Letters: July/August 2014

July/August 2014
A version of this article appears in the July/August 2014 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
Click here to read more letters.

Do Thermostats Now Rule?

Household feedback, monitoring, and control devices have always been problematic because of the behavior of users. Meier is correct about smart meters; utilities, state regulators, and privacy advocates have stymied the potential benefits and possibilities of this investment, fostering a public misunderstanding and eventual complacency that the industry may not be able to recover (see “A Shift in Energy Information’s Center of Gravity?” Mar/Apr ’14, p. 2). Companies, especially Google, thankfully continue to try new methods and pathways that will engage all of us. I'm afraid, however, that any device—thermostat included—will have to be a whole lot more user-friendly. I've always envisioned that household energy use could be displayed as prominently as a wall clock in the home and the information provided used as often.

Todd Hoener
online comment

The significant difference between smart meter data and thermostat data, however, is that while meter data reflect 100% of electric consumption, t-stat data generally reflect mostly fossil fuel consumption for thermal space heating (other than if A/C is in use and managed by the t-stat). So the data collected are in reality quite different.

Anita Kelman
online comment

WaterBeds Revisited

I recently came across your reference to waterbeds as energy hogs (see “Thirty Years of Waterbeds and Home Energy Magazine,” Jan/Feb ’14, p. 2).

I actually do still have a waterbed, but it has never had a heater. Why? I have two reasons.

  1. It’s the type with water-filled tubes partially filled with foam. So there is less water (and thus, significantly less weight), and it is contained in a trough of water-filled tubes surrounded by insulation on the sides and base.
  2. It has an insulated pad on top as part of the design. It isn't even obvious that it is a waterbed unless one looks under the insulated box pad that fits like a box lid over the trough container. The tubes limit the wave action.

Over the years, the foam topper wore out and needed replacement. Occasionally, water needs to be added to the tubes (not often, thank goodness, because the process is a bit unwieldy). Fortunately, the tubes have never leaked, though if they did, there would be water in the trough, so there would be some warning.

This particular style of waterbed was definitely not inexpensive. However, there were health benefits for sleeping on water, floating, as it were. 

There were not only energy use concerns but also health concerns about using electric waterbed heaters and, for that matter, electric blankets. So since I could easily avoid using both, I did.

Christina B. Farnsworth
via e-mail

In Memoriam – Brad Oberg


Brad Oberg, cofounder and chief technology officer of IBACOS and one of the foremost building scientists in the world, died of heart disease on Monday, March 10. He was 64.

Brad earned a master’s of architecture from Ohio State University. He spent more than 30 years helping production home builders, manufacturers, and governments make homes more safe, healthy, comfortable, durable, efficient, responsible, and affordable. While he pushed the envelope with home performance and housing technology, he never lost sight of constructability—on behalf of the trades—and cost to the builder and home buyer.

Brad began his career in the 1980s at Owens Corning’s Research Lab, where he developed the first design guide for builders to generate a guaranteed energy savings. He then went on to lead the New Products Laboratory at USG before setting his own course at IBACOS, a Pittsburgh-based housing innovation company he founded with Michael Dickens, the company’s CMO, in 1991.

The following year, both were among a core group of industry experts who partnered with DOE to create Building America, a program that has been a source of innovations in residential building performance, as well as millions of dollars of energy savings, for more than 15 years.

As IBACOS CTO, Brad provided technical oversight for much of the company’s systems-based research, product development, and building performance work for private clients. Over the course of his career Brad investigated structural and thermal systems, airtightness, ventilation strategies, ductwork design and performance, advanced lighting, and whole-house system approaches, and helped production builders resolve issues with stucco, concrete, water intrusion, moisture, and comfort in all climates of the United States.

When he wasn’t building better homes, Brad was putting his technical wizardry to use in lighting and set design for the theatre—his other great passion. For over 20 years, Brad helped Pittsburgh-area high schools and community theatre groups bring their stories to life. He mentored numerous students in technical theatre, lighting, and stage management—many of whom he worked with from grade school to adulthood.

More information is available on Brad Oberg’s memorial web site.

The Oberg family is accepting donations to a scholarship fund for students seeking education in technical theatre. Checks may be mailed to:

The Brad Oberg Technical Theatre Scholarship Fund
PNC Bank
915 Freeport Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15238

Your donations will further Brad’s dream of helping young people develop their skills in the technical theatre arts.

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