This article was originally published in the July/August 1993 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online July/August 1993


Conservation Clips is compiled by Cathlene Casebolt of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, a non-profit organization working in sustainable energy, agriculture, affordable housing, and environmental protection. Conservation Clips contains brief summaries of useful research reports and articles in related magazines, and other publications collected by the NCAT staff. Contact NCAT, P.O. Box 4000, Butte, MT 59702. Tel: (800) 428-2525; Fax: (406)494-2905.



Carpet Culprits in Question. In the summer of 1992, researchers at Anderson Laboratories in Dedham, Massachusetts, determined that some carpets cause neurotoxological effects and even death in mice. Tests conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have shown similar results. Until recently, it was believed that gasses emanating from new carpeting caused irritations. Consequently researchers focused on volatile organic compound emissions, and the carpet industry and EPA advised ventilation during and after installation, combined with an adequate drying period. However, Anderson research indicates that carpet aging, or the breakdown of some compounds, may be the cause, and therefore drying and ventilation may not be enough. While it is not yet clear which specific agent is causing emissions problems, researchers believe that they may stem from styrene butadiene rubber backing. While some people have more acute, immediate reactions, less sensitive individuals could suffer from long-term exposure. EPA intends to study the problem in depth. Indoor Air Quality Update (February 1993), Cutter Information Corporation, 37 Broadway, Arlington, MA 02174. Tel: (617)648-8700; Fax: (617)648-8707.

R-2000 Houses and Indoor Air Quality. Incorporating mechanical ventilation into new, tight homes can achieve both energy efficiency and good indoor air quality. A three-year study of 20 houses in Winnipeg, conducted by Canada's Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources, showed that R-2000 houses have better indoor air quality than their conventional, less tight counterparts. (R-2000 houses are tightly constructed to minimize air leakage, provide a controllable, mechanical supply of fresh air, and incorporate heat recovery ventilation.) The study monitored relative humidity and five pollutants--formaldehyde, radon, particulates, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon dioxide--in 16 R-2000 and four conventional houses. The R-2000 houses had lower levels of these pollutants than the conventional houses. However, the study concluded that while mechanical ventilation is an important part of achieving healthy indoor air quality, other factors such as pollutant source control, entry control, and isolation are equally important and need more attention. Solplan Review (December/January 1993), The Drawing Room Graphic Services Limited, Box 86627, North Vancouver, BC, CANADA V7L 4L2. Tel: (604)689-1841; Fax: (604)689-1841.

Miniblinds Minimize Solar Gain. According to researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, white miniblinds (even open ones) can reduce solar heat gain through windows (and thus cooling load) by as much 50%, compared to clear, double-glazed windows. Researchers monitored the shading coefficient (SC) of open miniblinds oriented both up and down. (Shading coefficient is a measure of the glazing system's ability to transmit solar heat--the higher the SC, the more solar heat transmitted). The study found a shading coefficient of .39 for blinds pointed down, and .44 for those aimed upward. In comparison, clear, double glazing has a shading coefficient of about .88, and 1.0 for clear, single glazing. Energy Design Update (November 1992), Cutter Information Corporation, 37 Broadway, Arlington, MA 02174. Tel: (617)648-8700; Fax: (617)648-8707.

Utility Fuel Switching. While many utilities across the nation are striving to reduce electricity consumption in the residential sector through weatherization and other measures, few have actively promoted fuel switching. However, Montana Power Company (MPC) in conjunction with the Missoula Housing Authority recently converted 51 all-electric, low-income apartments to gas heating systems. They determined that the switch was economical to both the utility and the residents. Even though the conversion is expected to increase natural gas consumption by 2.1 billion ft3 annually, the fuel costs three times less than electricity per Btu. And to minimize gas consumption, the new integrated systems, which combine space and water heating, are 90% efficient. MPC donated $90,000 of the project's $400,000 cost, and estimates a savings of 469,000 kWh each year. Conservation Monitor (March 1993), News Data Corporation, Box 900928 Queen Anne Station, Seattle, WA 98109. Tel: (206)285--4848; Fax: (206)281-8035.

Constant Comfort. Special mixing valves that allow more even, and thus comfortable, heat in hydronic space heating systems are becoming popular in the U.S. after years of use in Europe. Rather than periodically sending very hot water from the boiler to the radiators as conventional systems do, these valves temper boiler water with cooler return water, which is then circulated constantly. The temperature of the circulated water is cooler on warmer days, and hotter on colder days, allowing the indoor temperature to stay within one degree of its setpoint. In addition to increased comfort, the valves offer some energy savings (less than 10%), and reduce flue gas condensation which causes corrosion. Popular Science (March 1993), 2 Park Plaza, New York, NY 10016. Tel: (212)779-5000; Fax: (212)779-9468.


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