Homebuyers should be wary of Energy Star claims

Anyone believing the real-estate hype these days is hearing that the market is turning around. Never mind the real indicators we'll skip that discussion for the moment.

Energy Star homes are built to have a more efficient "envelope" to help keep the house comfortable while using less energy. It is a part of the same program that rates appliances, computers etc. The process of getting a home qualified is pretty straight forward. Build to a standard, use the right materials and get the house inspected. The EPA has a nice description of the process and differences.

The problem is that just because a builder has a design that meets the specs doesn't mean it will really be very efficient. Sure if the standards are followed the envelope will be good. However, it doesn't mean the design is good. Take for example the house we're in now. To be clear it doesn't seem that this house actually was qualified with an inspection rather it's a design built to the standard.

Going green, going local

A story called Eco-nomical: Buying Local on Weekend Edition Sunday suggests buying local is the ecological win. The story mentions the benefits that buying from a local store has a greater impact on the local economy than does buying from a big-box national chain. Unfortunately it has some suggestions that just don't add up.

The story suggests that buying from local shops instead of big boxes will mean driving less. Certainly reducing driving is a good thing but does it work this way? With big box stores concentrated in one area it's likely to be that people drive less when they visit the big box stores. A certain number of local stores will be scattered around the big boxes but reaching the number of them necessary to pick up things that one can get in a department store takes quite a bit more driving. Internet shopping is mentioned as a last resort in the story.

Green conference bags

One of the popular mainstream media items at the moment is shining some light on the "green" reusable bags that many stores and other places have these days. See it turns out that if you use a bag that is made to be reused just once it is a terrible waste of energy and generates a mountain of additional waste. However in many cases such as Friday's Wall Street Journal article on the matter talk in the same breath about how many conferences are giving these bags away. What is incongruous about this is that it completely misses the point that the conferences would not be giving away the light-weight grocery-store bags but much heavier, more costly and resource intensive bags. And that instead of attendees taking an easily reusable bag away they would have once taken a bag that could only be added to the closet or recycled.

Compact fluorescent light

"How many bloggers does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Seth Godin asked last week. Godin's post is an attempt to virally blog the benefits of compact fluorescent light bulbs. Compact fluorescent (CF) light bulbs were once more expensive up front but money savers long term. Today they are not so expensive up front (averaging $2 each) and as Godin puts it "If we switched all our bulbs, we could stop importing oil altogether. Without giving up one Hummer."

I'm afraid we won't be adding to the numbers of CF bulbs in use. That comes from the fact that all the bulbs we can use CF bulbs in are already CF. The one that isn't is the light in the oven. A few small desk lamps also run bulbs that there is no CF equivalent for. As those lamps are replaced the bulbs will be of a type compatible with CF bulbs.

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