Let’s talk about a few issues that don’t necessarily line up with conventional thinking. Home energy issues…what do we need to know, besides recycling, getting rid of old refrigerators, etc.?
There are plenty of websites with suggestions for saving energy and for calculating your home energy use – see the end of this page for some preliminary suggestions. I’m not expert in this end of things. However, there are a couple of pointers that I can pass on to you.
Among the home energy issues that comes to mind is the use of CFL (compact fluorescent bulbs). These are good, right? My response is: not so fast.
- If I put one of my radio frequency meters up to one of these bulbs, the readings go up. They give off radio frequency. If you are sitting near a CFL or a fluorescent light, you are being exposed to radio frequency.
- What are the other options for light bulbs?
- Lower energy halogen bulbs are my choice – but not the type of halogen bulbs in torchiere lights. Those bulbs can get too hot, with the risk of fire.
- LED bulbs use less energy but they also set up dirty electricity in the circuit, which increases electrostress in the house.
- However, battery-operated LED lights would be a good choice, even better than the lower-energy halogen bulbs. I haven’t found a good reading lamp yet with battery-operated LEDs (though there are plenty out there). If you can recommend one, please send me an email, to may at createyourhealthyhome.com.
The second of the home energy issues is adding insulation to your attic. Good, right? Again, my response is “not so fast.”
- If heat can escape through gaps and cracks between your top floor and the attic, those gaps and cracks are going to still be there even if more insulation is added. How do you locate and seal those gaps and cracks?
- Get an energy rating done with an infrared camera and a blower door test. This will show you where the gaps are.
- Even though I don’t conduct energy ratings myself, I took the class for enrichment. The instructor noted that if there is a non-insulated attic hatch door (or pull-down steps), it was like having a chimney for heat to escape through.
- After you locate and get the gaps and cracks sealed up, by all means, beef up the insulation in the attic. Most heat loss is typically through the attic.
The third of the home energy issues has to do with the installation of solar or geothermal systems. Good, right? Again, my response is “not so fast.”
- If you are losing heat through your attic, the amount of heat loss can equal the savings you would otherwise have by installing solar or geothermal.
- Arrange for an energy rating to be done on your home – with an infrared camera and a blower door test. Then get the gaps and cracks sealed up.
- Only then are you ready for solar or geothermal.
- The instructor in my energy rating class made this statement: If you spend $3000-$4000 on an energy rating and getting gaps and cracks sealed up and more insulation put in the attic, the savings can equal what it would be if you installed solar or geothermal.
- After gaps and cracks are sealed up, by all means, look into solar or geothermal. Aim for an energy neutral house — better, try to sell energy back to the power company.
For the fourth of Home Energy Issues, there is some concern about fire retardants in foam insulation, which can have superior sealing and R-value.
Fire retardants have shown up in house dust from both spray-in foam and foam board insulation. There is some foam board insulation (some Styrofoam) without fire retardants but that may not be approved for a particular application under the building code. Check before using.
My colleague Will Spates from Indoor Environmental Technologies in Florida has this to say: “The defect is in the formulation and application and seems to be specific to Demilec.” He’s involved with several lawsuits on this subject. Some people can get sensitized to these fire retardants. Removal of the foam insulation from a home is difficult and problematical.
Are you still on the fence about whether climate change is real and is largely man-made? It’s easy enough to be uncertain, because there is a lot of incomplete and misinformation in the media, especially with certain media outlets and a certain political party. Oil and coal dollars are in this mix.
Further, debates on climate change usually involve two people, one pro and one con, which could make the audience think that this was simply a difference of opinion. In actuality, if the debate were representative of scientists, there would be 3 scientists on the con side and 97 scientists on the pro side of the table. Check out this catchy video:
Friends, our country is lagging here. Because Pres. Obama knows that he can’t get a bill through Congress on this subject, he’s working with the EPA on strengthening air quality regulations relating to coal plants.
One of our political parties doesn’t even believe in climate change, supposedly, despite the 97% scientific agreement – and the 100% agreement of national science societies that use of fossil fuel is the core issue in rising temperatures.
The other night, on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC news show, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, remarked that people didn’t realize what the melting of the polar ice (which is happening at an alarming rate) means…not just a little rise in sea water, but a rise in seawater to the elbow of the Statue of Liberty.
China is investing billions annually in research for sustainable energy. Solar is ubiquitous in Germany. Other folk are Getting Serious about climate change. As Pope Francis said, “It is a sin to use up the earth.” Do what you can. Get involved. Vote for folk who are making Mother Earth a priority.
I had my eyes opened recently at a climate change presentation. One of the presenters was a professor of economics at a local university… a professor of sustainable economics. Until she spoke, this branch of learning hadn’t crossed my radar. What if, instead of using money as the foundation of economics, we used…the ocean, the air, Mother Earth… as the foundation of economics? I knew I wanted to read in this area. What an attention-getting talk that was!!
Don Brown is the author of several books on the ethics of climate change and also happens to be a member of a book discussion group I attend. In a conversation of April 14, 2013, he used this phrase about climate change: “a civilization challenge of the highest urgency.”