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Want Clean Indoor Air? Don’t Bank on Houseplants

Houseplants are often credited with cleaning the air, but science doesn't seem to support this popular notion. [Image credit: Wendy Cutter / CC BY-SA / Flickr] Finding articles online that extoll the many air-cleansing benefits of houseplants is a cinch, but the assertions are mostly hype with little grounding in fact. So writes Robinson Meyer in an article posted at The Atlantic as he debunks a popular claim of health bloggers and more than a few magazine articles. Typical of a pitch to buy more houseplants is this assertion from Katie Wells at her website Wellness Mama. “Houseplants are an effective, simple, and…


High Humidity in the Attic

Jason Advani thought he was on the right track when he insulated the bottom of the roof deck in his walk-up attic with closed-cell spray foam. As planned, the R-40 worth of insulation has drastically reduced his heating bill, but now he faces another, unexpected problem. “Since then, the space has been plagued with very high humidity,” he writes in a Q&A post. “It’s at 60% to 70%, maybe higher. I’m forced to run a dehumidifier up there. I’m spending more money on running the dehumidifier year-round than I previously was to heat the house!” With outside temperatures ranging between…


Is the Green New Deal Just a Pipe Dream?

Denmark now gets 42% of its electricity from wind. The share of electricity generated from wind, solar and other renewable sources has shot up in Europe over the last two decades. Portugal, Germany, and Ireland are other renewable leaders. [Image credit: CGP Grey / CC BY] The Green New Deal that Democratic lawmakers recently proposed would confront climate change by eliminating America’s net carbon emissions within a decade. If enacted, it would transform America’s energy industries and slash pollution, improving public health. This proposal is a non-binding resolution, not an actual bill, and many of the proposed measures are long…


Mitsubishi Launches Integrated Solar Home and Car System

Mitsubishi's Dendo Drive House, to be introduced in Europe and Japan this year, bundles solar panels, a bi-directional charger, and an electric vehicle in a single, integrated system. Prospects in the U.S. aren't known. [Image credit: Mitsubishi] Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is using the Geneva International Motor Show to roll out the Dendo Drive House, an energy system that allows two-way power sharing between a home battery and an electric vehicle. Mitsubishi will begin offering the system this year in Japan and Europe, according to an announcement. There was no word on whether it would be available in the U.S. The…


Colorado County Ponders Lower Limit on House Size

In Aspen, Colorado, county commissioners are discussing updates to energy and land use regulations, including a possible reduction in the maximum allowable size for a single-family house. The cap is now set at 15,000 square feet. [Image credit: Katie Haugland Bowen / CC / Flickr] Energy consumption by jumbo houses is prompting one Colorado county to consider reducing the maximum allowable size of a new house below its current cap of 15,000 square feet. The limit could be rolled into a revised energy code for Pitkin County, which includes the wealthy ski town of Aspen where large houses are not…


Urban Rustic: Installing an ERV

Editor’s note: This post is one of a series by Eric Whetzel about the design and construction of his house in Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. A list of Eric’s previous posts appears below. For more details, see Eric’s blog, Kimchi & Kraut. Building with Passive House principles in mind, we knew that in addition to maintaining a tight building envelope and installing substantial amounts of insulation, we also would need continuous mechanical ventilation. Our system, using either a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) or an energy-recovery ventilator (ERV), would have to be highly efficient. It would need to hold onto…

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