Monday, September 30, 2013

Utilities Turn Up Heat on Solar Rooftops

Utilities Turn Up Heat on Solar Rooftops

by Matthew Sperling 

A war against progress is being waged by some of this country’s largest companies. The battle is over our civilization’s most essential service: electricity.

California is a leading battleground, as evidenced by the top story in the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Aug. 12 edition (“Solar Feels Heat From State Fee”). Reporter Howard Fine writes that California’s three biggest utilities are pushing for a fee of $5 to $10 to be added to customers’ monthly electric bills.

Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric claim the fee will “offset the loss of revenue from customers who switch to solar power.”

This attempt to stick their hands in the public’s pocket is part of a nationwide effort by large electric utilities. A July 26 New York Times story (“On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities”) begins: “For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.”

I am among the utility customers who have been collateral damage in the power companies’ war against solar power. In April, Sun Pacific Solar in Santa Barbara installed our solar energy system and backup batteries. The city inspector declared our system was one of the nicest he’d ever seen.

The installer went to Edison to have us connected to the electrical grid. After at least a decade of allowing systems like ours to be connected, this time Edison said no. We would not be welcome to provide power to the grid and to be assured of power during a blackout.

Our $21,000 system – the cost after incentives and tax breaks – has been off line for four months. Power is in greatest demand during the summer, but we are not allowed to sell our excess energy to Edison under the state’s net energy metering program. I have been told that many other power-generating systems in various stages of completion have been knocked for a loop by Edison’s actions.

The California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission have mostly disappeared into the bureaucratic woodwork. The president of the CPUC, Michael R. Peevey, was also president of Edison for three years, strengthening any claims that he has a conflict of interest.

The state’s largest utilities have agreed not to connect any solar systems with backup batteries and might revisit systems that have already been connected. What is the rather dead, smelly red herring they have tossed in the water and declared to be a terrifying shark chomping away at their profits?

In a letter dated June 28, Deon M. Hall, the review manager of Edison’s consumer affairs department, wrote that design changes in certain solar equipment do not allow “the energy from the renewable and nonrenewable resources to be separately metered.” The implication is that customers would buy electricity during less expensive times then sell it back to the utility for a profit.

And here is what a regulatory rubber stamp looks like. On July 3, Paul Harris, on behalf of the CPUC consumer affairs branch, referred to Edison’s June 28 letter, then wrote to a customer with a solar energy-and-battery-backup system: “Per Southern California Edison, the issue is with  battery pack  that renews itself via Edison’s grid, which would allow that energy to export back to the grid, which would cause you to receive inappropriate credit.”

‘New evidence’
Harris stated that the case was closed, unless Edison’s customers provided “new evidence.” The company has yet to provide any evidence that the equipment in question does what Edison says it does.

The state’s regulators parroted a theory circulated without proof by a major utility – funny thing for a “public” utility commission to do.

When monopolies control a marketplace, competition, progress and people suffer. A company has a monopoly when it can treat its customers badly, knowing those customers will find it difficult or impossible to obtain that company’s goods or services elsewhere.

Large utilities spend huge amounts of capital on generators, transmission lines and the other machinery needed to deliver electricity across often-great distances. A solar power system  delivers the same product starting with a few panels on the top of one roof.

California is a leader in renewable energy and the state will not benefit from attempts to turn back the clock.
In support of an energy-producing model that better protects the environment, I helped start Backup – Better Action by Citizens for Kilowatts of Uninterruptible Power. Our website and first major action – a campaign to contact elected and other public officials – is in the planning stages.

Matthew Sperling, a self-employed writer and investor, was born in Los Angeles.

Reprinted from Los Angeles Business Journal 9/6/13 issue.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Does your plan have a reflective view?


Ceilings are too often  treated as an afterthought in a large-scale building project. Yet without proper front-end planning, they can turn out to be a source of unneeded cost increases and schedule delays.

Good early-stage planning and pre-coordination of all services is key to a well-coordinated, functional, and aesthetically pleasing ceiling assembly. Proper design and specification steps include the following:

  •  Determine customer required services and ceiling functions. 
  • Calculate required space for each service, and allocate plenum space to assure all elements fit above the ceiling. 
  • Select ceiling material type (metal, mineral, wood) and functions, which include acoustical properties, light reflectivity characteristics, fire/smoke performance, cleanability, durability, and LEED inputs. 
  • Complete ceiling aesthetics choices, such as finishes, colors, prints, patterns, and modules. 
  • Narrow down ceiling system options, such as accessibility, weight, spanning capability, and dimensional tolerances. 
  • Specify suitable components to be integrated and verify coordination with chosen ceiling system. 
  • Link technical component specifications to the chosen ceiling system - often the key step in ensuring proper coordination.  

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Controlling Moisture: Deflection Checklist

Deflection is the first principle and main priority of water management. Some of the primary strategies that have proven effective at reducing the amount of rainwater on exterior walls include the following:

* Place the building so it is sheltered from prevailing winds by other buildings, trees, etc.
* Use a pitched roof where appropriate.
* Provide sizable roof overhangs and water collection systems at the roof perimeters.
* Provide architectural detailing including flashing and caulking to direct rainwater away from the building.
* Provide an approved drainage system around the foundation perimeter to accept roof water run-off.
* Install a weather barrier within the wall in an appropriate collection and with vapor permeability appropriate for the climate and moisture management approach.
* Install a permeable bulk vapor diffusion retarders on the exterior of walls and floors, including below a concrete slab or on top of the bare soil within a crawl spac.e
* Separate wood elements from moisture sources including soil and concrete, using impermeable membranes.

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Monday, August 26, 2013




In 1970, the average U.S. house was 1,500 sq. ft. Today, it is 2,500 sq. ft., two-thirds larger. Nearly one-third of all households have three cars or more, with 80% increase in road travel, that is almost 9 million barrels of gasoline daily or 43% of total global daily gasoline consumption in the U.S.

Green Tips for Energy Efficient Comfort

A temperature does not change unless it is attracted to a temperature of greater or lesser value. Infiltration of outside air can be mostly prevented with a few improvements that will save you dollars and comfort for years to come.

a. Trees, shutters, and roof overhangs (shade) can cut the temperature by as much as 20 degrees 0F.

b. Insulated low-e windows installed will cut energy cost.

c. Ceiling fans mix and move air, keeping the room more comfortable with less A/C power.

d. Insulation properly installed in walls, under floor and attic will help prevent heat gain into the core of your house. Seal and caulk around outlets, door and windows. Wet sprayed cellulous insulation is ideal at 27% higher cost, but paid back in short time.

e. Install reflective foil in rafters and lighter color shingles also help prevent heat gain.

f. Install energy efficient appliances and air condition system with fresh air economizer equipment. Not only you will save money but you will be adding security for your family.

g. Install a gray water system, giving you double use of your water.

h. Install tankless hot water heater. A 25% more upfront cost worth it.

i. For south and west facing walls use minimum 2x6 studs or apply another fa├žade wall architecturally designed in front of the existing wall. This will give a fresh architectural look to your house while saving your dollars lost from heat gain, plus 30% increase value in curb appeal.

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Monday, August 19, 2013




Energy consumed by homes tripled from 1950 to 2006. U.S. currently imports about two-thirds of the oil it consumes and 69 percent of this oil is used for transportation. However, 2.9 billion gallons of fuel per year are wasted by vehicles sitting in traffic. The U.S. generates 5.8 billion metric tons of CO2 in 2006 or 45% of the world’s green house gas emissions with only one-third of the world’s cars. CO2 emissions in un-developing countries will increase at a rate three times that of developed countries.


In 1950, the average household used 1,584 kilowatt hours per year and today, the average use is 11,840 kilowatt hours a year. Global electricity usage will rise by 36.2 percent by 2030. The U.S. average homes use of electricity is consumed by: lights and appliances (24%), refrigeration (5%), air conditioning (16%), personal computers (1.5%) and television (7.4%).


In 1950, the average household used 6 quadrillion BTUs per year and today, the average use is plus 21 quadrillion BTUs. The average U.S. household spends (+/-) $1,500 a year on utility bills with much of the energy wasted. Furnace accounts for 47% and 17% for water heater usage.


70% of the world’s water consumption per day goes toward agriculture. By 2025, 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will live in water stress areas. In the U.S., two-thirds of the water used goes toward irrigation versus 40% today and within six years, 36 states are expected to be strapped for water. The average U.S. household uses 150 gallons of water per person per day. (The energy required to distribute and treat water is the country’s greatest consumer of electricity... enough to power 5 million households per day.)


Generate 21% of CO2 emissions, the atmospheric concentration of gas, altering all ecosystems. World forests are getting reduced on average by 60,000 kilometers per year and deforestation accounts for one-fifth of annual CO2 emissions.

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Monday, August 12, 2013



  • Vinotemp Company has introduced a cooling device with a capacity of up to 1.500 C.F. called WINE-MATE #WM- 6500DS. As self contained unit that can be installed thru the wall or a remote unit and requires no refrigeration specialist, (800) 777-8466.
  • Mr. Bamboo offers a 100% strand-woven floating bamboo flooring with interlocking feature. Available in 2, 4 & 6 ft. lengths and natural or caramel color, (888) 672-2628.
  • Reduce the heat gain on your roof by 15 degrees with the “Cool Roof Solaris Shingles” by Certain Teed. Available in five hue colors, (800) 233-8990.
  • Roseburg offers green wood products made without urea formaldehyde and are FSC certified the “Sky Blend” line comes in veneer, particle board and hardwood panels. Vesta and Timber products company also offer MDF, veneer and hardwood products free of urea formaldehyde approved by CARB (California Air Resource Board).
  • Save 39% over the R-value of regular siding with the cedar board insulated by Certain Teed, (800) 233-8990.
  • Eco Batt Insulation has organic material that gives up to 70% less energy-intensive penetration than traditional insulation by Knauf, (800)825-4434.
  • MOEN features a line of water saving fixtures. Model #6306 shower head has a flow rate of 1.75 GPM but with the same spraying force as regular head. Chrome or oil rubbed bronze, (800)465-6130.
  • Metal Tile – a time saving, cost saving alternative to mosaic tilework. Stainless steel pieces in various patterns come in 12” x 12” sheets, available in numerous colors. By Outwater,
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Monday, August 5, 2013


April 22, 2010 has come and gone, and now all of us are required by law to abide by the new EPA rules when doing redesign, remodeling, renovating or painting (PRE-1978 STRUCTURES). CAUTION: If you are painting an area over 6 sq. ft., it is required that you first check the home for lead based paint. A qualified lead tester (inspector) is required. Their fee is around $200 - $350, subject to the size of your project to be tested. If lead is discovered in the old paints, you are required to contract with a certified EPA renovator. The whole process will increase your project cost, approximately 15% more than initially figured. However, it is not worth the risk not to follow the Federal government rules. Consider civil penalties of up to $32,500 for each violation. And if you know and willfully violate this regulation, you are subject to an additional $32,500 or more or imprisonment. The RRP rule will be enforced not to mention your clients’ knowledge about it that can further hinder final payment. So be lead safe, protect your client, your helpers and the future of your business (Read the Painting Program Final Rule – 40 CFR Part 745). Make sure you hand out the pamphlet “Renovate Right” to your client; prior to start of the project and get a signed receipt that they received it. The contractor must use a HEPA 
vac and wash down with wet cloths all plastic and surfaces, windows, walls, etc. three times.

Percentage of homes likely to contain lead.
24% homes built between 1960-1976
 69% homes built between 1940-1960
87% homes built before 1940

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