Nott and Associates is committed to designing and building energy efficient sustainable homes.
As members of the United States Green Building Council we are constantly updated as to the newest building techniques and technologies.
We work with our suppliers, subcontractors and our clients to build the most efficient and comfortable homes while keeping aware of cost and maintenance.
Nott and Associates is also registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a Lead-Safe Certified Firm. As of April of 2010 only trained and certified contractors can work on homes built before 1978 when lead paint was completely banned.
for simple and cost effective ways to green your house.
‘Greening’ your house is a vague term. There are many strategies at making your home more comfortable and energy efficient while lessening your impact on our natural resources. Not all strategies work for every house.
An easy place to start is to install a water filter at your kitchen sink. Water filters decrease the need for all those plastic water bottles that end up in the landfills. Water filters also save the energy that it takes to process and transport that purified water to you. Drinking out of a filter vs. buying all those bottles saves you space in your refrigerator, your cabinets, your trash cans and saves you hundreds of dollars over the lifespan of the filter. A good filter will cost you between one and two hundred dollars and last about a year.
Window tinting or shading of the house is another easy thing to do. Simple tinting of windows that are exposed to the sun much of the day can be a low cost way of keeping your home cool. Window tints also protect furniture and floors from sun damage. You can tint your windows yourself for about thirty dollars a window or expect to pay about a little over a hundred dollars a window to have a professional do it for you. I recommend having a professional do it for you because the quality of the tints and glues they use will far outlast anything you can do yourself.
Planting Deciduous trees at the southern and western sides of the home will keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Deciduous trees fill in with leaves in the spring then shed in the winter months. This allows passive cooling in the summer months and passive heating during the winter months.
Maintaining your heating and air conditioning system can save you a lot of money and make your house more comfortable. Older AC systems often develop leaks in the Freon lines so they run with little cooling effect on the house. Re charging a leaking AC system will cost you about $500 and you will notice the effects immediately. Older HVAC systems often tend to have leaky ducts that can waste significant energy though their inadequate insulation. Having a qualified HVAC contractor check your system’s Freon levels and check for leaks in your ducts will save you considerable amounts of money. Also do not forget to change the filters at the return air grates every six months. Clogged filters can put undo strain on the systems motor.
Upgrading your HVAC system for a new high efficiency model is an expensive investment but well worth it if you have an older system and you intend to stay in your house. Today’s AC systems are averaging near 15 SEER compared to the old 8 SEER systems of yesterday. Newer systems have much better insulation at the ducts through the house. I recommend upgrading or at least inspecting thoroughly your HVAC system if it is 20 years old or older.
A cool roof reflects the sun’s heat energy back into the sky.
There are many new products and coverings that can reflect the sun's energy rather than allowing the house to absorb it as heat.
Reflective roofs and coatings have been used on flat roofed commercial buildings for years. Most residential roofs are sloped and use asphalt shingles.
Last year reflective asphalt shingles where introduced. This new roofing product reflects 75% of solar radiation. It does this by incorporating reflective granules into the shingle to reflect the sun.
Here are some advantages of a Cool Roof
A cool roof can stay 60 degrees cooler on the hottest days significantly reducing energy costs and increasing occupant comfort.
Besides increasing the comfort of homes cool roofs curb global warming by decreasing cooling costs. Cool roofs reduce air conditioning use by 10% to 30%.
Reducing energy during these peak hours reduces the need to build more power plants.
Cool roofs reduce ‘Heat Island’ effect. Heat Island effect is the increase in temperatures in urban areas cased by the absorption of solar radiation by absorptive materials like black top paving and dark roofs. Heat Island effect can increase temperatures in urban areas from 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reflective roof shingles cost 80 cents more per square foot than a conventional roof but they pay for themselves in 5 to 7 years.
Reflective roofs also last longer which means lower cost of ownership and less waste in landfills.
Other inexpensive ways to cool your roof are insuring proper attic ventilation with attic vents or fans.
A radiant foil barrier at attic roof rafters will also decrease cooling costs.
Contact us about how a cool roof can benefit your home.
Your heating and air conditioning system makes your home more comfortable. Are you getting the most out of your system and the highest efficiency?
Many older HVAC systems are inefficient for three reasons: the age of the unit, the unit is not installed or designed properly or because the Freon has leaked out.
Air conditioning systems are rated by SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating). Today it is illegal to install an AC system less than 13 SEER. Some older systems are as low as 8 SEER.
To qualify for a Federal Tax credit up to $1500.00 you must install a minimum 16 SEER air conditioner.
Heating is measured in furnace efficiency. While 80% efficiency is common you must install a minimum of a 95% efficiency furnace to qualify for the Federal tax credit.
Here are some tips to optimize the efficiency and comfort of your system
Check duct integrity with a flow test. Some systems can leak up to 20% of conditioned air into attic spaces, wasting you money.
Have a licensed HVAC contractor check the Freon levels.
Install a digital thermostat or zone dampers for occupancy designed comfort.
Check compressor to make sure the air flow is not obstructed by lint or dust.
Improve indoor air quality by installing high quality filters. A high MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) filter can remove bacteria from your living space and is helpful in the treatment of asthma.
Lastly change filters twice a year. This will decrease the load on your unit, increase the unit’s lifespan and your overall comfort.
Contact us about optimizing your HVAC system and making your house more comfortable.
A house’s landscape serves many purposes. Whether it be a place for your kids to play soccer or a place for you to sit back and read a book. To get the most out of your landscape you need to start with a good design.
You can create environmentally conscientious landscape that suits your needs by following these basic suggestions
Monitor and maintain irrigation systems by fixing leaks and avoiding overspray.
Watering at night will reduce evaporation and maximize time for absorption.
Use ‘Smart Control’ sprinkler timers with integral weather stations that can detect rain and outside temperature and automatically adjust system as needed.
Use native plants that use less water and help maintain the local ecosystem. Native plants helps supports local insects that pollinate and regulate other species.
Leave grass higher in summer to increase shading and add bark to planter beds to reduce evaporation.
Minimize grass areas or substitute a traditional lawn for Meadow Grass or Deer Grasses that uses 50 % less water than traditional lawns.
A typical lawn needs 70 inches of water per year and large amounts of fertilizer that can get into our ground water.
Los Angeles rainfall averages 14 inches per year that means a lawn needs 56 inches more of water per year.
Group like species together into micro climates to fine tune watering.
Encourage water permeable paving to promote absorption into the aquifer.
Decomposed granite is a good replacement for previously paved parking.
Passive heating and cooling can be accomplished by using deciduous plants that shade in summer and allow sun in winter.
Remove invasive plants. Invasive plants can destroy existing landscapes that act as a home to native species that regulate local environments.
Contact us about creating a functional, responsible landscape.
Reducing water consumption and water heating costs are the two most important plumbing issues in your home. Homeowners do not appreciate water as a resource because it is inexpensive and easily available by just turning on the faucet. The city of Los Angeles has been to restricting water usage more and more every year. There are many ways and programs available that vary city by city. To see what programs apply in your area visit.
Water heating technology is changing. More efficient options are becoming available every year.
Tank water heaters run at about 60% efficiency. Tank heaters are inefficient because you keep water hot all the time. You can increase their efficiency slightly by installing a water heater blanket and setting the thermostat lower. A replacement tank water heater runs about $1100 installed. Many plumbing distributers believe tank water heaters will be phased out in the next ten years because of the higher air quality regulations.
Tankless heaters run about 85% efficiency. Tank less or ‘On demand’ heaters heat water as needed so they have no passive energy loss. Tank less heaters also use more advanced burners. Tank less heaters run about $3200 installed.
Condensing water heaters are the future of hot water. Condensing units get their increased efficiency by reusing the exhaust from the heater. Condensing heaters run about $4000 installed but operate at about 95 % efficiency.
Other tips to keep hot water bills down are insulating hot water pipes, employ solar water heating and installing a hot water recirculation pump.
Contact us about how you can get the most out of your plumbing system.
Solar power or Photovoltaic power promises to move us toward a future of clean energy for many of our homes and businesses. The photovoltaic effect refers to converting solar energy directly into electricity. This is accomplished when energy from the sun hits solar panels and knocks electrons into a higher state of energy. This energy is then harvested as electricity. Photovoltaic may sound complicated but the technology has been understood for over a hundred years.
Today solar power is everywhere.
As it becomes more affordable you will continue to see its popularity grow.
Solar systems are measured in Kilo watts (KW).
A typical residential system is around 4 KW.
The location needs to be southern facing with minimal shading during the day.
The cost for a new system runs about $8000 per KW or $32,000.00 for a 4 KW system.
The most important thing when installing solar is taking care of the roof.
It makes no sense to install a solar system before checking the integrity of the roof and protected from damage and future leaks.
The Federal government offers a 30% federal tax credit for new systems.
The state of California also offers from $1500 to $2000 per KW in rebates.
This can bring a system previously priced at $32,000.00 down to near $18,000.00.
More complicated systems with battery backup are available. These systems store energy during the day for night time use. These systems are significantly more complicated and expensive.
A photovoltaic system takes advantage of Net Metering. This will give you a near zero electric bill and soon allow you to sell electricity back to your utility.
Contact us about a photo voltaic system for your home.
Lead paint was banned in 1978. Lead is present in half the homes built before 1978. 86% of Homes built before 1940 contain lead.
Lead has been designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as hazardous to people and animals. Lead causes Neurological damage in children up to 6 years old and in heavy exposure may even lead to death. In adults lead exposure can lead to increases in blood pressure and reproductive issues.
On April 22nd of 2010 the EPA implemented the Lead RRP regulations (Remodeling Repair and Painting). The Lead RRP implements guidelines for working on pre 1978 homes.
These regulations are designed to protect the inhabitants of housing for the dangers of lead exposure. These regulations are mainly based on containing the dust and scrapings created by construction. Extensive measures are now taken to contain this dust and to document its containment and disposal.
Failure to comply with these regulations can lead to fines of up to $32,500 and possibly jail. It is very important that homeowners contract with remodelers and painters who are Lead safe certified.
These regulations do add to the cost of construction. A typical paint job will be around 15% more expensive to adhere to these regulations.
For more information consult the EPA’s web site regarding working on homes pre 1978 at http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm.
Contact us when considering remodeling or painting your pre 1978 home.
There are a number of Federal Tax incentives. These tax rebates are available as a non refundable tax credit. The important thing for tax payers to understand is that these tax credits expire after 2010. These limits are higher and they have removed some caps on certain deductions.
There are three categories for residential construction tax credits
Solar or alternative energy production: 30% of entire cost of system. The important difference from previous years is that there is no cap on this deduction.
Heating and cooling improvements: 30% up to $1500 for parts and labor on qualifying building system improvements.
1. Furnace must be a minimum of 95% efficiency.
2. Air conditioning must be minimum 16 SEER.
3. Water heating systems must be minimum 90% efficiency.
Building envelope improvements: 30% up to $1500 for materials only on qualifying building envelope improvements.
1. Replacing windows, skylights or exterior doors with a U value of 0.30 or less.
2. Insulation or sealing ducts and cracks in building envelope.
3. Window films to insulate against solar heat gain.
4. Energy Star rated roofs with a minimum Solar Reflective Index of 0.29.
Contact us about how you can qualify for these tax credits.
Windows and doors are the largest culprit of energy loss in your home. There are two issues with inefficient windows: Emissivity or energy transmission through the glass and Infiltration, windows that leak air.
There are two ways to resolve these problems:
Replacement of old windows with new high performance windows
Replacement is always the best but is more time consuming and more expensive.
New high performance windows come with Low E (emissivity) glass.
Low E glass reduces energy transmission in and out of the house. Keeping your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Emissivity is measured by U factor. Installing windows with U factor less that 0.30 qualifies toward a $1500 Federal tax credit.
New windows are good at dealing with outdoor air infiltration because of better weather stripping and gaskets at openings.
New high performance windows cost from $600 to $1000 each installed.
Repairing existing windows
Old windows can be repaired but this is a less reliable way of dealing with the problems of inefficient windows.
Low E films can be installed on the inside of the glass to reduce emissivity.
Existing gaskets can be repaired and sealants introduced to cut down on infiltration.
A window can be repaired and retrofitted for about $300.
Contact us about how your windows and doors can make your home more comfortable.
Nott & Associates
1508 Mission Street, South Pasadena, California 91030