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New Zero-Energy Homes Almost to Cost Parity

If you had a choice between building new homes that meet basic standards and building comfortable, healthy homes that dramatically cut energy bills, which would you prefer? How about if the low-energy homes cost the same (or nearly the same) as a standard home to build? If the cost is relatively equal, shouldn’t every new home be built this way? A recent Rocky Mountain Institute report, The Economics of Zero-Energy Homes: Single-Family Insights, makes the case that not only is this vision becoming achievable, in some locations in the United States the economics are in place today to make cost…


Minneapolis To Eliminate Single-Family Zoning

Minneapolis has become the first major city in the country to drop zoning regulations that allow only single-family homes, The New York Times reports. In a vote earlier this month, the City Council approved new zoning rules that will allow multifamily units with as many as three dwelling units in every neighborhood in the city. The changes, now under review by a regional policy-setting body, are expected to be put into place next year. The change is part of the city’s revised comprehensive plan, called Minneapolis 2040, that lays out objectives in a variety of categories, including housing. The document…


Amazon Will Ban Controversial Paint Strippers

An aviation support technician applies paint stripper to a stanchion aboard an amphibious assault ship in this U.S. Navy photo. Despite the use of protective equipment such as gloves and respirators, users of paint strippers containing methylene chloride have died from exposure to the chemical. (Photo: Naval Surface Warriors / CC BY-SA / Flickr) Amazon is joining other retailers in banning paint strippers containing chemicals that have been linked to dozens of deaths. In a policy that becomes effective next March, the retailing giant said it will prohibit the listing or sale of strippers that contain methylene chloride or n-methylpyrrolidone…


California Approves a Pilot Program for Energy Upgrades

Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in California's San Joaquin Valley are the targets of the recently approved pilot program. (Illustration: Environmental Protection Agency) Homes across one of the most polluted and disadvantaged regions in California will be outfitted with state-of-the-art, electric-powered heating systems and appliances free of cost under a pilot program approved by the state Public Utilities Commission. The 4-1 vote to fund the installation of high-efficiency electric heat pumps and other energy-efficient upgrades in up to 1,667 San Joaquin Valley homes is a first in California. The approximately $50 million project is expected to save participating households…


About the Ethanol In Your Tank

President Donald Trump has promised his supporters in Iowa that the federal government will take a step that may increase corn ethanol sales. This plant-derived fuel, which comprises about 10% of the 143 billion gallons of gasoline Americans buy each year, is a kind of alcohol made from corn. The industry first emerged in 1980s with government support, after interest in making the country less reliant on imported oil surged in the 1970s. It later acquired a second purpose: lowering greenhouse gas emissions. I have spent the last 24 years studying alternative fuels and fuel blends. Based on my research,…


Is a Ground-Source Heat Pump the Right Choice?

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Andy Zbojniewicz is planning a large, high-performance home that ultimately will be powered by a 15-kW solar array. The house will have more than 3,000 square feet above grade, and another 1,633 square feet in the basement. His immediate concern is how to heat and cool the house. “I was told the home was too large to heat and cool with air-source heat pumps and be comfortable,” Zbojniewicz writes in a Q&A post,  “so [I] was primarily looking at geothermal.” To that end, Zbojniewicz sought quotes from two HVAC contractors for ground-source heat pumps. One of…

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