This article was originally published in the July/August 1997 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 1997
Duct Tape: On Again. Just when you've finished convincing all your friends to abandon duct tape forever, it's good again. Several years ago, Underwriters Laboratories developed standard 181B-FX for fabric-based duct tapes. To comply with the standard, a tape must be able to withstand extreme conditions of moisture, mold impregnation, heat, cold, and maintain slippage resistance. For years, no tapes were certified under the standard. But in January, a new fabric tape from Anchor was approved, becoming the first duct tape to be officially considered equal to mastic-and-mesh sealing for air distribution systems. UL-approved duct tape is easy to identify in stores and job sites; look for the UL logo stamped every 6 inches on the tape. Energy Design Update, Feb 1997. Cutter Information Corporation, 65 Hallwood Dr., Surry, NH 03431. Phone/ Fax:(603)357-5689; E-mail: letters@top. monod.net
Now That's Radiant Heating. In a vision worthy of the Friendly Atom comics of the 1950s, the Microwave Research Center is examining how to use microwaves to heat people directly. Charles Buffler, a researcher at the center, is working on low-power microwaves that supposedly barely penetrate the skin and have no adverse effects. Buffler and a colleague have already started experimenting with the concept--using themselves as its first human subjects. Irradiated by a 500W microwave emitter, they experienced sensible warmth when radiation reached 500 milliwatts per square centimeter (mw/cm2), and comfort between 35 mw/cm2 and 50 mw/cm2. This is about one twentieth of the radiation used in a microwave oven. Buffler envisions motion-detecting microwave emitters in every room of a house, keeping people, pets, and food warm without wasting energy on furniture and air. Popular Science, Apr 1997. Times Mirror Magazines, 2 Park Ave., New York, NY 10016. Fax:(212)481-8062; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Las Vegas Greens the Desert. In a city known for energy profligacy, the Nevada Green Building Resource team is developing a tour of energy-efficient buildings. Some of the 30 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year will get to board electric buses and visit several buildings where energy use is 70%-80% below that of comparable buildings. The project will include only demonstration buildings where construction costs are less than 5% above those of conventional construction. Along with a performing arts center and a museum, the tour will include a 24-unit town house project. This development is being built using straw bale insulation, photovoltaic panels on trackers, and entirely edible landscaping. The tour is scheduled to start running this fall. Interior Concerns Newsletter, Jan/Feb 1997. Interior Concerns Environmental Resources, Incorporated, 131 W. Blithedale Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941. Phone:(415)389-8049; Fax:(415)388-8322; E-mail: email@example.com.
Conservation and the Bottom Line. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has granted Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) a rate increase because customers aren't using enough gas. PG&E, the nation's largest investor-owned utility, undercollected $261 million on its fixed costs for gas supply in 1996. The undercollection was apparently due to unusually warm weather, although conservation also played a role. The CPUC accepted PG&E's claim that the undercollected revenues justified a rate increase of about $4 per month for residential customers and $21 per month for large commercial customers, effective from April to December 1997. The CPUC said the increase reflects the Commission's intention to set prices that ... encourage consumers' energy conservation efforts. From press release, California Public Utilities Commission, 505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102-3298. Phone:(415) 703-1366.
Home Metal Halide. A new line of table and floor lamps from Advanced Lighting Technologies uses 75 watts of direct current to run a metal halide lamp and two incandescent lamps. The company claims that the combined light output is higher than that of a 300W halogen torchiere. Lighting Futures, 2, No. 2. Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 8th St., Troy, NY 12180-3590. Phone:(518)276-8716; Fax:(518)276-2999; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CO Detectors Rated. Consumers Union tested carbon monoxide (CO) detectors for various capabilities, and ranked models according to how they did on the test. The Nighthawk was the clear winner, although the Lifesaver and S-Tech were fairly good as well. Some models from American Sensors were deemed Not Acceptable. Their plugs are made to rotate 90°, but Consumers Union found that if they were turned too far or turned the wrong way, the plug could short-circuit, rendering the detector useless. The rating criteria were: alarm within 30 minutes at 250 parts per million (ppm); alarm within 107 minutes at 90 ppm; quick recovery from an alarm, alarm should turn off when CO drops to safe levels; and digital readouts, if present, should be accurate. Consumer Reports, Nov 1996. Consumers Union, 101 Truman Ave., Yonkers, NY 10703-1057. Phone:(914)378-2000.
BEERS Goes Private, Becomes FEG. The Florida Building Energy Efficiency Rating System, a four-year-old, heavily studied home energy rating system (HERS), has been privatized. Under the new name of Florida Energy Gauge (FEG), the system will be run by the Florida Solar Energy Center. It will continue to supervise over 200 certified home energy raters, train raters, and provide technical support for the HERS field. Resnet Notes, Apr 21, 1997. Residential Energy Services Network, 12350 Old Seward Highway, Suite 208, Anchorage, AK 99515. Phone: (907)345-1930; Fax:(907)345-0540; E-mail: email@example.com. Available by fax or e-mail.
HVAC Motors Become Variable. HVAC fans, with their 10% efficiency and inability to change speeds, have plenty of room for improvement. While changing the fan can be part of some retrofits, a cheaper way to give fans continuously variable speeds is now available. A miniature control mechanism, similar to those used in automotive cruise controls, is being marketed to the residential HVAC installers. The control box, from Opto Generic Devices, receives a signal from a thermostat, barometer, or other low-voltage, variable-resistance sensor. The box's programming translates changes in the input signal into changes in motor revolutions, and a sensor on the motor can tell how fast the motor is really spinning. Energy Design Update, March 1997. 65 Hallwood Dr., Surry, NH 03431. Phone/Fax:(603)357-5689; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ACCA Goes to War. Utilities had better look out. If they think that deregulation means they can move into the HVAC field, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) is ready to defend its members against such well-funded competition. In March, they decided to exclude from membership utilities that do HVAC installation or service beyond their legal requirements. ACCA also decided to exclude representatives from these utilities, contracting firms that are owned or operated by utilities, and employees of these companies. ACCA's antiutility purge expelled at least one member of its national board of directors. Contracting Business Magazine, Apr 1997. Contracting Business, 1100 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114-2543.
What to Take to a Desert Heat Island. Dark roofs increase the solar heat input to their buildings, and also contribute to area-wide temperature gains. On the other hand, light-colored roofs and street surfaces, combined with increased use of shade trees, could reduce summer temperatures in Los Angeles by an average of 5°F. The DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are now labeling all roofing materials with a yellow solar reflectance index label, so customers can tell just how cool the new roof will be. The most reflective (and thus coolest) third of all materials will also receive an Energy Star label. Technology Review, Feb/Mar 1997.
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