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New & Notable

March 01, 2010
March/April 2010
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2010 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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WaterSense

WaterSense is an EPA partnership program that seeks to enhance the market for water-efficient homes, products, and services. WaterSense is both a label for homes and products and a resource to help people use water more efficiently.

With the release of the 2009 WaterSense Single-Family New Home Specification, EPA is making it easier for builders and home buyers to practice water efficiency across the country.

EPA developed this specification over several years. The specification is designed to work with other voluntary green building programs, such as the National Green Building Standard, Energy Star, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. Builders and organizations that provide inspection and certification services can now become WaterSense partners and begin constructing homes to earn the WaterSense label.

Designed to use about 20% less water than typical new homes, WaterSense-labeled new homes will be independently inspected and certified by EPA-licensed certification providers. These new homes will feature WaterSense- labeled plumbing fixtures, Energy Star-qualified appliances (if appliances are installed), water-efficient landscaping, and an efficient hot water delivery system.

Residential water use currently accounts for more than half of the publicly supplied water in the United States, and about 1.27 million new homes are built each year. If all new homes built in 2010 were WaterSense labeled, it would save more than 12 billion gallons of water per year, and the homeowners would save more than $130 million in utility bills.

For more information: Learn more about the 2009 WaterSense Single-Family New Home Specification at www.epa.gov/WaterSense/spaces/new_homes.html.

Masco Reaches into the Retrofit Market

Today, homeowners looking to improve their home’s performance have a new resource to turn to in Masco Home Services, a subsidiary of Masco Corporation. Masco Corporation has long been an innovative and important player in using building science to build sustainable, energy efficient homes.

Masco Home Services has long focused on home performance for new construction with its Environments For Living program, a national, turnkey home performance program for residential builders, designed to help them build more energy efficient homes using principles of building science. Since 2001, more than 100,000 homes have been built under the Environments For Living banner.

Now, Masco Home Services is launching WellHome. WellHome is a home performance business serving homeowners who have decided to invest in energy saving measures. WellHome provides customers with a whole-home assessment, advises them on options to improve the home’s performance, and then oversees all the contracting work. At the end of the work, WellHome offers customers a Whole Home Energy Savings Limited Guarantee similar to the guarantees offered by Environments For Living.

WellHome has put together a strong team that draws on experience in building science, home performance, home
performance program management, operations, sales/marketing, and scaling service businesses. They are investing in proper training for employees, including BPI certification. Launched just over a year ago, WellHome has developed its service platform with the belief that demand for home performance will increase greatly in the coming years.

Several factors play into the emergence of the home performance industry. Over the past three decades, many pioneers have built the foundation for the industry. National standards and credentialing are in place through the Building Performance Institute (BPI), Residential Energy Services Network's (RESNET), and other organizations. EPA and DOE have increased awareness of home performance and have established rules for executing Home Performance with Energy Star programs across the country. Private sector individuals and companies working with early champions such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Conservation Services Group (CSG) have produced energy modeling software, productivity and project management software, and powerful training programs for the army of installers needed to meet the emerging pent-up demand.

Masco Home Services recognizes that consumers are increasingly ready for home performance. They have high, fluctuating energy bills caused by uncertainties in commodity fuel markets, the effects of electric utility deregulation, and their own leaky, inefficient homes. They acknowledge the links between their energy use and the effect of energy production on the environment. And perhaps most of all, they just want to be comfortable. What may be holding them back is a lack of awareness of home performance solutions.

With President Obama declaring, “Insulation is sexy,” awareness of the advantages of home performance is likely to increase dramatically. This awareness, combined with the significant incentives available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Jobs Bill and Retrofits for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) legislation pending in Congress, and the proposed HomeStar program (also known as “Cash for Caulkers” which is pending at the time of this writing), is likely to pull home performance into the mainstream of home improvement options. (See “The Basics of REEP,” HE Jan/Feb ’10, p. 18.)

With the aim of becoming a national, branded service provider of turnkey home performance solutions, WellHome opened its first two branches in Nashua, New Hampshire; and Detroit, Michigan in late 2009 and five more locations—Phoenix, Tucson, Dallas, Austin, and Orlando—open on March 1. Fifteen more markets are planned before the end of the year. Early indications are that things are going well in the company’s soft-launch markets; the Detroit and Nashua branches are seeing both considerable demand and high customer satisfaction.

The Masco Home Services team is excited about 2010. It seems as if all roads are leading to an increased focus on home performance leading to rapid expansion plans for the WellHome program.

Richard Clarke
Richard Clarke is vice president of marketing for Masco Home Services.


For more information:
Go to www.mascohomeservices.com.


Finalists for the Imagine H2O Prize Announced

The judges for the Imagine H2O Prize have chosen ten finalists in the inaugural global competition. This year’s prize rewards business plans that offer the greatest promise of breakthroughs in the efficient use and supply of water. Winners will be announced in March.
Created to help find sustainable solutions to global water problems through entrepreneurship, the competition offers prizes of $70,000 in cash; business and legal support; and access to a network of partners, customers, and financiers to help bring the winners' ideas to market.
Entries were submitted from the United States, India, Europe, Canada, and Australia. Teams included CEOs of publicly traded companies, consultants in the water business, and MBA students. Here are just a few of the finalists in the first Imagine H2O Prize competition:

 

  • The Eco Products Group has developed proprietary products that will enable consumers to reduce the use of potable water, create a sanitary sink environment, and reclaim graywater.
  • EcoBeta has developed an online dashboard that gives investors and managers actionable data on the risks that they face from changes in global watersheds.
  • Envirocern has developed a system for delivering ultrapure water to semiconductor foundries using proprietary distillation technology that provides large quantities of water at extremely low cost.

 

The Imagine H2O Prize is intended to become a magnet for all interested parties, and to give the finalists extraordinary exposure to the investment and business community. The inaugural prize focuses on water efficiency (1) in agriculture; (2) in commercial, industrial, or residential applications, such as water demand reduction; (3) in improved water use; and (4) in water recycling and/or reuse. If all of the finalists’ proposed businesses were realized, over 1-trillion gallons of water could be saved annually.

Entries were accepted starting in September 2009, and winners will be announced at a showcase event in March 2010. Future years’ competitions will have different prize topics addressing other critical water problems.


For more information: To learn more about the Imagine H2O Prize, visit www.imagineh2o.org.


 

Swarm of Generators Could Power the Electrical Grid

German energy supplier, LichtBlick AG, working with Volkswagen, has developed an innovative solution, ZuhauseKraftwerk SchwarmStorm: many small units pooling their resources to form a large, high-performance network that generates power.  

100,000 distributed home power plants connected into a decentralized, intelligent power supply system would result in 2,000 megawatts of electrical power that could handle fluctuations in future electricity generation as renewables grow to become a larger component of the power mix.


How it Works

Volkswagen is supplying the high-efficient EcoBlue CHP (combined heat and power) plant that would be installed in individual homes and other buildings. The EcoBlue CHP consists of a Volkswagen engine—four-cylinder 2.0 liter CNG Ecofuel engine—that operates on natural gas connected to a generator. Exhaust from the engine passes through a heat exchanger. The heat is stored in a hot water tank for use when building and hot water heating is needed. Heat storage is needed because the EcoBlue CHP plant is only run on demand when power is needed to smooth grid fluctuations.

Each EcoBlue unit will be connected to a grid operations center that will command startup of the individual unit when it is needed. All electricity produced would be sent to the grid and consumers would still get electricity from their normal electricity supplier. Conventional power plants cannot be started up or shut down fast enough to compensate for fluctuations in power supply from solar or wind energy units as a result of changing weather conditions.

These natural-gas-fired home power plants could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 60 percent. Eventually, they would run on biogas, so they be would CO2 neutral. The developers say the system could accelerate the replacement of coal and nuclear plants to generate electricity. Finally, by using individual units placed inside buildings, they would have minimal impact on the landscape and would require little additional investment.
 
LichtBlick will initially be marketing the home power plants in Hamburg and the first plants will be available for installation this year. LichtBlick will be gradually expanding its marketing efforts to cover all of Germany.

William D. Siuru, Jr.
William D. Siuru, Jr., PhD, PE is a retired USAF Colonel who writes about automotive and green technology. He has taught engineering at the United States Military Academy and United States Airforce Academy.
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