Green Buildings Are Worth More

Cap rates for LEED certified commercial buildings are ½ percentage point better than for standard, non-green buildings.  Green building is a nice concept, but the marketplace’s acceptance will really help it take hold.

In Eugene and Springfield, there are very few LEED certified buildings so it’s hard to know how they’ll fare in the marketplace.  One problem with both commercial and residential green buildings is that appraisers don’t yet value them appropriately.  Of course, that will change—but for now it can cause problems if lenders are involved.

More buildings are going green these days.

Recycle Those Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Fluorescent light bulbs are becoming more and more popular in homes—so much so that incandescent light bulbs are being phased out in the U.S.  Why?  Because flourescent light bulbs are proven to help residents save money on their utility bills.  But, the downside of the fluorescent bulb is that they contain mercury.  Therefore it is very important that these bulbs be recycled.  In Eugene and Springfield, Jerry’s, among other places will accept fluorescent bulbs for recycling.

Tip: If you are selling your home, making sure you have operable light bulbs (non burnt-out) in the highest wattage rated for the fixture is one way of helping your home seem bright.

Fed Money to go Green

New Programs from the Federal Economic Stimulus Package provide money for home energy savings, including high efficiency gas equipment. One of the standouts is tankless water heaters. Oregon homeowners converting to natural gas can now receive a combined incentive package worth up to $2,200. Existing gas customers are eligible for up to $2,040.

The stimulus plan allows for a 30 percent federal tax credit off installation costs, up to $1,500. This credit can be combined with a $200 rebate from The Energy Trust of Oregon and an Oregon State tax credit up to $340. Also, Rinnai dealers are offering new NW Natural gas customers a $160 gas credit. Northwest Natural can be reached in Eugene at: 342-3661.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.flame

Tankless water heaters: Hot water or Hot air?

Tankless hotwater heaters are all the rage right now. Claims of decreased energy usage by ½ are common. These are also called instant hot water heaters, which leads to confusion. While a good product for certain uses, shelling out the dough for tankless hotwater heater will not necessarily green up the planet.

In Western Oregon, there may be no or very little energy savings when tankless are compared to conventional hotwaters, if both are located inside the living space. For either style of hot water heater, the energy used to heat water is shed into the environment. So, the energy used to heat the water in turn heats your house. If you use air conditioning, there will be an added cooling load for the couple of months it’s needed.

While the hot water is made instantly by a tankless model, that does not mean you’ll have hotwater immediately at the tap. In fact, if you locate the tankless model in the same place as your old hotwater tank, it will take exactly the same time for the water to turn hot at the tap, or other point of use.

I went to Jerry’s, the world’s greatest home improvement center, and talked with them. They stock all kinds of hotwater heaters, and they’ll help you size your water heater, which will depend on the number of major draws. Tankless hotwater heaters cost around $1,000 for an average house, compared to about $350 for a tank model. For both hotwater heaters, both electric and gas models are available. The electric models of tankless hotwater heaters require some serious dedicated circuitry: 60 amps for a very small, one draw unit, and 120 amps for a full house model. Older houses may have only 100 amps available at the panel, and newer standards are for panels of 200 amps. For comparison, an electric clothes dryer needs 30 amps, a traditional hotwater heater needs 30 amps, and a stove needs 50 amps.

Instant hotwater at the tap requires a different set up, namely a recirculating system. The price for these are about $300-$400 in materials. This set up actually increases energy consumption, because it keeps water at the tap hot at all times. One other option for instant hotwater is to have a small point-of-use tank located near the tap.

The chief advantages of tankless hotwater heaters, as I see it, are: that they can be located outdoors, thereby conserving living space, and they don’t run out of hotwater, which is useful if you need to fill a large bathtub.

The Inside of a typical Tankless Hotwater Heater

The Inside of a typical Tankless Hotwater Heater

Green Show a Success

The annual Good Earth Home and Garden show recently concluded in Eugene on 25 January 2009. As a “green” show, it had a good home in the Emerald Empire. I’ve gone to a lot of shows at the fairgrounds, and can’t recall one with better attendance.

Admittance was free, which is a plus in these hard times. There were some 69 seminars held and 250 exhibits. There was a common element of sustainability or naturalness to most exhibits and seminars. Seemingly, Eugene is a hotbed for sustainable practices.

I stopped by to see a friend of mine who was exhibiting. She was so busy, I put my bag down and helped her work her booth. It was a blast. Make it a point to attend the next show and you’ll have a good time.

Eugene's Green Home Show was a busy place.

Eugene’s Green Home Show was a busy place.