Category Archives for "Home Remodeling"

Pure Drinking Water from Air

A couple of years ago we reported on a water from air unit we used in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten ( This was a compressor based unit, that works like a dehumidifier and extracts the humidity and purifies it for drinking. We recently came across a non compressor unit, which reduces cost, and energy consumption. We have a sample coming next month, and the technology looks exciting. It uses a hygroscopic film, with electrostatic and carbon filters. We will keep you posted.

Standing Seam Metal Roof with Solar Panels

A metal roof with built-in solar panels is the most energy efficient and longest lasting solar roofing solution. A metal roof will usually last in excess of 50 years, and solar PV panels usually last 30+ years with minimal loss of efficiency or or electric power production. The combination of the two creates a one-time green roofing investment that will pay for itself over time, and then it will produce free electricity. Such a smart combination eliminates the chance of roof leaks, since there are no roof penetrations, and gives a homeowner piece of mind and confidence in their green metal roof.

Why go with a metal roof, instead of asphalt shingles:

Why would you want to install PV solar panels with a metal roof, instead of installing it on the existing asphalt shingle roof? The answer is very simple; asphalt shingles last an average of 15 years, while your solar panels should last at least 30 years. That means that even if you install your solar panels over a brand new asphalt shingles roof, you will have to remove the whole solar system in 15 years, replace the roof, and then put the solar panels back onto the roof. With the installation costs of a solar PV system being about $2 per watt, and an average solar system size of 3 KW, you will have to pay an extra $6000 (in today’s dollars, before any inflation is calculated) to reinstall your solar panels, and another $1500-2000 to
remove the panels, so that the roof can be replaced. With today’s average solar system price of $9-11 including solar panels, inverter, all wiring, rack-mounting system, permits, installation, etc.), the removal and re-installation price amounts to about 25% of the total solar system cost.

A properly installed standing seam metal roof will easily outlast any asphalt shingles roof by 3 time or more, and it will also outlast a warranty period on any solar panels. When your solar panels get old, and start producing less electricity than what they were designed for, you will have an option to either keep the old solar panels or install the new ones (as a side-note – average efficiency loss of a solar panel is 0.5% per year or 10% over a 20 year warranty period). All your infrastructure will already be in place, and you can simply swap the old solar panels for the new ones. You may also have to swap the charge controller / inverter. In 20 or 30 years, as technology progresses, the efficiency of solar panels and inverters will be much higher, and the cost per watt will be considerably lower. At the same time you will still have your metal roof, performing at 100% efficiency – being leak free and beautiful, that is.

Installing solar panels on a standing seam metal roof

Solar panels can be attached to a standing seam metal roof in two different ways. One is to use a thin film Solar PV panel laminated inside the pan of a standing seam metal roof – a so called solar metal roofing concept, when solar panels are integrated with the roofing material. The limitations of solar metal roofing include lower efficiency (per sq. foot or sq. meter) of the solar PV laminates. Therefore you would need double the roof area to get the same number of kW of a solar system. Also the size limitation of each solar PV laminate (18 feet long panels) make it impossible to install them on roofs with a roof run of less than 18.5 feet.

A better way to install solar panels onto a metal roof is to use S-5 clips or mounting brackets, specially designed to add adequate strength and support of rack-mounting systems installed on standing seam metal roofs. S-5 clops are made of cast aluminum blocks, with stainless steel tightening screws. S-5 clips are attached to the ribs or locks of a standing seam panel, and provide great pullout ratio, meeting and exceeding Miami-Dade county building code requirements for wind uplift.

S-5 Solar Panel mounting clamps allow for a quick and inexpensive installation of the solar rack-mounting system. Solar panels can be attached directly to the clamps, or to horizontal / vertical rails. The overall cost of such solar racking system is reduced from about $1 per watt, to about 50 cents per watt, or less. Also, you do not have to worry about any roof leaks, as there are no roof penetrations, and all mounting hardware is attached to the ribs of the metal roof panels.

You can also get a double tax credit for your solar roofing installation – Your first tax credit would be a 30% tax credit for solar panels, and and another one – up to $1500 cool roof tax credit. An average cost of metal roofing materials will exceed $5000 per roof, so you will be able to get a full 30% cool roof tax credit. With today’s metal roofing prices for steel standing seam ranging from $15000-20000, a $1500 tax credit will save you about 7-10% off your lifetime metal roof.

Home Insulation Types

There are many home insulation types to choose from, but ultimately your choice will be dependent on the followings:

• The location of your household will be assigned an R-value as defined by the local building codes. The R-values vary greatly across the country, for example, somebody in Maine would have his minimum required R-value different from someone in Arizona. All builders should be aware of the local requirements.  In Maine, the values read R-19 for floors and walls, whereas the higher R-30s to R-40s are applicable for roofs. For milder climate locations, the minimum values for floors/walls and ceilings are R-10/ R-11, and R-19 respectively.

• If there is any ductwork running on your attic (the presence of attic ductwork would call for more stringent insulation in the ceiling).

• Framing style of your household

Home insulation types that satisfy higher R-values ensure that summer is kept cool and winter is warm.

For the purpose of maximum energy efficiency, it is advisable that you consider an R-value that is 50% upward of the minimum required. However do it with practical sense. Do not just trust the builder or yourself to apply very high R-value insulation onto any space indiscriminately. Read the manufacturer’s recommendations instead.

Essentially there are two home insulation types: moisture movement friendly and not. The type that prohibits any form of moisture movement is referred to as close-cell foam. The type that allows comes in these three forms:

• Loose fil

• Batt

• Open-cell foam


Loose Fil

Loose-fill consists of fine particles of foam, fiber, fiberglass, mineral wool, slag wool, rock wool, or cellulose. The insulation is applied by using pneumatic guns to blow these particles into a home’s ceiling, walls, or attic.

• Fiberglass is made up of 20% – 30% recycled glass alongside other natural ingredients like sand.

• Mineral wool is primarily made up of recycled by-product from industrial production.

• Rock wool is a combination of blast furnace slag, aluminosilicate rock (usually basalt), and dolomite or limestone.

• Slag wool is actually derived from the waste in steel manufacturing. Both slag and rock wool insulations are said to be more environmental friendly because they re-use waste or by-products materials from other processes, that would otherwise ended up in a landfil. Additionally, they require less energy to be produced, according to manufacturers. Slag and rock wool insulation provides effective absorbent capacity, and noted for being bacteria and mold resistant, non-inflammable as well as non-combustible.

• Cellulose insulation is widely recognised as the “green” home insulation type; for its composition of recycled newspaper and natural wood. As the insulation is applied through blowing pneumatic air (instead of the conventional approach of laid sheets), it fits easily into tight, odd corners (such as around pipes). It offers the highest R-value among its peers. However, for blown-in insulation, the R-value can only be measured after the insulation has been completed. The added bonus of cellulose is that it has chemical additives that are fire-retardant, earning itself class-1 fire rating. Cellulose insulation has to comply with the standards by Consumer Products Safety Commission. Numerous testing laboratories have also been conducted to establish a certification programs fro cellulose installation material quality and installation procedures conforms to the standards published by government and industry. The National Association of Home Builders National Research Center is the body responsible for such certifications.

If you have completed your framing, it may still not be too late to reap benefit from this home insulation type. Start by making incisions between the walls studs, then follow up with the blow-in process into the holes, and finally have the holes sealed off. Please check with your builder or a qualified professional for additional help.

Remember that the R-value of cellulose insulation will not stay static throughout its life span, thus, more cellulose will need to be added from time to time to make necessary compensations for this settling.


Batt Insulation

The conventional fiberglass type home insulation has the fibreglass (comes in rolls form that are long and pre-cut) positioned between the walls studs, on the floor, or spread out across the ceiling. Mishandling is a major cause of losing effectiveness. Studies from California Energy Commission have suggested that even a half-inch gap is likely to bring the efficiency down by 50 percent!

Options for fiberglass batt insulation are abound, talk to your local builder on what works best for you.


Open Cell Foam

Open-cell foam insulation belongs to the soft insulation category. The supplied materials are cut into sheets to fit spaces or be sprayed into corners (takes just a few minutes to cure). The R-value is determined by the corresponding thickness of these sheets. This type of home insulation are typically applied in basements and beneath vinyl siding.


Denim, Cotton and Soy

Happen to have blue jeans or cotton T-shirts that are over their use-by dates? These are excellent alternatives to make your home comfy and cozy, and save you a lot on energy use for cooling and heating. This has become a fast catching alternative among the public.

Recycled jeans ‘inspired’ cotton insulation is formaldehyde- and asbestos-free; so it does not adversely affect the nose, skin, and throat; best of all, it has excellent heat-holding properties; additionally it is a relatively good sound absorbent because of its heavier nature.

Denim insulation offers flexibility in applications: rolls, batts or blow-in. This is a more expensive home insulation type than conventional fiberglass insulation, but it might still be worthwhile considering its advantages.

Soy-based spray foam insulation is a newcomer to the scene and can get pricey, but is gradually gaining traction. It uses American-grown soy beans as a source material (thus renewable) and capable of expanding up to 100 times its original volume all spaces and corners will be completely filled. Additionally, It is highly resistant to mold, moisture, rodents, or insects.

Essential Oil Recipes for Body and Soul

Recipes to treat stress, anxiety, bronchitis, athlete’s foot, sinus problem’s and more.

The following recipes are adapted from Practical Art of Aromatherapy by Deborah Nixon.

Anxiety creates tension in the body and can trigger other stress-related symptoms. Ease your anxiety by using these calming and uplifting oils.

to calm the nerves: lavender 10 drops, geranium 5 drops, sandalwood 10 drops. Blend into 2 oz of base/carrier oil such as jojoba. Massage into chest, back, and neck.

for anxiety and fear: lavender 6 drops, frankincense 8 drops, sandalwood 6 drops. Blend into 2 oz of base/carrier oil such as jojoba. Massage into chest, back, and neck.

To help battle insomnia try 6 drops of lavender and 4 drops of cedarwood in a vaporizer. Or place a bowl of dried rosebuds in your room and sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil to help promote sleep. Remember, if you are having trouble sleeping, create a haven in your room with relaxing colors, fabrics and no TV to promote a relaxing environment.

If you are stressed and exhausted, try this recipe in 2 oz of base/carrier oil.
Bergamot 10 drops, frankincense 8 drops, and rose, jasmine or neroli 2 drops. Massage into chest, back and neck.

Athlete’s Foot:
There are a variety of methods to combat athlete’s foot. Here are just a few.
footbath: lavender 3 drops, tea tree or eucalyptus 3 drops.
compress: A compress is placing the following ratios of essential oils into a bowl of very warm water, soaking a washcloth, squeezing and applying to affected area. Once the cloth has cooled down, repeat the process several more times.
lavender 1 drop, tea tree 1 drop, eucalyptus 1 drop.
massage: mix the following oils into 2 oz of base/carrier oil and massage into feet both morning and night.
tea tree 5 drops, thyme 5 drops, pine 5 drops.

In two ounces of base/carrier oil mix eucalyptus 7 drops, tea tree 5 drops, lavender 3 drops. Massage into chest and back. For direct inhalation, use half measures and place onto hankie.

Here are two recipes for creating massage oils to be applied to affected areas. Use in 2 oz of base/carrier oil.
massage: lavender 10 drops, sandalwood 5 drops.
massage: bergamot 3 drops, geranium 3 drops, juniper 6 drops, lavender 3 drops.

vaporizer or inhalation: tea tree 2 drops, lavender 2 drops, eucalyptus 2 drops.
bath: Add 3-4 drops of one oil to the bath: lavender, eucalyptus, sandalwood, tea tree or lemon. Soak a minimum of 20 minutes.

Lavender and tea tree oils soothe and heal sunburn. Dilute 2 drops in 3 oz of water (not oil) and spray on, or soak a cold cotton compress or handkerchief in the mix and apply to cool the burn. Lavender added to aloe vera gel is also soothing.
bath: peppermint 6 drops, lavender 4 drops.

Varicose Veins:
massage: in 2 oz of base/carrier oil mix rosemary 5 drops, juniper 5 drops, lemon 2 drops.
bath or massage: cypress 5 drops, geranium 5 drops.

Plant Trees for a Cooler, Cleaner World

Have you ever noticed how much cooler it is in a grove of trees, or even how much more comfortable you feel just hearing the sound of the wind rustling in the leaves? Besides the aesthetic pleasure they give, trees can improve our quality of life in other ways as well.

Because they use carbon dioxide as they grow, trees can offset and even reduce CO2 emissions. If you plant three trees on the southeast and southwest sides of your home, you can cut your air conditioning bills as well as clean up the air and cool the globe. According to American Forests, the nation’s oldest citizens’ conservation organization, there are at least 100 million spots around our homes and in our towns and cities suitable for trees. When trees shade houses, buildings and pavement from the sun, they help cool down the “heat islands” that build up around pavement and other dark surfaces. “Nature’s air conditioners” also help clean up he air, by filtering airborne particles with their leaves and branches.

How to plant a tree

  1. Choose at least a 5-to-6-foot tree grown to nursery standards.
  2. Select a site with enough room for roots and branches to reach full size. Avoid overhead and underground utilities.
  3. Dig a planting area as deep as the root ball and 3 to 5 times its diameter. Add fertilizer or other soil amendments.
  4. Set the root ball in the middle, even with ground level, but do not pack down the soil.
  5. Water generously.
  6. Stake the tree to flex with the wind. Mulch to within 6 inches of the tree trunk.
  7. Water regularly to keep the soil from drying out.

Did you know that…

  • Planting three trees around your house can block incoming sunlight by as much as 70 percent and reduce air-conditioning cost by 10 to 50 percent.
  • Awnings, overhangs and shutters mounted on the south, east and west sides of your house will save you $100 to $150 each year thereafter in cooling costs.
  • Tree-filled neighborhoods can be up to 9 degrees cooler than unshaded streets.

Trees, Please

Trees and the forests they create play a critical role in main-taining the health of our environment. Their root systems prevent erosion and thereby protect water quality. Their leaves filter the air and, through the shade they cast, reduce global warming. The natural community that develops around forests also helps protect the planet by providing a safe and nurturing environment for all kinds of fish and wildlife.

Unfortunately, forests in this country and around the world are being squeezed by increasing demands for wood and paper. For example, between 50 and 100 acres of tropical rain forest — an area the size of ten city blocks — are destroyed every minute. At that rate, there will be no intact tropical forest left within one hundred years. Forests in North America, particularly the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, are also under stress.

Many offices and individuals have already begun to address deforestation issues at home and abroad by recycling paper and by buying recycled paper products. Here are a few other actions you might consider to minimize your need for wood:

  • Hire eco-conscious carpenters or contractors.
    A growing number of construction suppliers are using wood salvaged from other construction projects, particularly in applications that will be hidden from view when the construction is complete. Other contractors are opting for lumber that is “sustainably” harvested from forests, so that the trees are removed from the forest selectively, without destroying the entire forest ecosystem.
  • Consider alternative building materials.
    Agricultural by-products such as wheat straw, coconut palm and bamboo have become viable materials for home and office construction.
  • Try paper alternatives.
    Some consumers and companies are turning to kenaf, a paper-like product derived from the fast-growing hibiscus cannabinus plant. The plant produces 3-5 tons more fiber per acre than comparable trees that are harvested for paper production, and require 15-25% less energy during the production process.
  • Use computer technology for correspondence.
    Instead of printing out memos or letters on stationary, use electronic mail to get your messages across.
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