Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Decluttering Guest Article

Stop Letting a Cluttered Home Workspace Tank Your Productivity

Can't seem to focus while working from your home office? It could be your cluttered workspace that's giving you trouble. According to Small Business Trends, clutter makes you less effective at work and increases your stress levels and penchant for procrastination.

If you're a business owner or entrepreneur, you can't afford to waste time searching for paperwork or getting distracted by social media. You need to stay focused if you're going to produce your best work, especially if you work from home. As people are becoming more mindful of their waste, throwing away old stuff can trigger serious environmental guilt. But it is possible to declutter your workspace without sending everything to the dump.

Donate Office Furniture

Start with the big stuff. If there are empty filing cabinets or a bulky old desk you no longer use since switching to a sit-stand desk, don't just set them on the curb for the trash collector to pick up. Instead, donate unwanted office furniture to a local Habitat ReStore, The Furniture Trust, or a bootstrap business owner who could benefit from free office gear.

Donate or Recycle Electronics

Computers, printers, copiers, and other electronics are also candidates for donation as long as they're still working. Wipe hard drives to protect your business data, then donate electronics to Computers for Causes, World Computer Exchange, or another organization. Some groups will accept broken electronics and refurbish them before donating to a worthy cause, but always check with the organization before sending them in. Electronics that can't be donated should be recycled through approved e-waste recyclers to keep them out of landfills. Keep in mind you may need to remove batteries and recycle them separately.

Schedule Time for Cleaning

At the end of a busy day, the last thing you want is to spend more time in your home office doing chores. However, unless you hire someone to do the job, you should. Beginning the day inside a clean workspace gives you the motivation to conquer the day.

Cleaning up doesn't have to take very long. Buy a lightweight cordless vacuum for the floors (models are available for around $70), microfiber cloths for dusting your desk and electronics, and a non-toxic all-purpose cleaner to freshen the space up without adding any heavy scents. With these basic tools, you can clean your workspace in under five minutes and get on with your day.

An alternative to regular cleanings is hiring a professional maid service to come in every couple weeks. In Lawndale, a cleaning service usually charges $116 - $227

Stop Storing Paperwork

Physical file storage is bulky and inefficient, so why are you still doing it? Migrate to digital file management to clear up space and make your documents easier to access. Cloud storage is a popular option for small businesses, especially for owners who work from home; you can learn about the leading cloud storage providers at TechRadar. Just be sure to make backups of your documents and update them regularly so a tech issue doesn't cause you to lose important data.

Skip the Disposables

Is your desk drawer stuffed with pens that don't work, your wall covered in outdated sticky notes, or your trash can spilling over with to-go cups? Disposable products seem convenient at first, but they're ultimately just another source of mess and stress in your life. Simplify your home workspace by swapping disposable products for things you can reuse. A whiteboard (which can be purchased online for $18) offers space to visualize without the paper, a note-taking app renders pens and Post-Its obsolete, and a good thermos keeps your coffee hot and your trash can less full.

Donating and recycling are awesome ways to give your old home office gear a second life. However, keeping a clean workspace is as much about what you bring into the office as what you send out. Now that your office is looking its best, stay mindful of your habits so that you live your eco-conscious values at work and beyond.

Image via Unsplash

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Guest Article About Energy Efficient Replacement Windows

Guest Author Luis at Enerpro Windows of Denver takes issue with "payback analysis" regarding your new window decision. Welcome and thank you Luis!

Why High-Performance Windows Are Worth Every Penny
Are you a homeowner or someone in the process of building a brand new house? If the answer is yes,
then you already know that your windows are one of the primary components of your residence. Not
only do you want windows that look nice, but you need those that provide energy efficiency to save
you on heating and cooling costs.

There are critics out there that say investing in high-performance windows, that certainly will come
with a higher price tag than a lower quality window, isn't worth it. Some have come up with
calculations that they feel show that the energy savings over time aren't any more significant than
the initial cost of the windows. However, several factors and an entirely different math calculation
prove they are what every homeowner should have in their residence. Those living in unusually cold
climates are likely to see the biggest savings. Even if you don't live in a northern region, discover
how a new set of high-performance windows will pay for themselves over the time you live on
your property.

Understanding Your Home's Energy Use and Efficiency

Every home, whether existing or a new build, is going to have an R-value. Frequently the roof, walls,
and slab all have varying R-values depending on the materials used. The higher your R-value,
the better the insulation of the structure. When your property has a decent R-value, it's a sturdy
construction with minimal airflow. The less air going in and out of your home, the less often your
heating and cooling systems have to work. As a result, you're saving money on energy costs.

You can add to your R-value by adding in insulation to the basement, attic, or walls. You can also
add to your R-value by putting in new energy efficient windows. Depending on the work you do,
you could be eligible for a federal tax credit. Already, before you've even explored high-performance
windows, you have the potential to make money back on your home improvements.

Checking the U-Factor in New High-Performance Windows
To ensure your new window installation is going to improve your R-value, you have to understand
the U-factor. Every window that comes from the manufacturer comes with a U-factor sticker on it.

Take note: If you're working with a professional window contractor and they rip the sticker off
before you can see it, you should be suspicious of what they're covering up.

The U-factor tells the consumer how much heat is lost through the window after it has been correctly
assembled and installed. The lower the number, the higher the insulation properties. For the best
insulation, you should look for a window that has a 0.40 U-factor rating or less. If it doesn't, then
you aren't purchasing high-performance windows and you aren't going to see much if any in your
energy savings. What you're going to see on your U-factor sticker includes:

  • Resistance to heat flow - non-solar heat flow
  • Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) - sunlight hitting the window and penetrating the home
  • Air leakage - expressed in cubic feet per minute the amount of air that goes in and out of the
  • window when properly installed

Check these numbers carefully, or have a trusted contractor do it for you. Shop around for Low-E
coatings that improve the U-factor. Some have higher SHGC which are more beneficial in colder

Doing the Math on Energy-Efficient Windows
After doing the calculations and determining that new energy efficient windows will improve your
R-value, then you know that you will be saving at least some money on heating and cooling costs.
That's where the debate begins. Is what you're going to control in energy worth the initial cost of the

Think about it this way: If you get a loan for $3,000 at 5% interest and you add that onto your
home mortgage payments, you're going to be paying an additional $195 annually. When you're
saving anything over $195 a year on energy costs, you're already on your way to a payback of
your initial investment.

The actual savings that you're going to see depends somewhat on where you live. The type of
windows that you're replacing will also have an impact on your savings. The experts
at Energy Star say that in a typical home, replacing single-pane windows with higher
performance ones will save homeowners anywhere from $126 to $465 each year. If math
isn't your strong suit and you're working with a reputable window installation company,
they will be able to show you your exact figures before you invest. More often than not,
it's going to result in at least some savings.

Other Factors to Consider When Calculating Savings
Besides what the gains are right now, there are other factors to keep in mind when deciding on
high-performance windows.

Remaining Comfortable Throughout the Entire Home All Year

Have you ever sat in front of an old window during a snow storm? If you have, then you
know just how uncomfortable that can be. The wind whips in and out, almost like there isn't
even a window there. That means, any part of your living space in front of a window is going
to be abandoned for part of the year, or you'll be purchasing additional heating equipment to
keep that particular space warm. You can't necessarily put a price tag on the square footage
of space you're losing in the winter, but at the very least it's an inconvenience to you and your family.

Energy Efficiency Remains in Place During Power Outages
In the event the power goes out at your home, either in the winter or the summer, the air is
instantly going to start escaping through every crack and crevice in the structure. With
high-performance, energy-efficient windows, you'll be able to maintain the temperature for a
much lengthier period. When the power does come back on, your heating and cooling systems
won't have to work quite as hard to catch up, therefore saving you money again. Not to mention
the peace of mind knowing you and your family can stay put and comfortable in extreme weather

Potential for Frost
If you've ever spent any amount of time in home or business with drafty windows in the winter,
you've likely seen the frost buildup on the inside. Frost creates an entirely new set of issues. Not
only does it make the home chillier and cause you more work cleaning it up, but when it melts and
drips, it can stain materials around the window or even lead to harmful mold growth.

Rising Fuel Prices Are Always A Possibility
Looking back at the calculations from Energy Star on the savings for high-performance window
installations, you have to keep in mind that they are using the current energy and fuel prices.
You can pretty much guarantee that these numbers will continually rise over the years. However,
your initial cost on your windows will remain the same, because it's already been paid. Therefore,
your overall savings will increase with the rising prices for heating and cooling.

Attachments for High-Performance Windows Add Thermal Resistance
Many models of high-performance windows have attachments that can be added on for even more
thermal resistance like shades, quilts, and Low-E storm windows for winter. Not only do the
accessories give you a lower U-factor and higher R-value, but you also gain additional benefits
like controlling the glare on sunny days, increasing privacy, and even getting solar energy,
depending on what you use.

Lower Your Cost with the Style of Window You Use
When considering high-performance energy-efficient window replacements, take into account
what style of window you want to use. Stationary windows, for example, are significantly less
expensive than a double hung, awning, or casement window.

For homeowners that are building from the ground up, you should contemplate using more big
windows and fewer small windows. Just because the window is bigger doesn't mean that it's
necessarily more expensive. With fewer window cutouts in your home, there are fewer opportunities
for air flow from the inside to the outside and vice versa. Whatever style you choose, be sure it has
an insulated frame as well for even more energy efficiency.

Hire a Trusted Window Installation Contractor!
Nightmare stories about dishonest window installation contractors are out there, and that makes
most consumers nervous about hiring someone. While not all window companies are the same,
some will quote a price and promise a particular product. Then, they will order and use a cheaper
product to increase their profit margin. When it happens, it's fraud, and it can leave homeowners
unwilling to trust another home improvement expert. You also won't see the changes in your
energy savings if they promise a particularly high-performance window and then install something
of lower quality.

Before deciding on any window installation contractor for your new high-energy windows, do
your research to ensure you are selecting a reliable one. Check their licenses and insurance, years
of experience, and previous customer reviews. Explore several options and get a few quotes
before settling on one. The last thing you want to do is pay for high-performance windows and
receive something less. As long as you take the proper precautions, you shouldn't have any issues
with your home improvement specialists.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Super Quick Payback Now Possible with LED light bulbs

In a previous article, we showed that an average LED bulb will save $10.69/yr.

I just bought dimmable A19 bulbs at ACE Hardware for $0.99 each.   Even if I use this lighting half as much as the estimate, the payback period is under 3 months.

Here's a link to finding those 99 cent bulbs

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Solar Power Now Worth up to Triple the Cost of Grid Power in CO

This is big news for photovoltaic solar customers in Colorado.

I first proposed this in 2007.  Xcel then tried Smart Grid City which they bungled.

Xcel is finally letting us benefit from the advantages of:

"Net Metering Time of Use (TOU)
COSEIA and other solar parties scored a win with the agreement that  extra energy generated by solar systems in a given month can be rolled over as a monetary credit that recognizes the value of the energy at the time it was generated. The credit will be used to offset the bill for consumption the next month and can continually roll over. Those who have elected to cash out extra production will still have that option. "

(From a COSEIA email announcement of the settlement)

Time Periods:
On Peak:       2 PM through 6 PM (weekday, non-holiday)
Off Peak:       9 PM through 9 AM
Shoulder:      All Other Hours

Price per kilowatt-hour (kwh): 
                                Summer                     Winter
On Peak:                  $0.13814                   $0.08880
Shoulder:                 $0.08420                   $0.05413
Off Peak:                  $0.04440                   $0.04440

For example, if your PV system generates 10 kwh between 2 pm and 6 pm, Xcel must give you a credit of $1.38.
But if you can use the same 10 kwh during off peak hours, it will only cost you $0.44.

Some of the takeaways:

1.  Solar systems will earn more money if they face to the southwest instead of due south.
2.  Homes in Colorado can now benefit from smart timers and products like the Tesla Powerwall.
3.  The demand peak for power occurs at 4pm, which doesn't align with peak solar production. Battery storage is the key to solving this problem, hence the Gigafactory and V2G.

Note that there are a bunch of fees and charges on your utility bill that make it difficult to see your actual cost per kwh.  This issue killed TOU rates the first and second time around.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Now You Can Affordably Tell if the Air in Your House is Healthy

Nate Adams has tested some of the affordable consumer grade indoor air quality (IAQ) monitors:

UDATE:  I bought the Foobot, and it will go into our new homes to see if the initial air quality is acceptable. 

With all the new materials and paint, etc., the initial air quality can be suspect.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Low Energy Carriage House Under Construction

After a painfully long permitting process, GBID's "Tandem House" at 2268 S Acoma (off the alley) is under construction.

Design Highlights:

1.  Double stud "Shirley Wall" construction to meet superinsulation goals.

2.  Insulated forms for stem walls.

3.  No natural gas needed for the house.

4.  Heated and cooled with one ductless minisplit heat pump.

5.  Passivhaus air tightness goal, (0.6 ACH 50)

6.  Fluid-applied Vapor Permeable Air Barrier.

7.  Grid tied PV system for net zero yearly energy usage.

8.  Induction range for cooking.

9.  Ductless heat recovery ventilator.

10. Ventless heat pump clothes dryer.

11. Complies with Denver's new Tandem House zoning form.  The home can be legally sold seperately from the home in front.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Tiny Houses and Sustainability

A new study is out on the topic of tiny house feasibility for urban settings.

Tiny Houses could be a large part of the solution to affordable housing in Denver.

Here at GBID we are continuing to gain experience in the low cost housing sector by renting out fiberglass egg trailers parked in back yards.  These trailers have full utility hookups.

We just rented another one for $450/month after a tenant moved out.  Here's a one-minute "exit interview" with Dave after his 6 month stay in the Scamp.

This price point makes it one of the few solutions for someone trying to survive on minimum wage or Social Security alone.