Innovative solutions for creating healthy, efficient, eco-friendly homes

August 2008

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The ABCs of Saving Energy

Across the country this month, some homeowners are writing checks for yet another high cooling bill, while others are dreading the rising heating costs as winter approaches. Although the quick fix to save on energy costs is to turn up the thermostat in the summer and turn it down in the winter, making simple, cost-effective changes in the hidden areas of your home — the attic, basement and crawlspace — can help you save money without sacrificing comfort.

A Practical Guide to Pellet Stoves

First things first: I really like my pellet stove. I wanted to get that out of the way, right off. During a harsh winter of record fuel prices in the Northeast, my new wood pellet stove helped keep our 2,000-square-foot house in Maine cozy for roughly half the cost of heating oil. It did the job by burning waste wood, harvested and processed in North America. And in terms of contributing to climate change, heating with wood pellets creates a very small carbon footprint.

SH Bookshelf: Setting goals to save energy

Homeowners who are serious about reducing energy costs can turn to two books that provide real-world, hands-on advice and practical solutions. "The Homeowner’s Handbook to Energy Efficiency," by John Krigger and Chris Dorsi, starts by advocating the development of a plan for your home and explains how to analyze your energy consumption, calculate your energy costs, schedule a home energy audit and set goals.

Remodeling for peak efficiency

Many homeowners embark on green renovations without giving energy efficiency the priority it deserves. The energy a home consumes over its life span has a far greater environmental impact than just about any product a homeowner can select. Recycled glass tile and bamboo flooring, for instance, are certainly attractive and can play a role in an overall green strategy.

Portland's Floating Solar Home

When my wife Kathryn and I decided to build our next home, we had a number of design objectives. Our primary goal was to build a home that would come as close as practical to net-zero energy performance. Net-zero is the concept that a home produces as much energy as it consumes. The vast majority of existing homes — more than 98 percent — produce no energy or minimal energy for space heating and cooling, water heating and various electricity demands.

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