New & Notable

November 02, 2009
November/December 2009
A version of this article appears in the November/December 2009 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Rheem + Valley Electric

Rheem Manufacturing Company, producers of residential and commercial heating, cooling, and water-heating products, joins the Valley Electric Association (VEA) to launch the largest domestic solar water heating (DSWH) program ever undertaken in the United States. This program offers members of the VEA, an electrical co-op servicing more than 22,000 meters within Nevada and California, an opportunity to install a Rheem SolPak solar water-heating system in their own home or business.

Rheem Manufacturing Company manufactures a full line of high-quality residential and commercial heating and cooling systems; tank, tankless, solar, and heat pump water heaters; swimming pool heaters; and commercial boilers. The VEA is a member-owned and nonprofit organization. It serves as an electrical co-op, which is an organization formed by a group of people for the purpose of providing electric service in an area that for whatever reason has not attracted an investor-owned utility. This means service at cost, which provides its members with capital credits, local ownership, and governance.

By installing a Rheem SolPak water-heating system, members will realize significant water and energy savings. Members who switch from electric or propane water-heating systems are expected to save $250–$550 per year on water heating. According to the VEA, this program will also help to eliminate 15.4 million pounds of CO2 annually and save $34 million or more, collectively, on energy costs over the next 20 years.

The VEA will provide 0% interest financing to members who choose to participate in the DSWH program. Participating members will also be eligible to receive a federal tax credit of up to 30% of the installed cost, including labor.

For more information:
For more on the DSWH program, go to
For more about Rheem, go to

Landmark Water Law

Oasis Design, of Santa Barbara California, an authority on ecological design and graywater systems for reusing water in landscaping, was pleased to announce a landmark decision of the California Building Standards Commission made on July 31, 2009 concerning the state’s new graywater standard. The California Department of Housing and Community Development submitted its revolutionary new graywater standard for approval by the California Building Standards Commission on July 30, and it was approved the following day. (Graywater is household wastewater from sinks, showers, and washing machines. It can be reused for watering plants.) For the first time, homeowners, licensed landscapers, contractors, and plumbers can legally install these systems, and can legally repair or upgrade the 1.7 million existing graywater systems in the state. The new law will help to improve the safety of these systems, benefit the environment; and provide green jobs for professionals in the field.

Thanks to public alarm about current drought conditions in California, and to intervention from the governor's office, the new California graywater standard went into effect on August 4, 2009, a few days after it was approved, rather than on January 1, 2011, the original proposed date.

The new rules allow a graywater system that consists of a washing machine and/or one other fixture, such as a shower, to be installed without a permit, if the system meets a short list of reasonable requirements. This is the approach used successfully in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and soon to be approved in Nevada, Montana, and Oregon.

California was the first state to regulate the reuse of graywater. The graywater regulation revolution began in 1989, when the first graywater systems were installed in the city of Santa Barbara. From there, the revolution spread to four other California communities, and then to the whole state, when a graywater appendix was written into the Uniform Plumbing Code of 1992. While California’s standard breached the regulatory wall in theory, the standards were utterly impractical in practice. The nascent graywater industry in California was killed. Only one company survived, and did so by catering almost exclusively to very high-end new construction. Meanwhile, homeowners gave up on legal graywater, and professional help, installing 1.7 million systems, only one in 10,000 with a permit.

The situation stayed bleak until January 16th, 2001. On that date, Arizona took the baton, and shifted the graywater regulation revolution into high gear with the passage of a short, simple set of common-sense guidelines. If your installation meets the guidelines, it’s legal, and no permit is required. Now, with the standard of 2009, California may be on the way to regaining its leadership role in graywater reuse.

—Art Ludwig
Art Ludwig’s design firm, Oasis Design, is a leader in graywater information and design, and the publisher of a best-selling graywater book, Create an Oasis with Graywater (Santa Barbara: Oasis Design. 1991, most recently revised 2009), rated number two in the plumbing category on, behind Ludwig's other book, Water Storage. (Santa Barbara, Oasis Design, 2005-2009).

For more information:
For more information about the California graywater code, go to

To see a video on how to install a laundry-to-landscape graywater system, go to

New Software Released: Zip Test Pro3

WxWare Diagnostics, a division of R.J. Karg Associates, has released ZipTest Pro3 Building & Energy Diagnostics Software. This significantly improved version operates on the Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium graphing calculator.
ZipTest Pro3 has the following new features:

  • Easy-to-navigate tab icons, dropdown menus, dialogue boxes, and helpful error messages make it more user-friendly than ZipTest Pro.
  • On-the-fly math calculations allowing you to enter calculations in a dialogue box for a house volume—rather than performing your calculations with another calculator.
  • A reports menu allows you to save up to eight reports of your entered values and answers for any of the programs or tools.
  • An easy-to-navigate default values feature allows you to set many frequently used values quickly and easily.
  • ZipTest Pro lets you easily print a screen image or add important images to a report.
  • An updated ASHRAE 62.2-2007 ventilation program includes all the recent changes to this IAQ and ventilation standard, including the 2009 alternative compliance method for existing dwellings.
  • A unique ZTP (ZipTest Pro) number calculator estimates the relationship between the CFM50 value and the average CFM value of a house.

The complete ZipTest Pro3 software package is available from WxWare Diagnostics for $324.00. This package includes the TI-89 Titanium graphing calculator loaded with the ZipTest Pro3 software, software instructions, and software support. The cost of the software without the TI-89 calculator is $139.

For more information:
To learn more about ZipTest Pro3, go to


The Obama Administration Delivers

More than $101 million went to Weatherization programs in Guam and Pennsylvania in August, 2009. The funding, along with additional funds to be disbursed after the grantees meet certain Recovery Act milestones, will help them to weatherize approximately 29,200 homes, lowering energy costs for low-income families, reducing pollution, and creating green jobs across the country.

In press conferences with Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Energy Secretary Steve Chu emphasized oversight and accountability, the importance of having a local workforce, and his hope that weatherization and related measures will improve the energy efficiency of all homes. The program will be available to families making up to 200% of the federal poverty level—or about $44,000 a year for a family of four. Weatherization projects allow low-income families to save money by making their homes more energy efficient, which results in average savings of 32% for heating bills and savings of hundreds of dollars per year on overall energy bills. States will spend an average of $6,500 to weatherize each home. The Recovery Act is having a direct impact on energy and financial savings in communities across America.

In August, Pennsylvania and Guam received 40% of their total weatherization funding authorized under the Recovery Act. They had already each received an initial 10% of their funding allocation, to be used for training and ramp-up activities. The remaining 50% of their allocation will be released after they meet specific reporting, oversight, and accountability goals, as by Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). The states may spend up to 20% of their total funds to hire and train workers.

For more information:
To learn more about the Recovery Act, and to see the video of Steve Chu and Ted Strickland’s press conference, go to

Think California Is the Mecca for Solar in the United States?

Think again. While California continues to be a leader in solar installations, other states and cities—many from unexpected regions—are rising up as solar powerhouses. A survey conducted by Global Solar Center of solar incentives adopted in 50 states produced surprising results:

  • New Jersey, not California, has the most generous incentives for solar power in the nation.
  • With a combination of city, state, and local incentives, homes and businesses in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Colorado can make all their money back from a solar installation in three years.
  • The new hot market for solar electricity is Pennsylvania, with incentives covering 60% of the installation cost.
  • Solar hot water is now a one-year payback in Florida and southern Texas.

States that were solar laggards have now become solar leaders. In 2008, the global solar market increased 50%, and the United States advanced to third place globally. The market demand for solar power has grown an average of 30% per year for the last five years.

The U.S. government has just changed the solar tax credit to a solar grant, funded by the federal stimulus bill. Hundreds of states and municipalities have launched their own incentives on top of this federal grant.

Global Solar Center can untangle the confounding minutiae of technical terminology and financial incentive details for homeowners by offering unbiased, reliable information. The center can also make recommendations from a network of qualified installers.

Experts who are on board and available to discuss the results of the survey with anyone who is interested, include Andy Karsner, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Dave Edwards, former head of clean technology research at Morgan Stanley;  and Jack D. Hidary, clean energy expert, member of the board of the National Renewable Energy Lab, and chairman of Global Solar Center.  

For more information:
To learn more about Global Solar Center,  go to

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