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    Barron Heating’s John Barron Busts Solar Myths – - March 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    As the prevalence of solar energy use increasesthroughout Whatcom County and beyond, its easy to wonder: Is now really theright time to invest in solar power?

    Its a good question, and the folks at Barron Heating AC Electrical &Plumbing will answer with a resounding yes.

    Barron CEO John Barron says there tends to beseveral misconceptions about what investing in a solar energy system can mean.

    The first misconception is specific to ouroften-wet, cloudy environment: that theres not enough sunlight here to make asolar system practical.

    That would absolutely be false, Barron says.Extreme heat can actually degrade solar power production. Solar is looking forlight, not heat. Weve got a lot of days with adequate light, even in thewinter.

    No matter the season in the Pacific Northwest,a southerly exposed roof with clear access to sunlight and mild temperatureswill produce plenty of power, even when accounting for minor dips in especiallycloudy, dark weather.

    A second myth is an idea that a solar arraywill be massive and cover your entire roof. This, too, is not the case. John Barronhas reached net-zero with his Bellingham home with a 30-panel, 10-kW rooftop arraythat covers no more than a quarter of his overall roof. Each panel is about 3.5feet by 5 feet in size.

    Merrill Bevan, Barrons director of sales andmarketing, says Solarby Barron works to help customers design the smallest solar systempossible with their unique whole home approach. By looking at how a buildinguses all forms of energyfrom heating, venting and air conditioning(HVAC) to electrical and plumbingBarron can design a solar array based on yourhomes historic energy consumption and options for maximizing energyefficiency.

    An energy efficient heat pump, a heat pump waterheater, and upgrades in insulation and weatherization are all great solutionsto achieve ultimate energy efficiency. Barron can also use an energy monitoringsystem installed in your home to measure actual energy usage. These testperiods can range from an hour snapshot to a month-long whole-home energyaudit, gathering data to help interpret the specific number of panels needed.

    We bring all of those things to the table sothat instead of using outdated technology that requires a larger footprint forsolar, we can help our customers create the smallest footprint possible throughmechanical and weatherization technologies to be as efficient as they can be, saysBevan.

    A third myth: that investing now will result ininvesting too soon, as solar technology advances to be far more efficient.This, too, is a fallacy.

    Right now, solar panel technology among allmanufacturers has gotten to about 27 points on a 30-point efficiency scale, JohnBarron says. People that invest now are not making an investment thats goingto be short-lived.

    Solar arrays are also extraordinarily durable,Barron continues, saying many of the panels they install are backed by 25-yearguarantees on parts and labor.

    Making the initial investment in solar can givehomeowners pause, but Bevan shares that many Barron customers take advantage ofaffordable low-interest financing for energy smart equipment including solarinstallations. For most customers monthly payments are often no more than theiroriginal electric bills prior to installationin some cases lessandonce paid off, the result of solar is a net-zero energy bill with monthlysavings or free power continuing for the life of the system.

    It was a goal of John Barrons to turn Barrons Ferndale facility into a net-zero campus and he is proud to have achieved just that. Barrons system consists of a 100-kW solar array on the roof of their 35,000 square foot facility and they received a full return on their investment in just three years. Many of Barrons employees have also gone solar for their homes.

    Other financial perks of going solar includethe Federal Solar Tax Credit, which has now been extended. While it was originallyslated to decrease to 22% in 2021 before expiring in 2022, the credit is now remainingat 26% for the next two years. It grants dollar-for-dollar tax decreases toboth individuals and businesses, helping make solar energy installation moreaffordable. Equal to 26% of the total cost of a Solar by Barron energy system,the credit can directly reduce your tax liability by over $5,000.

    Solar by Barron is also currently offering 10% morepower to solar customers who go net-zero with energy usage. Customers get tochoose how theyd like to future proof their homewhether thats to boost theirclean energy output for future home upgrades like a heat pump or electric carcharger station, or as a joint contribution to future-proofing our community bybringing more clean energy into our grid.

    Barrons certified solar designers combineenergy efficient heating and cooling solutions with power from the sun tovirtually eliminate your power bill. The overall effect of making a homesolar-powered and extremely efficient can be profound forthose who live in it, as the team often hears from their customers.

    Its like they live in a different home, JohnBarron says.

    Helping people improve their lives throughsolar gets to the heart of Barrons overall missionone centered around threepillars of comfort, health, and energy efficiency. John Barron says theyreproud of the work they do, and theyre not about to slow down anytime soon.

    Its not just about being a business andmaking money selling solar panels, he says. We want to make a difference inwhat we do. We know what solar does for people and we know what it does for thecommunity as a whole.

    For more on how solar energy can make a difference in both the world and your world, please visit


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    Barron Heating's John Barron Busts Solar Myths -

    Cold-Weather Car Camping: Gear to Enhance Winter on the Road – GearJunkie - March 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Theres no better litmus test for how much Ill use a piece of gear than a wintertime car camping trip. Read on for our cold-weather camping favorites.

    Whether its useful in water, in snow, or around camp,if a product withstands the flogging of these environments, it will serve me well most anywhere.

    This winter, I found a silver lining in isolation, chasing waves along the northern Pacific Coast in my trusty truck camper, Max. I camped at beaches from Santa Cruz, Calif., up to the Canadian border, pulling off for a week of backpacking, and then climbing east for a handful of snow days.

    After a soggy winter of testing gear and warding off cold, I nailed down my current short-list of essential, non-essential gear for wintertime adventure.

    Released this January, the FirePit+ ($250) is a three-fer unit: a smoke-free, wood-burning fire; a charging station; and a grill. Most importantly, it makes campfires safe and convenient, which opens the door to enjoying fires in a variety of places.

    I use it on every truck camping trip, on the deck of my sailboat, and tailgating in the parking lot after particularly cold surf sessions.

    The feature that sold me was the battery pack attachment, which I initially wrote off as a gimmick. The pack clips to the side of the pit and powers a simple, adjustable aeration system designed to help start the fire and keep smoke at bay.

    Thanks to the air jets that line the chamber and pump oxygen to fan the flames, Ive been able to start campfires with just matches and kindling, even in rain and high wind. Once the fires blazing, the smoke disappears thanks to the added aeration.

    The battery pack features a USB port for charging devices, and with the fan on its low setting, it lasts me about 8 hours on a single charge. Pair that with BioLites new cooking accessories a griddle, a reflective fire mat, a barbeque, and some sturdy cooking utensils and the fire pit morphs into a killer BBQ unit. Its a serious crowd-pleaser.

    The self-contained design makes cleanup easy just wait until the coals cool and safely dump them out through the base port. Fully assembled, the legs retract into an easily transportable 2 x 1-foot package that weighs less than 20 pounds. Altogether, it earns its space in my camper.

    The FirePit+ is a major update to BioLites original FirePit,first launched on Kickstarter (which also had a battery pack and smoke-free design). Updates included increased battery life and charging capability, more accessories, and an updated material/ventilation design.

    The full BioLite FirePit+ Bundle With Cooking Accessories retails for $415.

    Check Price at BioLite EnergyCheck Price at REI

    Patagonias newly redesigned Yulex wetsuit is like the Cadillac of cold-water armor, but with a much smaller carbon footprint.

    After rocking the 2017 model for 2 years (it finally ripped at the ankle seam), I picked up the new hooded Yulex R4 ($549) last fall. The upgrades in comfort were immediately noticeable. The 5.5/4mm suit, a combination of natural rubber and 100% recycled polyester and spandex, kept me toasty in sub-50-degree Washington saltwater. And it pairswell with Patagonias R4 booties and R2 gloves.

    Where typical 5/4s are debilitatingly stiff, the R4s redesigned seam pattern across the shoulders offers flexibility akin to a much thinner suit. This translated to more range of motion and paddle power for surfing. It also dries insanely fast, an attribute Ive praised endlessly on cold days.

    As for durability, the R4 now features wider tape and upgraded glue on the seams, making it less prone to tears, which was my only grievance with the 2017 model. Its the most comfortable 5/4mm wetsuit Ive ever tried.

    And its also the most sustainably produced wetsuit of all time, which makes wearing it feel even better. (Patagonia made the Yulex sustainable by using Rainforest Alliance FSC-certified natural rubber instead of neoprene.)

    Check Price at Patagonia

    The MAX ($499) is a staple in my repertoire in any season. It makes for especially epic footage on powder runs, in big surf, and for timelapse videos on the road. Its the most versatile camera Ive ever worked with, essentially three cameras in one. Plus, it comes with a handful of digital lenses that drastically expand the shot potential.

    First, the GoPro MAX is a 6K 360-degree cam, with two back-to-back 180-degree lenses on either side of the camera. This gives the camera a spherical view and makes pointing the camera less critical, which is a huge advantage for amateur GoPro users. With the right angle, the 360-degree footage looks like an overhead follow-cam, akin to a drone shot, which is an especially mindblowing view inside a barreling wave.

    Secondly, the MAX is also a HERO camera GoPros famous point-and-shoot model and can accomplish wide- or standard-frame shooting. Its got a Power Pano mode, which captures distortion-free, 270-degree wide-frame photos. And TimeWarp mode can create fluid timelapse videos in both MAX and HERO modes.

    The MAX also houses an upgrade of six mini-microphones for awesome sound quality without the need for an external microphone. And you can edit the footage one frame at a time in the GoPro app on your smartphone. (You can also adjust other camera settings within the app too.) Really, there are too many reasons to invest in the GoPro MAX. Its simply awesome.

    But the most impressive feature of the MAX, for me, is the HyperSmooth technology, an integrated stabilization function that incorporates horizon leveling for a smooth, fluid shot, no matter the turbulence during your chosen activity. Its waterproof up to 15 feet without any housing and has a viewfinder built into the body.

    The only wintertime disadvantage of the MAX is the cold it doesnt like subzero temps. If youre using it in the snow, I recommend keeping it in a pocket or wrapped in a handwarmer to save battery.

    Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

    The RinseKit POD ($140) portable shower has been my solution for staying clean and warm for multiple seasons now. I use it for hot showers, hosing down gear, and even bathing the dog while on the road.

    The POD fills from any sink or hose tap, which connects directly to the 1.74-gallon reservoir via an included adapter. The reservoir is automatically pressurized by the spigot, and once full it holds pressure for up to a month. If the pressure is lost for any reason, the tank can be re-pressurized with a separately sold pressure booster. We tried it and found it always does the trick.

    Bundle that with my favorite accessory the DC-powered Hot Rod Water Heater ($70) to create a hot shower that warms directly from your cars cigarette lighter! And if your cars 12V jack is broken (like mine is), RinseKit also offers a hot water sink adapter.

    The POD is the smaller of two RinseKit models. The larger is the RinseKit+, which offers a 2-gallon reservoir and can hold pressure for up to 2 months. Ive owned both models, but the POD works best for me. Id say thats partially due to the PODs compactness and partially because the RinseKit+s reservoir blew out on me after a few months of use. But when Ive had issues, RinseKits customer service is always quick to resolve the problem.

    Check RinseKit POD Price at AmazonCheck Hot Rod Heater Price at RinseKit

    For a no-frills, durable rooftop cargo box that wont blow your budget, I like the SportsRack Horizon Alpine. Its a simple solution that got me through a rugged winter. I scored mine on Craigslist for $80, but you can find it new online for around $300, a low price point that, for me, is the biggest draw (I just cant justify spending $1,000-plus on a cargo box).

    The Horizon Alpine boasts an 11-cubic-foot carrying capacity. Its modest, but enough to fit two or three snowboards with bindings, as well as boots and a few smaller items. If you need more space, the Horizon XL is a similar build but with 17 cubic feet of capacity.

    The Alpine isnt awkwardly bulbous, unnecessarily heavy, or overly designed like some roof boxes. And while its not the most bulletproof box on market, the thin ABS material still held up under the weight of heavy snow.

    I wouldnt trust this box with my life savings, but its enough to give me peace of mind in most places. It fits snug on my trucks custom round-bar roof rack and can adjust to fit most factory racks. Another bonus: It was light enough to easily install by myself. It also features a quick-release mounting system for equally simple removal.

    The Horizon Alpine is my budget-friendly answer to an otherwise absurdly expensive car camping luxury. If money wasnt an issue, Id look to the Yakima CBX Solar, which features a built-in solar panel and two USB ports (as well as a $1,300 price tag).

    Check Price at Amazon

    We spent a day riding powder with 57hours guide Willie Benegas. Here's what it's like to backcountry splitboard with a guide and the gear we tested. Read more

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    Cold-Weather Car Camping: Gear to Enhance Winter on the Road - GearJunkie

    Preparation and the Lack Thereof – San Saba News & Star - March 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    I know I have talked here before about self-sufficiency. I would imagine most people in San Saba County operate at a higher level of self-sufficiency than does the average urbanite or suburbanite. When a person lives out away from shops that are open 24/7, same day delivery of nearly anything, and services of various types, that person must be more self-sufficient.

    Never have I been more glad to be self-sufficient than during the arctic weather we experienced a couple of weeks ago. To be clear, there were many things that we could have been better prepared for, and we in northern San Saba County had a way easier time of things than did the folks in the path of the ice storms, like those in Gillespie County. I will take powdery snow over ice any day.

    Making the choice 10 years ago to switch to a propane stove and to install a small propane space heater made me feel pretty smart. I felt especially smart when I was making coffee in my little stovetop espresso maker every morning and heating water on the stove for a washrag bath every evening. Another thing that made me feel smart is the well-stocked pantry that I keep. A year ago at the start of the pandemic, I got caught with my pants down by being completely out of flour, so when I found a 25-pound bag, I bought it. Since then, I have kept very close tabs on that pantry.

    Let me assure you that there were plenty of things that made me feel pretty stupid, too, like not following through quickly enough with my plan to install more propane space heaters and like letting my chickens out the first day of the storm leading to three of them getting frostbitten combs. My husband and I started right in compiling a list of things we need to do differently in the future so that we will be better prepared for disasters of most any kind.

    This past weekend I took a trip down to Port Arthur and can report that the landscape is devastated in Southeast Texas. Nearly every type of vegetation is brown and appears to be dead, even live oak trees. The hotels around Port Arthur and Beaumont were full of people whose houses in Houston are uninhabitable due to broken plumbing. Every big grocery store I passed from Austin down to Port Arthur was packed, and I heard people reporting that staple food items were wiped out everywhere they went. I stopped by the HEB in Lampasas to do a little restocking on the way home and found everything I needed, but some sections were completely empty. Wildlife have suffered, too, as we are hearing of die-offs of fish, birds, and exotic animals. I expect it will take a while before we have the full measure of the damage that was done.

    On the positive side, I have heard many reports of people helping other people. I know of many people in our community who have stepped up and done the hard work to get us all back on track, and I would like to thank all of you. Between our tendency for self-sufficiency and our good fortune to live in a friendly rural area, I think we came out of the storm in much better shape than some of our urban neighbors. I sincerely hope that we have seen the last of our trials for awhile.

    Original post:
    Preparation and the Lack Thereof - San Saba News & Star

    SoCalGas Offers Tips on Saving Money on Utility Bills – NBC Southern California - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Southern California Gas Co. Friday offered energy savings tips and tools to help customers save money on their utility bills during cold weather.

    According to the utility, it's possible to use three to seven times more natural gas than in summer months as home heaters respond to thermostat settings and water heaters work harder to keep water hot.

    "As the weather changes, so does our consumption of natural gas. In order to keep our homes warm, our heating systems are running more frequently resulting in an increased usage of natural gas. A few simple changes can help reduce energy bills,'' said Brian Prusnek, SoCalGas' director of customer programs and assistance.

    "This is also the time to make sure all customers who are eligible for bill assistance and no-cost energy savings programs are aware of these resources which can further reduce natural gas bills,'' he said.

    The utility recommends taking the following steps to reduce natural gas use and manage energy costs:

    SoCalGas also encourages customers who are having trouble paying for their monthly natural gas bill to apply for the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program. Eligible customers receive a 20% discount on their monthly natural gas bill.

    The Energy Savings Assistance program provides eligible SoCalGas customers with home improvements, at no cost to the renter or homeowner, that help conserve energy, reduce natural gas use and enhance the safety, health and comfort of the renter or homeowner.

    Dozens of cars, including two Iowa State Patrol cars, got stuck in a pileup on an icy interstate outside of Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday.

    To learn more about the utility's customer assistance programs, visit

    As part of its COVID-19 response, SoCalGas suspended service disconnections for residential and small business customers. That means customers will not have their natural gas service turned off if they are unable to pay.

    For more information on SoCalGas's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit

    Originally posted here:
    SoCalGas Offers Tips on Saving Money on Utility Bills - NBC Southern California

    It’s Gotten Chillier. Here’ Are Tips and Tools From SoCalGas to Help You Save Money on Utility Bills Pasadena Weekendr – Pasadena Now - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    During cold weather like weve experienced over the last several weeks, it is possible to use three to seven times more natural gas than in summer months as your home heater responds to your thermostat settings and your water heater works harder to keep water hot.

    As the weather changes, so does our consumption of natural gas. In order to keep our homes warm, our heating systems are running more frequently resulting in an increased usage of natural gas. A few simple changes can help reduce energy bills, said Brian Prusnek, SoCalGas director of customer programs and assistance.

    This is also the time to make sure all customers who are eligible for bill assistance and no-cost energy savings programs are aware of these resources which can further reduce natural gas bills.

    Customers can take these steps to reduce their natural gas use and manage energy costs:

    Lowering your thermostat three to five degrees can save up to 10 percent on heating costs.

    Install proper caulking and weather-stripping; this can save roughly 10 to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs.

    Wash clothes in cold water to save up to 10 percent on water heating costs.

    Clean or replace your furnace filters according to manufacturer recommendations.

    Have your air ducts tested for leaks. Leaky ducts can increase heating costs by 10 to 30 percent.

    Turn down the temperature on your water heater.

    Take shorter showers to reduce your natural gas use.

    Fix leaky faucets and pipes. Hot water leaks cause increased demand on the water heater, which increases natural gas use. One drop of water per second can waste 500 gallons of hot water per year.

    SoCalGas says it works to secure the best prices for the natural gas it supplies to customers. The company said the cost customers pay for natural gas is what the utility pays. The utility also offers customer assistance programs that help people with bill discounts and provide free home improvements that help conserve energy and save money.

    To learn more about SoCalGas energy-saving programs and services or for more information on how to more efficiently manage natural gas usage and possibly reduce monthly natural gas bills, click here. Customers with questions about their winter bill can go to My Account at or call 800-427-2200.

    SoCalGas also encourages customers who are having trouble paying for their monthly natural gas bill to apply for one of their customer assistances programs. The utilitys customer assistance programs include:

    California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program, offers eligible customers a 20 percent discount on their monthly natural gas bill. The discount is applied to the monthly natural gas bill following the date that the application is approved by SoCalGas.

    Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) provides eligible customers with home improvements, at no cost to the renter or homeowner, that help conserve energy, reduce natural gas use and enhance the safety, health, and comfort of the renter or homeowner. SoCalGas provides this service to approximately 100,000 customers each year. Over 1.5 million homes have received upgrades through the ESA program.

    To learn more about SoCalGas customer assistance programs, please visit

    As part of its COVID-19 response, SoCalGas suspended service disconnections for residential and small business customers. That means customers will not have their natural gas service turned off if they are unable to pay.

    For more information on SoCalGass response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit

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    It's Gotten Chillier. Here' Are Tips and Tools From SoCalGas to Help You Save Money on Utility Bills Pasadena Weekendr - Pasadena Now

    Save money and stay comfy with simple energy-saving tips – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    We may be entering the coldest part of winter, but you and your energy bill dont have to suffer. Instead of cranking up the thermostat when it is cold outside, take some free or low-cost steps to make your home more energy efficient. This will help save money on your power bill while also keeping you comfortable.

    With many customers still working or taking on other activities from home due to the pandemic, managing and conserving your energy usage is more important than ever.

    Remember, heating and air conditioning can account for more than 50 percent of a homes energy use. Setting the thermostat to 68 degrees during the winter months is an easy way to reduce your energy usage. Every degree above 68 degrees can increase your bill by about three percent. So, if you crank it up to 78 degrees, for example, you could add 30 percent to your bill.

    Adjusting the thermostat is but one way to keep your heater or other appliances from going into overdrive. You can also:

    Seal air leaks. Install weather stripping around your doors, windows and any location where there is a path between the inside and outside of your home or business.

    Conserve hot water. Wrap your electric water heater with a water heater blanket from a home improvement store and set the thermostat to 120 degrees or medium.

    Keep all doors and windows closed. Constant opening will let out warm air, forcing your heater to work harder to keep the room at the set temperature.

    Ensure fans are turning the right way. Run fans at a low speed clockwise during the winter. Since heat rises, this setting will help push the air back down toward you.

    Keep the air circulating. Do not block heat registers or air returns with curtains or furniture.

    Leverage the sun. During the day, open your curtains and blinds to let in the warm sunlight. Close them at night to reduce heat loss.

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    Save money and stay comfy with simple energy-saving tips - Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

    With frigid temperatures in the days ahead, firefighters caution against unsupervised use of space heaters – KTVI Fox 2 St. Louis - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    ST. LOUIS Theres a new warning about fire dangers with prolonged extreme cold in the forecast for St. Louis.

    An overturned space heater likely sparked a deadly garage fire in south St. Louis, according to firefighters.

    It was not the kind of call you would necessarily think would end in tragedy. Firefighters responded to a garage fire on South Spring near Osceola just after 10 p.m. Saturday.

    Investigators werent sure if the man who died fell asleep in the garage before the fire broke out but said there were signs he was trying to make things warm for his pets.

    The individual, according to initial reports, was using an electric space heater in the garage trying to keep his dogs warm, said St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson.

    In December, space heaters sparked a fire that chased a family of sevenincluding five children ages 6 and underfrom their south St. Louis home, according to firefighters. All survived but they lost everything.

    With extreme cold, even below zero temperatures expected over the next week, Jenkerson advised people to simply avoid using known fire hazards like space heaters or electric blankets.

    If you must, make sure they are tagged with a UL listing; do not plug them into power strips or extension cords; keep them at least three feet away from everything on all sides.

    If you have to use one, keep it in the middle of the room. Only use it if youre in the room with it. When you leave the room, turn it off, Jenkerson said.

    Jeff Holmes, an electrician with the IBEW training center in St. Louis, advised people to check all cords and outlets for discoloration or fraying, use GFCI outlets if possible, and do not use an overloaded circuit.

    The longer the cords, the more heat escapes from the wires, he said.

    Any time you have current flow you have heat. So, you want to make sure you eliminate as much heat as you possibly can. Let all the heat come out of the appliance youre trying to use for heating the area not the cords and other (things) that go with that, Holmes said. The closer you can plug into the outlet itself, the less amount of heat youre going to draw because of that distance you have a voltage drop then you cause more current to flow, so you want to keep that distance as short as possible.

    Heres a link for more tips, which include:

    Space Heaters/Electric Blankets Never use an extension cord for an electrical heating appliance, such as a space heater or an electric blanket. The cord provided with the heating device is properly rated and should be connected directly to the electrical outlet. Inspect your space heater and discard it if it shows deterioration, particularly around the plug-in cord, or it lacks a functioning automatic shut off if tipped over. Watch where you place the space heaters to keep it away from combustible materials. Keep children away from space heaters. Closely inspect electric blankets and heating pads and discard them if you note any potential fire hazard, such as discoloration due to overheating or exposed wiring. Extension Cords Never use an extension cord for an extended time as a permanent or temporary wiring solution. Extension cords arent made to be used for long periods of time and can result in electrical fires. When you are using an extension cord, always ensure that the plug has all three prongs. This ensures that your cord will stay properly grounded, which could prevent the cord from overloading. Any extension cords without the third prong should be discarded immediately. Outlets Dont overload sockets with plugs that could start a fire. Any electrical outlets in your home that are near a water sourcesinks, bathtubs, washing machinesrequire a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) according to the National Electrical Code. A GFCI is a fast-acting circuit breaker that shuts down your electricity as quickly as 1/40 of a second after a fault occurs. If youre missing a GFCI an electrical professional can easily install one for you. Wiring Visually inspect your homes service panel and note any potential concerns. Contact a licensed professional if the panel is not firmly attached to the wall or wires are not neatly enclosed within their protective box or if the deterioration is noted. Also, contact a licensed professional if you note wiring connection points are not capped with a wire connector and enclosed within an appropriate UL approved junction box.

    If youre worried about a heater being safe, call the fire department, Jenkerson said.

    Firefighters will check them out for you and remember theyll install free smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, too.

    Original post:
    With frigid temperatures in the days ahead, firefighters caution against unsupervised use of space heaters - KTVI Fox 2 St. Louis

    Dangerous Cold in the Chicago Area: The Advice and Tips You Should Know About – NBC Chicago - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    As temperatures drop, things can get dangerous.

    It's important to be prepared, take precautions and know your resources.

    Here's a look at some things you should know as brutal cold descends on the Chicago area.

    How Do I Know If I Have Hypothermia?

    Hypothermia is caused by a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees or less, which can become deadly, officials said.

    Signs of hypothermia include:

    According to a release, infants and the elderly are more at risk of hypothermia, which should not be treated at home. Individuals suspected to have the condition should be treated at a hospital.

    How Should I Avoid Frostbite?

    Frostbite could set in on exposed skin in as little as 15 minutes, officials said. The face, ears, hands and feet tend to be the most commonly impacted.

    According to a release, frostbite skin is whitish and stiff, and tends to feel numb rather than painful.

    In order to treat frostbite, officials advised to warm the affected part of the body gradually before seeking medical attention.

    "Wrap the frostbitten area in blankets, sweaters, coats, etc. and seek medical attention immediately," a release said.

    Officials warned to not rub frostbitten areas of the skin because the friction can damage the tissue.

    Though officials advised people in the Chicago area stay indoors during the cold, these are some ways to keep warm should residents need to go outside, according to a release:

    Driving Tips

    If travel is necessary in subzero temperatures, officials urge commuters to watch for scattered slick spots likely forming on ramps, overpasses, bridges and shaded areas overnight.

    The team at IDOT will be monitoring the roads, treating them as necessary, and assisting motorists as needed, Acting Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said. Please make sure to have the necessary supplies and equipment in your vehicle should you encounter problems, and do not leave your vehicle in the event of a breakdown. Call for help and wait for assistance to arrive.

    Drivers should share the roadways, officials advised, as Illinois law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching police, first responders and broken-down vehicles.

    In addition, a release said drivers should slow down when approaching snow plows and maintenance vehicles, giving workers more room to operate.

    Things to Keep in Your Car

    All vehicles should have an emergency kit equipped with the following items in case an individual becomes stranded, according to Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau:

    The Illinois Tollway also recommends keeping gloves, boots, blankets, road flares, water and aflashlight with fresh batteries in your car.

    Other travel advice from the Illinois Tollway includes:

    For up to date road conditions, clickhere.

    Ways to Save Money During the Colder Months

    Little changes can add up to big savings with these weatherization tips, Nicor Gas recommends:

    How Can I Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning When Heating My Home?

    Properly heating the home during excessively cold temperatures is necessary during winter months, officials warned.

    According to a release, more than 400 people die every year in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, which is found in fuels from cars, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces.

    Here are some tips to avoid CO buildup:

    According to Nicor Gas, checking that outdoor vent openings and air intakes are not obstructed by snow and ice can help "ensure the safe, proper operation of natural gas appliances, such as a furnace or water heater," which can prevent the potentially hazardous buildup of carbon monoxide within a home or business.

    Signs of CO poisoning include: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion, a release said.

    Things to Remember When Removing Snow or Ice

    Nicor Gas urged customers to "exercise caution removing snow or ice from your natural gas meter assembly."

    Tips include:

    Space Heater Safety

    Peoples Gas recommends those who must use a space heed the following advice:

    Preparing Your Home in Case of a Power Outage

    The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes recommends taking the following steps to prepare for a power outage during cold weather:

    What Should I Do If the Power Goes Out?

    The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes also recommends:

    Things to Know About Generators

    The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes says:

    What to Do After a Power Outage

    According to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, you should follow the below tips once your power is restored:

    Cook County Animal and Rabies Control offered the following tips for pet owners:

    What about feral or wild animals?

    What if you see mistreatment?

    While laws in some municipalities may require only that pet owners provide food, water and a shelter, an outside dog house may not be suitable during severe cold weather. All residents are urged to be alert to pets being left outside for extended periods and to call authorities if they see an animal that could be in danger.

    According to data from the state, 46% of individuals rely on people in their neighborhood for assistance within the first 72 hours of an emergency.

    State officials advised people to check in with neighbors over the weekend either asking for or offering help.

    There are dangerous health conditions that can occur specifically in severe winter weather, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. Its important to watch for signs of extreme cold. Knowing the warning signs of dangerously cold weather and the health conditions they can cause can help you stay safe and healthy.

    Here's a list of warming centers across Chicago.

    To find a warming center near you in Illinois, click here.

    Calling 311:

    Read the original here:
    Dangerous Cold in the Chicago Area: The Advice and Tips You Should Know About - NBC Chicago

    Tetra Tech’s Brian Goldcrump Discusses the Impact of Building System Electrification on Lowering the Carbon Footprint of New and Existing Buildings -… - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Published 02-08-21

    Submitted by Tetra Tech

    High Performance Buildings

    Brian Goldcrump has more than 10 years of experience in building design and energy modeling and leads the Tetra Tech High Performance Building Groups building energy modeling teams in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. Brian works with clients in the early design phases to understand and advise on energy system options and the best paths for each project. He is particularly interested in post-occupancy building performance, helping owners understand that performance, and ensuring the building is performing as expected. He has helped the Tetra Tech building energy group evolve over time to support Tetra Tech as a leader in the industry.

    Brian holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University,San Luis Obispo. He is a certified LEED Accredited Professional, a member of the International Living Future Institute, and is a sustainability mentor at Portland State University in Oregon.

    What is the impact of electrification on decarbonizing a building?

    Building electrification is removing natural gas from our building designs, which contributes to decarbonizing a building. In a typical building, we have gas as the heating source, so either a gas boiler, a gas-powered HVAC unit with a furnace in it, or we have gas as the domestic water heater. Electrification is switching those gas heating sources to electric sources. We can make this change because the electrical grid that is powering our buildings is becoming cleaner. Many statesincluding all three states on the U.S. West Coastnow require utilities to improve their renewable portfolio of sources that produce their power. Washington and California are requiring utilities to use 100 percent renewable power by 2045. Since the power grid is decarbonizing by removing our natural gas emissions, our buildings will eventually be zero emission buildings once they are electrified.

    Does decarbonizing buildings depend on state regulations, or is it feasible in other jurisdictions or states?

    The key driver behind this movement is the decarbonization of the electric power grid at the state policy level. There are 31 U.S. states that have similar requirementssimilar policy shifts are happening globally, such as the recentchanges of approachin the Australian provinces of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. At the same time, renewables are becoming cheaper. For example, the last remaining coal power plant in Oregon was recently shut down, 20 years ahead of schedule. Thats because it's currently cheaper to install renewable plants than to run an old coal plant.

    There was an inflection point in 2019 in which wind power was cheaper than natural gas in California. So, the economics in the policy are playing off each other in a very symbiotic way, creating a market where renewables are becoming cheaper on the utility scale. So, to answer the question, a whole host of factors contribute to it in addition to state policy, including governments significant financial contribution to research in this area.

    Is decarbonization a process that's only limited to new buildings, or is it something that we can use to lower operational carbon in existing buildings?

    It is not limited to new builds. There is a ton of discussion, particularly at the university level, about decarbonizing campuses by changing the central plant. Most universities have centralized steam systems that run on natural gas that distribute steam throughout the campus. Manycampuses, including almost all the major ones on the West Coast, are looking at what they can do about their existing steam systems or their existing natural gas systems. We just did a study with the California State University system to provide a roadmap for decarbonizing all their existing buildings.

    It is possible for existing buildings as well. It requires a thorough feasibility study upfront, however, to determine the best way towards electrification.

    Why is there so much interest at the university level?

    Many universities have some form of climate action plan. Most of those climate action plans have a carbon neutrality pledge, such as being carbon neutral by 2030. When they look at where most of their emissions come from as a campus, they find that a lot comes from gas burning on-site.

    They're also looking at lower lifecycle costs for these systemsparticularly with steam. A lot of the steam systems are old and have a lot of maintenance issues. Switching to an electrified hot water system makes more sense in the long term from a lifecycle perspective.

    We are seeing it discussed more at the primary and secondary education level as well. Beyond the education market, many private commercial companies, including all the large tech companies, have a similar carbon neutrality pledge. Most of them are looking at electrification to reduce or eliminate their carbon emissions.

    Does this represent a paradigm shift in how the building industry defines sustainability?

    I think that's right. The design industry has been thinking about it from a more holistic emission standpoint for a long time, but these state laws and utility changes are driving broader action.

    For example, in Portland, Oregon, the power source is relatively dirty and has a lot of coal. Until recently, from an emission standpoint, natural gas heating made more sense. With Portland General Electric closing their last coal plant, and Pacific Power in Oregon getting a lot more renewables installed, it's now starting to make more sense to remove gas and just look at electric as these grids evolve.

    Seattle, on the other hand, is almost entirely driven by hydroelectric power, which has zero emissions. Seattle has electrification in its city code, and they provide a slight incentive for electrified systems. Electrification makes sense for our clients thereand as other grids evolve, it will start spreading to other cities as well.

    What is the impact of electrification on decarbonization?

    It depends, but its generally a very positive impact. We create interactive dashboards using energy modeling and predictive analytics to look at how different building systems function within different power grids and show emissions impacts under various conditions. This helps inform our clients decision-making, guiding them towards more sustainable and cost-effective options.

    Looking at this tool, you can see if you are on Oregons Pacific Power, which is 63 percent coal, your emissions are lower for an electrified four-pipe system than a variable air volume system, which would use gas.

    But if you're on Seattle City Light, your emissions are already almost zero, because of their reliance on hydroelectric power.

    So, for this example building on Pacific Power, electrification is a massive, immediate impact because the power grid is so dirty right now, especially when compared to Seattle. But over the long term, you're saving 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. It is a big impact.

    Does electrification make sense for private owners, such as those looking to build a mixed-use development or a stadium?

    None of this is newits just a different way of thinking about the building. Heat pump technology has been around forever. We've been using it in our homes for a long time. And as grids become cleaner and there's a larger push towards electrification, the prices are coming down and the technology is improving.

    So, it's similar to when variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems were introduced to the country more than 20 years ago: It was expensive and was not understood very well. But 10 years later, we essentially consider VRF to be our entry level into electrification. It's a simple and cost-effective method, and our primary task is communicating to building owners about what it means.

    Building owners are becoming more aware of the risks inherent in having gas on-site. Combustion on-site damages your air quality. In the wake of a global pandemic that has major impacts on our lungs, having better air quality on-site is a huge deal. I think owners are becoming much more aware of those issues, and it's becoming more of a selling point for electrification.

    What international developments can we expect to see having impacts in the United States in the next 5 to 15 years?

    I think the big one is heat pump and heat pump chiller and heat recovery chiller technology, which are already here and just starting off slowly. It's our preferred system for electrification and is starting to see some deeper penetration into the market as the technology improves and prices come down. It's the next wave of systems that we think will be a big driver towards electrification for the right application. It's really on us as engineers to educate owners, clients, facilities, and partners.

    The other one that we would love to see more of is ground source technology. That's also not new, but it's currently expensive to drill. We've been working on ground source projects for years, most recently at theBroadway Office Development in San Antonio, and they have a ton of benefits besides just emissions. Building owners love ground source systemsbecause they're very low maintenance, super durable, and very resilient. It's the drilling cost that really killed a lot of those projects upfront. As demand grows, cost should come down as well.

    See the article here:
    Tetra Tech's Brian Goldcrump Discusses the Impact of Building System Electrification on Lowering the Carbon Footprint of New and Existing Buildings -...

    Energy Efficiency Before Going Solar: How Much Difference In The Cost Does It Make? – CleanTechnica - February 9, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Rooftop or on-site solar can often generate enough power for homes, businesses, and industry, helping customers become resilient and self-sufficient, and giving them a stable price for clean electricity for decades to come. If youre in the market for solar, though, one thing needs to be top of mind: the price you pay for your solar is based on your consumption, so if you can reduce your consumption first, you can get an even better financial investment out of your solar.

    There are a ton of variables, of course, but suffice it to say, the savings are real. Ill use my house as a case study. I set the baseline for energy consumption for several months before doing an energy efficiency retrofit. Turns out our home was using 1600 kWh per month. I called a local solar company and got a bid:

    The solar company matched our existing bill to what would be needed to zero out said bill. This price is the out the door price, and the sticker shock usually cripples people, so solar companies usually offer $0 down financing, and just do a monthly payment slightly less than the original electric bill, to make it easy for customers.

    I started with the easy stuff switching to LEDs, high efficiency faucets and showers, and a couple of advanced power strips and timers. I hung a couple of clotheslines and showed my housemates how to use them. This cost approximately $600.

    Then I looked at two of the three refrigerators we had (its a triplex), and determined that they could be serious energy hogs, so I found one Energy Star fridge at a secondhand store and one from Lowes, with rebates from our local utility, and this came out to a grand total of a $700 investment to upgrade two fridges.

    We then watched what happened to our bill, and the results were immediate, dropping down to 1000 kWh per month for a couple of months, a 35% reduction. This is not what I would expect to be normal. First, our house really committed to the clotheslines, and we eventually got rid of our dryer to make space in our cramped, shared laundry room. Next, we do not have central AC or heat, so the efficiency work described above made a larger percentage improvement than it would in many homes with central HVAC. HVAC, dryer, and refrigerators tend to be some of the biggest energy users in the house. Regardless, a drop of 15-20% for the above improvements would be pretty typical, I would imagine.

    Now I went back and got a bid based on the new usage. The hardware dramatically changed, reducing the need for panels and batteries in order to get me to a zeroed out electric bill. From 35 panels to 23, and from 3 Tesla Powerwalls to 1.

    This dramatically cut the proposed cost:

    After installation, it became clear that I should have still opted for at least a second Powerwall, as my battery died most nights at about 4 AM, and then we paid full price per kWh from 4 til 9 AM, so we didnt zero out the bill entirely in the winter months. But for the year after solar install, we had zero bill for 8-9 months, and after upgrading to a solar water heater, the bill went to zero for the whole year on just the one battery.

    A lot of caveats, a sample size of one, and variables galore I get it. But the results speak pretty loudly. With a thousand or so bucks worth of investment in home efficiency, it cut the net (after incentives) cost of my solar by more than $20,000, and more than 50%.

    The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy posted an article about efficiency being the jelly to solars peanut butter. They both work on their own, but together theyre magic. ACEEEs analysis found that energy efficiency combined with solar changed the equation dramatically. Without doing the efficiency, solar was able to generate 50% of the residential energy load in only 9 of 24 states they analyzed. With efficiency, that number jumped to 23 of 24, and six of the states surpassed 75% with the combo.

    The authors concluded,Energy efficiency will generally be less expensive per kWh than solar. And by lowering consumption, energy efficiency will stretch the available rooftop solar resource farther, allowing solar to serve a higher percent of residential consumption while also allowing a smaller and less expensive solar system.

    That, and it will save the building owners some serious bank on their solar systems. The difference for me was roughly 2/3 the cost of a new Tesla Model 3.

    More here:
    Energy Efficiency Before Going Solar: How Much Difference In The Cost Does It Make? - CleanTechnica

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