Rocktown Energy Fest: Gaines Group Panel

Rocktown Energy Fest: Gaines Group Panel

We are beyond excited for our very own Charles Hendricks to attend the first annual Rocktown Energy Fest to present his panel on, Building Science: Save Energy and Money. You can RSVP and find further details of this event here.

A home is the most complicated machine you will ever own. Humidity, water, insects, energy use, air quality, VOCs: there are so many factors that impact your health and comfort in a home, but we rarely think about them. Join Charles for a short session to talk about things you can do in your home that can reduce your monthly energy bills, saving you money while reducing your chances of getting sick.

We hope to see you there this weekend, Saturday, October 2nd at 10:00 AM. Our panel begins at 10:20 AM, and if you would like more information on saving money by going green check out our ‘At Home Energy Series’ Including Solar, Hydro, and Around the House!

At Home Energy: Around the House

At Home Energy: Around the House

This week we went over the different ways to conserve energy using sunlight and rainwater, but if growing your own food and catching rain isn’t fitting for your lifestyle there are plenty of other things you can do to cut down on energy bills!

  • A quick fix that will save you money for years to come is swapping our your light bulbs! Switching from regular bulbs to LED bulbs can save you up to $1,000.00 in a 10 year span. By using a semiconductor to convert electricity into light LED light bulbs work 90% more efficiently than regular incandescent bulbs!
  • Unplug your appliances! Did you know that your appliances still use electricity even when not in use? That means the iphone charger plugged in next to your nightstand is still using electricity even when your phone isn’t plugged in. In retrospect it doesn’t seem like a big deal but when you have several appliances (toaster, coffee maker, etc.) plugged in and not in use this can add up to an extra $100-$200 a year in unused energy.
  • Washing your clothing in cold water can be a huge game changer for not only your clothes but your energy bills. While washing your clothes in cold water can help preserve the color and size of fabric, 90% of the energy your washing machine uses is just for heating up the water! Cold Water Saves does an excellent job of breaking down laundry loads and energy pricing here, washing in hot water costs around $0.68/load whereas washing in cold water costs $0.04/load.
  • Change your air conditioning filter monthly. As your AC gets dirtier over time it can make it more difficult for it to pump out air, which can even cause it to break down quicker. As a result you could save up to 15% on your utility bills.
At Home Energy: Hydro

At Home Energy: Hydro

Much like the sun, water also offers many opportunities that can save money and the environment. If you are similar to the vast majority of the population you don’t have a river or waterfall in your backyard to utilize a hydroelectric power generator (which can be extremely costly even if you do). These easy water hacks will hopefully give you a refreshing outlook on the power of water and what natural resources can do for you.

  • Rainwater has plenty of natural nutrients and is relatively very pure, a quick and easy way to cut down on your water bills is to use rainwater to hydrate your plants. In the solar portion of the series, we discussed the importance of growing your own food, now you can harvest healthier water for that food without worrying about a water bill. According to Good Earth Plant Company, rainwater will even clear out the pores on plant leaves, improving their ability to breathe in carbon dioxide.
  • Rainwater can even be used to water pets and livestock. Mass amounts of water go towards the upkeep and care of farm animals and wildlife, a dent can be made in this exceedingly large bill by collecting rainwater in cisterns!
  • Aside from collecting rainwater, there are several things that can be done in the home to conserve water and minimize your water bill. One of the biggest things you can do is make your showers shorter. According to Friends of the Earth, we use 4.5 gallons of water for every minute we shower, so consider setting a timer on your phone the next time you shower!
  • Save up your laundry! Hold off on doing loads of laundry and dishes until you have a full load. Running one large load of dishes or laundry conserves more water than running several smaller ones. Plus you get the benefit of not doing as much housework every week. Plus washing your clothes and dishes together is fun – just kidding, wanted to make sure you were still reading.


At Home Energy: Solar

At Home Energy: Solar

As the desire to utilize green energy grows, the tools to harness it expand as well. As the options continue to expand the price for green energy continues to drop. Anyone who has had the tiniest interest in solar panels knows just how good of an investment they can be for your home or business, but there is a high economic bar to get started. This series strives to shine some light (pun intended) on different ways solar energy can be used to save you money and save our planet.

  • A simple life-change you can do to utilize the energy from the sun is using a clothesline. This not only saves you the energy from using your dryer but is also gentler on your clothes and even removes stubborn odors embedded in the fabric. According to Efficiency, the sun even whitens your whites, acting as a natural bleach by sanitizinbg your clothes.
  • Another way to utilize the suns energy is through growing your own food! This is definitely a solution for those with patience and maybe a green thumb. Purchasing fruits and vegatables from a grocery store has a hidden environmental cost that we don’t always consider. Long distance transportation of produce contributes heavily to fossil fuel emissions, you also receive the benefit of knowing what you are spraying on your plants. You don’t even need a yard to accomplish this, just a few pots of soil, some seeds, and of course sunlight!
  • In extreme situations the suns light can also be used to purify water. When water is in a clear container and exposed to sunlight the UV radiation will eliminate any parasites, or bacteria! According to the Koshland Science Museum the water will need to sit for up to six hours in direct sunlight, and two days if particularly cloudy. While we might not use this hack everyday, it can save lives when clean water is not accesible.
Green Term Defined: Energy Audit

Green Term Defined: Energy Audit

An energy audit is an inspection that looks at energy flow in a building. The objective of an audit is to identify things that can be modified to reduce energy usage and increase comfort and safety for the occupants of the building.

These audits usually involve a blower door that depressurizes a house or office and thermal imaging technology to see the thermal bridges and air leaks. The audit will also identify equipment, lights, and appliances that can be replaced or upgraded to reduce energy consumption.

North Fork Middle SchoolNorth Fork Middle School - Energy audit

There are common places that you can address without an audit to cut your energy loss. 

  1. Caulk the gaps and cracks
  2. Seal the electrical outlets
  3. Seal your crawl space
  4. Add insulation in the attic

In Harrisonburg for homes that use electric heat, HEC provides free energy audits. This free audit is performed by me and is a very basic level audit that will identify a litany of items to improve. If you do not live in the city, or do not have electric heat ,or own a commercial project, or want a comprehensive audit, you should call Building Knowledge.

harrisonburg energy audit


Green Terms Defined Summary 2015

Green Terms Defined Summary 2015

 Green Terms Defined Summary 2015

2012 International Energy Conservation Code: Minimum energy code standards adopted by the Commonwealth of Virginia

Air Changes per Hour (ACH)the measure how many times the air within a defined space is replaced.

electrical outlets

ASHRAE 90.1: a standard in the US that provides minimum requirements for energy-efficient designs for buildings except for low-rise residential buildings.

Carbon Footprinta measure of the impact our activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases we produce.

Carbon Neutral Building: the process of taking into account measuring, reducing, and offsetting carbon energy used by the building.

Cellulose Insulationa low-thermal-conductivity material use to reduce heat loss and gain from a building.

Ceramic tile: made from clay that has been permanently hardened by heat, often having a decorative glaze.

Commissioning: verification and documentation that a building and the systems used are designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained to meet the project requirements set by the building owner.

electrical outlets

Conduction: the flow of heat through an object by transferring heat from one molecule to another. Think frying pan on a stove or wood stud that touches the inside drywall and the outside wall sheathing.

Convection: refers to the transfer of heat by a moving fluid. Thing warm air rising and cool air sinking in a room. Convection loops circulate near walls. During the heating season, warm air is cooled by exterior walls and falls towards the floor, creating a convection loop. Convective loops can also happen within framing cavities if the insulation doesn’t completely fill the space.

Edible landscapingthe practical integration of food plants within your landscape for the purposes of decorating as well as producing food.

Erosion: the removal of soil and rock by water from one location to another.

ERV or Energy Recovery Ventilatorpart of a balanced ventilation system that transfers water vapor and heat from one airstream to another.

Flashinga strip of impervious material used to stop water from penetrating the junction of a wall or roof with another surface.

Fly Asha fine, glass like powder recovered from the coal-burning process for the production of electricity.

FormaldehydeA gas used widely in production of adhesives, plastics, preservatives, and fabric treatments and commonly emitted by indoor materials that are made with its compounds.

Grasslands Conservation Carbon Offsetssimilar to forestry, native grasses and other vegetation provide a natural source of greenhouse gas (GHG) absorption and sequestration.

Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg

Historic Building: a structure that has historic, architectural, or cultural significance.

Humidistatan electronic device that measures the relative humidity in a space.

HVAC: Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning system in your home or business.

Infrared Thermography, thermal imaging, or thermal video: a type of infrared imaging used for determining air leakage in energy audits.

Insulated concrete form (ICF)a wall building system made of reinforced concrete and most commonly rigid thermal insulation.

Insulating CurtainsThermal curtains have a lining that resists temperature change and are heavy enough to stop air flow.

Interior designthe art or process of designing the interior of a room or building.

Karst Topography: an area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fisures, sinkholes, underground streams and caverns.

Lifetime Home: A design approach that encompasses specific design features that ensure that a new house or apartment will meet the current and future needs of most households.

light shelf

Light Shelf: a horizontal overhanging element located above the eye-level and typically having a highly reflective upper surface.

Linoleum: a resilient flooring product that was developed in the 1800’s. It consists of cork flour, linseed oil, oak dust, and jute.

Natural Ventilation: the process of supplying and removing air by natural means from building spaces by using windows, doors, solar chimneys, and non-powered ventilators.

Net Meteringa method of crediting consumers for the electricity that is generated on their home or business in excess of the total electricity that they have used.

No-Step Entry or zero-step entry: a flush entry from the driveway or garage into your home.

Pervious Concrete: concrete that allows water to move through the material into a storage area under the pavement.

Radiation: flow of heat from a warm source through space in waves of infrared or visible light energy. Think sunlight through a window.

Renovationthe act of repurposing / updating / remodeling of a building.

Resilient Designthe capacity of a design to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance.


Single-stream recycling: a process or system where all paper, plastics, metals, cardboard, glass, and trash goes into the same can and is sorted by the facility into separate commodities.

Solatube: a tubular daylighting system

Specifications: define the requirements regarding materials, products, installation and quality aspects pertaining to the execution of the work and contract.

Thermal Bridgewhere heat occurs across more conductive components in an otherwise well-insulated material, resulting in disproportionately significant heat loss.

Tiny House: home designed to be less than 1,000 sf

Vampire Loadthe power consumed by electronics and appliances while they are technically switched off or in standby mode.

Vapor Barrier: a barrier that reduces the rate that water vapor can move through a material.

Wastewaterwater from bathtubs, shower drains, sinks, washing machines, and dishwashers is considered grey water.

WaterSense: a label program created by the Environmental Protection Agency for consumers to easily identify water efficient products.

Weatherizationthe practice of using cost-effective strategies to modify a building to decrease energy usage and increase comfort.

Window: Casement or Double-Hung glass opening in a wall system.