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Thread: Your home's hidden environmental horrors

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Alberta, Canada

    Your home's hidden environmental horrors

    Your home's hidden environmental horrors
    by Jonathan Fahey,
    Monday, June 14, 2010
    provided byforbes

    There's not a wind, breeze or draft that can't be stopped by Tedd Bensonwood, a builder based in New Hampshire who specializes in energy-efficient homes.

    Until recently, one way he would keep out the chilly New England air was by wrapping houses with 4-inch-thick extruded polystyrene, an insulation sold under brand names like Dow Chemical, Styrofoam and Owens Corning Foamular.

    It turns out, though, that these materials contain a particular type of hydrofluorocarbon that happens to be 1,430 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

    It would take 65 years of greenhouse gases saved by this insulation to offset the damage done by this hydrofluorocarbon, according to Alex Wilson, author of the book Your Green Home and founder of BuildingGreen, an organization that provides green design information.

    "A lot of people that care a lot of about the environment are using a lot of insulation in their buildings, for the right reasons," says Wilson. "But by using a couple of types of insulation, they are defeating their efforts."

    Says Bensonwood, who no longer uses the insulation, "It's very frustrating; we're trying to save energy."

    Owens Corning says its own analysis of XPS insulation, reviewed by outside experts, shows its global warming impact is “an order of magnitude” less than what Wilson’s study concludes. Dow says its newest technology uses less hydrofluorocarbons than Wilson assumed, and that an outside sustainability firm rated its XPS insulation highly. Neither company makes its exact formulations public.

    There are all kinds of appliances and materials used to power, entertain, heat, cool, build and beautify our homes that use up resources in ways that are obvious, hidden or hidden in plain sight.

    For example: You thought your gas range was just using gas to bake your cookies? Not so. Most gas ranges use electricity to power what's called a "glowbar" that helps govern the gas valves. These can draw 500 watts of power, almost as much as the microwave oven you were proud of yourself for not using.

    Many things in your home, from your plasma television to your simple little toaster, draw power all day and all night just by being plugged in. According to researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a typical American home has 40 appliances drawing power 'round the clock. Together they consume 10% of residential electricity use nationwide.

    That 700-pound granite countertop? Even if it is mined locally, it is often shipped elsewhere to be cut and polished, then it's shipped back--burning fuel going to and fro.

    Nate Kredich, vice president for residential market development at the U.S. Green Building Council, says what is needed, but difficult to get, are life cycle analyses of products' impacts that factors in production, transportation, the sources of the raw materials and how long the product last.

    This last question, longevity, makes the calculation especially tricky. For all the energy it takes to produce granite, it can last a very long time. "If something lasts for 100 years and doesn't have to be replaced, that can be very green," Kredich says. "The whole thing is a trade-off. There are no easy answers."

    Thankfully, though, says BuildingGreen's Wilson, there are often clearly preferable options. Substituting extruded polystyrene with insulation made with polyisocyanurate reduces the greenhouse gas payback from 65 years to just 2.7 years. Now that's green.

    Go to to view the slideshow

    In Pictures: 10 Environmental Horrors In Your Home
    "Do or do not. There is no try." -- Yoda

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio USA
    It is for reasons like these articulated in this article that I live in a tent, on public land, shower only when it rains, and eat food otherwise discarded as trash by others. Sure, it gets tiring walking 50 miles daily, to and from work, and yeah, J complains about no TV...but, we are 100% in keeping with an earth friendly attitude!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Westchester Cty, NY
    Oh, like Polyisocyanurate won't have problems! It may have a low environmental impact, but it breaks down into toxic nasties.
    I've been finally defrosted by cassiesmom!
    "Not my circus, not my monkeys!"-Polish proverb

  4. #4
    One of the best ways to understand your home's energy usage is to do a home energy assessment, often referred to as an “energy audit.Air leakage leaks hidden in your walls, attic, basement & garage allow .Horror stories abound.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy .

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Ploss's Halfway House for Homeless Cats
    It is for reasons like these articulated in this article that I live in a tent, on public land, shower only when it rains, and eat food otherwise discarded as trash by others. Sure, it gets tiring walking 50 miles daily, to and from work, and yeah, J complains about no TV...but, we are 100% in keeping with an earth friendly attitude!
    Johanna, you missed your calling as a stand up comic! LOL

    Rest In Peace Casey (Bubba Dude) Your paw print will remain on my heart forever. 12/02
    Mollie Rose, you were there for me through good times and in bad, from the beginning.Your passing will leave a hole in my heart.We will be together "One Fine Day". 1994-2009
    MooShoo,you left me too soon.I wasn't ready.Know that you were my soulmate and have left me broken hearted.I loved you like no other. 1999 - 2010See you again "ONE FINE DAY"
    Maya Linn, my heart is broken. The day your beautiful blue eyes went blind was the worst day of my life.I only wish I could've done something.I'll miss your "premium" purr and our little "conversations". 1997-2013 See you again "ONE FINE DAY"


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