Tiny Tuesday: Raise Performance, Lower Bills

Let’s face it – most folks can’t build a new house to reduce their energy needs, not even a tiny one. It’s expensive and time-consuming, it throws a monkey wrench into your lifestyle, and it’s counterproductive if the building materials have a high embodied energy. If you are like most of the population, a more appealing proposition is to retrofit the home you already have. That’s where Home Performance with ENERGY STAR comes in.

First, ENERGY STAR helps to connect you with a local certified contractor who will perform an energy audit of your property. Then, based on the results of that assessment, the contractor helps you schedule improvement projects to reduce your heating/cooling needs and improve your air quality. The result is savings for you (due to lower utility and medical bills) and increased comfort for all occupants, not to mention a positive effect on the environment.

Components of the initial assessment include reviewing energy bills, a visual inspection of the building’s envelope and mechanical systems, and safety tests to identify leaks or moisture issues. The contractor follows up the assessment with a cost-benefit analysis of all possible improvements, such as adding insulation, upgrading mechanicals, and sealing leak points. They’ll work with you to prioritize projects accordingly.

Rebates are available on a regional basis. (Efficiency Vermont offers up to $2000 off the cost of improvements.) So you save money twice. If you’ve never taken advantage of Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, you can start here.

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Tiny Tuesday: Callie’s Coop

Callie is a fifth grader from Atlanta who designed and built a homeless shelter for a school project. As described in this inhabitat article, she conceived the shelter to demonstrate the power of solar energy.

Made from inexpensive, weather-resistant materials like corrugated metal and Tuftex (much of it salvaged), the shelter cost Callie about $10 to build. It’s small and light enough for a person to tow like a wagon, yet encompasses a sleeping area, a sun-powered oven for cooking, a composting toilet, and ample storage. A small solar panel powers a lightbulb, and a rainwater-collecting roof enables the shelter to operate off-grid. Callie showed her prototype at the Georgia Tiny House Festival last week – let’s hope it’s her first of many creative housing projects.

Thanks to Deek Diedrickson, who posted a video about Callie’s house here.

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Callie shows off the doors of the shelter she built.