This article was originally published in the November/December 1996 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online November/December 1996


Europe Pushing Forward Again. While appliance efficiency rules have been stalled here in the States, Europe is soon likely to have regionwide rules. Getting ready for this, European refrigerator makers are creating superinsulated fridges. Some have over 3 1/2 inches of polyurethane foam in the freezer area, conserving as much as half the electricity used by standard fridges. Others are being built with vacuum panels. A recent innovation is a vacuum panel fridge with no foam insulation at all, which can be completely disassembled and recycled. Appliance, August 1996. 1110 Jorie Blvd., CS 9019, Oak Brook, IL 60522-9019. Tel:(630)990-3484; Fax:(630)990-0078; e-mail:

Guaranteed Low Energy Bills. Insulation manufacturer GreenStone Industries is now guaranteeing that its R-Pro cellulose will lower energy bills. If customers' energy bills are above the guaranteed amount, the company will make up the difference. To qualify, houses have to be built to very high standards in air sealing, duct design, and other aspects of construction. Houses built to these specifications will receive high marks from the federal Energy Star program and other home energy ratings. Journal of Light Construction, Aug 1996. RR 2, Box 146, Richmond, VT 05477. Tel:(802)434-4747; e-mail:

Steel Framing Gets Warmer. Oak Ridge National Laboratory reports that researchers there have found an inexpensive way to give 2 x 4 steel studs the performance of 2 x 6 wood studs. The technique is being kept secret until patent issues are resolved, but the general description is that a C-shaped foam bracket wraps around three sides of the stud. This reduces conductive losses and increases the thickness of the wall, meaning that a clear wall area insulated with batts will have an R-value of 16. Environmental Building News, July/Aug 1996. RR 1, Box 161, Brattleboro, VT 05301. Tel:(802)257-7300; Fax:(802)257-7304; e-mail:;

Cow Energy. British electricity consumers may soon be buying bovine voltage, as incinerators are built to dispose of cattle potentially infected with mad cow disease. To start out, only a very small number of carcasses will be burned for energy; the other 11 million head are being incinerated industrially. Recycling World, Hilltop off Church Road, Webheath, Redditch, Worcestershire, B97 5PQ, UK. Tel:+44 1527-40-45-50; Fax: +44 1527-40-46-44; e-mail:

Good Wood on the Wires. The Good Wood Alliance is an association of woodworkers, foresters, and conservationists, encouraging forest conservation through responsible wood use. They now have a web site listing suppliers of sustainably harvested lumber, salvaged wood, and less-used species. Understory, Spring 1996, p. 5. Good Wood Alliance, Incorporated, 289 College Street, Post Office Box 1525, Burlington, Vermont 05401. Tel:(802)
862-4448; Fax:(802)658-4443; E-mail: http://www.

HRVs: Inherently Balanced? Canadian homes with heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) were recently performance tested. The results show that while HRVs are inherently balanced when installed and maintained properly, many units have problems. Many outside exhaust ports were clogged, which can lead to a pressurized house; and many R-2,000 homes were not pressure balanced, making the inherent balance of the equipment less useful. In addition, many occupants did not know what the HRV was. Home Builder, July/Aug 1996, p. 29. 4819 St. Charles Blvd., Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada H9H 3C7. Phone:(514)620-2200; Fax:(514)620-6300.

Proper Duct Insulation Is ... Ducts in attics should be insulated to R-8. Ducts in basements and crawlspaces should be insulated to R-4 in mild climates and as high as R-11 in climates with over 7,500 heating degree-days. This is the news from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where various insulation levels were analyzed for lowest life cycle cost. The old news is that sealing 80% of leaks saves four times as much energy as is saved by adding insulation. Drexel Insulation Report, May/June 1996. MEM Department, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA 19104. Tel:(215)895-1833.

Must Sell kWh. Many utilities are responding to electricity deregulation by slashing conservation programs. Going one step further, Cleveland Electric Illuminating (CEI) is promoting electricity consumption, in an attempt to pay off $3.9 billion in nuclear plant-related debts. Faced with competition from a financially healthy municipal utility, CEI is building brand loyalty by giving out Marlboro miles type vouchers to customers based on their electric bills. Customers receive points for every kWh they use. Those who save up 7,000 points can cash in on a night-light; 2 million points will get them a heat pump. The Ohio Public Utilities Commission is looking into the contest, concerned that it may break laws that prohibit charging different customers different amounts and charging below cost in order to destroy competition. Plain Dealer, June 27, 1996. 4401 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114. Tel:(216)999-5000.

Starry-Eyed Boilers. Insulation and boilers are now covered by the federal Energy Star program. The program, run cooperatively by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, promotes energy-efficient appliances and building materials. To use the Energy Star label, boiler manufacturers must agree to promote oil- and gas-fired products with 85% or higher efficiencies. Insulation manufacturers do not need to meet any special efficiency guidelines, since insulation is inherently energy-efficient. Instead, they need to distribute the Energy Star Insulation Guide, which teaches installers about appropriate R-values and installation techniques. Manufacturers must also actively educate homeowners about the benefits of insulation. Energy Star labels can now be found on more-efficient refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers, residential HVAC systems, thermostats, new homes, exit signs, insulation, boilers, and office equipment. Energy and Housing Report, April 1996. 9124 Bradford Road, Silver Spring, MD 20901-4918. Tel:(301)565-ALFA; Fax:(301)565-FAXUS.

Driving Caulk up the Wall. Airtight, moisture resistant walls can be built easily with minimal training using a construction system developed by Building Science Engineering of Medford, MA. The system involves two levels of air sealing. Inside, the drywall sheets are caulked together and glued to the top and bottom plates. Framing is often caulked or glued together as well. Outside, continuous foam sheathing is taped together and caulked to the sheathing. The system is sold as 20 inch x 24 inch laminated instruction sheets for use in the field. Energy Design Update, June 1996, 235 W. 102nd St., Suite 7J, New York, NY 10025. Tel:(212)662-7428; Fax:(212) 662-0039.

French Appliances Revealed. A recent French study carefully monitored 720 appliances in 94 households. From the detailed monitoring, researchers confirmed previously suspected appliance problems. For example, 2 inches of ice on the evaporator actually doubles the energy consumption of a fridge. And the defrost cycle of self-defrosting refrigerators takes only 20 minutes per day, but accounts for two thirds of the refrigerator's daily electric use. For 10% of French TVs, stand-by mode accounts for 33% of the set's total electricity consumption. Mechanical ventilation fans in the studied homes consume an average of 310 kWh per year. Etude Experimentale des Appareils Electromenagers a Haute Efficacite Energetique Places en Situation Reele. Projet Ecodrome, July 1996. Benoit Lebot, Project Manager, ADEME, 500 Route de Lucioles, Sophia Antipolis, 06565 Valbonne, France. Tel:(33) 93 95 79 44; Fax (33) 93 65 31 96.

Time to Save Money. In Toronto, residential time-of-day pricing is saving electricity consumers money while reducing peak loads for the electric utility, Toronto Hydro. For the 1,300 customers currently enrolled, there are three price brackets-on-peak, off-peak, and shoulder. According to a recent survey, 97% of customers have saved money by being enrolled in the program. 60% now use microwaves instead of conventional ovens, 65% wait until 11 pm to use the dishwasher, and 50% have changed their laundry habits. Customer savings were generally between 11% and 36%. CABA Home & Building Automation Quarterly, Summer 1996. CABA, M-20, 1500 Montreal Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0R6. Tel:(613) 990-7407; Fax:(613)954-5984; e-mail:; Website:


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