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As Coastal Flooding Worsens, Some Cities Help Residents Relocate

When the tide gets exceptionally high in Charleston, South Carolina, coastal streets start to run with seawater. Some yards become ponds, and residents pull on rain boots. The city also gets a lot of rain. After homes in one low-lying neighborhood flooded three times in four years, the city offered to buy out 32 flood-prone town homes and turn the land back into open space that can be used for managing future floodwater. It’s a strategy coastal cities from Virginia to California are contemplating more often as tidal flooding increases with sea level rise. Cities all along the U.S. coasts…

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Higher Temperatures and Workplace Injuries

Workplace injuries go up significantly as temperatures rise, causing an average of 20,000 injuries a year in California alone and taking a particular toll on low-income workers, according to new research. In a study published this month, researchers looked at records from California’s worker’s compensation system—the nation’s largest—between 2001 and 2018, and found a connection between higher temperatures and injury for both indoor and outdoor jobs. Young male workers at the lower end of the income range seemed especially affected. Understanding the consequences of “temperature shocks” on workers takes on added importance as climate change pushes the mercury higher, the…

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Controlling Humidity in an Attic with Spray Foam Insulation

Here in the South, we love our humidity. It makes us glisten in the summer. But we also love our air conditioning and low humidity inside our homes. To save on air conditioning costs, more and more homes have attics encapsulated with spray foam insulation to bring the HVAC systems and ductwork inside the conditioned space. But there’s a problem. High humidity in a spray foam attic A few years ago, I wrote about the topic of high humidity in spray foam attics. When you encapsulate the attic with spray foam insulation and don’t do anything to condition the air…

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DOE Light Bulb Delays Waste $300 Million a Month

The Department of Energy has taken the long awaited first step toward implementing the statutorily required phaseout of inefficient incandescent light bulbs. The phaseout was due to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 but was rolled back due to illegal actions taken by the Trump administration. Each month of additional delay results in the ongoing sales of inefficient incandescent light bulbs costing consumers nearly $300 million in lost utility bill savings over the bulbs’ lifetime and result in another 800,000 tons of easily avoided carbon emissions, according to a recent analysis by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). In…

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6 Ways to Improve Ducts in an Unconditioned Attic

A lot of people have gotten the message that ducts for your HVAC system—and the system itself—should be in conditioned space. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) studied the effect of ducts in an unconditioned attic and found they add 25% to the cooling load in hot climates. In their study, the NREL team assumed the ducts were sealed well. New homes that have to pass duct tests are often sealed well, but the reality for many duct systems is that they’re leaky. In addition to the losses associated with the leakage, unbalanced duct leakage creates other problems.…

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Rental Efficiency Standards Are a Win for Equity and Climate

COVID-19 and the resulting economic downturn have turned the existing housing crisis from bad to worse. Renters in more than 8 million homes are behind on payments, and as they struggle to make ends meet, utility bills further burden tenants. Compounding this problem is a lack of energy efficiency in rental homes, which is both an equity and environmental crisis. On May 10, the City of Burlington, Vermont, took a step that will help renters to both lower their costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Burlington City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that sets minimum energy efficiency standards for…

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