Partners making an energy-efficient difference: CORNERSTONE ARCHITECTS
(This is the first post in a series highlighting the great energy efficiency work Virginia Energy Sense partners are achieving across the state.)
Located in Richmond, Virginia, Cornerstone Architects is an architecture and interior design firm committed to building environmentally friendly structures that make a statement and a contribution to the community. Recently signed on as a Virginia Energy Sense partner, Cornerstone Architects just completed the Emergency Command Center project located at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans’ Administration Hospital. This LEED Silver building project services more than 200,000 veterans coming from 52 cities and counties covering 22,515 miles of central and southern Virginia. The building incorporates energy saving strategies including a super insulated building envelope, high efficiency mechanical equipment, LED lighting, light controls and occupancy sensors.
The firm also owns a historical building in the “Old and Historic District” in downtown Richmond. This location allows employees to walk to several client sites and a variety of lunch options, further reducing their environmental footprint. The Cornerstone Architects team recently improved the energy consumption in the building by applying a “White Roof” coating that increases reflectance, cuts down on heat gain, lowers the electric bill and extends the life of the roof.
Have an energy efficiency story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear what you’re doing and any ideas on how your company/organization can help encourage Virginians to reduce their energy use. For your chance to be featured, contact the Virginia Energy Sense team at Tabitha@virginiaenergysense.org.
Question of the Week: what’s a lumen?
It’s no secret that our home lighting choices have become significantly more efficient. Now, instead of measuring our old, incandescent light bulbs by the amount of energy they use (watts), we’re measuring them by the amount of light they emit (lumens). This new measurement helps ensure you pick bulbs that use the least amount of energy while providing the appropriate brightness you need! Here are some tips to make sure you get the right bulbs for you:
1) Before your next trip to the hardware store, think about your home. What kind of lighting do you need? Are you looking for energy efficient light bulbs for reading, or a brighter bulb for your desk? Make a list of your lighting needs.
Tip: There are also free mobile apps to help you while at the store, including Light Bulb Finder, the winner of the U.S. EPA’s Apps for the Environment contest.
2) Bookmark this graphic from the FTC to help you remember what kind of light bulbs you’re looking for.
3) Once you get to the store, take a look at each bulb’s packaging label. It will include important information you’ll want to consider, including:
· Brightness (in lumens)
· Yearly estimated energy cost
· Expected bulb life (in years)
· Light appearance (how warm or cool the light will look)
· Wattage (the energy used)
For more information on other simple steps you can take to reduce your energy use at home, check out the Virginia Energy Sense Do-It-Yourself Guide, full of low and no cost projects to help you Value Your Power!
Six Quick Steps to Ready Your Home for Winter
Did you know that this Sunday, November 4th, our clocks “fall behind” for the fall and winter? As you switch your clocks back, take a few extra minutes to make sure your home remains energy efficient all through the cold weather months.
Six Quick Steps to Ready Your Home for Winter:
1. Plug laptop AC adapters, cell phone chargers and other electronic devices into a power strip. These electronics continue to draw electricity, even when they are not in use. Look for green power plugs that allow you to leave some electronics turned on, like your DVR.
2. Clean your refrigerator coils on the back of the fridge where dust builds up. You’ll help one of the biggest energy hogging appliances in your home run more efficiently and longer!
3. Reset your programmable thermostat to the coolest comfortable temperature to save on heating costs. Decrease the temperature when you go to bed or leave your home for the day. Ready your home for winter; install storm windows and reduce heat loss through the windows by 25-50%
4. Replace five regular light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs and save an average of 1,880 kWh over the lifetime of the bulbs. That’s enough energy to light your whole house for nearly 11 months.
5. Grab a can of spray foam and seal all the gaps where air can leak in or out of your home, including those around windows, doors, wiring holes, recessed lights, plumbing vents, your attic hatch, and more. Stopping drafts can make you feel more comfortable and reduce energy bills.
6. Switch the direction of your ceiling fans. Most ceiling fans have a switch on the motor which allows you to control the direction of the blade. In the winter, the blades should move clockwise to force the warm air down.
Help Your Students Conserve Energy for Back-to-School
School is about to start up again, and kids are making the most of their final days at home. Parents, are you having your kids start getting back into the swing of things by giving them worksheets and other activities?
You might want to take a look at the activities Virginia Energy Sense has created in collaboration with educators and the VA Department of Education. Our fun energy efficiency activities are geared toward third, fourth and fifth graders and build upon science and math standards. The materials feature such lessons as:
- It All Adds Up: A two-part activity about components of an electricity bill and how to track energy usage.
- Saving At Home: A three-part math lesson about how much electricity common household appliances use.
- Value Your Power Family Scoreboard: Students work with their families to track their energy habits and come up with ideas to save energy.
- Poster: Features energy-saving tips by room and provides space for students’ ideas to reduce energy use.
To download a digital copy of the activities, visit our ‘At School’ page.
If these activities leave your kids wanting to learn more, check out these additional educational resources:
- For a more detailed bill explanation and information on reading your electric meter, visit the Understand Your Bill page.
- To learn more about appliance energy waste visit the Smart Appliance Use page.
- For more information on how to help kids save energy, visit our Tumblr blog for .
- If you want more details on how to save energy in your classroom, visit the ‘At School’ Energy Saving Tips page.
What Other Tools are in the Auditor’s Toolkit?
This post is the final in our series featuring information about home energy assessments, and what’s involved in the process.
While a blower door test or infrared camera are two of the more common ways an auditor can help you assess energy waste in your home, an auditor can also use other measurement techniques to provide long-term information about air leakage and energy loss in your home.
How do these technologies work, you ask?
PerFluorocarbon Tracer (PFT) measurement technique
- The PFT technique uses different types of non-toxic gasses to determine a home’s airtightness and to find out if there are any leaks in the structure. The gas dissipates through the house and an average concentration reading determines the building tightness.
- An auditor may want to use this test in conjunction with a blower door test to account for changes in air pressure, weather and wind speed, or any family activities that may affect the rates of air leakage over a period of time.
Furnace efficiency meters & Surface thermometers
- A surface thermometer reads the surface temperature of anything it’s pointed at and gives auditors insight into heat retained by various surfaces in your home. This helps the auditor—and you!—understand how to heat and cool your home.
- An auditor may want to use meters and thermometers to determine if your home heating & cooling systems are working properly and are effectively insulated.
After your auditor has completed his/her assessment, you will be presented with a report detailing all the ways your home wastes energy and opportunities for improvement. The report will include recommendations you can choose to implement in your home to reduce your energy use. These opportunities for improvement can range from caulking and sealing to adding insulation or duct sealing, just to name a few. Your auditor can provide suggestions on which projects you should consult a contractor and which recommendations are do-it-yourself.
To learn more about ways you can save energy around your home, visit VirginiaEnergySense.org and check out the ‘At Home’ section for tips and information to get you started reducing your utility bills today.
What’s a Blower Door Test?
This post is the second in our series featuring information about home energy assessments, and what’s involved in the process.
One of the diagnostic tools in a professional auditor’s tool belt is a blower door test. A blower door test tells the auditor generally how airtight your home is, and identifies small holes and cracks in your home. And since these little openings can account for 30-50% of energy waste, it can be helpful to your wallet to seal them!
To help you better understand the process necessary to conduct a blower door test, here’s a few things you’ll need to know:
- A blower door is a powerful fan mounted into the frame of an exterior door in your home. The fan pulls all of your air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside.
- As this drop in air pressure occurs, the higher air pressure outside rushes into the home through any unsealed cracks, holes and openings.
- The auditor then measures the air flowing through the blower door, which determines the severity of your home’s air leaks. The airflow through the blower door is measured in cubic feet per minute at 50 pascals of pressure (a pascal is a small unit of air pressure). Some auditors also use a smoke puffer to visually detect air leaks.
After the auditor conducts the blower door test, she or he should provide you with a list of problem areas and how to address them. Then, it’s time to get to work sealing those cracks and openings!
Caulking and weather stripping are two cost-effective, do-it-yourself projects that will help you eliminate energy waste and reduce your utility bills with the investment of a few bucks and a little time.
If you want to identify air leaks around your home without a professional, get started with these DIY tips for locating air leaks.