5/11/2015

3 Spring Products for Comfort and Energy-Efficiency

Spring showers may bring May flowers, but it can also bring allergies symptoms and erratic weather. Pollen counts in much of the Northeast and Midwest are staggering at the moment, as allergy suffers sneeze, wheeze, and tear. There are some products available that help mitigates the effects of rising pollen counts, widely fluctuating temperatures, and unexpected rainfall while keeping the energy bills low.

Heat Recovery Ventilators

HRV systems work by bringing a constant supply of fresh air into the home and exhausting stale air out. The intake air is filtered and preheated from the exhaust air, taking out pollen and many other indoor pollutants, while saving energy.“I think the HRV is what revolutionized [energy efficient] houses,” says Brian Hughes, carpenter for GO Logic, an energy efficient design-build firm in Maine. “People have been building super tight insulated houses since the 50s. The problem was that the air quality wasn’t good and people didn’t try having a super tight building again until they realized that with the heat exchanger, you can use a tiny bit of electricity and have really high air quality.”

The efficiency of these units has grown in recent years. Zehnder HRV systems are up to 95% efficient in transferring heat to the intake air from the exhaust air. Allergy sufferers can keep windows closed if necessary and rest assured that their homes are supplied with fresh, filtered spring air.

Tilt and Turn Windows

These windows can tilt in, using one hinge at the bottom to allow them to open at the top. This tilted position offers draft-free ventilation and rain protection and boosts safety for small children, thus allowing occupants to open windows when it might otherwise not be a good idea. In a different handle position, the window swings in on all the hinges, creating a larger opening. These windows are already common in Europe and are gaining popularity in the United States. They are well suited for spring weather when unexpected showers could cause rain damage in the home when typical windows are left open.

Solar Energy Systems

Although somewhat counterintuitive, spring is often a great season for solar energy production if it isn’t highly overcast. Most people expect summer solar energy production to be greater, but higher temperatures typically undermine the efficiency of solar systems. In the spring, long daylight hours and cooler temperatures create a winning formula for solar energy production, especially when cloudy weather is minimized.

A couple of solar technologies have recently grown in popularity that is boosting solar energy production. Microinverters help reduces the effect of shading on solar system output and can boost overall system output. The company Enphase is nearly synonymous with microinverters, being the first company to successfully bring them to the market in large scale with 5 million units in the field.

Another noteworthy product is SolarEdge optimizers, which the company says can increase the output of a solar system by up to 25%. Like microinverters, they increase production from each individual panel by allowing them to work independently of rest of the array.

Sarah Lozanova is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites including Mother Earth Living, Mothering, Energy International Quarterly, ThinkGreen.com, Triple Pundit, CleanTechnica, Green Business Quarterly, Natural Home, GreenBiz, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Engineering, and Solar Today.  She currently lives with her family in the Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage