Category Archives: Mascord Efficient Living

Successfully living in a smaller home

The PasadenaReading ‘More Money’ this morning, I came across an intersting article that discusses the housing market as it stands today.  The good news is that smaller homes are selling much faster in this market than the larger homes of 10 years ago.  The bad news?  Although buyers want a smaller home – they still want all the amenities of a larger one! Continue reading


‘m always interested in seeing what ideas builders and designers come up with, and how they implement some of the more fun elements of building science – and this example certainly caught my eye. Continue reading


The Kitchen of the Future

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Well, the kitchen depicted when Doc and Marty went “Back to the Future” (circa 2015), complete with hydrating pizza oven, voice activated roof mounted fruit bowl and dodgy virtual window display seems to be a bit far mark, but I wonder if those creative guys over at IKEA will be any nearer with their vision of the future (circa 2040)? Continue reading


Increasing incentives and product options abound, solar thermal water heaters offer one of the fastest paybacks in the solar world. Of the may types available, implementing different technologies, one of my favorites continues to be vacuum tube type systems, like this kit from Kingspan.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a home’s domestic water heating costs should drop by 50% to 80% with the installation of a properly sized solar thermal system. Installed costs for typical residential solar water heaters begin at around $5,000, and they qualify for the 30% federal tax credit currently available, as well as for state and local incentives, where available. A great source of information about incentives available in your area is the DSIRE website.

DIgging a little deeper and researching online, we discover there are two basic types of solar thermal systems:

“Passive” systems require no pumps or electricity to operate, relying instead on natural thermo-siphon action driven by the temperature differential between the solar collectors and the water inside the storage tank. Because these systems circulate the home’s actual domestic water, they are mainly used in areas where temperatures stay well above freezing.

“Active” solar thermal systems use a differentially controlled pump to circulate freeze-protected fluid, such as glycol, up to the collectors and back to the holding tank through closed-loop heat-exchange tubing, which transfers the fluid’s heat to the home’s domestic water. For maximum energy efficiency, some systems use a small photovoltaic panel mounted with the collectors to power their pumps.” Continue reading

Green? By what standard?

ngbsI was recently at a meeting between local leaders, discussing how the newly released National Green Building Standard (NGBS) fits in with existing state and city level green building programs and incentives.  There were a number of interested parties involved, including builders, designers, local utility companies, performance testers, city departments and state non-profits.  I was extremely happy that we had such a wide range of perspectives present; the conversation was most interesting and I’d like to quickly share some of the thoughts that came from the group.

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High Performance at Zero Cost

When evaluating systems to incorporate into your green home, it is easy to get caught up in direct cost comparisons of similar products.  For instance, it is easy to compare the costs of an 80% and 90% efficient gas furnace.  There are up-front costs, and then there are operating costs.  Even though the 90% furnace will undoubtedly cost less in the long run, the extra up-front costs can often be disillusioning.

A holistic look at the home as a system can help a builder bear those costs in the budget by reducing costs with additional strategies.  Here’s a quick-fire way to actually reduce construction costs while simultaneously improving the energy efficiency of a home: Continue reading


Location Selection Tools

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As the old adage suggests, location is everything.  Resources available in the neighborhood of your home will determine how efficient the lifestyle of the homeowners can be, before you even get to pouring your foundations.  In my opinion, considering the … Continue reading