Philips Debuts Hue Wireless LED System

Today Philips announced Hue — “the world’s smartest web-enabled LED home lighting system.” The new LED lighting system is available exclusively from Apple, both online and in stores, starting on October 30, 2012, and requires an iOS or Android app and a home Wi-Fi router. It can handle up to 50 light bulbs, each of which output 600 lumens and use about 8.5 watts of energy.

These are the Edison-type screw-in LED light bulbs, so they’ll work in most sockets where you already have similar bulbs.  Hue can control lights remotely, turn on lights gradually as an alarm, or establish ambience with the colors of the rainbow.

Hue’s wireless connection is provided by the open ZigBee Light Link standard, said Philips, so the system can integrate with other ZigBee certified systems.

Hue comes in an introduction pack with the Hue bridge and three light bulbs for the luxurious price of $199. After that, one can add a bulb for an investment of $59 each, according to a Philips statement.

Other efforts in the field of residential smart LEDs include the recent Kickstarter project LIFX, Google’s smart LED from LSG, and a dimmable bulb called Insteon.  Of the foregoing, only Insteon is on the market right now.

[+] More about Philips Hue available exclusively at Apple.

Credits: Philips.

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Efficient SIPs Laneway House in Vancouver

Laneway houses, like this one on 19th and Slocan, seem to flourish in Vancouver.  This is another contemporary, small home by Lanefab, which is the firm behind the Mendoza and Net-Zero Solar laneway houses.  The 800 square-foot home (including a 200 square-foot flex-garage) shelters a young couple that built the property on their parent’s property — an intergenerational phenomenon made possible with flexible laneway zoning.

The SIP-panel home has one bedroom, one bathroom, and an in-floor soaker tub in the living room covered with acrylic.

Lanefab built the home with structural insulated panels, including R40 walls, Cascadia triple-glazed windows, triple-glazed aluminum-clad fir doors, Watercycles drainwater heat recovery, a Daikin air-source heat pump, and home automation, etc.  Plus, it rated 87 under the EnerGuide program, which is among the top-five most efficient homes registered in Vancouver, according to Lanefab.

[+] More photos of the construction of this Lanefab House.

Photo credits: Tordia Images.

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Air Sealing Rules, Affordable Efficiency, Green Roof Market, + More LEED Bashing

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How to Read a Home Window Label

This is the beginning of our series called Energy-Efficient Windows 101 made possible by Marvin Windows and Doors.  For this first article, I want to talk about the various acronyms you might see on a home window label, or in window specification materials, so you’ll know more about what you’re reading.  When evaluating energy-efficient window options, Marvin suggests that you understand the basics of the following words and acronyms:

AL – the Air Leakage rating expresses the cubic feet of air which passes through a square foot of window area by way of leaks or cracks in the window assembly.  The lower the AL number, the less air will pass through the window assembly.

CR – Condensation Resistance is expressed in a number from 0 to 100 to indicate the ability of the window to potentially resist the formation of condensation on the interior surface.  The higher the CR number, the better the product will be at resisting interior condensation.

Energy Staris a joint program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) which proscribes energy performance standards for products, including appliances, light bulbs, windows, and even homes.

Energy Star zones – in order to qualify as an Energy Star product, windows and skylights must meet certain U-factor and, if applicable, SHGC requirements based on a climate zone.  There are four zones in the United States: northern, north-central, south-central, and southern.  You can find out the Energy Star requirements for your climate zone on the Energy Star website.

Fenestration – this is an opening in the envelope of a building.  It’s a fancy word that may be used to reference the design or placement of windows and other openings in a structure.

NFRC – the National Fenestration Rating Council is a non-profit organization that administers a rating and labeling system for the energy performance of windows, doors, skylights, and attachment products.  NFRC certifies data and testing of windows, so it’s easy to compare two window products with NFRC values.

SHGC – the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient ranges from 0 to 1 and indicates how well a window blocks heat caused by sunlight.  The lower the SHGC, the less solar heat transmits through the window; the higher the SHGC, the more solar heat will transmit through the window.

U-factor – this is a measure of heat transfer through the whole window (including the frame and glass).  Think about U-factor as the opposite of insulation R-values where the higher the R-value, the better the insulation.  The lower the U-factor, the better the window is at preventing heat transfer through the window.

VT – Visible Transmittance also ranges from 0 to 1 and indicates the amount of total visible light that the window will transmit.  The higher the VT, the more visible light will pass through the window.

Tripane glazing, available with argon or kryton gas, provides excellent energy performance. It’s available with LoĒ2-272 on both panes, with LoĒ-179® on both panes for high SHGC, or with LoĒ3-366® on the exterior pane and LoĒ-179 on the interior pane for low SHGC.

Some window manufacturers use their own ratings based on their own testing standards, and their information is hard to judge or compare.  Marvin uses third-party rating information from NFRC, so homeowners can perform an apples-to-apples comparison of what’s available on the market.

Also, meeting the Energy Star threshold with energy-efficient windows may reduce energy consumption by about 7-15%, according to the Energy Star website.  Marvin has more than 150,000 options for meeting Energy Star requirements, and, if a project is pursuing higher performance territory, Marvin can exceed Energy Star requirements, too.

By the way, right now Marvin is kicking off a fall energy efficiency program with the Smart Performance Promotion giving one lucky homeowner $5,000 toward the purchase of new Marvin windows and doors.  In connection with the promotion, Marvin has a collection of energy efficiency and other home improvement tips from Lou Manfredini, a homebuilder, contributor to the Today Show, and host of HouseSmarts TV.

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The Newest MiniHome Prefab: 36 Bunkie

This is short notice, but readers near Toronto may be interested in knowing that the latest miniHome by Sustain Design Studio, the Bunkie 36, will be at the Fall Cottage Life Show this weekend from October 26-28, 2012, at the Toronto International Centre.  The 420 square-foot cabin starts in price from about $87,500 (well-equipped) and can be permitted as an accessory building in Canada.

Bunkie 36 has Energy Star appliances, LED and CFL lighting, cork floor, birch cabinets, baltic birch ply walls and ceiling, an engineered wood-frame construction, cladding of pre-finished pine and Douglas Fir, Marvin Integrity windows, and an upgraded insulation package (R33.5 floor, R25 walls, and R32 roof), etc.

[+] More about the Bunkie 36 miniHome by Sustain Design Studio.

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Energy Efficient Windows with Marvin

Over the years I’ve tried to fill in our coverage with more substantive, or how-to, information on topics relating to sustainable homes.  One topic that I’ve been itching to cover is energy-efficient windows, and I’m happy to announce that Minnesota-based Marvin Windows and Doors has agreed to share their expertise with Jetson Green for a series of articles loosely titled “Energy-Efficient Windows 101.”

Before jumping into this new series, I think it makes sense to introduce Marvin because I’m writing these articles based on information, research, photos, and videos that the company is sharing with us.

Marvin, as you may know, started in the lumber business in the early 1900s and gradually moved into making windows when trying to keep employees busy during the slower months of winter.  Now the company is a recognized leader in the window industry and retains its family roots with management made up of third and fourth generation members of the Marvin family.

The company makes windows to order with an extensive offering of clad colors, wood options, and hardware.  For more discerning customers, Marvin can make entirely custom window products and has more than 150,000 options for meeting or exceeding Energy Star requirements.  In short, this is a company that can focus on both design and energy efficiency.

If you have any window questions, leave a comment below.  The first article you’ll see relates to reading the rating label that’s placed on windows.

Photo courtesy: Marvin (picture of Leicester House in North Carolina with a custom configuration of Marvin Ultimate Awning Windows, Ultimate Casement Windows, and the Ultimate Swinging French Doors; copyright Daniel Levin Photography).

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Four Insights from a Passive House Retreat

This is the Passive House Retreat in New England built by Aedi Construction with architecture and Passive House consulting by Boston-based ZeroEnergy Design.  I was able to trade emails with ZED, including Stephanie Horowitz AIA CPHC and Jordan Goldman CPHC, about the energy performance of the home over the last year, and they said actual performance exceeded all predictions — including Energy Star and PHPP usage calculations.  The home averaged 412 kW per month for all energy consumption.

That means the home can be net zero energy on an annual basis with the installation of a reasonably-sized 4.1 kW solar electric system, according to ZED.  And if you’re interested in the detail, all the geeky performance data is listed here.  Meanwhile, I want to share some takeaways or insights from the project team at ZED pertaining to the retreat.

First, it’s important to focus on the envelope first.  ZED treated the envelope as the primary “heating system” with special attention to orientation, insulation, windows, and air sealing.  Horowitz said: “You may have heard this before, but just in case you haven’t, prioritizing the building envelope first, then mechanical systems, and finally renewable energy systems is optimal.” That way you decrease the size of systems and, in turn, the renewable energy needed to power those systems.

Second, indoor comfort is under-appreciated. Most people are accustomed to drafty or cold housing, but an ultra-efficient home like the Passive House Retreat has even temperatures throughout. “Once you try it, you won’t go back,” said Horowitz.

Third, Passive Houses can be beautiful. Early architecture yielded to experimentation or overall testing of the requirements for airtightness or energy use. Now, windows and products and software are better, and Passive Houses can have both “exceptional performance and aesthetics,” according to ZeroEnergy Design, just like this retreat.

Fourth, values other than financial payback drive energy choices. When building a home, not every decision is driven by financial payback. Homeowners have many influences — including aesthetic preference, product availability, cultural background, personal values, etc.  When choosing paints, for example, financial payback may take a backseat to color, odor, quality, brand, or impact on air quality, or something else.

The same can be said for energy choices. An ultra-efficient home can be an expression of a non-financial value such as the desire to avoid using fossil fuels, consume less overall energy, or emit less CO2, according to Horowitz and Goldman. Similarly, the decision to use renewable energy could be driven not by payback but by a desire to advance the use of renewable energy.

Passive House Retreat obtained LEED Gold certification and the systems include a Mitsubishi ducted air-source heat pump (HSPF 10, SEER 15.5), Zehnder Comfoair HRV, and a GE GeoSpring heat pump water heater.  The build includes a double-stud wall assembly with spray foam and cellulose achieving R44 walls, a R50 slab, and a R60 roof.

[+] More about the Passive House Retreat from ZeroEnergy Design.

Update 10/25/12 – this has been updated to correct the source of certain quotes.

Credits: Greg Premru Photography (#1, 3-4); ZeroEnergy Design (#2).

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Deltec Homes Intros The Solar Homestead

The Solar Homestead by Appalachian State University was the People’s Choice winner in the Solar Decathlon 2011, and now virtually anyone in the world can get the same home from North Carolina-based Deltec Homes.  Deltec, a pioneer of round prefab, will build and ship the self-sustaining home, and send royalties from their sales back to the university located in Boone.  This is apparently “the first time a Decathlon winner is being made available to the consumer,” according to Deltec Homes.

A prominent feature of the Homestead is the canopy.  Deltec provides an optional solar canopy with translucent, bi-facial solar panels or a tongue-and-groove finish (which can be retrofitted with solar in the future).

The Solar Homestead has a main house of 1,032 square feet with two bedrooms and one bathroom.  With the optional Flex OM outbuilding module, which can include a full- or half-bath with a bedroom or office, the Homestead grows 135 square feet.  Deltec also offers the Storage OMs that were in the Decathlon home.

Deltec said their new offering is designed to be a “net-zero” home with the combination of a highly efficient building enclosure and solar technology.  The construct includes fiber-cement siding, super-insulated double-stud walls, triple-glazed windows, a solar hot water kit, fresh air exchange system, and a climate-specific efficient heating and cooling system.

The company can ship a panelized building system package nationally or finish a turnkey house within about 60 miles of Ashville, North Carolina.  I’ve asked Deltec about potential pricing for both options and will update this article when I learn more.

[+] More about the panelized Solar Homestead by Deltec Homes.

Credits: Deltec Homes.

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Efficient Modular Duplex in Yellowknife

You may recall a practical green prefab by SMPLy Mod that we featured about a year ago.  This duplex is by the same design firm, SMPL Design Studio (Joel Tanner), with new partners 9 Dot Engineering and Mod Home Developments.  The team employed modular construction to finish the duplex at 133 Moyle, and the homes perform quite well for being so far north: they require 55% less energy for heating and power.

The 1,300 square-foot homes, each with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms, received an EnerGuide rating of 82, according to Joel Tanner at SMPL Design Studio.

This was accomplished with super efficient wall and roof assemblies (2

Connect Homes Innovates in Silicon Valley

Connect:Homes is a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of prefab homes founded by Jared Levy and Gordon Stott (formerly with Marmol Radziner) on a mission to reduce the delivery costs associated with modular construction and make sustainable homes more affordable. To make that happen, Levy and Stott spent the last three years designing, prototyping, and patenting a system to cost-effectively deliver prefab homes, and they put their awesome prototype on display at Dwell on Design 2012.

In summary, a large part of the solution is to size the modules to be transported by the intermodal shipping container network. All Connect:Homes, therefore, can be delivered virtually anywhere in the world by truck, rail, or ship.

But to be clear, these aren’t container homes, these are homes shipped on a framework designed for intermodal shipping containers.

Transportation can cost nearly $100,000 cross-country or $400,000 overseas for the typical prefab home, according to Connect:Homes, so designers and builders have been forced to use regional factories that may or may not offer a high-performance build or a desirable selection of finishes or materials.

Not satisfied with the high costs or other limitations, Levy said, “We asked ourselves if you can ship a shipping container full of 64,000 lbs of goods around the world for $5,000, why should it cost you so much to ship a house?Connect:Homes ships 90% completed modules and cuts delivery costs by up to 90% to deliver a more affordable home.

Shipping innovation isn’t the only advance that Connect:Homes aims to bring to factory-built housing. To avoid the cost of renting a 240-ton crane, which Levy said could be up to $15,000 per day, the company will use giant castors to roll modules into place. This is something that only applies to the ground-level modules, but like a skateboard, the home just rolls onto a finished foundation.

The company will test this installation method when sending the Connect:2.1 prototype to the Hillview Community Center, 97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos, California, for the Dwell Silicon Valley Home Tour starting on November 3, 2012. Visit this page for more detail.

In terms of pricing, Connect:Homes start at $140 per square foot out of the factory and range to $165 per square foot delivered and installed, according to a company statement.

Connect:Homes come with house-wide LED lighting, floor-to-ceiling windows and doors, 100% recycled content glass countertops, in-wall dual-flush Duravit toilets, an insulation package to match any climate (standard of R21 walls, R30 floors, and R45 roof), and other materials that can contribute toward credits for LEED certification.

[+] More about Connect:Homes modular prefab from California.

Credits: Connect:Homes (#1-2); Bethany Nauert, West Elm (#3-4).

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