Zero-VOC Paint Colorant by Sherwin Williams

This year Sherwin Williams introduced ColorCast EcoToner, which is a new tinting system that won’t add VOCs to paints.  The new colorants “maintain the paint’s full body after tinting, delivering thick, rich coats for maximum performance,” according to a company press release.  The ColorCast EcoToner system is available for any hue in the Sherwin Williams color palette (as well as custom color matches, too).  ColorCast EcoToner colorants are now used for Emerald paints and all other Sherwin Williams latex and water-based coatings as of July 1, 2012.  Perhaps you’ve already used paints with this system — thoughts?

[+] More about the ColorCast EcoToner tint system by Sherwin Williams.

Credits: Sherwin Williams; noticed at Residential Architect.

Original post: Zero-VOC Paint Colorant by Sherwin Williams

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Wattvision Pursues Next Gen Energy Monitor

I mentioned Wattvision previously, and the company is now running a Kickstarter campaign to deploy its complete the next generation of hardware, cover more types of power meters, and deploy the new hardware by about January 2013.  Wattvision 2 includes a sensor that attaches to your home electricity meter and a gateway that connects up with your internet network.  With these in place, a user can check electricity use online or from a smart phone.

Wattvision may be used to compare electricity usage among appliances or other homes using the system, track electricity costs, and find appliances that are using too much energy.  It’s an expensive solution for tracking phantom energy, but this will help with that.

The founders say the product provides a “live view” of energy use.  Feedback is in real-time, and knowledge is power.  The product is “all-American” and the company wants purchasers to be able to set up the system in about five minutes or less.  The system on Kickstarter will cost between about $175-200.

[+] More about energy monitoring from New Jersey-based Wattvision.

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2.5 kW Ground-Mount Solar Kit by Schletter

It’s surprising how easy it is these days to line up all the components necessary for a residential-scale photovoltaic array.  Solar panels can be purchased on Amazon (among other places) and tracking systems are readily available, too.  If you have the land or your roof isn’t right for your needs, Arizona-based Schletter makes a ground-mount kit for up to 2.5 kW of solar PV and it can be purchased for under $1,000.

The 2.5 kW FS Kit — introduced this year in response to customer feedback — includes all the solar mounting hardware, posts, rails, and clamps for $892 (standard load) or $953 (high load), plus shipping. Orders before noon ship the same day.

Schletter says they have the first complete ground mount system to meet UL 2703 and UL 1703 requirements.  The system requires two concrete foundations, and Schletter can provide a stamped permit package for most states.

[+] More about Schletter 2.5 kW FS ground-mount kit.

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Luxe Desert Prefab Now Available in Moab

This vacation home was designed and built by Marmol Radziner Prefab for a 71-acre site in the red rocks of Moab, Utah. Pursuant to a listing with Sotheby’s International Realty, the home, which is located at 130 Hidden Valley, has three sides of floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors with a view of the acreage and surrounding BLM land. The 2,500-square-foot modern prefab (which is green to the extent that MRP used dual-pane windows/doors, an energy-efficient HVAC system and appliances, and eco-friendly materials) has two bedrooms, two and a half baths, a pool, and a price of $2,995,000.

[+] More about 130 Hidden Valley at Sotheby’s International Realty.

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LiveScreen is a Mobile Urban Living Wall

LiveWall, LLC, a Michigan-based company that makes living wall systems, just announced a mobile version of the LiveWall product called LiveScreen (not to be confused with another Live Screen that we mentioned). LiveScreen is available in four models (Access, Patio, 4S, and XL) and made with a waterproof aluminum frame on wheels. The product helps people grow plants in small spaces like porches, patios, and decks.

LiveScreen is perfect for annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetables, according to LiveWall, and can be used for easy-access gardening in any location, whether urban or suburban.

The new product uses modular planter boxes, or WallTers, of various sizes that come in six colors (beige, cool gray, wheat, cedar, sage, and salsa). With these, roots grow down and stems grow up for a healthy living wall. LiveScreen comes without irrigation, but the Plus package includes automatic irrigation components and a hose timer. Conduit tubes are hidden in the mounting tracks with built-in nozzles for mist irrigation.

Pricing is available online and depends on the options selected at checkout. Generally, LiveScreen ranges from about $1,500 – $2,900, depending on slections. That said, for a general idea, the Patio version, which is 32″ by 5 1/2′ with three tiers, sells from $1,350 or $1,895 with the Plus package.

[+] More about the LiveScreen mobile LiveWall System.

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The First Passive House in Virginia

This is the first Passive House to be certified by PHIUS in Virginia.  Located at 229 Lankford Avenue in Charlottesville, Virginia, the project was designed by Giovanna Galfione-Cox and certified by John Semmelhack of Think Little.  Lankford Passive House has three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, and about 2,250 square feet, according to a local real estate listing, and is offered for sale at $598,000.

Lankford Passive House met the airtightness requirement with 0.42 ACH at 50 Pascal.  For systems, the new home has an UltimateAir ERV, GE heat pump water heater, and a Mitsubishi mini-split heat pump with two indoor units.

All of the appliances are Energy Star or better and include a Bosch EcoSense dishwasher, VestFrost refrigerator from Denmark, and Schott Ceran glass-ceramic cooktop.

In terms of the construction, the green home has triple-pane Serious Windows 725 Series, double-stud wall framing, FSC-certified framing lumber and plywood, structural insulated sheathing with taped seams, a hybrid wall with nine inches of Agribalance open cell spray foam and cellulose insulation, a roof with Agribalance open cell spray foam and two inches of closed cell roof foam, a white roof, and an exterior with stucco and Western Red Cedar.

The home is solar ready and includes several other green elements, including a 1,100-gallon rainwater harvesting system, locally-sourced slate, regionally-sourced red oak floors with a water-based low-VOC finish, and building finishes from cherry and locust trees harvested on the site.

[+] More about the Lankford Passive House from The Hook.

Credits: CAAR MLS. 

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Roofs Do Double Duty with Dow Shingles

Since I last shared photos of the Dow POWERHOUSE Solar Shingle, this line of business has picked up.  In October 2011, the Solar Shingle launched in Colorado, and Dow expanded the launch to Texas and California in April 2012.  As part of the launch, this commercial — lazy roof — aired recently to show these markets how Dow is helping to reinvent the roof so that it not only provides shelter but power, too.

POWERHOUSE is offered as an easy, turn-key roof solution.  For example, in San Antonio, the system includes a custom-designed solar array, a DC-to-AC inverter, and a monitoring system that shows real-time production.

In California, the first install in the state was documented by Ucilia Wang for Forbes recently.  The owners Frank and Cyndy Ann Madrigal needed a new roof and wanted power production to go with it.  They opted for POWERHOUSE Solar Shingles because they’re integrated into the roof.  All told, the Madrigals purchased a 5.47 kW system for ~$44,100, after utility rebates and the federal ITC, according to Forbes.

The design is what makes these solar panels work.  The CIGS-based shingles have plug-in connectors from shingle-to-shingle.  This allows for a flush install and eliminates what could be a spider web of wires behind the shingles or in the attic.

[+] More re: technical/financial aspects of POWERHOUSE Solar Shingles.

Credits: Dow Solar (top); Ucilia Wang (#2-3)

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Stramit Opens New Ag-Fiber Panel Facility

Today Stramit USA announced the launch of a material manufacturing company operating out of an 88,000 square-foot facility in Fort Worth, Texas.  The company has been working with Stramit UK for 16 months to import the process that creates a proprietary and rigid Compressed Agricultural Fiber (CAF) product — made with agricultural waste wheat straw — that can be used for walls, panels, flooring, doors, and furniture.

The straw that’s used to create CAFboard can be tilled into the earth or burned, but Stramit USA buys bales and runs them through the long machine that’s pictured.  The rapidly renewable material is broken and screened of debris and then compressed with heat and pressure into a rigid board that’s wrapped with heavy-duty organic paper.

Stramit USA claims their products can be used as a natural-fiber alternative to fiberglass insulation, gypsum board, medium density fiberboard, particle board, or sound-proofing panels.  In addition, CAFboard can be assembled with light-gauge framing, CAFsteel, for a panelized building system.

CAFboard is mold-resistant, pest-resistant, completely organic, and has no added formaldehyde or VOCs, according to Stramit USA.  It may contribute to several LEED credits and has an approximate R-value of 3.35 per inch (or two layers of standard 2 1/4″ CAFboard provides an in-place +R15).

Stramit USA will customize and produce CAF to custom specifications.  I’ve asked for potential pricing and will update this article upon receipt.  Expect pricing to be project-specific in any event, so reach out if you’re interested in the new material.

[+] More about CAFboard and CAFsteel by Stramit USA.

Credits: Stramit USA. 

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BrickBox is a Flat Pack Plywood Bookshelf

This is an inventive design for a shelf/storage solution that fits the occasion.  Called BrickBox, the modular system is designed and manufactured in Barcelona by Antxon Salvador and Roger Zanni.  BrickBox can be used for storage — assemble and stack — or transport — pack and grab a handle — and comes in two sizes: 10.6″ x 10.6″ x 14.2″ (small) and 21.3″ x 10.6″ x 14.2″ (large).  Fair Companies featured the design in a recent video, which could help propel the company outside of Europe and into the U.S.  BrickBox is searching for an American distributor right now.  Pricing is between ~$40 – $60 per box.

[+] More about the flexible, modular BrickBox system.

Credits: BrickBox.

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SpinRay Offers UL Listed Solar Appliance

This is the first and only UL-listed, 120-volt, plug-and-play solar kit in the world, according to SpinRay Energy.  The DeckPower120 comes with one, 240-watt solar panel and can be hung on a deck or elsewhere outdoors using a simple mount bracket.  The system allows for up to 1,300 watts of AC power with five solar panels and should qualify for available federal (and sometimes state) tax credits.

Upon installation and plugging into a standard 120-volt outlet (with a continuous use cover), the DeckPower120 starts producing energy for your home.

Of course, safety is a critical point of discussion when it comes to these DIY-type systems.  SpinRay Energy’s DeckPower120 has UL-listed solar monocrystalline panels and microinverters.  If there’s a loss of power from the utility, the inverter will immediately cease any backfeeding for the safety of line workers.

The DeckPower120 solar appliance is currently sold on for $1,099 and the reviews have been positive from what I’ve seen so far. What do you think?

[+] More about solar products by SpinRay Energy.

Credits: SpinRay Energy; noticed at CNET.

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