.  He rarely turns on these heaters, but since electric heat is inefficient, (a lot is wasted in transmission) his “source energy load” is slightly over the Passive House requirement.  He thinks that he would have qualified if  he had used gas heaters.

Here is a picture of Nabih’s Air to air heat exchanger (energy recovery ventilator) from Ultimate Air:

The guy in the picture designed and installed the system. His name is is George Nesbitt, and he has a company called Environmental Design-Build.

Nabih installed redwood rainscreen siding. I think it was made out of the old siding, milled into flat slats. His window details are pretty nice:

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This past Sunday I went on a tour of some cutting edge energy-efficient houses. (They are hoping to meet the Passive House Standard) These photos are of one house  in San Jose (1820 Cottle Avenue) by One Sky Homes. It is  a conventional, 3200 SF luxury tract home, but will need much less energy to operate.  According to the Passive House calculations it will be Net Zero Energy (Solar panels on the roof will provide all the required energy)

So far the house is only partially framed, but we were able to see the advanced framing techniques coming together, including this insulated header:

The house sits a top an insulated crawlspace.  This is the first insulated crawlspace I have seen myself.   The point of an insulated crawlspace is that all the ducts and water lines can run through conditioned space and energy is not lost.  The insulated crawlspace also eliminates some of the thermal bridging that usually occurs where house meets the foundation and the earth. Finally, the conditioned crawlspace stays clean and dry, which makes it far more pleasant when maintenance requires someone to crawl around under the house.    Here is a photo looking into the crawlspace from a ventilation hole:

There is, of course, a french drain all the way around the perimeter and also a floor drain in the slab to make sure  it stays nice and dry down there.

The walls are insulated concrete forms, and there is 3″ of insulation under the concrete slab as well.

Here is a photo of some of the graphics explaining the heating, cooling and ventilating system:

and another showing the anticipated energy breakdown for lighting, appliances, thermal comfort, electric car charging, and entertainment:

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I got to go to John’s company party the other day. The food was good. Here are some photos of the house and gardens and some of the party-goers and feast.

It is more energy-efficient to have a square, compact house, but when you live in California and you have a beautiful piece of land with some nice views, it is hard not  to connect the inside to the landscape with courtyards.   This H-shaped piece of architecture works pretty well, although it would have been better if the site was on the north wall of the valley rather than the north-east.  I imagine that the courtyard is sometimes unusable on a hot afternoon with the low-angle sun beaming across the valley.   As you can see from some of the photos, the house has a lot of creative and artful details.

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Angelo’s Smokehouse

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We (deedsdesign & Canivet Construction) have just started work on this exciting face lift and energy efficiency update in the El Cerrito Hills!

Tight budget 1972 modernism would probably be the best description of this house. It has an open floor plan, vaulted ceilings with clerestory windows and sweeping views of the bay.  Many of  the single pane aluminum windows are  such random sizes that it seems likely that the owner might have bought them for cheap somewhere (long before Craigslist) and made them fit into the design.  As is common in the east bay hills, the house has a lot of west-facing glass to take advantage of the views.  All this glass is problematic because it means that a lot of direct afternoon and evening sun blasts the living spaces.

So,  as well as replacing the aged siding with a rain screen, adding shear strength, replacing all the  windows and doors with new insulated units, rearranging and resizing many of them, replacing and slightly modifying the double-deck, adding a hot tub (!!!) and  insulating with blown-in cellulose, we are adding some exterior window shades to moderate that afternoon sun.

European Rolling Shutters  (http://www.ers-shading.com/) is providing the shades and a nice red-orange retractable awning for the deck.

Stay posted as the project evolves!

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