Creating An Outdoor Oasis Under Retractable Awnings

The last few years saw a surge in home interior design, and that transitioned gracefully into an interest in designing a backyard with the same thoughtfulness and attention to comfort. Outdoor designs enhance the earthiness and roughness of nature, with the comfort and detail of indoors. This blend is integral to creating a polished, usable environment: the influence of indoor design brings structure and unity to the outdoor space.

Structure defines the space through construction like fences, patios, or gazebos, or through vegetation, like borders or shrubs. Modern retractable awnings are an uncomplicated and inexpensive method to introduce definition to an outdoor space without the high cost of construction or the high maintenance of complicated landscaping.

Define the Space with Retractable Awnings
Design is based on cohesion between decorating elements. For outdoor spaces, cohesion is predicated on structure, an outline for the area. With retractable awnings, the natural flow between the interior space and the new exterior space depends on the size and location of the retractable awnings:
Outdoor access, such as sliding doors
Shade needs for interior rooms; retractable awnings block heat, UV rays, glare, and sunlight, which makes them an asset for overly bright rooms or rooms with UV-susceptible elements, like paintings and photographs.
Sun orientation; retractable awnings which shade west and south facing rooms can reduce indoor temperature gains by 77%, so they are ideal for passive energy efficiency in sunny rooms
Size. The width of retractable awnings can be custom-sized by the inch, so it is possible to scale the retractable awning perfectly to match the desired location.

Incorporate drop screens to provide a natural fluidity to the area. Drop screens are mounted vertically and are lowered down. In areas around pools or for existing gazebos, stairways, or decks, drop screens mark pathways and create an enclosed feeling. Drop screens also have functional benefits, such as rain, UV, glare, pollen, and bug protection for exposed sitting areas.

Basic Design Ideas
Outdoor design is tied to the senses, and the primary sense is visual. First, retractable awnings provide a visual structure to the unordered outdoors. Second, retractable awnings create a color patter; the fabric and colors in the retractable awning define the overarching palette for the rest of the space and diffuse the ambient light, creating a subtle pervasive color.

This makes selecting the retractable awning fabric vitally important. Decide the mood or the natural element to emphasize.
Bright greens for lush vegetation.
Subtle patterns in dark greens and browns or woodlands.
Light blues, turquoises, and golds for waters and beaches.
Bright oranges, reds, and yellows for tropical or desert colors.

Subtle retractable awning features, like different colored frames, tie into the overall theme and contrast with the retractable awning fabric for visual depth. Valances for traditional lateral arm (flat extension) retractable awnings can have a dozen different patterns. For smooth and fluid environments, like beach themes, look for valances with movement to them, like scallops, with sharp angles to echo the rigidity of woods. Other distinct styles can be used throughout the space, such as fluttery sheets of fabric called butterfly awnings or fan-shaped awnings which can fit in corners.

The rest of the backyard space fall into place according to the core elements defined in the retractable awnings. The key is to pay attention to the details:
Seating, particularly with coordinating colors, luxurious pillows and throw blankets. The style of furniture is important, depending on the size of the area delineated by the retractable awning and the functional flow of traffic.
Plants. Retractable awnings cool temperatures as much as 20 degrees and provide protection from the harshest light, so it is possible to fill in the outdoor area with potted plants or types of plants which are prone to drying and heat damage in full sunlight, including ferns, some kinds of palms, flowers, and fresh herbs.
Lighting. Solar lights, strings of lights, and side lamps all provide safe and mild outdoor lighting, which can make the outdoor space enjoyable even after twilight. The retractable awning itself can support very light objects, like Chinese paper lanterns or Christmas lights, but its generally a bad idea to hang things from the retractable awning since that impedes its ability to retract.
Heating and fans. Free standing fans or outdoor heaters carry the seasonal life of the outdoor space from early spring well into early winter. Other heating options, like chimeneas, should be placed slightly outside the retractable awning, to prevent damage to the fabric from the smoke.

Retractable awnings are an interesting alternative for interesting spaces. Retractable awnings make a huge visual impact and provide the core structure and definition for planning an outdoor living space, while being a relatively inexpensive do-it-yourself project. Retractable awnings turn any outdoor space into a canvas for expression.

Energy Efficiency And Roof Design

As a roofing contractor in the state of Wisconsin, I continually field requests for light colored (reflective) roofing for the purpose of energy efficiency. A white or light colored roof will reflect sunlight, keep the building cooler, and reduce energy consumptionCorrect?

It depends on where you live and the insulation value of the building.

Most roofing material comes in a variety of colors. EPDM (rubber) membrane, for instance, is a very common low slope roofing material that comes in black or white. In the case of EPDM, the white color is much more expensive. Many consumers will justify spending more on white instead of black EPDM since they believe that there will be energy savings. Asphalt shingles come in a variety of different colors from light to dark. Some shingle manufacturers, such as GAF, have marketed Cool Series asphalt shingles that are designed to be more reflective of sunlight.

Significant studies have been conducted to study the effect of roof color on energy consumption. Heat transfer will occur from the roof into the interior of the building if there is a low level of insulation and resulting low R-Value (thermal resistance). As R-value and thermal resistance increases with better insulation systems, the type and color of roofing material becomes less and less important. In general, an R-value of 30 or more negates any energy efficiency gains from white or light colored roofing material in hot climates. It stands to reason the most effective way to decrease a buildings energy consumption is to increase insulation levels.

There are situations in which the building structure itself cannot be insulated more effectively and a low R-value cannot be avoided. What color of roofing material would be best in this situation? It depends on where you live and the climate. Do you have more heating degree days or cooling degree days? Here in Wisconsin, we definitely have more heating degree days. Therefore, a dark colored roof will help heat interior building spaces and decrease energy consumption over time. In colder climates, dark colored roofs are the most energy efficient. The opposite is true for hot climates. It would be well worth the extra investment in purchasing white roofing material in Southern Florida. Central regions of the United States are considered color-neutral. In these areas, studies have shown that energy efficiency is not impacted by roof color.

With the increase in roofing material choices, it has become increasingly important that roof designers, contractors, and facilities managers consider the right roofing material for the right situation. Reflective roofing has become a knee-jerk reaction for some designers and contractors who do not take climate zones or insulation levels into consideration. Focus should remain on insulation systems and improving insulation value when optimizing energy efficiency. Advances in insulation technology have created opportunities to increase insulation value in almost any circumstance. Spray-on foam insulation and plywood manufactured with imbedded rigid foam insulation have become popular and effective systems to increase R-value in tight spaces.

Every building and every roof system is different. Roof design for energy efficiency must take into consideration climate zone and insulation value. With sufficient insulation, roof color becomes insignificant in the energy efficiency equation.

Economic & Energy Saving Kitchen Lighting Ideas

We all want to live in a cleaner, more beautiful world. These kitchen lighting ideas will reduce unnecessary energy consumption and even decrease your monthly spending. Who doesn’t want to save a little on their electric bill each month? Try any of these innovative kitchen lighting ideas in your home today, and enjoy a little extra cash tomorrow.

Kitchen undercabinet lighting is an easy update for your home. Tucked away beneath upper cabinets, kitchen undercabinet lighting sets the work surfaces aglow when switched on. These subtle lights are great at night when the hubbub of the kitchen has died down, and only one person is left to his or her work. Save energy by switching off the main lights and using your kitchen undercabinet lighting to illuminate your countertop. This is also a low-energy light to leave on when one family member will be home late.

While we are on the subject of savings, you may want to consider switching to fluorescent lights. Not only do these produce a cooler, brighter light, but fluorescent lights are also cost-effective on two levels. There are two expenses to a bulb. There is the initial amount that the bulb costs (this includes how many hours it lasts because a bulb that is cheap but only lasts a few hours ends up being more expensive from constant changing) and the energy efficiency (i.e. how much energy it costs to run). The difference between incandescents and fluorescent lights is astounding. A 60-watt incandescent bulb uses the same energy as a 15-watt fluorescent bulb. That is a tremendous energy savings right there. Fluorescent lights also produce a third less heat than standard bulbs, so you are saving on your AC bills in the summer as well. All in all, CFL and fluorescent lights save you a remarkable amount both in the long and short run.

Ceiling fans are also effortless energy savers. The ultimate lifesavers in the kitchen, ceiling fans take the sauna out of a busy day cooking and replace it with a pleasantly cool breeze. Instead of running the AC whenever it gets warm in your kitchen, switch on the ceiling fan for both illumination and exhilaration. In addition, ceiling fans help save energy in the winter. When the weather gets cooler, reverse the direction that your ceiling fans rotate in, and this will effectively warm your rooms instead of costly heaters.

Kitchen track lighting, when used properly, can further your savings. Adjustable light fixtures make kitchen track lighting ideal for homes with multiple work surfaces in a room. Instead of using several light fixtures to illuminate each area properly, fix each head of your kitchen track lighting onto the work surfaces that are being used. Directing the light at the specific locations being used, you are harnessing all of the illumination power, making additional lighting elements unnecessary. Why use two lights when the full power of one light will suffice?

Finally, look towards recessed kitchen lighting for a little time-savings in your life. With our busy schedules, everyone could use a little extra time. Recessed lighting gives you the luxury of ample illumination without the hassle of cleaning several light fixtures. Because your recessed kitchen lighting is stored up in the ceiling, none of the fixture is exposed to become dirty. This saves you time from cleaning all those light heads. Even if it’s only twice a year, this is one chore that you will be grateful to pass up.

Do your part to save energy wherever you can. With all the money you save using these kitchen lighting ideas, you can treat yourself to a vacation or a new piece of furniture. Keep the earth clean and cash in all at once with these effortless lighting solutions.

Energy Efficiency And The Us Heavy Industry

Heavy Industry’ is a rather amorphous term. According to Wikipedia, Heavy Industry signifies the production of goods that are either heavy in weight or in the processes leading to their production.Examples of such industries include steel, chemical, mining, and construction equipment, machinery.

The United States is the largest consumer of energy in the world, using 94.9 quadrillion BTUs in 2009 and heavy industry in the United States accounts for about 31% of all energy consumption, significantly more than any other sector of the economy. Seven energy-intensive industries use three-fourths of this power; these are aluminum, chemicals, forest products, glass, metal casting, mining, and steel. All these heavy industries are also under tremendous pressure to reduce their huge dependence on expensive non
renewable energy.

A recent study by the European Commission thinks not. The study estimates that the United States has the potential to save about 45 TWh energy per year, through use of energy efficient transformers. Even a 0.01 percent gain in the average efficiency of utility transformers installed in the U.S. in a single year, can save as much as 2.9 Twh energy.

The environmental benefits of energy-efficient transformers are also significant and the study by the European Commission believes transformers could well emerge as a major focus for energy efficient
initiatives in the industry.

Energy Guzzling Industries
Chemical Industry,
Paper and Pulp Industry
Iron and Steel Industry
Mining Industry

Is the Answer Energy-Efficiency

Energy efficiency is already playing a significant role in the Heavy Industry, but with growing concerns of greenhouse gas emissions and skyrocketing cost of energy, it obviously needs to do more.Before the 1970s, the U.S. energy consumption grew in parallel to gross domestic product (GDP). Had that trend continued, current U.S. energy demand would have more than doubled, currently, the energy consumption is 1.5 times that of 1970. Reduction in energy consumption has resulted from a combination of energy efficient methods and a shift from energy-intensive manufacturing toward a service and information-based economy.

Do Energy Efficient Transformers Hold the Key?

As energy costs rise and availability becomes uncertain, the necessity of utilizing energy-efficient products becomes imperative. Additionally, a globally competitive business environment is causing businesses to cut costs in order to remain competitive. Of particular interest are distribution transformers
that are the largest loss-making components in electrical networks.

In a typical grid, electric transformer loss contributes to about 40-50% of the total transmission and distribution loss. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that on a conservative estimate 61 billion kWh annually can be attributed to transformer losses. These losses cost end-users $3 to $4 billion annually. An energy-efficient transformer is therefore an important means to reduce transmission and distribution loss. Energy saving transformers can additionally save the equivalent of more than 70 million tons of CO2 emissions.

The answer to energy efficiency is in making distribution transformers efficient; and thankfully, manufacturers have the technical know-how to offer better, cost effective, low loss, energy efficient transformers.

Energy Efficient Distribution Transformers

Distribution transformers distribute power from power generating facilities to end-users and while energy loss during transmission is inevitable, measures are taken to reduce it considerably.However, for energy to be consumed voltage needs to be reduced and it is at this point of stepping down electricity that distribution transformers lose energy. Even though only a small portion of energy is lost it is in a permanent manner and standby power losses account for 2% of total electricity production.

Despite high average efficiencies of 95 to 99.75%, transformers have a significant environmental impact because they continuously consume power.

The energy losses in electricity transformers fall into two components, namely, no-load losses resulting from the energized iron core, which is a permanent phenomenon, and load losses, arising when providing power to users. Load losses also result from the resistance of the coil when the transformer is in use, and from eddy currents due to stray flux.

Technical solutions exist to reduce transformer losses by 75% at minimum when replaced by modern transformers or even by 90% when replacing transformers over 30 years old. Energy-efficiency can be improved with better transformer design, like selecting better, lower-core-loss steels; reducing flux density in a specific core by increasing the core size; increasing conductor cross-section to reduce current density; good balancing between the relative quantities of iron and copper in the core and coils.

An energy efficient transformer is an important means to reduce Transmission & Distribution loss and can save up to 120 TWh / year. Energy efficient transformers can provide considerable environmental benefits too. For example, a typical urban distribution transformer rated at 400 kW has lifetime losses equivalent to 125 “”184 tons of CO2 emissions; a more energy-efficient design can reduce these emissions to 56 tons.

Energy-efficiency Electronics Hardware A bridge Fuel To The Future

Demand for energy continues to be a major topic around the world. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or hydro power are increasingly being utilized to provide for that demand. Many States have even recently passed laws raising the minimum renewable usage cap that utility companies must implement into their overall supply. But … we still require escalating amounts of energy for agriculture, industry, and to heat our homes and offices. Emerging as a “bridge fuel” to clean energy and renewable resources, the power electronics industry is poised to span that gap with hardware solutions needed to build intelligent power systems.

The Obama administration plans to spend billions of dollars on power conservation and sustainable energy projects as part of a $787 billion stimulus package which is has focused on energy efficiency. Andrew Fanara, of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program has famously said. “Energy efficiency is the bridge fuel we must build on and must invest in” he stresses “Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest, fastest way to act.”

In part, the administration’s strategy is to use improved energy efficiency as a method of buying time to invest in and explore emerging and clean energy options. With initiatives like the smart power grid gaining traction, the power electronics hardware that makes it all work and its new designs aimed at increasing energy efficiency will be at the core of the plan.

Already, there is huge demand for power efficiency by consumers found an industry survey. And, consumers are willingly paying a premium for electronic hardware that delivers energy efficiency. This trend anticipates a growing number of electronic hardware devices will be utilized, which lowers costs and drives improved energy efficiency. Measured in dollars per watt this high volume of hardware deployment forecasts the efficiency for power electronics may drop to as low as 12 cents per watt by 2013.

The focal point of “smart power” systems and a national smart energy grid has clearly been on the hardware side of the equation. To be successful, in the not to distant future, engineers will also make use of the intelligence provided by software so that the hardware components communicate most effectively to accomplish maximum reduction of power consumption. The know-how exists now for this integrated software, but it is still far from widespread.

Power Profiling is a valuable energy-efficiency tool that granularly identifies the power consumed specifically by HVAC, appliances, networks, lighting etc. and communicates this information to users. A user profile is developed by use of proprietary algorithms that calculate information regarding a structure’s overall usage, and several data points such as the time of day and its energy consumption history.

The purpose of power profiling is to enable users to know exactly what activities or systems are consuming the most power, including how much, and how that consumption is affected by actions they take. Most HVAC and appliances are not yet enabled so numerous hardware metering devices are used throughout the structure, at least an adequate number to demonstrate to the user what the largest power users are and how to limit consumption.

Home Area Networks (HAN) are increasingly communicating with utilities in addition to the traditional media centers and computers. Both utilities and consumer electronics companies are offering and assortment of hardware solutions with methods of pre-programming and remotely controlling home systems such as water usage, heating & cooling, and appliances. With the arrival of “smart” appliances and new wireless network protocols designed specifically for energy-efficiency, many of these hardware solutions communicate to users and utilities over one or more wireless systems.

ZWave for media and home automation

ZigBee chosen by utility companies because of it’s secure protocol, and

EnOcean a European self-powered energy harvesting technology that powers devices without the use of batteries.

Hardware using these wireless protocols can all be controlled from a single point building management system, or a homeowner’s computer. Even though these technologies are still on the leading edge, trends indicates they are very near to wide-scale adoption, enabling buildings to connect to smart grid applications that exponentially increase energy-efficiency.

Advances in alternative energy sources have provided greener ways of producing electricity and the burgeoning energy-efficiency industry is providing a plethora of energy saving hardware devices to help users re-tool . We can reduce energy consumption with these advances and make strides toward energy independence. Consider what T. Boone Pickens says “In additional to putting our security in the hands of potentially unfriendly and unstable foreign nations, we spent $475 billion on foreign oil in 2008 alone. That’s money taken out of our economy and sent to foreign nations, and it will continue to drain the life from our economy for as long as we fail to stop the bleeding.

Projected over the next 10 years the cost will be $10 trillion – it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.”

“By investing in renewable energy and conservation, we can create millions of new jobs. Developing new alternative energies while utilizing natural gas for transportation and energy generation; securing our economy by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and keeping more money at home to pay for the whole thing.”

Moving forward with renewables is a must, but it is also a documented fact that this increased capacity will not be enough to meet upcoming demands and provide energy independence. The tremendous strides being made in energy efficiency technologies are to help stem the tide, bridging the gap.

Flexidry Enhancing Energy Efficiency For Modernahus, The New Green Housing Solution For The Uk

ModernaHus, the new generation of energy efficient green homes for the UK, will have 9500sm of its underfloor heating screeded with FlexiDry F1/7 day dry floor screed.

ModernaHus is being introduced in the UK after long trials by Scandinavian builders, Skanska. This innovative green home solution has already been adapted by several countries across Europe, and has been in the test phase in the UK for several years.

After two years of trials and considerable adaptation to suit the UK market and environment, the ModernaHus UK project is now underway and is scheduled for completion by October 2011.

The first phase of the ModernaHus UK project will comprise of 108 one to four bedroom residential units, in a rejuvenated site in Coldharbor Lane, Brixton. A good majority of the construction elements will be manufactured offsite and delivered to the site, ready for installation. This prefabricated building system has been found to be successful in bringing down the effective construction time while ensuring site safety as well as quality and finish of the products.

For energy efficiency, ModernaHus combines a well insulated building envelope, under floor heating, ground source heat pumps, solar panels and a central biomass boiler. The ModernaHus homes which will be 30% more efficient than normal homes, has obtained the Code for Sustainable Homes, Level 4.

With energy efficiency figuring as the priority for modern buildings, FlexiDry fast drying floor screeds is one of the screeds that is very much in demand by most major builders. When underfloor heating system can enhance energy efficiency, the use of the right screed is found to compound its effectiveness by acting as a thermal mass to dissipate the heat. FlexiDry floor screeds act as very good thermal conductors of heat and cut down the thermal losses and reduce the amount of heat required at the source. With an efficiency of 20-30% more than the normal anhydrite screeds, and drying times as less as 3 days to 21 days, FlexiDry is currently the chosen name for most of the major projects like ModernaHus.

Most Popular Fixes To Increase Home Comfort And Energy Efficiency

Keeping your home comfort levels high while maintaining an efficient home does not have to be difficult. In fact, there are several small things you can do around your home with very little money that will increase your comfort levels while decreasing your bills.

Insulate Electrical Outlets and Switches

A lot of energy is lost through drafty switches and sockets. You can purchase small kits at any big box retailer or home improvement store that will allow you to insulate all of your switches and outlets. Depending on the size of your home, you can typically do this for under $50.

Update Old Windows

Old windows can wreak havoc on your heating and cooling system. You may have to spend some money to replace the windows, but in most cases if you choose energy efficient windows you will make that money back in utility savings in just a few years. If you do not have the money to replace all the windows, do what you can and work on insulating the rest. Even just replacing the caulk around the windows can dramatically improve a drafty room. In the winter you can find plastic kits that will seal the windows, helping to improve the efficiency.

Check the Doors

Doors are another big source of heat loss during the winter. Cool air from indoors can also seep out during the summer months. You do not have to replace your doors to help fix this problem. If the doors are in good condition, consider using an expanding foam to reduce gaps around the door frame.

Sealing Vents

Laundry vents, outdoor faucets, and other types of hook ups can create energy loss. Walk around the outside perimeter of your home and inspect for these areas that could be insulated. Insulating and sealing these items can create a much more efficient home.

Attic Insulation

A good layer of insulation in your attic will prevent heat from escaping through the ceiling and roof of your home. You can do this on your own with just a small investment in the insulation. You can also hire a professional to blow in the insulation if you do not want to deal with this on your own.

Simple Additions

Another way to increase your homes comfort and lower bills is by adding small details such as insulated curtains. These will help prevent air from escaping and can be purchased for around $30 a set. If you have hardwood floors, adding a throw rug to rooms that are heavily populated will actually help maintain the temperature.
Professional Inspections

At least once a year you should have your heating and cooling system inspected. This will alert you of any potential problems, and can help you maintain your homes comfort while keeping your utility bills in check. If you have a service contract with a company this is typically covered. If not, it does not cost a lot of money to have an inspection done annually.